I Need a Good Man

Sometimes, good men need to hear that they’re doing a good job.

It’s no secret that men have needs. All one need do is read the writing here at The Good Men Project, and you will soon discover any number of guys crying out to be understood, not forgotten, held, cuddled, sexed, listened to, fed, promoted, not laughed at, laughed with; told that we are right, smart, sexy, good-looking, not too fat, a love sponge, sensitive, manly, a good Dad, better husband, great cook, decent mechanic; and still got moves on the playing field, bedroom, corporate boardroom, and dance floor that are second-to-none. Yes, our needs are as diverse as the men demanding them. Some are more realistic and important than others (actually, I am a damn fine Tango dancer), and some are met, while most are not. A lot of times they are never acknowledged, and, as men, I think we realize that; well, we have a long history of repressing many of these, and that’s OK. But they are still there and whether we, or others, give voice to them, they continue to drive and haunt us.


At the core of this man is a need to be needed by those I love, and this intense desire to be a good man can only be judged not by me, but by those around me. Every day the need to be needed is met, I know. Whether it’s thanks for cooking a meal, putting in a 10-hour day that helps pay the bills, helping with housework, picking my son up from his summer job or some other random item that gets my family’s attention; I understand that my effort is appreciated. On the good man front, I am less confident of my prowess and sadly realize that being a good man is a work in progress and requires that I be in the moment and maintain daily credibility that will mostly go unheralded. It’s a life-long body of work that typically gets judged. Of course, there are those exceptions and exceptional moments where my worth is laid out in front of me.

I had one of those moments one morning this past week that left me weak in the knees. My wife has been going through a few challenging moments, of late, that have been quite emotional for her. In the abstract, and by themselves, their importance could be minimized, but she can never itemize these events that way; not since she contracted an illness that will surely and eventually change her life—and mine. What I have come to understand is that when you live with a potentially life-altering illness—one where the “other shoe” will surely drop and change things forever—making even the smallest decisions or being confronted with life’s day-to-day stuff comes with an added layer of emotion that you and I will never understand, but as husbands or life partners must accept.

It can’t just be “I was frustrated at work,” or “the waiter gave me medium and I asked for medium rare,” or “Paul, I told you before how much that thing you do works my very last nerve.” When you are sick, each experience is lived through a prism that is foreign to the rest of us, and any reaction to a disturbing event begins at the baseline of an illness, with any additional angst heaped upon an already burdensome existence. I can never tell her “not to worry, it’s nothing; it will pass, it’s not important,” because that’s not true. It is something, will remain with her forever, and is incredibly important. Her illness dictates that.

Anyhow, I was driving her to the train station one morning, and we were revisiting the events of the last few days and how much they had upset her, and she turns to me and says how she could not have gotten through all this without my help and support, and how fortunate she is to have me in her life. Need I say how her words and the love behind them seared themselves into my heart? I wasn’t sure whether I should laugh, cry, shout, or just be silently gracious and grateful.


We men, who are do-ers; just do, and we mostly do it pretty selflessly without any thought to thanks or acknowledgement. So, when somebody as important as my wife says what she said that morning; well, you can sign me up for another 50 years on this moment alone. And I tell this story not as an opportunity to boast, (although, what the heck, I’m human) but rather as an acknowledgement of the scores of men on this site and elsewhere who have similarly heroic moments in their lives and, like me, are on their way to becoming good men. That, we really need.

Photo SashaW/Flickr
About Paul Kidwell

Paul Kidwell is a public relations consultant and writer living in Boston with his wife and son.


  1. true hearted good man in need of a good woman.puerto rican n irish a single dad with a 14 yr old girl.

  2. Nice thoughts expressed here, but you may want to add respect to your list. That’s a big one.

    I had that experience about 15 years ago and have lived it since then. Thankfully, I am blessed with a wife who knows how to cope with adversity without giving up and feeling sorry for herself. She is remarkable.

    Lots of men (and women) live with and support an ill spouse every day for years on end, just as you have begun to do, quietly, with no fanfare, and certainly little acknowledgement on a daily basis, but we shouldn’t need that. But, getting it every now and then is only right. Men (or women) who hang in there through thick and thin (and not giving up and divorcing when the chips/your spouse are down) deserve respect and appreciation. Statistically, men are far less likely to divorce than women when things go bad.

    Many people throw in the towel because they don’t feel appreciated. That may be true to some extent, and that’s not right. However, the person going through the challenges,whatever it is, can’t always focus on your and your needs; they may be busy just trying to survive. Sometimes spouse-caregivers can’t see past the moment, day, week, month, or even year – they give with the expectation of getting back in the near term. Life doesn’t always work that way. If you give, you will surely get back in abundance, just give it time.

  3. Beautiful reminder that we all need compliments and appreciation.

  4. Paul, You and many of those responding to you have spoken most eloquently about how we men can be strong, caring, loving partners. The appreciations – where possible, are important to us as they should be. The examples that have been spoken to are both “difficult” in terms of the depth of commitment that is necessary and “simple” in that if we are committed and “good” we need to try to do our best.

    We also need to be aware – when we are going things that We would expect our partner to do (without appreciations from us) and we expect to be appreciated. IF she makes most of our shared meals, and we take some of this for granted, it is easy to expect “wild praise” when one occasionally makes a meal for her for example.

    If there is Love there, we can and will do good things. Things are more problematic when we either aren’t that committed or feel in the moments that we are “not appreciated”.

    There also are areas where we need to find validation and support outside of a primary, female partner so that she Doesn’t need to be our sole emotional support as well as where we need to struggle to really be there for our parents, siblings, and good friends (as well as our primary partners.)

    Thanks for your great – story!!!

  5. Touching piece. I think women sometimes forget that men need our affirmation of them. If more women strived to remind their men what their grateful for within in them, it not only clearly affirms his good deeds but it gives men a more free place to show the sides that some men don’t have an easy time showing. (As a side note, I also think it’s good for men to affirm their female partners as well.)

    A few years ago a woman in her early 40s whom I worked with suffered a brain brain aneurysm. She was a triathalon athlete that would sometimes bike to work and was always bringing in healthy snacks for our office. Her boyfriend of 8 years was a lawyer in Washington D.C. and she lived in NJ. They would commute to spend time on the weekends. After her aneurysm, he was with her 24/7 seeing to all her care. He evetually quite his lawyer job to move down to NJ to take care of her and he’s been doing that ever since her aneurysm which was a good 6 years ago. She never fully recovered to the person she was befinre the aneursym and still require 24/7 care. He is truly a testiment to real love and an truy beautiful and inspiring man.

  6. paul kidwell says:

    Thank you all for your warm, generous and encouraging comments. Something terribly gratifying about touching others with words or actions, and knowing that we all share in these elements of the human condition.

  7. Thank you both Paul and Lili for sharing such an inspirational view how good men can be. I look forward to rising to the challenge of being a good man as my life continues to unfold.

    I am blessed to live in a relationship where my wife continually affirms me, despite my short-comings. My only wish is to grow my capacity to return the faith and love she invests in me.

  8. Tom Matlack says:


    As usual, I get an enormous amount from what you write (and say when we are together). I too am dealing with illness in a family member that I am having to take just one step, one moment, at a time and will doubtless change her and me in a profound way. And it has changed the depth of my love for her and, in fact, my own sense of what it means to be a good man. I found myself this morning sitting surrounded by my family in a treatment facility with the person who has been been through hell the last few days with some kind of heightened sense of purpose even as my heart broke. I guess it is those broken places that make us stronger and put in perspective what, in the end, has meaning and what is just noise. You helped me remember what is important.

  9. Thank you, Paul for the humanity you surely embody, evidenced in your incredibly moving story here. We need more of you!!

    Last night, while visiting my mother in a physical rehab/ nursing home facility, I was completely distracted by a man’s almost saintly, loving attention to his wife at my Mom’s table in the dining room. My mother whispered to me that he arrives at 6 am every morning without fail to tend to his wife, and stays until after lunch. He leaves for about 5 hours, then returns to feed her dinner and sit with her until lights out, at 9pm. Weekends, their kids come and they have “family time” there at the nursing home.

    Despite a full staff presiding over the dining room to help the residents, I watched this man spoon -feed his wife, who’d had a stroke and was fully paralyzed, unable to speak or move. Every piece of meat he cut and forkful of mashed potatoes he so patiently fed her was followed with his courteously wiping her mouth with a napkin. All of this he did with such love, even smiling, while she stared off into outer space. Not knowing if she had comprehension abilities, I decided to compliment her on her hair, which looked freshly “done”. He immediately replied with, “Oh! Doesn’t she look beautiful? I took her today to the beauty salon, because she likes to go every Friday afternoon…..isn’t she a beauty?”

    It was almost too much for me, to imagine such goodness in another human being, such self-sacrifice when there was clearly enough staff there to allow him to sit back and watch the TV in her room, if he showed up at all.
    Feeding her took an hour, after which I watched him wheel her into the Rec room and patiently flip through about a hundred channels of TV until he found the Classic movie channel, effusively telling me how much she loves old movies. He never once let go of her twisted and gnarled hand.
    I had to take care of my own mother for an hour but then saw him again later in the lobby.

    I knew I would get choked up talking to him, but as your article points out, we all do so much better when we receive our warm fuzzies every day, so I told him, “You are really an inspiration to me. How…” and I stammered, tripping over words.
    He didn’t need them and instead, put his hand on my arm and said, “You know what? I am married to that wonderful woman for 55 years now. And God willing, we will have many more years together, even if it means I have to visit her here. Because of her, we’re blessed with 3 beautiful children together and 10 grandchildren. That woman is responsible for everything I am today…” and then it was HE who got choked up as he stopped to consider the gifts his wife had given him.

    I found myself crying and hugging this total stranger, whom my mom later told me only leaves her side in the afternoon to do volunteer work at a Firehouse he retired from after a lifetime of being a Fireman in New York City.
    I don’t know if his wife will ever recover but I know his love will help her to, just as hers clearly helped him for 55 years.

    I am moved, I am inspired, and I am humbled. I bow to him and to you, Paul.
    Thank you for the reminder that being a good man (or woman) means more than pursuing our own pleasures and actually open-heartedly compromising and sacrificing for those we say we love. And your wife’s example of warm positive regard for you reminds me that two-way streets work best.

    Between your article and what I witnessed last night, I am inspired today to reach out to the men in my life who daily practice being Good Men and tell them how much I appreciate them and their efforts.

    Thank you, Paul, for living Ghandi’s words and “Be(ing) the change you want to see in the world”.

    • Lili Bee – you make me weep. Thanks for adding this story to Paul’s. I would hope to be so “good” when called upon to be.

  10. Paul, thank you for sharing this story. There’s a lot that we talk about on this site with respect to being “good men”, but not often do stories move to such touching depth. My mother-in-law has a debilitating illness also, and I watch her husband provide a constant, caring presence and I wonder if I would be up to the task. My hope is that I would find within myself that certain depth of caring that I see in you and my father-in-law, but it’s one of those things that you don’t know, until you know. I appreciate you offering this example of what it means to be a “good man” in the trenches.

  11. Thanks for sharing Paul. Glad to hear that your partner is willing to share her appreciation of you – I think we underestimate the effect words of affirmation from our loved ones can have on us, and on our relationships!

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