Nicole Johnson talks toTom Matlack about the male desire to marry, the manly womanizer image, and what he’s learned about love.
I strive to surround myself with magnificent men and women. It is intensely gratifying meeting new people who inspire me personally and professionally. Tom Matlack, Founder of The Good Men Project, falls into this category. I am blown away by Tom’s vision and tenacity; I’m honored to work for his company.
I find Tom to be an intriguing man. While I have a solid professional understanding of the Venture Capitalist with an MBA from Yale University, I wanted to get to know Tom on a personal level. I became inspired to uncover the emotional essence of Tom Matlack.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, I started thinking of several unknowns: Is Tom sensitive? Is Tom romantic? What does he think about love and romance? Instead of pondering these questions, I decided I was going to contact Tom and ask him if he would be amenable to an interview. I asked, and Tom graciously accepted.
Regardless of what you may think, I would describe Tom as tender. In fact, Tom is one of the most compassionate men I know.
Data from the 2012 Match.com Single In America study found men are just as eager to marry as women are. What compels a man to propose marriage?
My sense is that this idea that men just want sex and not intimacy is wrong. The men I know yearn to find love and partnership every bit as much as women do. I know plenty of men, even younger men, who are really looking for a committed long-term monogamous relationship. They want to build a family and don’t want to play dating games.
What compels a man to propose marriage? From my limited experience it’s a combination of attraction and trust. Is this a woman who I can trust with my life, with my kids, with my happiness?
The 2012 Match.com Single In America study also found men have a stronger desire than women to have children. What drives a man’s desire to become a father?
Again, I don’t want to speak for all men. But in my case and many men I know, the role of father is at the very center of who I aspire to be. For way too long we were suppose to go off and toil away in some sky scraper supporting the family living in many cases lives of quiet desperation. In engaging with our children fully there is a kind of fulfillment that is completely different and deeper than making a boatload of money or running for office. It’s personal and intimate and creates a much deeper sense of joy.
This new study revealed that men are less picky than women when choosing a romantic partner. Do you think men have a tendency to settle when it comes to romantic love?
I don’t know about that. I know plenty of men who are just as picky as women. But I do think that men tend to be problem solvers, so when they set out to find the right woman they do it in an aggressive fashion that has a high likelihood of success. If a guy wants to get married the chances are he is going to end up that way.
Why do you think the media portrays men as sex-crazed, non-committal womanizers?
It confuses me greatly because purely as a marketing tool it turns men off who Madison Avenue is trying to convince they should buy men’s products. We see some more nuanced approaches to men, like the Dove Soap commercials, but the majority of men in commercials, TV and even film are stick figures. We all laugh because they are so stupid and the stereotype is so tired and boring.
I think men in 2012 are complex and hard to put a box around. So to do them justice you really have to throw out the old framework. Media just hasn’t had the courage to do that yet. And stuff like The End of Men sure doesn’t help.
Forget about Valentine’s Day, it’s beyond cliché! How can men infuse romance into their marriages / relationships on a daily basis?
As with manhood in general, I am still learning how to be a good father and husband but I think one important thing I have been focusing on recently is just talking more about the nitty-gritty of daily life. I’m an introvert so my tendency is to think my partner really doesn’t want to hear about my various activities during the day. But she actually really does. And I really want to know all the things that happened to her. It’s like having this shared secret about each of our lives that isn’t about the big stuff but the little stuff that only we know about each other.
How can women be romantic toward men without overwhelming them?
Interesting. Of course the stereotype is if you mean with sex all guys are like “bring it on.” I actually think that is wrong. Guys, like women, need to warm up. Surprise and spontaneity are both good. But it goes back to that underlying sense of trust. Intimacy is a leap of faith. And even guys need to know there is someone there to catch them. And that applies to sex too. Men want to know that they are wanted.
What did your first marriage teach you about yourself?
That I had a ton of work to do on myself.
What has your second marriage taught you about being a husband?
That love and happiness are possible.
Clearly, you are madly in love with your wife, Elena. What is it about her that blows your hair back?
The sparkle in her sky blue eyes.
What has The Good Men Project taught you about love and relationships?
That it comes in as many different flavors as there are people, but we are a social animal that wasn’t meant to be alone. And I don’t mean that purely as a romantic notion. When I sit down with some guy I don’t know to listen to his story—often a story about love and loss and sometimes redemption—my heart is moved by the depth of love and connection I feel for another man trusting me with his deepest truth.