The good the bad and the ugly. Steven Lake explores two years of thinking and writing about relationships – often his own.
It was just over two years ago when I started writing for The Good Men Project (GMP). In a sense I was ahead of my time. I had written an article about growing a beard and the dramatic uptick in female attention as a result of my changing shaving habits. Who knew it would become a trend? Not me.
But that is what has been such a delight writing for GMP. I never know what is going to happen prior to, during, or after the writing. Prior to often looks like a disturbed weasel searching for something but not sure what it is.
Once a topic has been found (often with the help of my muse, my wife) I now look like a focused weasel digging into the keyboard. While writing I am often conflicted figuring out how much to disclose if I have taken a personal slant on the article, how much to research, and how long and how much time do I have to write (never enough)?
It is when writing that I discover my thoughts, beliefs, values, and attitudes around marriage and relationships. Sometimes, I even come up with ways to improve my relationship.
It is for this reason I think that she puts up with me displaying our relationship for the 500,000 plus people who have read my articles. Being of an older generation (Boomer) this has put the both of us out of our comfort zones.
I think the most important lesson I have learnt through this writing process is that taking the time to think about my relationship is not only important, but necessary. Every week I write about some aspect of our relationship or about marriage and relationship in general.
Writing weekly has become a discipline, a discipline of focusing on the meaning of being involved with a person in a committed relationship. This topic is relevant for most of us as we are in a relationship or wish to become in a relationship in the future (I did say most of us, relationships aren’t for everyone).
Because I think about my relationship I have become more cognizant of where it could improve, how I say one thing and do another, and how incredible my partner is in supporting me and the relationship.
I always knew how amazing she was, but after seventeen years and a busy work schedule, it is easy to let slip what needs to be done to keep a relationship thriving.
I have learned the importance of keeping the relationship front and center regardless of what is going on in my life.
If some of you are freaking out with this statement, chill, it doesn’t have to take as much time and effort as you fear. After your relationship is established and on a solid foundation, it is more about maintenance – regular maintenance.
Think of you relationship like a car. You change the oil, get a tune-up, fix any accidents, and wash it on a regular basis. You should treat your wife at least as well as you treat your car (I like the washing part myself).
Let’s look over some of my past articles for learning points.
1) Go with the flow.
In my first article about beards I was shocked by all the attention I was getting from women, some of whom were young enough to be my grandchildren if I had any.
The second shock was that my wife liked it too. I preferred to get rid of it but she found it attractive (translation: it turned her on). This is where I started to reframe the situation and looked at the benefits of not shaving like: not buying shaving cream and razors, less time in front of the mirror, and more physical intimacy. It was an easy choice after that.
2) Romantic gestures are appreciated.
In my fifth article I discovered writing love poetry stimulates creativity and makes your partner swoon. Well, maybe not swoon, but appreciate my efforts. I should do this more often.
3) It is important to have the hard conversations.
My sixth article was the most difficult and personal article to write. It was, and still is, my biggest “hit” to date with over 150,000 unique views. It also stimulated the most amount of comments.
The subject matter struck a chord for anyone who has ever heard this phrase, “I love you . . . I’m just not ‘in love’ with you anymore.”
Many comments advised me to cut bait and run. Some tried to protect me from the likelihood of great pain and disappointment based on their own similar experiences. Some argued for the position I was taking — listening to what my wife felt would make a difference and help her get back in touch with that loving feeling.
I learned when opening myself up to the world, everyone has, not only an opinion, but their own story. It was a humbling experience as I listened to the truth of the comments, even when contrary to my opinions and decisions.
I learned that there is a lot of luck in this thing we call intimate relationship. Sure, I trusted my gut on this one and in the end was proven right. But how many times have I trusted my gut in the past and been proven wrong. It’s a bit of a crap shoot and I feel for those that ended up on the losing end of the roll of dice even when they gave it their all.
Ultimately, I learned that no matter my fears, having the hard conversation is a necessity not an option.
4) Making the distinction between needs and wants is important.
Thinking about sex as an aging man is a humbling experience. This article, Sex at Sixty, helped me get clearer on needs and wants. By making the distinction between needs and wants I took a lot of pressure off myself. And who needs more pressure in today’s world?
5. Traditional views of masculinity don’t work for me.
Married to the Masculine: I Want a Divorce, examines how old male stereotypes infused my life by having a father I could never match (on the surface), military life, and the competitive culture in which I grew up.
Writing the article allowed me to parse out the complex influences surrounding me on an everyday basis and how I rebelled against them.
6. Strong women turn me on.
Loving a strong woman was a fun article to write as most of the women I have dated or married were “strong,” some even physically. Going out with opinionated, passionate, successful women certainly has its challenges.
The key is to know, not what you think you want, but what you really want in a partner.
7) A mother’s influence is profound.
With my article about my mother for Mother’s Day, I was able to reflect how much she influenced me, especially on how I relate to women. I learned a lot from her.
8) When it comes to cleaning, traditional views abound.
With The Ick Factor I was confronted with how roles, role expectation, and modelling family of origin expectations influenced what “dirty” jobs were defined as for men and women.
I learned that I like doing some “traditional” chores whether or not that was politically correct. This is true for my wife as well and she is a Feminist. Theory hits cultural learning, genetic differences, and practicality.
9) There are some limits to “friendship” in an intimate relationship.
When I wrote about whether or not your intimate partner should be your best friend I had to look at where I preferred to share certain aspects of my life with my male friends.
As much as I feel my wife is the most important friend I have, there are certain things I share only with my closest male friends. Not judging myself, just noticing.
10) Unemployment challenges masculinity.
What happens to your sense of masculinity when facing unemployment? This, as many of my articles, was based on personal experience — been there done that. Not a lot of fun.
It is particularly difficult for men who believe they have to be the bread-winner which is still a lot of us. It is hard to feel masculine (whatever that is for you) when there is not enough money in the household, or your wife is supporting you, and you are getting down on yourself, and maybe depressed when you can’t find work after months of trying. That is very stressful and your psyche takes a hit. Everything is down, even your anatomy.
11) No, is a healthy word.
I’ll end with my article on The Power of No. Sometimes I just have to say no. Saying no is not easy for me. I am always looking for a way to avoid conflict even when I know it is not in my best interest to do so.
Much to my surprise, when I say “NO” to my partner she likes it. What? Yes, she likes it when I am clear about what I want and don’t want. She definitely doesn’t not like wishy-washy.
She may not like my no but she respects it. And, as I say no (when it is true for me), I respect myself. I’m learning to love that word.
Time and space are now considerations as I bring this article to a close. I only looked through the first 35 articles to come up with eleven learning points.
In conclusion, I have learned a lot about, not only relationships, but about myself in the process of writing regularly for GMP.
I want to thank The Good Men Project for this opportunity, my wife for being a partner in the process (she is also my editor), and you the reader.
Also by Steven Lake
|What if Your Wife is Not In Love With You. And Doesn’t Want to Be||Seven Ways to Make Your Partner Feel Appreciated||Seven Reasons Why Fighting Is Good For Your Relationship||Ten Intimacy Breaking Behaviors That Will Make Your Life Hell|