It’s a myth that only men fear intimacy. Heather Gray points out that dispelling the myth means acknowledging some inconvenient truths.
RSVP for Weekly Calls on The Disposability of Men
“Fear of intimacy…isn’t that what you call being a man?”
Yesterday, I was talking about the GMP article, “Sex, Marriage, and a Fear of Intimacy”, and that was the response I got.
Sitting in a Panera with a group of women, I was watching them all nod in agreement like some bad episode of a reality show. No, I’m not going to write an open to letter to the women in Panera but I would like to explore the myth that only men fear intimacy. This myth continues to be disabling for men in their attempts to be better understood, accepted, and seen.
There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about intimacy and attachment. Attachment theory is widely covered in articles and texts. The basic premise is that our ability to relate to others as adults is largely impacted by early relationships, most significantly the relationships we had with our primary caregivers. Dr. Sue Johnson, for example, explores these issues extensively in here works, Love Sense and Hold Me Tight. She acknowledges that true anxiety and worry about intimacy is not gender specific.
When discussing, intimacy, it’s impossible to not also acknowledge that it requires vulnerability. Fear of vulnerability is universal and again, not one that is entirely gender-specific. Men are, of course, more conditioned to be weary of opening up but that is not the same thing as not wanting it or fearing it.
Additionally, sometimes a person’s avoidance of intimacy is not fear-based. For introverts, it’s a preference. Susan Cain illustrates this point in her book, Quiet. While extroverts crave connection with others and get energy from relationships, introverts can find close relationships draining. For them, solitude is a need and preference and not something that is based on gender.
Yet, the myth that it’s mostly men who fear intimacy continues to prosper. The reality is that dispelling this myth will mean facing some pretty inconvenient truths.
For men, it can still go against “man code” to admit that they crave intimacy.
For many men, admitting that close relationships are important to them still challenges their perception of masculinity. They feel their desire for human connection is admitting to a sign of neediness or weakness. It’s a painful trade-off. They essentially would rather be perceived as not caring than be perceived as weak.
GMP writer and editor, Mark Greene, addresses this from a different direction. In “The Lack of Gentle Platonic Touch in Men’s Lives is a Killer” and “Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men of Touch”, he explores the concept that men avoid platonic touch because of a fear of a homophobic response. This same fear exists for men seeking emotional connection. Their worry and fear of being perceived as gay unconsciously prevents them from dispelling the myth and acknowledging their truth: that they’re no different from women and they do crave intimacy and closeness.
Not knowing how to “do intimacy” is not the same thing as fearing it.
It’s no secret that some men have lacked healthy examples of connection, relationships, and intimacy. We’re still dealing with older beliefs about what “real men” do, don’t do, say, or don’t say. Healthy connection and close relationships weren’t always modeled for men. They end up craving something that they don’t know how to achieve.
I see this in my therapy practice all the time. There’s a sense that some men have that they’re not doing “it” right. They’re trying to connect, share, and open up with their wives and they’re not getting the desired response or validation. This causes them to shut down and avoid. It’s a mean and nasty cycle because their act of shutting down only serves to preserve the myth that men fear intimacy when it fact, they’re reacting to not being supported or taken seriously.
We’re not ready for a world where men confirm their wish for and competency with emotional intimacy.
I wrote about this last month when I discussed the idea that we might not be ready for emotionally intelligent men. Emotional intimacy and emotional intelligence often go hand in hand. The stories I hear in my office aren’t always of men who didn’t say something or didn’t act. Rather, what I hear are of times when they did, in fact, say something. They did act in an attempt to be closer to their wives and partners.
They sought non-sexual affection and were mocked or brushed away. They shared thoughts and feelings that were invalidated and or minimized. After all, some women have pre-conceived notions of masculinity, too, and when they see their husbands acting or speaking contrary to what they believe to be true about men, they can sometimes become cautious and withdrawn.
Wives and partners will be challenged if we more widely accept that men are capable of and crave emotional intimacy and connection. That often means hearing and accepting feedback from men that is uncomfortable for us.
If the myth that men fear intimacy is dispelled, some women will have their identity challenged. We, too, are still battling the old notions of femininity. We’ve received the same age-old messages about what it means to be a woman. We were taught that we’re the emotionally intelligent species. We’re the nurturers. We have to translate the world for our men. Admitting that these traits aren’t necessarily synonymous with being a woman but could also be inclusive of men, will undoubtedly challenge some women. Fear of change is powerful. It can intentionally or unintentionally motivate people to keep others down so they can stay on top.
The myth that men fear intimacy enables the disposability of men.
Admittedly, I’m pretty new to the notion that cultures and societies promote the disposability of men and boys. I never thought about some of our social problems through that lens until I read the research in Cameron Conaway’s “The Disposability of Boys”. What I do know is that we don’t dispose of things that we see as having value. Consider for a second the stereotypes that are still held and promoted about men: they lack emotional intelligence, they’re less capable of intimacy, they can’t parent their way out of a paper bag, and they can’t control their anger or control their sexual impulses. For those willing to look and learn, there are many illustrations of why these biases are patently untrue.
However, men and boys can still be treated as disposable if we continue to devalue their worth. It’s easier to write off people who are incapable of relating or who sexually act out. The decisions, cultures, and attitudes that treat men as disposable need these stereotypes firmly in place to justify their thinking and despicable actions.
Like any bias or prejudice that exists, the myth that men fear intimacy is not alive and well because of a lack of knowledge or access to new information. Rather it is a challenge to belief systems that have existed for ages.
If we acknowledge that men are indeed capable of and do crave emotional intimacy, we have to be prepared for our relationships to change. If we prepare to increase the value of men, cultures will be required to shift in dramatic and profound ways.
Is our fear of change really worth contributing to the disposability of men or might acknowledging their value be the first step toward real change in the lives of men and the world we live in?
RSVP for Weekly Calls on The Disposability of Men
We are proud of our SOCIAL INTEREST GROUPS—WEEKLY PHONE CALLS to help discuss and help solve some of the most difficult challenges the world has today. Calls are for Members Only (although you can join the first call for free). Not yet a member of The Good Men Project? Join now!
What Now? Participate. Take Action. Join The Good Men Project Community.
The $50 Platinum Level is an ALL-ACCESS PASS—join as many groups and classes as you want for the entire year. The $25 Gold Level gives you access to any ONE Social Interest Group and ONE Class–and other benefits listed below the form. Or…for $12, join as a Bronze Member and support our mission. All members see the site AD-FREE!
Please note: If you are already a writer/contributor at The Good Men Project, log in here before registering. (Request new password if needed).
Your ANNUAL PLATINUM membership includes:
1. Free and UNLIMITED ACCESS to participate in ANY of our new Social Interest Groups. We have active communities of like-minded individuals working to change the world on important issues. Weekly facilitated calls that lead to execution of real world strategies for change. Complete schedule here, with new ones starting all the time. We now offer 500 calls a year!
2. Free and UNLIMITED ACCESS to ALL LIVE CLASSES. Learn how build your own platform, be a better writer, become an edit or create social change. Check out our training sessions. As a Platinum member, you can take them all.
3. Invitation to the MEMBERS ONLY Good Men Project Community on Facebook. Connect with other members, network and carry the conversation no one else is having one step further.
4. Access to our PREMIUM MEMBER LIBRARY with our recorded ConvoCasts and classes. ConvoCasts are a new form of media—and you are in them! Only Platinum Members get access to our recordings. And recordings of our classes are really valuable for those who do not have time to take the live classes or just want to review.
5. An ad-free experience. No banner, pop-up, or video ads when you log in.
6. Weekly conference calls with the publisher and other community members. Our weekly calls discuss the issues we see happening in the world of men in a friendly group setting.
7. PLATINUM member commenting badge. Your comments on our website will appear with a platinum member badge, signifying you are a part of our core community.
Price for ANNUAL PLATINUM membership is $50/year.
Your ANNUAL GOLD membership will include:
1. Free access to any ONE Social Interest Groups.Try them out! We have active communities of like-minded individuals working to change the world on important issues. Weekly facilitated calls that lead to execution of real world strategies for change. Complete schedule here, with new ones starting all the time.
2. Free access to any ONE of our live classes. Each month, we have the following: Learn how to be a Rising Star in media, build your own platform, become an advanced writer, become an editor or create social change. Check out our classes here. RSVP for any one class—if you want to take more, just upgrade to an Annual Platinum Membership.
3. Invitation to the MEMBER-ONLY Good Men Project Community on Facebook and all Weekly Conference calls with the Publisher and community. Connect with other members online and by phone!
4. An ad-free experience. No banner, pop-up, or video ads when you are logged in—as long as your membership is active.
5. GOLD commenting badge. Your comments on our website will appear with a gold member badge, signifying you are a part of our core community.
Price for ANNUAL GOLD membership is $25/year.
Your ANNUAL BRONZE membership will include:
1. Invitation to the MEMBER-ONLY Good Men Project Community on Facebook and weekly conference calls with the publisher and community. Connect with other members, network and carry the conversation no one else is having one step further.
2. A listing on our Friends of The Good Men Project page. Your support of our mission is noted and appreciated. See the page here!
3. An ad-free experience. No banner, pop-up, or video ads when you are logged in—as long as your membership is active.
4. BRONZE member commenting badge. Your comments on our website will appear with a bronze member badge, signifying you are a part of our core community.
Price for ANNUAL BRONZE membership is $12/year.
We have groups and calls 7 days a week:
We have pioneered the largest worldwide conversation about what it means to be a good man in the 21st century. Your support of our work is inspiring and invaluable.
Price for ANNUAL BRONZE membership is $12/year.
“Here’s the thing about The Good Men Project. We are trying to create big, sweeping, societal changes—–overturn stereotypes, eliminate racism, sexism, homophobia, be a positive force for good for things like education reform and the environment. And we’re also giving individuals the tools they need to make individual change—-with their own relationships, with the way they parent, with their ability to be more conscious, more mindful, and more insightful. For some people, that could get overwhelming. But for those of us here at The Good Men Project, it is not overwhelming. It is simply something we do—–every day. We do it with teamwork, with compassion, with an understanding of systems and how they work, and with shared insights from a diversity of viewpoints.” —– Lisa Hickey, Publisher of The Good Men Project and CEO of Good Men Media Inc.
Photo: Jesse Acosta/Flickr