Men never ask for directions.
Its the most commonly heard and overused stereotype that seems to break past the borders of generation, race, and location. Whether this is the case for you, or for your partner, father, friend, or brother, this stereotype can tell us so much about the differences between men and women when dealing with relationship struggles.
One person knows that they are lost, and wants to seek help. The other person—who might not even believe that they are lost in the first place—is determined to find the right path, alone.
Why is it so common for men to insist upon “figuring things out” themselves? Where did this mentality come from? In a world where men are typically resistant to couples counseling or coaching, we have to ask ourselves this question:
What makes men so uncomfortable about asking for relationship help?
The answers I received from men seemed to fall into two categories:
1. Biological Differences
Even though we tend to think of ourselves as highly evolved, our biological roles still have a strong influence on personal behavior.
Evolutionarily, men played the role of the hunter and provider. This means that thousands of years of social and biological conditioning have taught men to question, or even to fight against, anything and anyone that poses a threat to that authoritative position.
In response to my question, some people told me that men were more independently driven with a pack-leader mentality. I even heard that men might be “more critical of psychological analysis,” meaning that seeking advice from an outsider, even a trained professional, would be threatening and emasculating. This is often rooted in feelings of embarrassment or shame caused by fear of exposing one’s personal problems to a stranger. Again, this goes back to the male focus on independence as a defining strength, whereas women have been more conditioned to rely on a community of support.
Obviously there are biological differences between men and women, which inherently play into different psychological motives and viewpoints. But there’s more to us than just a swirling pool of hormones and instinctual responses.
2. Learned and Reinforced Behavior
Our biological roles may influence our personal behavior, but we are also taught to inhabit a certain set of behaviors and beliefs based on our identified sex.
As I continued posing the question “Why are men typically more resistant to seeking relationship help,” the most interesting response I received spoke directly to a socially learned concept.
He said, “I think men are less confident in their ability to change certain behavior.”
At first, I was totally baffled. But as we continued talking, things started making more sense. “Boys will be boys” is just one of many gender biased phrases that may sound like a harmless and innocent commentary on biological differences, but in reality it teaches the dangerous idea that men have an inability to control their actions. We teach boys that they are independent, hormone-driven authority figures that have uncontrollable urges for power and dominance, just as we teach girls that they are emotional, irrational, and physically dependent. And this can cause deeply rooted psychological separations, socially and individually.
But if we want our society to move past the limitations of biological and gender based roles, men need to redefine what it means to “be a man.” And one way to do this is to reevaluate the mentality causing them to resist relationship help.
Sometimes, you need to stop and ask for directions. You might meet someone you would have never met otherwise, and you might travel far beyond your original destination.
Originally Published on MariaBorghoff.com
Photo: Getty Images