For any woman who has wondered how best to support the men in their lives in an equal and loving relationship, here is what has made me feel loved and supported. This is my third marriage. Like many of us, it’s taken me some time to figure out how to be truly supportive of the woman in my life, and how she can be supportive of me. My wife, Carlin, and I have been married now for 33 years. Often times those who’ve failed know better what to do to succeed. Here are the things I’ve learned about how my wife has helped me to live more joyfully.
1. Make Yourself Number One
Like many women, Carlin learned a lot about how to take care of others. She took care of her husbands (she’s also been married twice before), her kids, and her friends. It was all good, but she didn’t always take care of herself.
It took us both awhile to learn that the better she took care of herself, the more she had to give to our family. I like the way inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant says it:
“it’s not selfish to put yourself first — it’s self-full. To take care of you, keep you whole and healthy. That doesn’t mean you disregard everything and everyone. But you want to come with your cup full. You know: ‘My cup runneth over.’ What comes out of the cup is for y’all. What’s in the cup is mine. But I’ve got to keep my cup full.”
2. It Turns Me on When You Take Care of Yourself
The best thing that Carlin ever told me was that she found me sexy when I went for my yearly health check-up. The last thing I wanted to do was to see my doctor, especially since the visit included bending over a table to have my prostate checked. It definitely wasn’t “sexy” for me. Carlin told me in many ways that taking care of myself was not only a good thing to do, but “turned her on.” She said I was sexy when I took my daily vitamins and when I ate healthy food. Believe me, I’ll do most anything that gets my wife turned on. She let me know that taking care of myself was one of the sexiest things I could do.
I want to take care of myself for my own well-being, but when my wife let’s me know that she considers “self care” sexy, it gives me even more incentive to be healthy.
3. Make me Feel like I’m Your Hero
One of the greatest feelings in the world is to have my wife look at me with admiration and love. I want to be her hero and in this day and age it seems like it’s more difficult. She’s not a helpless maiden who has to be rescued. So how do I find ways to be a hero for her? And how does she let me know I’m still her hero?
We’ve found little way and big ways. She brings jars to me to open that she can’t budge. I can almost always open them. “You’re my hero,” she tells me. It’s fun. It’s a joke. But it’s a small thing, that I feel good doing. She also tells me I’m her hero for being such a good father to our children. Look for ways to acknowledge the heroic in the little details in life.
4. Let us know I Love and Appreciate You and We’ll do the Same
We all want to feel loved and appreciated, but as time goes on, we don’t feel it as strongly as when we first met. Carlin really looks for ways to appreciate what I do and let me know how much she loves me. Sometimes she tells me in words. Other times she gives me little gifts of appreciation. Sometimes she just looks at me in a way that lets me know I’m that special someone
5. Lets Both Let Go of the Old Beliefs About Being Manly
What it means to be a man is changing. In the past being a man meant living by certain rules. In my book, Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man I called them the 10 Commandments. Many of us grew up believing them and still do:
- Thou shalt not be weak, nor have weak dogs before thee.
- Thou shalt not fail thyself, nor fail as thy father did before thee.
- Thou shalt not keep holy any day that denies they work.
- Thou shalt not express strong emotions, neither high nor low.
- Thou shalt not cry, complain, or ask for help.
- Thou shalt not be hostile or angry, especially towards loved ones, unless they provoke you and you are then duty bound to defend your honor
- Thou shalt not be uncertain or ambivalent.
- Thou shalt not be dependent.
- Thou shalt not acknowledge thy death or thy limitations.
- Thou shalt do unto other men before they do unto you.
6. Manhood is Not the Big Impossible. It’s as Easy As Breathing.
Guys are often insecure about their “manhood.” Women can help by knowing that and understanding our manly worries. They can also remind us that in this age of sexual equality, there are still things that they appreciate about us as men, not just as human beings.
There is a belief that manhood is something elusive and difficult to achieve. In his book, Manhood in the Making, anthropologist David Gilmore tells us that cross-culturally there is a belief that maleness “is a precarious or artificial state that boys must win against powerful odds.” There is a Native American tribe that says, “manhood is the Big Impossible.”
It’s no wonder that guys are forever feeling vulnerable to charges of being a “sissy,” “girly,” or “unmanly.”
I like what the poet Robert Bly says. “Boys must be around older men in order to hear the sound that male cells sing.” Isn’t that a wonderful notion? We don’t have to worry about doing those magical things to make us men, but our very cells give off a vibration of manliness.
There is now scientific evidence of this fact. There are 10 trillion cells in human body and every one of them is sex specific. If we’re a man, every cell in our body carries an XY chromosome. If we’re a woman, each one carries an XX. David C. Page, M.D., professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and director of the Whitehead Institute has shown that we don’t have to work at being a man. All our cells are working for us.
It’s wonderful when my wife says, “I’m so glad you’re my man and I’m so glad to have a great man like you in my life.”
7. Stop Shaming Men
Shame is devastating to men. It undermines the very core of our being. Yet shame and disrespect are built into the fabric of our society. Remember the nursery rhyme that told us “Little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Little boys are made of snakes and snails and puppy-dogs tails.”
I’m not saying we should ignore negative behavior. It’s healthy to say things like, “It hurts me when you walk away when I want to talk to you.” Its shaming to say things like “You’re a cold, uncaring man. You’re just like your father.” One suggests there is something about your behavior that is hurtful. The other suggests there is something about your being that is bad.
Women have done a good job of confronting the ways in which females have been put in restrictive boxes. It’s now time to stand up for males. Take a stand on the T.V. programs, the ads, the jokes that tell men that they are bad and ugly inside. When you’re talking to friends and they make shaming comments about the man in your life, its helpful when you say something like this: “I know men can do or say things that are hurtful, but shaming them doesn’t help us or the men in our lives.”
Helping men live more joyful lives is good for men and it’s also good for women and children. The more women love and support the men in their lives, the more men are motivated to love and support them. It isn’t easy to do, but the results are worth it.
About the book
“Most women don’t understand men or how to love them. In his new book, 12 Rules for Good Men, he shows them how. Check it out here. “12 Rules is the result of Jed’s lifetime of leadership in men’s work and represents the power and wisdom of an elder of the men’s movement.”
–Mark Greene, Senior Editor, The Good Men Project.
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Also by Jed Diamond
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