How to make a man feel vulnerable without making him feel unmanly.
There is a saying that we teach what we want to learn. I suspect it may be equally true that we write about issues most important in our lives. I grew up as an only child in a single parent-family. My father was gone by the time I was five years old. My mother had to go out and work and I was left alone a lot of the time. My main friends and companions were the imaginary friends that I turned to for comfort, love, and understanding.
I began writing stories at an early age and as adult writing has become my passion. It’s the way I have made sense of my world and addressed the issues that are most important to me. The additional benefit of writing is that I get immediate feedback from people. When I open myself up and share my deepest truths and experience, it feels wonderful to hear from people who share their own stories.
Some time ago I wrote an article, 7 Things That Make a Man Feel Loved. I shared my experiences being married to my wife, Carlin, for more than thirty years. It felt wonderful to read so many comments and eventually learn that that 280,000 people had read and shared the article. I’m happy to report that our love has continued to deepen and grow and I’d like to share my current feelings and thoughts.
I love it when you see, hear, and feel me.
Both Carlin and I have been married twice before and we both realize that it’s difficult for one person to walk in the shoes of another. Men and women may not come from two separate planets, but our brains are different, our hormones are different, and the very cells in our bodies are different. Of course, there are many things we share, but it’s the differences that often end up making us feel alone. Feeling that your partner “gets you” is one of the greatest gifts we can ever receive. I feel seen, heard, and emotionally connected to Carlin. She’s worked hard to understand me and my world and it feels wonderful to have a woman who really wants to know me fully.
I love it when you accept me as I am and don’t try and change me.
There is a lot about me that is difficult to live with. I’ve had my share of childhood wounds: My father was away because he had tried to kill himself and I suffered the loss of his presence and the fears that I would follow in his footsteps. As an adult I have had to deal with depression and bipolar disorder. When I would get manic I would become irritable, angry, and hard to live with. When I would get depressed I would become sullen, clingy, and difficult to live with. Carlin has her own wounds and emotional challenges. But I’ve never felt that Carlin wanted me to be different than I am. She isn’t perfect in her support of me, no one is, but she gives me constant validation that who I am is OK with her, even when I’m a bear to live with.
I love it when you take care of yourself and believe that I can take care of myself.
It would often drive me crazy when Carlin would take care of herself instead of doing something I wanted. “I can’t go with you today,” she would tell me. “I need time to myself.” When I felt down and needy, I hungered for her to drop everything and respond to my needs. But Carlin knew herself well enough to know that she needed to first take care of herself. She could better be supportive of me if she was good to herself. I learned to love that quality because it also allowed me to take care of my own needs. Rather than creating two people who were so independent we lived in our own separate worlds, it has created two whole human beings who care for themselves and then have a lot to give to their partner.
I love it when you hold me when I need nurturing, without making me feel unmanly.
One of the greatest gifts I get from Carlin is that she allows me to be vulnerable and unsure as well as strong and decisive. For most of my life I’ve felt I had to be “manly and strong,” which meant that I couldn’t show weakness or vulnerability. But there are times when I felt like the world was just too much for me. I wanted to be able to curl up in my wife’s arms and let her hold me. In past relationships the women were as afraid of my showing weakness as I was. But Carlin was different, she let me be weak and nurtured me without making me feel like a wimp. I’ve never felt more alive than when I could allow myself to “fall apart” and know my wife was not freaked out and was there for me.
I love it when you encourage my vulnerability without shaming me.
I can’t tell you how many times I have had women tell me, “I feel like I have three children in the house and only two of them are underage. I want a man, and he acts like a little boy.” I’ve felt the shame of statements like those many times in previous relationships. In fact, one of the strongest memories I have growing up was hearing my mother and a group of her women friends talking about their husbands. A number of the men, including my father, were out of work, and the women talked about them as though they were not “real men.”
“Henry is out all day, but he never brings anything home. He says he’s looking for work, but he’s got nothing to show for it,” one of the women said. Another shook her head and told the group, “It’s even worse with my husband. He’s at home all the time and it’s like having another child constantly under foot.”
I remember hearing these words as a four year old and making a vow that I would never let a woman talk about me like that. “I’ll die first. If it kills me, I’ll never be out of work.” Well, I’ve been working since I was 9 years old. When I lost my job a number of years ago, I fell into a deep depression that almost did kill me. Carlin understands that being a man is about both strength and weakness and she supports both in me. She never shames me for being weak, confused, or uncertain. She respects and loves me for being me. Thank you, thank you, thank you, my love.
We are proud of our SOCIAL INTEREST GROUPS—CALLS every night of the week to discuss and help solve some of the most difficult challenges that men today–and the world–has known. Calls are for Members of The Good Men Project Community Only (although you can join the first call for free). Not yet a member of The Good Men Project? Join now!
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 $20 Gold Level gives you access to any ONE Social Interest Group and ONE Class–and other benefits listed below the form. Or…for $5, join as a Bronze Member and support our mission.
Register New Account
Please note: If you are already a writer/contributor at The Good Men Project, log in here before registering. (Request new password if needed).
ANNUAL PLATINUM membership ($50 per year) includes:
1. AN ALL ACCESS PASS — Join ANY and ALL of our weekly calls, Social Interest Groups, classes, workshops and private Facebook groups. We have at least one group phone call or online class every day of the week.
2. See the website with no ads when logged in!
3. PLATINUM MEMBER commenting badge and listing on our “Friends of The Good Men Project” page.
ANNUAL GOLD membership ($25 per year) includes all the benefits above — but only ONE Weekly Social Interest Group and ONE class.
ANNUAL BRONZE membership ($12 per year) is great if you are not ready to join the full conversation but want to support our mission anyway. You’ll still get a BRONZE commenting badge, a listing on our Friends page, and you can pop into any of our weekly Friday Calls with the Publisher when you have time. This is for people who believe—like we do—that this conversation about men and changing roles and goodness in the 21st century is one of the most important conversations you can have today.
We have LIVE CALLS about these topics every week! Join us by becoming a Platinum or Gold member.
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.
“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.
You might also like these From The Good Men Project:
Compliments Men Would Love to Hear More Often Thirty-One Reasons Men Don’t Cheat What Makes a Man Attractive? Here’s What Happens When You Find The One
Originally posted on MenAlive. Reposted with permission