Have you ever been called “needy”? I know a lot of men who have.
This article is bound to tick off those who believe “it shouldn’t be like that”.
Sorry…but for scads of married men it is like that.
The cold, hard truth is millions of “openly vulnerable husbands” (OVH) face the anger, disgust and withdrawal of their wives every day. Even in our age “conscious men and women”, the year 2017 has brought more questions than answers to the modern marriage and the husbands I help.
Shouldn’t This Be a Two-Way Street?
The typical email complaint I get from husbands sounds like this:
My wife and I are really having trouble and her anger seems to be driving it. She has been calling me needy and hates me talking about my feelings and our relationship. She pulls away when I try to get closer to her and she has been super disconnected. She says she feels smothered by me and my feelings.
I thought we were supposed to show vulnerability to women. I thought we were supposed to be open with them and also accept their vulnerability. But she doesn’t share anything with me. Shouldn’t this be a two-way street?
Answer: No. It’s not a two-way street. You will need to let go of what is “supposed to be” and choose to deal with what “is”. Your expectation that it should be a two-way street will only create more cold and more distance. Wouldn’t it be nice if being vulnerable with your wife was easy? Sure, it would. But as are most things in committed relationships it’s a lot more complicated than you would like.
The Two-Way Street Myth about Vulnerability
Men and women are perfectly equal – but we’re not the same. If sameness is your desire, you will need to come back in another life and give it another shot.
“Sameness” is not going to evolve in your lifetime so “them’s the cards you’re dealt”.
You can choose to play or fold.
The two-way street vulnerability myth has a few misconceptions which can leave the OVH quite confused.
1. Men and women should and must display equal amounts of vulnerability in order to create true intimacy, love and sexual desire.
Expecting to achieve equal amounts of anything is a recipe for disaster. It’s easy to manage equity for domestic stuff like housework and bills. But intimacy, love and desire are not subject to the rules of domestic equality. Trying to manipulate equal effort and equal vulnerability is a set up for conflict and disappointment. Pursuing her to join you at a level of vulnerability you desire will cause her to distance herself from you. (see Pursuer/Distancer on GMP)
2. All women want a man who is willing to show his sensitivity, fears and tears for her to feel closeness, trust and sexual attraction.
Even the research by vulnerability expert Brene Brown confirms the current social conditioning of women can cause them to be disappointed and disgusted (her words) by male vulnerability. Check out her famous video. Many wives perceive their husband’s fear and uncertainty as weakness and it can scare them, piss them off and turn them off. An informal poll of any 25 honest wives will confirm this. One woman explained it to me like this, “I don’t mind him being vulnerable as long as he has a handle on how he is going to fix the problem.”
3. It’s selfish, unfair, immature and un-evolved for a woman to be turned off by an OVH. She should be the safest place to vent his emotions.
Judging what feels attractive to her is a waste of your time. It’s not a conscious choice for her. It’s simply a programmed reaction. It’s no more selfish, unfair, immature and un-evolved than your reaction to a woman you find extremely unappealing (insert your image here). You could try to rationalize with her that she should be the best, safest place for you to emotionally vomit anytime you feel like it. Or you could try to debate the science of attraction with her to find a resolution. Good luck with that.
Can You be Both Masculine and Vulnerable at the Same Time?
Of course, you can. Men have equal rights and access to their fears, tears, uncertainty, insecurity and unbridled emotional expression. And exercising those rights does not make a man less “masculine”. Masculinity always contains the full range of human emotion. That’s not remotely debatable in my book.
The question is “Can a husband reasonably expect to sustain his masculine attractiveness to his wife if his emotional vulnerability is unchecked, uncontrolled and unregulated?”
In most cases, I believe the answer is no.
I know some will point out relationships where it works and is welcome and is warm and wonderful. Those may be the rare and truly evolved spiritual partnerships with fully realized mutuality in every respect.
But it takes two extremely conscious, intentional and willing partners to achieve that. Often these are second marriages. If this is you, don’t bother with the rest of this article. If this this isn’t you…keep reading.
Let’s talk more about how to look at your own vulnerability and why regulating it can be a powerful choice that you make for yourself.
Don’t Lower Your Expectations – Just Change Them
Okay, you’re still here.
Let me help you change your expectations.
This isn’t about giving up hope for the marriage you imagined. It’s about changing the nature of your hope.
Instead of hoping for things to be different, hope that you can change the way you think and feel about sharing your vulnerability.
It’s a matter of personal growth. It’s a choice to learn how to create a new environment for your partner.
This happened for me first with horses. Learning it with women came after my divorce. (I’ll tell you that story later sometime)
In my time training horses I learned an incredible life lesson. I started out sucking with horses because I wanted them to fit into my expectations for rational behavior. To me they were acting stupid, irrational and scared for no good reason. They also scared me a little. This why many people believe horses are generally stupid, irrational and scared animals.
But they’re not…and neither is your wife.
Horses are just programmed differently which required me to learn, understand and honor their programming. Then I had to learn a different language which was totally non-verbal. Then I had to develop patience and perseverance like never before. Then I started getting really good. Horses loved me. They trusted me and talked to me. I finally figured out the invisible communication required to “whisper” to horses. It became natural, easy and enjoyable for me. Nothing felt like a struggle anymore.
My lesson was that I was totally capable of changing my expectations, my perspective and my energy to achieve the results I wanted. I could regulate my energy and my actions according to the expectations I had of myself and still stay true to who I wanted to be.
I’m suggesting you can stop hoping your wife will change and start changing your approach- on your terms – because you want to learn how to create a new dynamic. This will require new insight, more self-awareness and better self-control. This is how you will create an environment more conducive to trust and connection.
This is a transformation you can surely realize within your lifetime – more likely in about a six months or less.
Choosing to own your stuff impacts your whole life – especially your marriage. It gives you a sense of emotional strength and leadership maybe for the first time ever.
You no longer feel like you’re walking on emotional eggshells. And you feel new confidence in your role of leading your own emotional energy.
What Do You Do Now?
By now you can choose to believe me or not.
You can believe that women are negatively affected by your unregulated emotions or not.
You can believe that you are able to develop control over your expectations, perspective and emotions or not.
I’m offering this perspective for you to consider as a way out of the hot mess that may be pushing her further away.
You may be thinking I’ve forgotten the big question:
“Hey, what do I do when I need to emotionally vomit dammit?! Don’t I deserve to share my fears, tears, insecurities with anyone?”
Of course you do.
I’ve come to firmly believe the best place for this is with other men. Through my own personal development with men, the men I coach, my men’s meetup and my private men’s forum I have seen miracles happen.
These are initiated men who have chosen to accept the realities in front of them and take action to become stronger, clearer and more confident than any other time in their life. They are operating their life in accordance with their own rules – nobody else’s. They have chosen to accept the love and support of other men who not only can handle their fears, tears and insecurities – they want to.
Your wife and marriage provide you tremendous rewards, challenges and growth opportunities. You will drastically accelerate your learning, confidence and growth by bringing other men into that process.
I help men conquer the crap that is keeping them from feeling free and powerful in their lives and marriages. I wrote a free ebook for married men called “The Hard-to-Swallow Secret to Saving Your Marriage”. It’s more about saving yourself first. Download a copy HERE.
Photo: Talha Islam/Flickr