Fred reached out to me a couple years ago due to some troubles he’d been having in his marriage.
He’d been married for 40 years, and over the last 10, his sex life had declined to disastrously low levels.
Things were at the point where intimacy between him and his wife was nearly non-existent. He was mostly unable to get or keep an erection, and the emotional intimacy was at an all time low too.
His history with infidelity in the relationship stretched back a good many years.
I asked him if he’d sought out any other support up until this point. He said no.
We spoke for a while and together we highlighted some reasons why things were going how they had been, and next steps he could take to improve things in his relationship. I made myself completely available for any future questions he had as well.
Fred had everything he needed in that moment to take the next step toward turning around not just his sex life, but his entire marriage, yet months later after hearing no word, when I emailed him back he still had not taken action on any of the things we’d spoken about.
Unsurprisingly, nothing had improved in his marriage since then either.
Contrast this story to Joe. Joe showed up with similar surface-level challenges as Fred had been experiencing: Issues with sexual performance and confidence. He was emotionally devastated, had tried numerous other options, but nothing had worked.
Of course, these challenges were not just limited to his sex life, they spilled out into every other area of his partnership: Communication, trust, happiness, emotional intimacy, etc.
But with Joe, the conversation went completely differently.
Almost immediately I could tell that he was taking in everything that we spoke about and that it was changing him even in the moment. After a brief 30-minute phone call he walked away with insights that completely changed the way he had been experiencing his sexual and relationship challenges.
These insights gave him hope, something he’d nearly lost sight of at that point in time.
A short period of time later Joe had signed up to work with my business partner Natalie and me, and in a period of just 3 months, he was reporting massive changes.
His sexual performance challenges had shifted from a numbingly painful 0 out of 10 to a solid 5 out of 10 and climbing.
And these changes didn’t impact just his relationship. He created positive results in every other area of his life.
His personal confidence had grown dramatically. More than doubled in fact, from a subjective 3/10 to an 8/10.
He went on to significantly up-level his performance at work and step powerfully into a leadership position. People at his job were giving him totally unsolicited comments on how much more confident he seemed.
And all of this over a period of just a few months.
On the surface both Fred and Joe had similar challenges: Sexual performance and sexual “dysfunction”, decreased emotional intimacy and decreased happiness in the relationship.
So what allowed Joe to make massive changes in his relationship in a very short period of time, while Fred made little to none?
After coaching hundreds of men around the world about their most personal sexual and relationship challenges, the men who do create massive change in their lives share some themes that are too recurring to be accidents. I’ve seen this over and over in my private work as well as The Brotherhood, a leadership training that I run for men who are ready to create the kind of results that Joe did in his relationship, career, and life.
One might call these themes indicators of masculine potency.
These Indicators are:
1. Powerful Support Systems
Let’s face it. Men are not typically taught to reach out for support. Especially from other men and especially when it comes to deeper emotional problems or challenges we’re experiencing.
We’re taught to do it ourselves, i.e. to isolate.
Many men resist even fully acknowledging there is a problem. I have spoken to way too many men who didn’t realize how bad things actually were until the relationship was at a point of no return and breakup or divorce was imminent.
Here’s the thing though… Seeking support is NOT a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. Personal growth is not about what’s broken or wrong, it’s about finding and improving that which can be made even better. And there’s always space to make a relationship even better.
No high performing athlete ever got where they were on their own. They had a team of coaches who could see them better than they were able to see themselves. They had mentors to help improve their swing, their mindset, their performance, and ultimately their results.
2. Real-Life Application
The men that I speak to who go on to thrive in their relationships do so not simply because they implement advice and insights from our conversations, but because they think about it long after the call has ended, try different variations, and ultimately find their own unique way to incorporate it into their lives.
They access their own intuitive creativity, which unsurprisingly, is in and of itself one of the key elements to being successful and fulfilled in relationship (and career, life, etc.).
Even though I’ve coached hundreds of men I would never claim to know exactly what will create the best results for him, only he can determine that for himself through real-life trial.
I would never want to become a crutch for him either. My goal is to put him in contact with his own Inner Authority – an authentic leadership that he can access at will and intuitively modify as called for in each different situation.
3. Emotional Fluency
The biological purpose of an emotion is to drive us to physical action in a way that keeps us healthy and safe.
The data proves that men today are not well equipped to handle our emotions. Suicide statistics alone back this up: 4 out of every 5 suicides in the US are men.
With grief, we’re taught that “boys don’t cry”. Every guy I’ve ever met had some flavor of “anger issues”, whether unable to control their outbursts or due to suppressing anger to the point of dysfunction and even denial. Shame runs rampant among men – from sexual shame, body shame, performance shame, it hits men hard and mostly we have no idea what to do with it.
Relationships (hopefully) provide feelings of companionship, love, turn-on, play, and connection.
These days relationships serve a primary purpose of emotional connection. If we have a dysfunctional
relationship to our emotions, is it any wonder we struggle so mightily in a relationship?
Men who have learned to create healthy and synergistic relationships with their emotions do much better in partnership. They are much more willing to take an honest look at an issue while it can still be nipped in the bud. They are better lovers, better partners, better fathers, and experience more happiness and fulfillment in their relationships.
Treat Your Relationship Like You (Hopefully) Treat Your Car
Guys, how long do you let your car go between oil changes?
Even if we let it go a bit over sometimes most of us pretty much do what it takes to stick to the schedule, keep the vehicle running smoothly and enjoy getting the most life out of it, and maximize the returns on our investment.
But the way most of us learn to show up in our relationships and partnerships is the equivalent of driving our car for tens of thousands of miles year after year, mostly disregarding the “check engine” light, never changing the oil, never seeking out or heeding a professional’s opinion, ignoring or taking personally the angry sounds the car begins to make, and then being surprised when we’re stranded in the middle of a desert road, no help in sight, and feeling totally alone and unsure how to resolve the “problem” – the one that we had unwittingly just spent the last number of years creating.
No man would expect this to be a functional set of instructions for car care. So what makes us think it should work any better in a relationship?
The engines of our cars need care: Gunk builds up. Oil burns off. Before long metal is grinding against metal, things are heating up to dangerous levels, and if we don’t pay attention to the warning signs we have only two choices moving forward: Turn the engine off and let the car rust in the driveway or keep driving it until the engine bursts into flames.
Even though our partner had been asking us for years to attend therapy, go to a workshop, read a book, or take a course (i.e. pay attention to the “check engine” light and change the oil), we avoid looking at the reality of the state of our relationships.
This costs us and our families big time.
Every one of us, no exceptions, brings our emotional baggage into a relationship. Unless we’re continually active in cleaning the gunk out it will build up. Recurring arguments, resentment, sexless relationships, divorce and all its associated costs – all of it – is the price we pay for not paying attention to the signs and following a proper procedure for maintenance.
An additional note for those of us who are fathers: There is no way to avoid passing the gunk on to your children. The adage “Like father like son (or daughter)” holds true only 100% of the time. You are the most impactful teacher your kids will ever have, and you’re teaching them how to be in a relationship: How to treat their future partners, as well as how to let themselves be treated in a relationship.
The only way to mitigate the impact on those we love most is to be actively engaged in our own inner growth journey.
The Results Are In…
I can’t tell you how many women I’ve talked to that say “Bob, I want more men to participate in the work you’re offering!” It’s actually starting to sound like a broken record at this point in my career.
These women see the results of men who are committed to their own inner growth process, and guess what?!?!
Doing your inner work is a MAJOR TURNON to every woman I’ve ever encountered who has any shred of self-confidence about her!
The best part is that everyone benefits. Your girlfriend or partner does. Sex gets better, the connection gets deeper, playfulness thrives, and everyone is happier and more fulfilled.
Your family and children do. You become a more loving partner, father, and son. You’re more able to know when your desire to “solve a problem” becomes invalidating to the emotional experience of someone you care about, and when is actually the right time to do your man thing and fix stuff!
And your life gets better. My own data set of men I’ve worked with proves this. Time after time men report concrete improvements in happiness, self-worth, money, fulfillment, and the list goes on.
Let’s not fool ourselves. Us men avoid looking at all this stuff for one reason only: We’re scared.
So many of us, unfortunately, aren’t able to admit it though. We get taught in a million different ways that fear = weakness. So we avoid honestly examining our inner emotional landscape and the impact it’s having on those around us.
It’s tragic to hear story after story of the devastation in families and relationships from the men I talk to. It took the engine blowing going up in flames for them to realize that something had been needing deeper care and attention.
For many of us this is what it’s taken for us to make contact with our courage and say yes to our path of personal growth. We stop avoiding and ignoring. We stop blaming other people and situations for our challenges and begin to see setbacks as growth opportunities. From this place, we take action to create dramatically different results in our relationships and lives.
We come to know that on the other side of their resistance is true freedom. We become more resilient humans. Better husbands and fathers. We become the men we strive to be.
We become leaders of our own lives.
Bob Schwenkler is the creator of The Brotherhood, a leadership training for men who want to up level the quality of their relationships, careers, and lives.
If you’re a man who’s ready for a new level of mastery in his life click here to learn more about The Brotherhood.
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