Being yourself is key in marriage. If you’re hiding your masculine expression, you’re not being yourself.
Sometimes after you’ve been in a relationship for a while it is easy to to lose that sense of being ‘a man.’ Whether it’s getting the kids to school, picking them up from their after school program, the deadline on that project at work, the weekend trip to the in-laws, whatever your routine is it is easy to fall into a repetitive pattern of daily life. When our schedule with our partner or family becomes routinized in this way it can be easy to lose track of our sense of identity, or being ‘a man.’ In this routine sometimes we lose our barometer that guides us from within, we lose our core identity
Since being a man ties into our identity in many ways I have called this Masculine Expression. I’ve written a good amount about masculine expression and how important it is for dating and cultivating attraction. I haven’t spoken much about it in the context of relationships, but masculine expression is an essential ingredient to maintain not only your personal happiness within a relationship, but also a happy, healthy relationship in the long term.
But, what does being ‘a man’ mean’? Men seem to interpret this sense of being ‘a man’ as meeting the standard of the stereotypical expectations of men, and men tend to fall into the pattern of judging themselves based on this societal standard (If I earned more money… If I was in better shape… If I wasn’t balding… If I was better looking, etc.).
Instead of judging yourself based on societal standards, the feeling of being ‘a man’ should come from knowing you brought your best effort to each day, striving toward your potential, and not slacking on that potential. Because only you know what your true potential is and you know when you’re cheating yourself from that great feeling that comes with knowing you were striving to be your best. It is an expression of a core part of your personality. This is what leads to that feeling like we are ‘a man,’ – being your best self.
The concept of masculine expression is what I use as a counselor to guide men toward this concept of ‘being a man’. It comprises four different components: (1) Know and accept your unique personality, (2) the ability to convey this unique aspect of your personality to others, (3) Holding your boundaries, and (4) Be assertive when the situation calls for it.
It’s important that you find your own masculine expression that is unique to you and your personality. You might have more than one way you express this aspect of yourself. For example, my main form of masculine expression currently is surfing. I know another man who has found Chess to be a form of masculine expression. In another post I outlined an example of simple personality traits of gruffness and cynicism as another form of masculine expression. The latter example is important because it outlines a significant way we can potentially hold ourselves back everyday by muting what is authentic and hiding vital parts of our personality.
To outline my point consider Walt’s character from Breaking Bad. The driving part of the story was Walt’s relationship to Jesse. Jesse was the man who understood Walt most, who knew the man behind the facade of the reassurances to his family that “Everything is going to OK.” Walt lived his real life, maybe even his true self, outside of the know of his family. When I say true self, I do not mean his job as a meth cooker. I am referring to aspects of his personality: in his role as meth cooker Walt was assertive, commanding, shrewd, and was able to use and display his intelligence in a way that brought all of these other aspects of his personality to the surface. In most of Walt’s daily life his character portrayed very different characteristics: he was modest, unassuming, even doddering. Essentially he was the fool that everybody knew was intelligent, but no one took seriously.
It wasn’t until the last three episodes that his own wife even knew that Walt had the level of power he had in the meth scene and how close to the edge of danger he was actually living. It was like his masculine expression was completely hidden from the person supposed to know him best. Even Walt seemed to be in denial, as if it was taboo and would incur social judgement that would extricate him from his family, never acknowledging it until the very last episode. Then, right before his death, he confessed how alive this expression of himself made him feel, and that it was something he was good at. And for many men this unexpressed part of their manhood exists silently under the surface, maybe even unbeknownst to them as an amorphous energy they don’t know what to do with. When a glimmer of it arises, they cast doubt upon it, maybe because they think they will be ousted from their own tribe.
Walt’s wife Skyler was surprised, to say the least, when she found out what Walt had been up to. It’s the ultimate example of getting into a relationship and years later wondering who the heck this person is you married. But this often happens once we stop asserting ourselves and our needs in a relationship. Wouldn’t Skyler have liked to know what she was getting into? Maybe she did see this side of Walt when they first got married, as Walt was at one time a hot shot chemist with a lot of potential and ambition. Maybe these aspects of his personality were what made Walt attractive to her. Maybe the years of life’s hardships had beaten this out of Walt, and he lost track of his sense of personal power and the expression of it. And maybe Walt would not have needed to take such a dramatic turn in his life to find this expression of himself if he had been able to access it all along.
Of course we are talking about a Television drama, a metaphor, or caricature of a way we live our everyday lives. Heck, you may not have even watched or liked Breaking Bad. The question is, do you want your best self living in secret or would you like to live it openly and thrive in your relationship? I assume the latter.
It is your personal growth and happiness both within and outside a relationship that is key, and this is often lost on people. The key to a great relationship is not about finding the best partner, it is about being your best self in your relationship being the best partner you can be.
So, to the men reading this I ask, what makes you happy? What makes you feel vibrant? If you’re not doing it I suggest that you get yourself back into it pronto! It could be as simple as picking up an old hobby you’ve lost track of. Then, let your partner know that this is something that you need to do, and work out a way to make it happen.
Photo Credit: Bigstock.com