There are cracks in the male self image. Women are well aware that are there. They have been socialized to ignore them or patch them up as they appear, often to their own detriment.
On the other hand, many men suffer from a faltering sense of manhood and are in need of constant reassurance, placing demands on their relationships. Very often, men accept society’s definition of manhood without questioning which aspects serve them.
The default cry:
“I was only being a man” is the equivalent to,” I’m only acting out the role which was given to me. What more do you want.” It is the “what more”, that needs to be examined to understand how it serves us in our everyday lives, in our relationships, and how it may affect the quality of our connections. Do we want to continue accepting society’s definition of manhood on a wholesale level, without question? How do we break out of this spiral?
First of all, we must realize that much of what we believe regarding love, relationships and our definitions of manhood and womanhood are flawed. Most men are raised to bury their feelings; to hide behind family and media induced illusions that have been with us since childhood, of what it means to be a man.
Most women are raised to accept this phenomenon as the natural order of things. With these preconceived notions, often what men do in relationships are covers for trying to work out our own repressed, unresolved, contradictions. Lack of intimacy, promiscuity, various addictions, and even mental and physical abuse are ways men attempt to cover their vulnerability. Bell Hooks, in her book.
The Will To Change, Men, Masculinity, and Love states ” Patriarchal mores teach a form of emotional stoicism to men that says they are more manly if they do not feel, but if by chance they feel hurt, the manly response is to stuff them down, to forget about them, to hope they go away.”
I have seen the effects of male emotional Cracks.
Which translates into avoidance and often, a downright fear in engaging women in a meaningful way. Not surprisingly, our forum audiences are largely women. When ask to explain their hesitancy in participating. Many of the men we speak with feel they will be ganging up on. That women won’t listen to men or even that dialogue with women will be a waste of time.
Audrey Chapman, best selling author and practicing therapist, suggests that depending upon the quality of family relationships with women during childhood, these experiences could leave men emotionally withdrawn from women and hence reluctant to engage.
I have found, from my own experiences, that women want to hear from men. Many come with histories of male disconnectedness in their relationships and are looking for meaningful dialogue and answers to long standing questions. We hear women say “we want to know what men want in a relationship, what they think and, what they feel.” Unfortunately, many of us men don’t believe it.
According to Ms. Chapman:
“If you give men a safe place, they will open up and share their feelings.” And a safe place is what The Flow provides in our forums. Men have shared with us that our forums have brought out feelings they have had but did not know how to articulate. Women have commented that they previously thought men did not think seriously about the quality of their Cracks.
But outside of such gatherings, how do men get in touch with themselves and become more available in there relationships?
Men need to reach out to other men, and move beyond the usual talk that occurs when “kickin it’ with the boys. It’s not uncommon for men to have friendships that span decades yet be emotionally unknown to one another. During a forum, a male forum attendee, recounts an incident, where after a weekly basketball game; he stopped the car he was driving, filled with his closest male friends.
He said to Cracks:
“I’ve known you for 15 years, why haven’t you told me that you are having trouble with you wife”? For them, this inquiry was a turning point. The men then began to share their most intimate selves. John says that “we laughed, we cried and we came away knowing each other in a totally different way.”
Becoming emotionally available in our relationships is hard work, requires courage, honesty and constant self-examination. It also involves unlearning those flawed definitions of manhood that inhibit meaningful unions. However, this in and of itself does not bring success as traditionally viewed.
If success means forty five years of marriage. A house in the suburbs and getting all the children through college. All worthy goals, you don’t necessarily need to be emotionally available to get there. We all know couples who are outwardly successful yet. Their relationships have failed to thrive and being together has become a bad habit.
As Gordon Livingston:
MD writes in the book Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart. “The closest relationships in our lives come, over time. To resemble power struggles in which we become intimate enemies.”
Becoming intimate enemies too often characterizes our relationships. Men becoming more available in their relationships transcend. The external metrics imposed by society and leads us closer to the true purpose of relationships. “The first purpose of every relationship is to help each other become the-best-version-of-ourselves.” says Mathew Kelly, in the book The Seven Levels of Intimacy.
Cracks The Flow:
This is our goal, for both men and women to become open to a process. That enables each to be emotionally available in their relationships. Leading to true intimacy and communication. Our relationships affect more than just the individuals involved. When we look at many of issues affecting our communities from teen. Pregnancy to domestic violence.
I believe that they can be distilling to the quality of our relationships. From our families to our relationship with ourselves. Men becoming more authentically men, capable of loving and being loved translates into not only men being better individuals but ultimately, to more cohesive communities.