Who does your partner turn to when he’s upset?
If he’s like most men, the only emotional support he seeks out comes from you.
Most men have a few friends; however, after college or the leaving the military, these friendships become more socially superficial.
Boys transition from being even more sensitive than girls during childhood to shutting down their emotions once they reach adulthood and start working.
One reason you and your partner came together was the emotional support he found with you – you made him feel safe to express his love and physical attraction. Then one day, you suddenly feel like your lover was replaced by a roommate. You start to wonder and worry about why his behavior has changed. Maybe you started asking why, but, then, if your attempts devolved to pleading, arguing, and making ultimatums, this path will not inspire sustainable change.
I know it may feel like he doesn’t love you anymore. This is not necessarily true.
As men, we perfected disconnection to such an extent we are no longer aware of it or how it affects others. We have our pseudo-masculine theories of what has really gone wrong with our relationships and, as we become more frustrated, those theories become accusations.
When you partner hangs out with his male friends, he is distracting himself from his emotions. He is not challenged or supported by his friends to sit down and have an open and honest conversation with you. He is told that his life is the norm.
Beyond all the bravado, denial, and rejection, he is a scared boy. In this clip from “Good Will Hunting,” Matt Damon embodies this scared boy showing up as a man. He loves Skylar, but in this scene, he is operating out of fear rather than love.
It can feel impossible to reconcile how a man can run into a burning building to save a kid without hesitation, but, then he will run out of a room faster than you can say, “Fire!” when confronted by an emotional discussion. This paradox is an example of how conditioned men are to avoid specific feelings which fall outside of the box of contemporary masculinity.
Men in our modern age are taught to seek their vocation, a specific income, a house full of stuff, etc. They are not encouraged to develop their full character. Few men had male role models as children to demonstrate how to be fully human, not just a provider.
You feel the impact of his lack of a masculine role model every day. Loving him cannot equip him with the tools he was never given from his father or grandfather or countless other men in his life. You partner was given an incomplete operating system for navigating his feelings.
You and your partner can greatly benefit from a men’s group. Your partner needs to experience what it’s like to be with other men who are learning to be vulnerable in a masculine way.
Give It Up
Hollywood’s notion that a couple can be everything the other needs is false. You don’t need to do this alone. You cannot be expected to be your partner’s complete support system anymore than he should be expected to be your sole pillar of emotional solace.
What you experience as a struggling relationship, he experiences as intense frustration – he doesn’t know what he’s looking at or how to “fix it.” So, he disconnects with the help of “manly” distractions to avoid the frustration and the accompanying shame. Whether or not your relationship ultimately works out for the long term, you could change his life with one open, honest, loving suggestion.
Often what brings men to our free groups or our training sessions is the fear of losing their partners. Unfortunately, most men don’t deal with an emotional issue until it becomes a crisis. Some men may need the “excuse” of a partner’s request just to get in the door of men’s group, but, if he does the work, he will not only change for the betterment of your relationship – it could change the way he interacts with his pursuit of life and happiness.
Take a Risk
What do you have to lose by risking some honest, straight talk and sharing how you feel in your current relationship? You have everything to gain by allowing your partner the space to rally together a group of men who assist you with giving him the emotional support every human being needs.
If you could hear men speak about how much they love their partners and families, you would have hope.
Let us know how it goes. We’re here to help.