While living in Phoenix many years ago, I sat on my couch one evening with Pam, the woman I was dating. I was trying to answer her request to feel my emotions and explain my thoughts. Pam kept saying patiently, “I don’t feel you.” After a few minutes, sharing my thoughts on the subject, I finally heard what she wanted: she wanted me to express my feelings.
Finally I realized that my thoughts – as brilliant as I thought them to be – weren’t my emotions. I got it. It didn’t mean I could immediately shift. But it did mean that I realized I didn’t need to leave the relationship; I just needed to leave that masculine model I bought into of a relationship. It also meant I needed to go out and learn what was never taught to me. I knew I needed to learn how to man up emotionally.
Most relationships end because of communication issues. If this is to change, we need to create a new model of Masculine Emotional Intelligence. We also need a way for men to learn it that is fun.
When fathers left the farm for the factory 200 years ago, we lost our men. They were at work, while women were home raising the kids, teaching them how to express emotions – or not express them. Generations of feminine training skewed the emotional intelligence scale towards the feminine for men.
When a man attempts to communicate solely from a feminine perspective, both he and his partner become frustrated. It’s as if he’s walking around in an emotional dress. No one is happy.
In our men’s groups, we continue to see men step out of the model they were trained in to learn a more masculine model. These men learn their native emotional language. They learn how to open up, feel, and communicate their feelings in a way that doesn’t emasculate them.
Every week a man learns more, not by some didactic lecture, but by practicing in the moment with his fellow group members. He learns how to win emotionally, and he learns the five MQ (Masculine Quotient) skills. In the process, joy and hope replace the anger and despair.
A New Model
Men aren’t bad, broken, or doomed. We just never had the role models we needed to learn how be vulnerable and powerful emotionally. Taught by our mothers, teachers, girlfriends, and then wives how to be sensitive like a woman, we continually fail. Either we just give up at the start, or we try to be that sensitive, nice guy. That doesn’t work, though, and we end up with women giving us more instruction.
Both women and men bought into the idea that men experience and share their emotions in similar ways. While it’s true, we are more similar than not, men need a unique skill set to succeed with relationship issues. For example, when we can be vulnerable and assertive simultaneously, everyone is happy.
Men often join a men’s group because they are failing or failed at another relationship. Most men want to succeed. They are serious about the suggestions they get from their emotional experts: women. Yet it always seems like they end up flunking out of the course.
Both sexes need to realize that, as men, we want to connect to and love our partners. What we learned works for a while, but invariably, trying to express like the women we love chokes us. We work at sitting and listening while feeling this urge to jump up and say what we feel. For many of us, it evolves to be sitting through conversations that have us feeling as if we just got the flu.
No one is to blame for this. Men are running the wrong program. Being raised by women, we naturally assume we need to feel and express like women. Put a man in a good men’s group, and he immediately sees men being emotionally real—in a masculine manner. He slowly tries out these new skills only to find them easy and fun. To his amazement, he goes home being authentic like he’s learning to be in his group, and his partner melts.
The collective of his group teaches each man what none had growing up. The men of the group model MEI – Masculine Emotional Intelligence. A man begins to practice being his own man emotionally in his group with the feedback only men can give. This is NOT therapy; it’s men being real as men.
Photo by David Olkarny