I speak to a LOT of men and one characteristic all of them have in common when they’re experiencing relational conflict is this.
They all think “the problem” is that their wife is in some way broken.
They all think “the problem” is that she’s avoidant.
They all think “the problem” is that she has walls up.
They all think “the problem” is that she stonewalls.
They all think “the problem” is that she doesn’t like intimacy, or that some form of prior abuse or trauma is to blame for her distance.
They all think “the problem” is her childhood wounds.
They all think “the problem” is that she’s uniquely troubled or different.
They all think “the problem” is that if she would just….
You know what… I thought ALL of that too!
What I discovered eventually… embarrassingly taking two decades – was that “the problem” was none of those.
It was that I was a childish and insecure man who had no idea how to manage his own emotional life, lead himself, or lead a woman.
Other people are never “the problem”
Like the vast majority of humans, I had believed the bullshit story that my emotional experience of life happened to me, from others – and anything relating to marriage or romance then, I specifically saw as coming from her and her
“problems”. If I’d feel an unpleasant emotion in some sort of exchange with her, it must be her fault.
I didn’t know I was doing it at the time, but I was blaming her or what I perceived as deficits in her for deficits within me.
Why? Because that’s way more comfortable than facing the truth and doing the hard work of having to become mature and responsible for my own self.
Maintaining my sense of victimization allowed me to constantly avoid having to make hard decisions or even simple decisions like where should we go to dinner! It allowed me to avoid doing hard things.
I could live a life of never needing to worry about determining my truth or the fearful dread that comes with walking toward it utterly alone when no one else – especially her – agrees.
I got to unconsciously avoid all of that, because I just saw her as “the problem”.
Not a new development in the human story
And this is not a new issue. In fact, it reminds me of something from the ancient story from the Garden of Eden.
He (Adam) said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me some of the fruit of the tree, and I ate.”Genesis 3:10-12
In the above text, Adam is afraid and so he takes action congruent with his fear – hiding.
The Creator asks “who told you were naked (aka “who told you something was wrong with you”)?” to which Adam replies with “The woman you gave me… she made me like this!”
Woah… that was an utter failure to own self. A complete lack of agency and responsibility for his own actions. He was there when the command not to eat that fruit was given. Eve didn’t force him to do something.
Instead of owning that he’s afraid because of actions he willfully took by his own agency, he instead issues blame. First, toward the Creator (“The woman whom You gave to be with me“) and second, toward his wife (“she gave me some of the fruit of the tree, and I ate.“)
And gentleman, I’d suggest this is still a root cause problem for men. Blaming her for the emotions we feel that are truly because of our own nakedness (shame) and lack of ownership and agency over self.
When men address this in marriages, it slowly begins to change every part of their being and living.
When they won’t address this they die an unhappy, unfulfilled man wringing their hands in resentful agony over their unmet needs and the time wasted hiding in their nakedness.
What are these hard emotions about?
When we feel hard emotions toward the woman in our life… anger, hostility, rage, resentment, disappointment, frustration, contempt, bitterness… we have two options.
1) Make it about something they’re doing to us or…
2) See it as something happening within self and within our power to change.
When we make it about something “she’s doing” (or not doing), there is no way to recover our emotional equilibrium unless and until she stops doing or starts doing whatever it is that we think is causing our pain.
Worse still, we not only demand she provide our well being but do so in an environment where we live every day as though she’s not enough and inadequate!
That makes her beholden to creating well-being for a man – and… one who thinks she’s broken and not enough!
That is not love, that’s slavery.
That is often why she avoids.
That is often why she has walls up.
That is often why she stonewalls.
That is often why she fantasizes about other men or engages in affairs.
She’s in a hopeless situation. It’s checkmate. Make a man happy who can’t be happy in himself and yet thinks it’s her fault.
Worse still is that this pattern makes us beholden to them and keeps us as victims.
Victimization is an awful and disempowering way to live in the world. It’s characterized by hand-wringing, waiting, endless sorrow and frustration, feeling in limbo, and destination addiction (the belief that one day in the future it will all maybe be better).
In all the men I work with, I’ve yet to see a victimized man victorious in what he wanted in his life or relationship. Not a single one has turned their failing relationships around or entered a season of thriving or the sweeter and delicious later stages of a great marriage.
No surprise there, they can’t or rather they won’t because they won’t own themselves!
And the pivotal moment for every man I work with is when he sobers to this reality of personal agency, ownership, and responsibility for his sense of emotional well being. Once a man gains that clarity, everything begins to change for the better.
What does it take to become a victor?
So what kind of man turns his life and relationship around this way? The man who learns that he is solely responsible for what happens within him and the one who understands his power to interpret the meaning of things happening to him.
The man who entirely releases – permanently – all the stories about why his wife’s dysfunction is to blame for his poor sense of well being.
Those men end up living totally victorious lives. A good bit of them do so without their marriage ending and thriving instead.
A few end their marriage because doing so is the right thing for them to do as victors – like the man who decides that his wife giving emotional and sexual energy to another man or several men despite being her issue, concludes that instead of waiting for her to change, the healthiest and most honoring way to love himself and her is to recognize that the onus is on him to move toward the direction of what he wants, needs, and desires – such as a relationship with faithful wife or no relationship, but not a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to be with him.
My goal is never saving a marriage but rescuing the man from sitting in his own fifth and victimization and the resulting paralysis to lead his own life.
If you’re suffering with the story that your wife is broken, you won’t live a victorious life as long as that is your focus. Until you stop seeing her shortcomings as a missing link to your present and future happiness. It won’t be until you care more about owning your wants, needs, and desires and being the agent of bringing those to pass than you do about her particular dysfunctions.
She wasn’t born to make you feel ok. That’s your job. If you can’t be happy with her, you can’t be happy without her because you don’t own your happiness, others do.
When we learn to do that job well, we stop being victims and start living as victors.
I often say to men considering my Renewed Masculine Man Course (of which there are a few remaining spots open!) that if I could make a man grasp this concept, I would offer a 200% money back guarantee on the course.
Why? Because if there were a pill I could offer a man that made him take this step of ownership and agency, I absolutely would knowing that if a man takes this step, it changes everything about his life, ends his victimization, empowers him to lead his own life, and becomes the gateway to the path to happy and well-lived life.
But there is no pill. Clarity doesn’t come in a capsule.
Staying naked, afraid, and ashamed
I find the real dilemma with such a man is that his shame (“I was naked, so I hid my-self”) has prevented him from seeing himself as trustable. He doesn’t know himself deeply to be worthy of love. From this place of uncertainty, he’s woefully unable to lead himself toward what he desires. As a result, he looks to his wife to lead the way to him feeling well and tell him he’s okay.
It doesn’t work. It can never work. She’s naked and hiding too! (and not in the way you enjoy her being naked!)
Is this you? Are you stuck here waiting for your wife to change so you can feel better? If so, don’t stay here!
Get your nakedness sorted out, stop hiding, and your self back.
Need help? Let’s talk.
Photo by Victoria Borodinova from Pexels
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