But He Needs to be Careful to Not Overdo It

Note: This is the third of a three-part series.

More often than not, work defines a man’s worth to himself and to the world.  To work means you’re a man, and frequently a man’s work is his pride.  Work gives meaning to men’s lives.  If you would like to better understand the inner experience of being a man—what it feels like to be a man—understand a man’s relationship to his work.

Frank Pittman, in the book Man Enough, defines the experience by saying “Work keeps us busy.  It gives us structure, it defines us as functioning, contributing, worthwhile citizens.  It makes us part of the team, a community of fellow workers—even if we do our work in isolation.  If we feel work bringing us closer to our fellow workers or to the human community, we can feel pride and joy in our work, feel mutual emulation with all other workers, and feel ourselves the equal to any man.”

Working isn’t unhealthy.  The man who loves his work is likely to be happy and content with himself.  But being a workaholic can be very unhealthy, and can poison you from the people you feel the closest to.  Workaholics define themselves by what they do and how well they do it, rather than by their relationships.  A male workaholic will work more when he has lost his connection with his woman and/or children, and when he has lost his sense of being alive and purposeful in his personal life.

Work turns into workaholism when we start sacrificing ourselves, our marriages and our families for it.  Success-driven men unintentionally trigger a series of emotions in women, who eventually feel betrayed by the initial promise of “getting it all,” only to end up feeling deceived and disappointed by his lack of attention and emotional presence, and the nagging sensation that she isn’t a very high priority to him.

Few men want to be isolated, withdrawn, unloved, unloving and unappreciated.  Men want women to appreciate what they can contribute, how generous and sacrificing the man is for getting up and going to work every day, even when he doesn’t feel like

It—and how important his work ultimately is to his wife and family, and their lifestyle.  Women want to feel they are No. 1 to a man, and react with great anger when they feel he is treating work as more important.  A woman fears that he values his work more than he does her.

A man’s need to achieve, succeed and produce thus causes others to relate to  him on the basis of what he can do—and what he can provide.  So a man’s process of pursuing his goals has a high likelihood of alienating the very people he tells himself he is doing it all for.

What can he do about this?  He can be conscious of these dynamics and tendencies, and careful to make sure he is treating his woman and children as if they are the most important people in his life.  And he can guard against the tendency to treat as if it’s more important than anything else.

“I don’t like work—no man does—but I like what is in work—the chance to find yourself.”  Joseph Conrad “Heart of Darkness”

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