EDITOR’S NOTE:  THIS IS FIRST OF A THREE-PART SERIES.

Does this man sound familiar?

“John” is educated, affluent and successful.  He is admired by his co-workers and has a stringent work ethic.  He works well over 40 hours a week and frequently works on weekends.

His wife is angry with him and often feels lonely and isolated.  She loves her husband, but does not feel especially close to him.  She yearns for more closeness, romance and intimacy.  John’s children don’t especially like him.  They feel alienated and distant from him, and see him as self-absorbed and remote. 

He has spent years working his butt off earning enough money so his family won’t have to go without material things.  But they not only don’t appreciate him, they are openly hostile to him.  Do you know a man that fits this description?

Many women believe that a man acts as he does toward them because he really doesn’t care about their feelings.

In truth, men are as motivated as women to have successful, fulfilling and satisfying love relationships.  His way of loving, however, is often by doing for, or providing for, and it does not usually generate the bonding and closeness for which he is aiming.  He is likely to ultimately grow disappointed and frustrated when he discovers his best efforts have failed to generate the love and intimacy he thought they would. 

Men are equated with being tough, aggressive and powerful.  These traits are also associated with success in business.  However, they are the very characteristics that may interfere with him being successful in an intimate relationship.  Being tough, aggressive and powerful in a relationship often sabotages closeness, trust and passion.

The traits men hone to be competitive at work may be in direct conflict with what women want from them at home.  Women want strong men, good wage earners and sensitive, open, emotionally present men.  For men to succeed in their intimate relationships these days, they need to be comfortable in the role of provider, protector, problem-solver, communicator and nurturer.  They need to be interdependent, and they need to show their vulnerability.  Some men are having a difficult time transitioning from one role at work to the other at home.

Women sometimes look at men—and the money, power and authority they wield—and are envious of the “privileged” position men hold in our culture.  But the price men pay for such privilege is very high:  most men are work machines their entire adult lives.  Men have considerably higher rates of alcohol and drug addiction, commit crimes far more frequently than women and, consequently, are more likely to serve time in prison.  Men also have poorer overall health, fewer close friends, are less able to express tender and loving feelings, and, on average, live seven years less than women.

So how does “John” get closer to his wife and children?  He’s going to have to learn to switch his work mode off when he comes home, so he can be more emotionally present, sensitive, verbal, fun and less domineering.

I will continue this discussion in next week’s column.

“In our civilization, men are afraid they will not be men enough, and women are afraid they might be considered only women.”  Theodore Reik

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