What some men say…
Sometimes I just feel adrift in my life. I lack purpose and direction. I want to feel (and be seen as) strong and independent. It can be hard to even admit how much I need (and depend on) the people I love. Sometimes I feel sad, lonely, worried. What do I do with these feelings? Sometimes I feel angry, I’m not even sure at what, and it comes out in ways that hurt people I love.
These examples of typical male unease share a common denominator: discord between how life is felt on the inside versus how life is lived on the outside. I feel uncomfortable in my own skin, or like I’m wearing a suit meant for someone else. This is stressful, and we often handle stress in ways that make matters worse (avoidance, escapism, substance use). It takes courage to admit to a problem and take action; we are bucking a well-formed, socially-induced habit to stay silent and soldier on.
Yep, we can see the same thing but from different angles. It’s usually not the different angles that cause the problem, it’s our fierce attachment to our own subjectivity. This is a root cause of suffering. Just ask the Buddha. There are good reasons why we become so attached, and untangling that hot little mess can be one of the goals of therapy. In couples work (or in any relationship), sticking doggedly to our own point of view is a failure to see the other as a separate person. Not surprisingly, this creates conflict. It is a simple distortion...a habitual mistake that, with insight and practice, can be unlearned.
NEW RELATIONSHIPS. AKA PRE-MARITAL COUNSELING
My wife and I have been married for 32 years. I like being married, and it’s not without its exasperations. The bumps in the road – plenty of them – have taught us how to be on the same side – to want the best for the other. We have two grown daughters who have their own relationship with relationships. Perhaps it’s my parental nature to want to help people in new relationships – not necessarily pre-marital – to start out on the right foot. I wish someone had helped me with my early struggles. There really are tools that can help.