Anthony is a large man, physically. He is good looking, personable and successful. People admire and like him because he is considered a “man’s man”, an athlete, and a hail-fellow-well-met. On the outside, he is gracious and charming, particularly when dealing with the opposite sex. Most women would consider him a perfect spouse and a real catch. But those aren’t his wife, Margo’s, feelings. Margo would state emphatically that he’s irritable, moody and emotionally explosive. She would add that it’s difficult to predict when or what will elicit a sudden burst of anger. On those occasions, his voice rises, his eyes blaze and he assumes an authoritative role that she finds intimidating, hurtful and depreciatory in nature. She fully recognizes his positive characteristics, including the luxury she experiences and the advantages she has by being married to him. But, his periodic emotionally explosive reactions are so damaging to both her and their children that all the positives diminish in stature. The result is that she’s left with a bitter taste in her mouth that doesn’t dissipate for days or even weeks at a time.
She’s spoken to him about it and, on occasion, he’s even acknowledged that his behavior is excessive, inappropriate and something he’s embarrassed by and ashamed of. Nevertheless, it persists. As a result, she vacillates between her fears of divorce, of living alone, having to take responsibility for supporting the kids, both financially and emotionally, and her desire to leave and find someone who will love and accept her. In the end, she stays, barely tolerating his behavior, while feeling resentment toward him and anger at herself for lacking a backbone.
During one therapy session, she stated, “He never kisses me, touches me, or does anything to show me he loves me.”
“He’s angry at you”, I responded.
“Then he shouldn’t have married me and I wouldn’t have had to go through the pain I experience. What has he got to be angry about?”
“Well, for one, your resentment toward him and rejection of him, emotionally and sexually. It probably leaves him feeling unloved, uncared for and furious at you. Two, and something you should also realize, he’d probably be mad or angry at anyone he loved or married who treated him that way.”
You see, there’s a bit of advice that I’d like to give to you and every woman who is seriously involved with, or desirous of becoming involved with a man. Here it is: EVERY MAN IS A LITTLE BOY. This is a fact that you must comprehend if you ever want to establish a long-term, meaningful, successful, healthy relationship with one. It is essential that you recognize that, despite their outward demeanor, all these little boys are, in varying degrees, desperately needy for affection, attention, support and love.
You might answer by saying, “That’s no different from any woman. We need love, as well.” My response is, “That’s true. But males come from a radically different place than females at least, in this regard. On the one hand, they’re told to be men, “Stand up, be tough, keep a stiff upper lip, don’t cry, go out in the world and battle your enemies, overcome all obstacles, and care for, support and protect your family.” On the other hand, they’re raised by women who, in most instances, attempt to coddle and cuddle them, but also control them by virtue of rewarding them with attention, praise and acceptance, or punishing them by withdrawing and withholding their affection. The problem that occurs as a result of these mixed messages is that men think they must be tough and strong on the one hand, so that they can conquer the world. But, on the other hand, they need to be acquiescent and compliant to get the love they desperately desire.” Consequently, they not only wind up fearing they may not be sufficiently strong, but also doubting their adequacy and resenting the price they feel they have to pay for the love they need and desire. For them, the price they pay for the affection they get is too great. Their feelings often consist of the notion that, “I’m nothing more than a paycheck and someone to take out the garbage and mow the lawn. I have to buy cars, provide housing, put a large diamond ring on her finger, jewelry around her neck and dresses to let the world know how successful I am and how much I love her. The bills for the beautician, the manicures, the pedicures, children’s clothing, summer camps, higher education, housing and so-called ‘basic needs’ for kids away from home”, all of which they’re supposed to do out of the goodness of their hearts, in exchange for, at least in their mind’s eye, a “minimal” amount of affection. To their way of thinking, “I either perform as expected, or I’m a failure in my own eyes and in the eyes of other men and women, as well.”
Generally speaking, most males are blind to these feelings. Some accept their situation and behave complacently, without resentment. Others comply, but passive-aggressively get even by drowning their feelings in alcohol or drugs, indulging in extramarital affairs, being preoccupied with sports, hunting and business and/or adopting an overt or underlying air of anger and resentment.
In any case, later in life these conflicting messages disallow them to share any feelings they fear will be interpreted or perceived as weak or lacking in masculinity. As a result, they don’t openly communicate their true feelings to you or, frequently, even to themselves.
Still and all, my advice to every woman is to learn to read between the lines when dealing with a man. Be aware of his doubts and fears, take stock of his weaknesses, but recognize his strengths. Most of all, never forget his need for you to reassure him of his strengths, because you, more so than anyone else is his life, have the power to lift him up or tear him down.