I met Richard in January via Facebook and we have become friends and coach buddies. He coaches me on my business and I coach him on Relationship issues. I reached out to him because he sounded like he was hurting and as a Relationship Sherpa I wanted to help him.
I interviewed Richard about his relationships with women. My first question was; what is most frustrating to you about women? His answer was very illuminating and I thought it would be interesting for you ladies to hear it from a man’s perspective. Hopefully you will find Richard’s take on Judgment from women and how it affects him as a man enlightening to you and give you insight into the male brain and emotions as it did for me.
As a man, I’ve felt judged personally and professionally pretty much every day of my adult life. Sometimes that judgement inflates my ego, and helps me feel good about myself – while at other times, it causes me pain, and disconnects me from the person or group judging me.
Most of us navigate judgement in the workplace and continue to earn our paychecks. But when friends, family, a partner, judges you, the results can be devastating to the closeness and trust that are at the foundation of a relationship.
Looking back on 30-plus years of being an adult male (25-plus years as a husband), I can see three types of judgement that interfered with my ability to connect to a woman whom I loved, to feel the fullness of my “masculinity.” Most of this uncertainty arises I think from the stereotypes that society insists on foisting on men and women, through television, movies, and the Internet. What I am certain of is that it would be great if men and women could have candid and full discussions about masculinity and what works for each of us – without judgement.
- Sensitivity and vulnerability
I’ve found that while women say they pine for that sensitive and caring “Dr. McDreamy,” when they finally have him, they very often don’t know how to stay in love with him. In fact, a man’s being sensitive and vulnerable can change the dynamics of a relationship, because her “man” is no longer “a man.”
The researcher and couple’s therapist Dr. Brene Brown on a podcast once said: “If you show me a woman who can sit with a man in real vulnerability, in deep fear, and be with him in it, I will show you a woman who, A, has done her work and, B, does not derive her power from that man.”
I’ve dated one woman like that. She appreciated the fact that I could disclose my deepest secrets, and yes, even comfort me when I cried about the secrets that scare me the most. Unfortunately, more often than not, this kind of disclosure subtly alters and destabilizes male/female relationships. Once I feel that shift, I’m reluctant to “go there,” to ask her whether my perception is real. And then the slow devolution begins.
Who knows. Maybe it’s me, and how societal norms shade my perceptions. All I know is that an invisible barrier seems to rise because vulnerability isn’t “masculine.”
- As a father
I’ve been married once, and fathered my three children only with that person. We’re divorced now. One of the things that drove us apart was the judgement I felt as a father. My children today seek me out for emotional, parental comfort, so I think I did a pretty good job when they were little. But if you asked my ex, she likely would describe the least bit of discipline I applied to my children as brutally harsh.
Something as simple as telling the kids that they should clean up after themselves before they would head up for their bedtime ritual became a reason for the children to be “whisked to safety,” away from the ogre. I began to doubt my essential goodness and love for my kids, and at times, believed what I was being told by their mom.
Was my ex shaped by her own upbringing? Was it society teaching her that fathers are the disciplinarians and potential threats with their male anger? I tried to discuss this issue repeatedly with my ex, both in real time and in couple’s therapy, but never received a concession that I was a good father. Indeed, I felt gas-lighted and undermined, as both a father and a co-parent. That severely undermined my desire to be her partner in any manner.
During our divorce, it only got worse. I was accused of heinous behavior that baffled my then teen-aged children when they were asked to address it with third parties. But the children and I have moved on, and have close relationships today. We’ve navigated the judgement on our own.
- As a provider
I’ve always found it interesting how many women want equality in their male partner relationships, but the minute a man suffers a job loss, the dynamic changes. I felt this severely in my marriage. At times, I felt like an ATM with legs. I went off to the city in the morning, before the kids or their mother rose, and returned at everyone’s bedtime. As long as the bank account magically refilled every two weeks, the dynamic was maintained. The marriage and household went about its business – though with little intimacy.
But the minute my earnings changed, I became a lowly, lazy, incompetent husband and father. I was repeatedly abused and compared to others. The opportunity to become something else, to build an income in a way she didn’t approve of, was completely out of the question. My dreams didn’t matter. I needed to get back on the train to New York City.
I tried to partner with her to maintain the family’s lifestyle and dreams. When she finally returned to the workforce, against her will, she insisted on not contributing her income to keep the five of us afloat. Hers was hers, and what meager income I was earning was deemed hers to pick from at will.
Constant negative judgement in these areas works on my self-esteem and sense of “masculinity” (whatever that is today). The woman I love should be the ONE person I always should be able to go to for comfort and validation.
While each of us individually shouldn’t depend on anyone else to maintain our self-esteem, we’re human. The confidence to know that “she” is there for me, and will defend me, help me build myself back up in times of trouble, that she will be the place I can share all my secrets, is crucial to sustaining love for me.
Today, I am looking for a true partner, a woman who inspires me by living her own life fully and freely, and affording me the same level of respect and acceptance. I’m inspired by a woman who sees masculinity as a balance of all the conventional goodness about a man (e.g. protector, provider, able to uncork the bottle she is struggling with) with the unspoken realities of vulnerability and sensitivity that men like me want not to hide away.
There you go ladies. You’ve heard it from a man’s perspective. Tell me what you think by leaving a comment. Is Richard right or do you have a different opinion? Next week in part 2 we will talk about how to turn all these negatives around and do what keeps you connected to your man in a way that makes both of you happy.