MEN'S FEARS OF INTIMACY by Maggie Barton

High folks! This month I want to discuss a much overlooked issue, which is obstacles in our culture that hinder men from having successful relationships. Typically, you see an abundance of literature to help women understand themselves, but unfortunately the abundance is not so profuse for men. In our culture, a man's ability to have a successful relationship is not stressed. His ability to make money, to achieve career goals is more the genre. Coupled with this is a new criterion formulated by women as to what constitutes an adequate relationship. Women today are looking for more than financial support in a man - they want someone who can be there emotionally for them. Unfortunately, for most men emotions are foreign. Male heroes in this culture are not the guys that cook dinner for the family, share their deepest vulnerabilities, help their kids with their homework, change diapers, and clean up throwup when their infant is sick. This is not the profile of the American Male Hero. So it's little wonder why women are frustrated at the men and it's little wonder why you guys are not able to fathom out how to be successful in your emotional life. So as I said, I'd like to enumerate on "Prehistoric Creatures" that are holding men back from being relationship winners.

The first is FEAR. The majority of you guys reading this article are probably okay when it comes to starters: you meet someone, you talk about your job, your new car, and if she is interested and you are, you make a date - that's easy stuff. You clean your car, get a haircut, deck yourself up in your going-out attire, and take your date to a nice restaurant - again easy. Second date, and a few more, still okay: maybe sex, maybe not - it's a matter of style. Then the FEAR creature starts to stir: you start to like her. Now what? You are going against your grain and your buddies are supporting this. "He's soft, he's falling for her, he's being caught." Having a emotional relationship means giving up your independence - your fear of losing your autonomy. You also stand the risk of becoming VULNERABLE. Scary stuff, especially when you have not been supported to prepare for this. You may have an MBA and had a lot of support & guidance to achieve this goal, but not so for a degree in vulnerability. You start to feel uncomfortable so then comes the push to employ a strategic maneuver, which is to take the focus off of your discomfort, and what better way to do this than to complain about her. "She wants a monogamous relationship, she's cramping my style and the guys say I am right every Friday night, when we get together." However, if you are brave enough to stay with it and allow your emotional door to open, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Another "Prehistoric Creature" is the OVER-DEPENDENCE creature. If you have weathered the first step and you are now "hooked", you have opened up that emotional door. The task now at hand is for you to manage your dependency needs, allowing yourself to be dependent may be a new experience - to what extent is the question? The reason why men become over-dependent is in the hope of filling their inner emptiness. You either want to join with your partner or you want to take from them. Part of the problem is that as men you have not been taught to have anything more than superficial relationships. Having allowed yourself to become dependent on your partner, this is the one and only thought. In contrast, women often have other women that they can confide in. The answer to this, guys, is for you to allow yourself to explore your inner self. If you can make a commitment to yourself to look at some of these fragile parts of yourself without rationalizing or ignoring them, you have started your journey of self-development. So learn to stay with your feelings long enough so that you can explore them. A men's support group is an excellent forum for this.

ANGER is a common toxic creature. We are a violent culture. From cartoons to Arnold Schwarzenegger, our male role models are often violent/aggressive men, hence many men have inherited this trait. Anger is the most comfortable emotion for men. Unfortunately, anger becomes a smoke screen, a way to avoid experiencing your vulnerability, insecurities, inadequacies or the ultimate avoidance: your feelings of worthlessness, which you keep securely buried. It's simply a lot easier for a man to get angry at his partner than to try to understand himself more and also how he may be contributing to the difficulties in the relationship. Women sometimes use anger as a way to avoid themselves. Two people like this can fuse the blaming game: creating the blaming merry-go-round. Around and around you go forever, never forward. The flip side of the anger coin is Mr. Passive Aggressive: he's the guy that has retreated, he is emotionally detached, interpersonally withdrawn and passive in romantic relationships. Often, Mr. Passive Aggressive comes with Ms. Nag. Simply put, Mr. Passive Aggressive is a suppression of anger. Your subtitle is Mr. Pseudo-Cooperative, you never really are fully there in your relationships. Unfortunately, however, you are not only short changing your partner, you are short changing yourself. In addition to this, you become a likely candidate for physical problems a tad too early in your life.

Another creature that reveals its ugly head is the JEALOUSY creature. This creature manifests itself in the form of violence or possessiveness. Underneath the jealousy is a man's insecurity, which is a well-guarded secret. Simply stated, a man's insecurity can be determined by the degree of his jealousy. If you are insecure, jealousy can utterly unhinge you. As an insecure guy you probably are not thrilled with your career/work, do not have a strong relationship with friends, and put a disproportionate amount of importance on your relationship. Men aren't only jealous of men, often times they are jealous of their wives' women friends. Intense jealousy is nothing less than a plea from a man's deepest self to look at his innermost areas of self-denigration, as well as at his deepest uncertainties about his desirability to women. So guys, if you want to make peace with this creature you need to make peace with your unacceptable short-comings and fragile insecurities.

So, moving along here, the next creature that can block you from obtaining your degree in relationships is the TIME creature. The guy that has securely structured his time in such a way that he just doesn't have much time to spend on a relationship. Dinner and sex a few times a week just suits him fine. When he starts to have feelings or feels vulnerable in comes the time creature to erect a shield to protect him from these feelings. Typically, a man's inner life is filled with self-esteem spot checks, his inner dialog goes something like this: "Am I on target with my career, am I making enough money? Is the corporation that I am working for going to provide me with the right opportunity to be successful 10 years down the road?" This inner tally often determines how you feel about yourself and how happy or not so happy you are. Many men in our competitive society suffer from careerism, which is the most satisfying food for the "time creature". So guys, this can be a real challenge for you, trying to maintain a balance.

And last, but not least, is the LUST creature. This is the guy that struggles with monogamy. Some years ago I saw a tee shirt that said "So many women, so little time!", which made me realize how widely Casanovaism is accepted and supported. Men wrestle with monogamy more than women. Men often have some part of their attention attuned to the sexual possibilities, to the sexual desirability of any woman that they are with. It's like a universal male obsession: checking women out is a primary reflex. So guys, this can be a real struggle on how to deal with lust when temptation comes along. The solution lies in prevention. Prevention happens with the realization of the pain that is caused by having affairs when you are involved in a relationship that has been defined as monogamous. If you can keep in mind the pain that is caused by creating triangles it's easier to prevent this happening. Again, if you find that you are wanting to wander take stock of what is going on inside of you. Are you not communicating to your partner what needs to be communicated? Lying about an affair is common, and yet if you were honest with yourself you would want to trust your partner. And how can openness and trust develop between two people if lying is a built-in component? This lust creature can at times be hard to battle, but it can be tamed with honesty. So guys, why not be brave enough to try this?

In this article I have attempted to briefly outline some of the emotional creatures which hinder romantic relationships. It may be a struggle, but like anything worth having it entails work. If you pass these courses you earn your diploma. This diploma is potentially your greatest opportunity, it's where hope lies. For if you can get it together in your relationship then you can get it together anywhere else. For an intimate relationship presents you with the most profound and most intense confrontations with your darkest sides. Just how gracefully and willingly you negotiate relationships is determined by the degree to which you come to learn about yourself and your fellow human beings.

Copyright 1993 All rights reserved.

To learn more or get relationship counseling, call Maggie at 828-492-0364 
or email her at maggie.barton@charter.net

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