This subject is a constant in my work with couples and families.
So much so that one writer (whose name I have lost) said she anguished about how to present it without provoking a storm of protest from the women (and the men) who suffer just as greatly from being neglected and isolated by their male partners. It’s a couple dance where one criticizes and blames, while the other placates or withdraws. Sometimes both go to the end game of Uproar: CLICK HERE
Finally, the writer found a way of doing this by quoting from a book by the social work researcher, Brene Brown. The following conversations she reports in her raw and honest New York Times best seller, “Daring Greatly”.
After one of her talks on vulnerability and shame, available on TED, a man comes up to the book signing desk and asks Brene,
‘I’m curious. What about men and shame? What have you learned about us?’
‘I haven’t done many interviews with men. I just study women.’
‘Well. That’s convenient.’ he answers, nodding.
‘Why convenient?’ she replies in her uncomfortable high voice.
Tears welled up in his eyes and he said,
‘We have shame. Deep shame. But when we reach out and share our stories, we get the emotional shit beat out of us.’
Just as Brene was thinking of a response about how hard men are on each other, he said,
‘Before you say anything about those mean coaches, bosses, brothers, and fathers being the only ones… My wife and daughters – they’d rather see me die on top of my white horse than watch me fall off. You say you want us to be vulnerable and real, but c’mon. You can’t stand it. It makes you sick to see us like that.’
Further on in the book, Brene reports an interview with a man who had been “downsized”. He told her,
‘It’s funny. My father knows. My closest friends know. But my wife doesn’t know. It’s been six months, and every morning I still get dressed and leave the house like I’m going to work. I drive across town, sit in coffee shops, and look for a job.’
I was not prepared (Brene writes) to hear over and over from men how the women – the mothers, sister, girlfriends, wives – in their lives are constantly criticising them for not being open and vulnerable and intimate, all the while they are standing in front of that cramped wizard (of Oz) closet where their men are huddling inside, adjusting the curtain and making sure no one sees in and no one gets out. There was a moment when I was driving home from an interview with a small group of men and thought, Holy shit. I am the patriarchy.’ (On page 84)
Later in the book she reports on a group interview about shame with 22 university students, male and female. She writes (page 102),
The young man who shared the story of his divorce slammed his hand down on his desk and shouted,
‘It’s not about the back fat! You’re worried about it (their figures). We’re not. We don’t give a shit! Stop making up all this stuff about what we’re thinking! What we’re really thinking is, “Do you love me? Do you care about me? Do you want me? Am I important to you? Am I good enough?” That’s what we’re thinking. When it comes to sex, it feels like our life is on the line, and you’re worried about that crap?’
At that point, half of the young men in the room were so emotional that they had their faces in their hands. A few girls were in tears, and I couldn’t breathe. The young woman who had brought up the body image issue said
“I don’t understand. My last boyfriend was always criticising my body.”
The young man who had just brought us all to our knees replied,
“That’s because he’s an asshole. It’s not because he’s a guy. Some of us are just guys. Give us a break. Please.”
“Daring Greatly How The Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” Penguin 2012