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Is a Good Man Really So Hard to Find?

As we find ourselves hopefully nearing the end of what many would call one of the most trying times in our modern era, I reflect on what this past year has shown us. We have seen many changes both good and bad, with some uniting, while others divide. One of the largest changes I have seen, not specific to the past year, is the ever increasing divide between “Men” and “Great Men”. 

David Popenoe (2017) in his Book entitled Families Without Fathers, states:

“The disintegration of the child-centered, two parent family—especially in the inner cities, where as many as two in three children are growing up without their fathers—and the weakening commitment of fathers to their children that more and more follows divorce, are central causes of many of our worst individual and social problems. Juvenile delinquency, drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, welfare dependency, and child poverty can be directly traced to fathers’ lack of involvement in their children’s lives”.

As a therapist; as a Husband; as a Man, it saddens me to hear about stories of spouses and children that have spent years with unmet emotional needs, entire marriages of patriarchal suppression, and women who become extremely depressed at the thought of having to spend another 20 years in a loveless, vacant marriage. 

To begin I wish to dispel some myths that are commonly believed:

MythsTruth
Men are tough, and strongStrength comes in many forms and toughness is not always physical.
Men are not suppose to cryMen have emotions, as all humans do, and it is important to honor them.
Crying means you are weakCrying is part of being human and, in fact, takes more strength to show vulnerability 
Men are not natural care givers.Many men are naturally caring and enjoy being around their children 
Men are the bread winners and provide for the family.Men share in the responsibility of the home. Financially is one area of responsibility. 
“ I make the Money, I make the rules”.WRONG… Financially providing is not a blanket statement of power and control.
The “Patriarch” is in charge of the familyWRONG… The decisions of the home should be equally agreed upon and everyone should have a voice about the future of the family. A partnership is equal.
Men are to be respected. Respect is earned, not just given. Be the kind of man that is respectable by your actions and the way you treat others. 
All men disappoint, it’s just a matter of when.How a man treats his partner, and his family, is a direct reflection of who he is. Humans make mistakes, however this should be the exception to the rule not the expectation. 

Throughout history, there are many examples of leaders. Some of the leaders we know accomplished great feats, victories, and accolades. Along with this, history also tells us what kind of leaders they were. History records two types of leaders that we tend to remember. Some of the leaders chose to lead by fear, respect, and control. While others lead with love, compassion, and integrity. 

In an effort to help this generation be better than the one before, I offer a way to help Men become better. Perhaps you have someone in your life that you want to encourage, perhaps you are a Man wanting to be better. Below are steps you can follow to help the “Men” become Great Men”. 

1. Learn to Connect Emotionally. 

Emotions are a natural part of life, and being able to be vulnerable and intimate is not a weakness. Learning to connect emotionally will help to increase the relationships in your life, build deeper emotional bonds and bring more happiness into your life and the life of others. 

2. Be a Man Worth Respecting 

Being the financial provider of a family is one area of stability and support. Aside from financially, there are emotionally, mentally, spiritually, socially, and sexually. Learn to provide support and care in ALL areas, not just the one.  “Great Men” show love, compassion and invite respect by the way they treat others and their family. Your family should know the best of you, not the worst. Being the “Patriarch” is not permission to be a dictator. Being a (priesthood holder) in no way gives permission that you are more than or better than your spouse. Admit when you are wrong and be willing to grow and be better. 

3. Learn to Listen

Sometimes the best thing you can do is listen. Not every problem has to be fixed, nor is it your responsibility to fix it. Learn to see the needs to those in your life. Learn how to see the needs of your wife, comfort your child who had a bad day at school. 

4. Choose to be Part of Life

Being present in the lives of your family is a choice. Choose to pay attention to subtle clues, hints, and gestures from your wife and children about what they need and how to provide that. Listen to their stories, validate their emotions, and encourage their growth and self-esteem. Always being at work, or on the phone, out with “a buddy” causes you to miss the joy that comes from small moments of life that make it worthwhile. 

5. Choose to be MORE

It has sadly become common for men to let their wives down, and not be present. Putting your family first and your wife first is a choice. Choose to be more than what you know. It is easy to play the role, use excuses of “ that just how men are” and feed in to the idea of being a disappointment. Be the husband who helps around the house, who helps the kids get ready. Break the myths and stereotypes of what a man is and how he is to act. 

6. Know the Hierarchy 

The Hierarchy speaks to knowing the order of respect given to the women in your life. If you follow the order, you will never go wrong. 

Young Adult/TeenFirst: Mother
Second: Sister(s)
Third: Girlfriend
Married/HusbandFirst: Wife
Second: Mother
Third: Sister(s)
Married/Husband/FatherFirst: Wife
Second: Daughter(s)
Third: Mother
Fourth: Sister(s)

I firmly believe that if the “ Men” of the world decided to be “ Great Men” the world would be a much better place. While there is room for much growth and improvement, it is also important to acknowledge that there are “Great Men” in the world. There is much truth to the phrase “ You will find what you are looking for in this world”.  While there is a lot of need for change, it is equally important to recognize those that are working to be better, those in the world that emulate all the things above and that there are good people in this world. 

Citations: 

Popenoe, D. (2009). Families without Fathers: Fatherhood, Marriage and Children in American Society (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203792292

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Help Your Man Lean In To Fatherhood: Studio 5

 

Therapist Julie Hanks offers advice on how to help your man more involved in parenting. It’s a strategy that could make your whole family happier.


Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” encourages women to step up, take risks, and lead in at work, at school, and in their communities. However, for women with children to seize leadership opportunities requires men to lean in more at home. Whether you’re a mother who is working part-time or full-time outside of the home, or you are a stay-at-home mom, there are things we can do encourage our husband’s to lean in to fatherhood. Not only is an involved father necessary for you to embrace leadership opportunities in the community, research consistently shows that your children will benefit from their father’s involvement in their lives. Here are a few of the ways children benefit from having an involved father:

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How To Parent More Like A Man: Studio 5

When it comes to parenting, moms and dads do it differently. But is one approach better than the other? 

 

How to parent more like a man: Parenting lessons from dads

1) Be flexible and fun

Men tend to approach physical care of their children with a more relaxed attitude often leading to a more fun and playful parenting experience. Fathers don’t get as upset if the kids are in bed an hour after “bed time” or if they skip nightly bath time every once in a while.
Women can learn to loosen up on rules in the name of fun.

2) Expect child to listen the first time

When Dad’s ask for their child to do something, they expect more immediate compliance and lose their patience quickly. Moms often wear themselves out trying to be a “nice” parent.
Moms can learn learn to hold their ground and not ask a child to do something 20 times before there are consequences.

3) Keep it simple

When planning events like family outings, birthday parties, or even packing lunch, mom’s tend to set high expectations and get overwhelmed by the details. Dads are generally better at seeing the “big picture” and focusing on the necessities.
Women can learn to minimize stress by focusing on the basics instead of being overwhelmed by details.

4) Move on after making mistakes

Dads seem to be better at moving on and not feeling guilty for imperfections like missing the deadline for a sporting event sign up or forgetting to take their child to a birthday party. Men also tend to care less what other parents are thinking about them.
Women can learn to skip self-loathing and guilt trips and quickly move on after making parenting mistakes.

5) See your child as separate

If a child throws a tantrum in a restaurant, forgets to do their homework, or misbehaves at school dad’s generally don’t blame themselves, feel a failure, or ruminate about it for days.
Women can learn from men not to take their child’s behavior too personally.

6) Don’t give in to whining

Dads are generally better at holding their ground when they say “no” to their child’s request to buy a toy at the store, or go play with a friend before doing homework, for example.
Women can learn from men to stand their ground and not change their mind just because a child is upset.

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Ask A Therapist: Low Self-Esteem, Technology Addict, and Fear of Relationships

Q: I feel like nothing I do matters and nobody really understands who I am. Every time I reach out to someone they let me down. I guess they just don’t care. The last few years I’ve taken to locking myself away in my bedroom to read or watch movies; it gives me more enjoyment than people do but I’m always feeling guilty about it too. I’m 19 years old and I’ve only kissed 4 guys ever, and never anything more. I’m afraid and self-conscious and I feel like I don’t get the opportunity to meet boys that other girls do. I know its my fault but its so hard to change, and I don’t know if I really want to be in a relationship anyway; I don’t think I’d be good at it at all. I’m always fighting with my parents, especially my dad; he yells at me a lot. I used to be so afraid of him when I was younger; he has quite the temper and is always criticizing me. My mother constantly nags me to go out more, to find a job, to stop watching so much TV, to eat better, to do more chores, to act older, the list goes on. I often get excited about little things and become quite childish and energetic, but the smallest thing can also send me into a spiral of sadness, anger or  frustration for the rest of the day. Both reactions seem to annoy my family. My few friends probably find it annoying too; if I could stand being thought ill of I’d probably ask  them. I always think if I were prettier or smarter or talented at anything, life would be better. I don’t want to be different or behind; I just wish things were easier. What should I do?

A: Thanks so much for writing in for help. The fact that you are reaching out for advice in this forum means you have some hope that things could be different for you, that you can feel differently about yourself and your life.

What you’re describing sounds like depression: social isolation, insecurities, withdrawing from activities, negative thoughts, hopelessness. First, I want you to go to your physician and have a physical to rule out any physical illness. While you’re there please talk to your doctor about your hopelessness, isolation and fears. See if medication is an option for you. Your tendency to turn toward technology may be a way to numb your emotional pain.

Also, ask your doctor for a referral to a psychotherapist in your area to work on ways to improve your mood, gain self-confidence, and gain relationship skills. You may also want to consider asking your parents to attend family therapy  to improve your family relationships.  Even though you’re 19, it sounds as if  you’re still stuck in experiencing the “childhood” disapproval of your father, and criticism of your mother, and letting those emotions dictate, on some level, how you feel about yourself. The good news is, you can feel differently.

Your family relationships greatly impact how you feel about other relationships.  If you think about your relationship with your dad as the “template” for male relationships, and you experienced him as scary and critical, then it makes sense that you would be hesitant to open up to other male relationships, like friendships and dating relationships.  It makes sense that you’d have only a few female friends, too, because you’ve experienced your mother as nagging and constantly correcting you. She is your model of how to relate to women so you likely may fear disapproval in your female friendships as well. Your therapist can help free you from these patterns so you can experience relationships with others differently, and not as extensions of your parental relationships.

In addition to meeting with your physician and therapist, I’d like to recommend a couple of books to you: “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy” by Dr. David Burns and “The Relationship Cure” by Dr. John Gottman. Both books will provide excellent tools and new perspectives on yourself and your relationships.

Thanks again for writing in. Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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