When I was growing up, men and women had different roles. The old rules required men to be the protectors and breadwinners. Women’s role was to be the homemakers and nurturers. Men’s world was outside the home in the workplace and women’s world was inside the home with the family. The old rules assumed marriage was between a man and a woman and it was the woman’s job to keep the marriage alive and well. But times have changed and more men are focused on making their marriage successful.
I’ve been a marriage and family counselor for more than 40 years and I’m seeing a new trend in the relationship world. I began noticing these changes in the 1970s with men being more involved with their children. Gradually at first, but with increasing frequency, men were taking a more active role in the nurturing and care of young children. Men also became more dedicated to the success of their relationships.
But these shifting roles have caused difficulties for many marriages. Women began working outside the home in increasing numbers and men focused more on family. There was a lot of interest on how women could succeed in the workplace, but little attention on how men could increase their relationship skills. I know that was true for me.
I considered myself a new-age man who made my wife and family a priority, but still our marriage became increasingly strained and we eventually divorced after ten years. I remarried quickly, but that relationship also went under. I continued to be successful in the work-world but vowed I would learn to be equally successful in the relationship world. I read everything I could, went into therapy and worked on my past wounds and present desires.
I finally figured out how to have real, lasting, love. I met and married Carlin, and we have been together now for nearly 40 years. In my new book, 12 Rules for Good Men, which came out November 21, 2019, I detail what I’ve learned. You can get a signed and numbered, first-edition, copy here and also my accompanying guide, “The Truth About Men: What Every Man and Women Needs to Know” for free. Here are the things men need to know to become marriage experts.
1. Recognize that we enjoy a better sex and love life when they are married.
Under the old rules, men were told to be independent, to play the field, to stay single as long as possible, and to move on when things didn’t work out. The new rules demonstrate that men do better when they are in a stable, long-term, relationship and they would do well to learn the skills necessary to ensure marriage success. Most divorces these days are initiated by women and most men feel blindsided when they hear the words, “I still love you, but I’m not in love with you anymore. I need to leave.”
2. We must reclaim our lost selfhood.
One of the first things I learned in researching 12 Rules is that maleness and femaleness goes back one billion years. Men can’t be fully alive to themselves, to the women they love, to their families and friends, unless they understand and embrace their gift of maleness. In my guide, “The Truth About Men,” I give you 21 scientifically proven facts about men that will help you embrace your own sense of power, purpose, and passion. You can’t save your marriage if you don’t know and accept yourself.
We can’t really know ourselves unless we feel connected to who we are as males, including connecting to the reality that we are all male mammals. Believe me apes, bears, bison, lions, and stallions aren’t confused about what it means to be a male. We can learn a lot from our male ancestors. We need to reclaim our animal maleness and let others experience our animal magnetism.
3. We need to learn the five stages of love.
Under the old rules, there were just two stages. First, we fall in love with the right person. Second, we settle down, build a life together and live happily ever after. With the new rules, I’ve found there are five stages of love:
Stage 1: Falling in Love
Stage 2: Building a Life Together
Stage 3: Becoming Disillusioned
Stage 4: Discovering Real, Lasting, Love
Stage 5: Finding Your Calling as a Couple
I have a full program for teaching you the details in The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Stages of Relationships and Why The Best is Still to Come.
4. Stage 3 can either tear our marriages apart or set them up for success.
We often think of disillusionment as the death knell of a relationship. It’s actually a clarion call to go deeper. There are six important things we must learn in Stage 3. First, we need to get real with ourselves and our partner, to let go of the illusions we project on each other. Second, we must learn that most of our unhappiness with our marriage is tied to our past. Third, we must recognize that we all grew up in families that were dysfunctional in some way. Forth, we make the connection between healing our past and healing our present relationship. Fifth, we accept that we have chosen the perfect partner to go on this healing journey with. Sixth, we accept the confusion and pain of this hero’s journey and remember that “When you feel you’re going through hell, don’t stop. Keep going all the way through to the other side.”
5. Learn to express the full range of feelings.
Under the old rules, men were taught to be tough and keep our feelings to ourselves. The new rules teach us to express all our feelings:
We must learn to express our anger, which takes us deeper
to express our hurts and pain, which takes us deeper
to express our fears and insecurities, which takes us deeper
to express our guilt, which takes us deeper to express our shame,
which takes us deeper to express our love, passion, power, and purpose.
There are no shortcuts to love. We have to learn to feel it all.
6. Accept that you can’t keep your relationship unless you’re willing to lose it.
When we fall in love, we may try and be open and honest about who we are, but we inevitably fall into the trap of showing our partner our good sides and hiding what we feel most ashamed of showing. The longer we’re in a relationship, the more we have to lose if it should end.
But here’s the thing. Relationships can only grow deeper if we take risks to tell the truth about the hard stuff. As I said, Carlin and I have been together for forty years. Inevitably, we each have to tell the truth about something that feels like it might mean the end of the relationship. I remember the terror I felt telling her I had sex with Meg or the time I told her I had taken money from our bank account and lied about it.
Everyone will run up against these kinds of fears. If I told the truth about that, you’d probably leave me. Yet a marriage can only grow and deepen if you have the courage to risk its ending. Take courage, my friend. Hang in there. Tell the truth. Work it out.
I trust this was helpful to you. Again, I hope you check out my new book, 12 Rules for Good Men here and you take a look at The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, here. As always, I appreciate your comments and questions. Come visit my blog here.