MenAlive began officially in 1969 following the birth of my son, but the roots of my work to help men, and the women who love them, started twenty years earlier. After years fighting to make a living doing the work that he loved, my father’s hope was nearly gone. Reading his journal, which I found many years later, I began to understand his despair.
“Oh, Christ, if I can only give my son a decent education—a college decree with a love for books, a love for people, good, solid knowledge. No guidance was given to me. I slogged and slobbered and blundered through two-thirds of my life.”
“My dear wife, my dear son, I love you so much, but how do I get the money to support you? The seeds of despair are part of my heritage. They lie sterile for months and then they gnaw at my soul until their bitter fruit chokes my throat and blacks out all hope, joy, and life itself.”
“How much can Edie stand? When in this world will I ever have a piece of bread that isn’t encrusted with fear, doubt, with all those moldy devils turning my blood to water and my stomach to mush. I feel like a gutless zero.”
Though she loved him deeply, my mother was helpless to stop his downward slide. Two months after this journal entry, my father took an overdose of sleeping pills. He didn’t die, but he ended up in Camarillo State Mental hospital and our lives were never the same.
Just five years old, I went every Sunday with my uncle Harry to visit my dad. Seeing him locked up was too painful for my mother. “Maybe seeing you will help him recover,” my mother told me. I grew up wondering what really happened to my father, whether it would happen to me, and what I could do to save my father and prevent other families from coming apart as ours did.
Over the years I’ve heard from thousands of women who are deeply concerned about the men in their lives—their husbands, boyfriends, fathers, sons, brothers. They often must deal with a man’s anger, judgement, blame, or his withdrawal, emotional closing, drinking, and other forms of escape. They see his pain and suffering and want to help him because they love him and because they see the negative impact on themselves and their families.
I went on to fulfill my father’s dream that I would get a good education. I graduated from U.C. Santa Barbara, went on to get a Master’s degree in Social Work, and later a PhD in International Health. I became a writer, like my father, and recounted the journey of our family in my book, My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father Wound.
As a child what I remembered most about my father was riding on his shoulders as he walked through the little park near our home in Sherman Oaks, in the San Fernando Valley. What my mother remembers most was his anger and rage, that alternated with stony silences, and withdrawal. Only in later years did she tell me how hard it was to love a man whose emotions were so volatile. “He would be loving and wonderful one moment,” she told me. “The next he would be angry at the world. I felt I was always walking on egg shells around him. I never knew what might set him off. Sometimes he would break down in tears. I would try and comfort him, but he would push me away. I did everything I could to help him, but I failed.”
Like all children we grow up. The old wounds and family memories begin to fade. We get on with our lives. We forget about our painful past. But until we truly heal, our family history is like a toxic stream, poisoning our relationships, and creating chaos and suffering in our adult lives.
I know. It happened to me. I married my college sweetheart and our marriage was magical until our unhealed wounds from childhood began to undermine our peace and joy. She withdrew and I became increasingly angry, which caused her to withdraw even more. Our two children suffered along with us and the bitter divorce came after seven years trying and failing to turn things around. My rebound second marriage was passionate and violent from the beginning and soon ended.
By then, I was a well-known writer and therapist, adept at helping others, but secretly ashamed that I didn’t seem to be able to help myself. I finally reached out and began therapy, read everything I thought would help me understand my failures to have the love I so longed to have. Gradually, little by little, I began to heal the past, and be more hopeful for the future. I fell in love again and this time I was ready for real, lasting love.
Carlin and I have been happily married for 40 years now. We’ve had our challenges, like all couples, but our healing continues and our marriage becomes stronger and more satisfying every day.
For more than 50 years now, I have been helping men and the women who love them. I get emails every day from men and women asking for help. A lot of them are from men, but most are from women who are hungry to help the men in their lives, but don’t know how. They often involve issues I saw in my own family and ones that are increasingly common. They ask questions like the following:
“How can I save my mid-life marriage? I love this man, but I can’t seem to get through to him. Help us.”
“I read your book, The Enlightened Marriage, and we’re stuck at stage 3, ‘Disillusionment.’ I don’t want to give up on the marriage, but I don’t know what to do.”
“My husband used to be the nicest guy you could imagine. But lately, he’s become irritable and angry, or he becomes cold and judgmental, blaming me for everything. It’s like I’m living with an angry brick.”
I see as many as I can who need counseling. I also offer these popular books I’ve written that have proven to help improve even the most troubled relationships:
- The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come
- The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression
- Mr. Mean: Saving Your Relationship from The Irritable Male Syndrome
Irritable Male Syndrome (IMS) has become such a significant program for men and the women who love them that I developed a quiz that can help people better understand whether it is a problem in your family, the different types of IMS, and when people need to seek help. You can find the quiz here. It’s been one of the most effective ways for men and women who recognize this very common problem that undermines so many relationships.
The Problem Today and The Future of MenAlive: Calling All Counselors, Coaches, and Therapists
When I started my work more than fifty years ago, few people were interested in “gender specific health-care” and men’s health. Problems with male anger and aggression were ignored until they led to domestic violence and men were then arrested or forced to be in court-supervised treatment. Women often suffered in silence or got divorced, usually taking the children with them.
Men often ignored their unhappiness and depression and didn’t realize their anger wasn’t because they were “mean” or “bad guys.” It meant that they were depressed, but didn’t know how to talk about their stresses and how to get help from people who really understood and could identify with their struggles.
I’ve been fortunate in being able to pioneer a host of helpful programs and resources over the years, but I’ve run into a problem and need your help to solve it. For many years now, I’ve had more requests for counseling than I can serve. People ask me if there are others that I’ve trained and certified and I have to tell them “No.” Both men and women want answers to their problems, but I can only write so many books and articles.
I feel blessed to have founded, developed, and successfully run the only in-person and on-line business specifically focused on helping men and the women who love them.
If you’re a counselor, therapist, coach, or other health-care professional and would like information on my upcoming training program, please let me know. It starts soon and will be limited to just 25 people. I want to give you the best of what I’ve learned over these many years. If you’re interested, email me (be sure and respond to my spamarrest filter when writing for the first time). Put “MenAlive training” in the subject line and I’ll give you all the details.
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