Why Men Are the Key Factor for Marriage Success or Failure


I have been a marriage and family counselor for more than fifty years. There is a saying in the field, “Happy wife, happy life,” that suggests that women’s wellbeing is the key to a relationship’s success. But research from the emerging field of gender-specific medicine indicates that men’s health and wellbeing is the key factor that determines whether relationships grow stronger through time or go under.

            Dr. John Gottman is one of the world’s leading experts on sex, love, and marriage. At his famous center at the University of Washington, he has been meeting with couples for more than thirty years and can predict with 94% accuracy whether a couple will get divorced. His findings may surprise you. In his book, written with his wife Julie, The Man’s Guide to Women: Scientifically Proven Secrets from the “Love Lab” About What Women Really Want, he says:

“Men, you have the power to make or break a relationship. What men do in relationships is, by a large margin, the crucial factor that separates a great relationship from a failed one. This does not mean that a woman doesn’t need to do her part, but the data proves that a man’s actions are the key variable that determines whether a relationship succeeds or fails, which is ironic, since most relationship books are for women. That’s kind of like doing open-heart surgery on the wrong patient.”

Gender-Specific Healing: Why Men Die Sooner and Live Sicker Than Women

In a recent podcast interview I conducted with Marianne J. Legato, M.D., Founder and Director of the Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine, we explored the emerging field of gender-specific health care and the importance of men’s health and wellbeing. Dr. Legato is regarded by both the medical and research communities as one of the world’s leading experts on gender differences.

One of the prevailing myths about sex and gender is that men are the dominant sex, occupying positions of power throughout the world. Dr. Legato’s research over the years has demonstrated that this “top dog” position of men is misleading at best.

“If it is true that men rule the world,” says Dr. Legato, “it comes at a heavy cost.”

In her book, Why Men Die First: How to Lengthen Your Lifespan, Dr. Legato says that the biggest surprise from the research coming in from all over the world is that

“From conception until death, men are inherently more fragile and vulnerable than women. In virtually every society in the world, men die first. Women have a hardiness that men simply don’t possess.”

Speaking directly to men she offers these facts of life:

  • The fundamental male biology makes you an underdog.
  • You are less likely to survive the womb than your sisters.
  • You are six weeks behind in developmental maturity at birth compared to girls.
  • Men have four times the developmental disabilities of females.
  • Men suffer more severely than women from seven of the ten most common infections that humans experience.
  • Men are likely to experience the first ravages of coronary artery disease in their mid-thirties, a full 15 to 20 years before women.

The Number One Killer of Men and Destroyer of Relationships

            Like millions of others, I grew up in a family with a father who became increasingly irritable, angry, and depressed. His depression undermined my parents’ marriage, eventually led to my father taking an overdose of sleeping pills and being committed to the state mental hospital, and our family fell apart.

            I grew up wondering what happened to my father, when it would happen to me, and what I could do to prevent it from happening to other families. It was the underlying reason I went into the field of gender-specific medicine and men’s health. In my book, The Irritable Male Syndrome and later in my book, Male vs. Female Depression: Why Men Act Out and Women Act In, I described my own research and the reasons that male depression is mis-diagnosed and mis-treated.

            I said,

“Many studies show depression affects women about twice as often as men. This is surprising since suicide rates are 3 to 15 times higher in men. My own research, and that of a number of scholars in the field of men’s health, indicates that men suffer depression much more than previously thought. I believe we have been missing many depressed men because we haven’t been asking the right questions.”

            I went on to develop a new questionnaire that addresses symptoms, such as male irritability and anger, that often underlie male depression.

            Dr. Legato also addressed these issues in her book, Why Men Die First.

“One of the most important issues that face us all is the subject of depression: Women are said to suffer from this disease twice as often as men in virtually every country in the world. I think this is because men hide their pain…’Suck it up,’ men are told by their parents, teachers, and sports instructors—and by the commanders who send them into battle. I have asked many men if they think women underestimate the extent and depth of their sadness and the resounding answer is ‘yes.’”

            I believe that untreated depression is one of the prime causes of relationship stress and breakdown. Healing men can go a long way in healing our love lives.

Healing Men, Healing Relationship: Navigating the 5 Stages of Love

            Often unhealed wounds from childhood can contribute to later problems in our adult relationships. This was certainly true for me as I share in my welcome video on MenAlive, “Confessions of a Twice-Divorced Marriage Counselor.” It took me many years to heal the early wounds in my family and to create real lasting love in adult life. I am more than pleased to say, my present wife, Carlin, and I have been happily married for 43 years.

            We share our story in my book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come which you is part of my special on-line course, “Navigating the 5 Stages of Love.” The course is for men and women who still believe in love, but don’t have a lot of time to waste. It brings together what I’ve learned over the years in a self-paced course you can do as an individual or as a couple.

            I look forward to hearing from you. If you’d like more information about how to have the relationship you’ve always wanted, drop me a note to Jed@MenAlive.com and put “Healthy relationships” in the subject line and I’ll send you the latest information.

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