Ladies, we gentlemen may start out as what I call “man-boys”, but we are trainable if you give us a chance.
In my upcoming book, “Don’t Get Married! (Unless You Understand A Few Things First)”, due out on amazon.com later this month, there is a chapter which I’ve entitled Man-Boys and Angry Wives.
In that chapter, I state:
“In a marriage [or marital-type relationship], many men initially have a difficult time making the transition to fully accepting the fact that, as of the day of their weddings, they have agreed to a larger agenda and goal now: to continuously work on building and customizing a life with their wives.”
The problem is that many of us never consciously realize this and so we half-innocently go about our lives as though it were still a continuation of the day before the wedding (or other serious relationship commitment.) It’s half-innocent, because nobody’s ever taught us the right way. (But not totally innocent, because we’re not children anymore either, so we ARE ultimately responsible for our choices and our behaviors.)
But this lack of understanding causes problems. In fact, it’s how we help create the Angry Wife part of the dynamic:
“Angry wives are in large part created as a result of these major disappointments or “shocks”, combined with whatever they themselves (the wives) bring into their marriages from past hurts and disappointments perhaps not immediately related to their husbands but triggered by him today.”
So there we have it; a recipe for marital -or other serious relationship- DISASTER.
As time goes on, the man continues to try to live his life the way he knows how, and the wife continues to build up resentment and mistrust in her man as she experiences disappointment after disappointment and hurt after hurt.
(If you’ve been following this blog, you also know that, needless to say, the sex, or physical intimacy, eventually goes out the window along with the emotional intimacy and trust; and this is what often finally gets the man’s attention—see my previous “Sex and Marriage” post.)
Next, I’m going to give you three examples of “man-boy types” from the book:
1) The sportsman type
2) The social animal type
3) The no-job-no-ambition type
Let’s start with the sportsman type.
Again, from the book:
“This is the man-boy whose angry wife is resentful because of all the time he spends playing in after work sports leagues, playing fantasy football, or playing cards, gambling, or otherwise focusing on regularly planned activities which do not involve her at all.”
The problem with this is that, once we marry, the meaning of time changes:
“To an overwhelmed, harried, busy wife, especially if there are kids involved or a career, even a few hours once or twice a week in which her husband is engaging in some sort of activity independent of her and the project of their lives together can present a conflict. He is spending this extra time away from not only her, but from the life they are trying to build together, which should be his first priority.”
Next, the social animal type:
“This one seems to engender even more anger and resentment from the wives, than the first kind. This is the guy who tries to continue to hang out with his (usually unmarried) buddies from college, professional school, or work. It could be happy hour on Wednesday nights or meeting up with them on the weekends, all while his wife is either working, taking care of the kids, or managing the household.”
And, finally, the no-job-no-ambition type.
About this type, the book (lovingly and respectfully) tells men:
“Unless you are physically or mentally disabled, which I’m assuming you and your wife would know about, you are pretty much obligated to engage in some sort of productive work activity in your life. Above all, the perception by your wife that you are either lazy or incompetent will breed anger, resentment, and, eventually contempt.”
Now for the “trainability” part I mentioned earlier.
Lest you should think that I am a self-hating former man-boy, I want to tell you ladies that this is only half-true (I am not self-hating.) I also want to say that we men are unique and different from you in several important ways, two of which are as follows (incidentally, these are both generalizations since they may not be universally true for every couple, man, or woman):
1) Men are wired to feel more emotionally intimate when they are having, are about to have, or have had PHYSICAL intimacy (i.e. sex) with you, whereas you women are generally wired to feel more sexually available when you are feeling more EMOTIONALLY intimate with us. So we are very much wired differently, in general.
2) Men have what I call a built in “kamikaze” reaction. In the book I describe it as follows:
“One thing I’ve observed about men is that, once they sense that they are already seen as failures or as having failed in their spouses’ eyes, they almost all tend to become angry in return, as they conclude that they’ve irreversibly messed up. ”
What follows with the kamikaze reaction is the old, “Well, I screwed up now and she’s mad/disappointed/repulsed/cold/etc. already, so f@&k it!” (As I say in my office, ‘scuse the language here.)
So, if you know these two things, you now also know that:
1) You and he need to rebuild the Emotional Credibility (which equals trust + liking each other) before there can ever be healthy emotional OR physical intimacy. (So, in other words, you have to work together to help him go from man-boy to man so you can trust, respect, and like him again.)
2) (from the book): “Women who are becoming angry and resentful towards their husbands will get much more mileage (and results!) by first trying to gently support the husbands’ efforts to change instead of immediately going on the attack.” (So, in other words, try not to immediately punish him or withdraw from him (i.e. get cold) which will trigger the “kamikaze” boyhood reaction in him and you’ll lose him at that moment.)
Well, there it is in VERY BRIEF summary.
My final, parting words to you are these: To the men, don’t worry or feel bad. It’s just a matter of building up your skills, which you can easily do if you read this blog regularly and practice; if I did it so can you!
And to the women, seek to understand the realities of the man-boy and you’ll have an easier time dealing with your husband as he grows into the man you need him to be.
Now, go out there, work hard, have some fun, and help each other grow up!
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.
Author, Don’t Get Married! (Unless You Understand A Few Things First)
Cobwebs and Ugly Wallpaper