September 16, 2004
September 16, 2004

Men Caught in Catch 22

The majority of cases which I see, men find it difficult, if not impossible to verbalize the spouses emotions in an active listening mode: because they are incapable of identifying their own feelings. The Shaywitz and Shaywitz research team did brain scans on both sexes when asking a nonsensical question. The male brain reacted with the left (logical hemisphere, whereas women responded with both hemispheres which included the right emotional/creative side). Therefore it is proven that men are wired differently than women making it more difficult for them to identify heartfelt responses which come so easily for the female.

Moreover, our culture does not encourage this reaction even though the society is attempting to update itself. Many wives will call the husband a “wimp” if he weeps too readily, but feels no stigma in doing so. When my son was in 5th grade his teacher called him that “W” name because he would not fight with the boys, but asked what was their problem? I told her that I lived on a farm when the children were small and that I had taught the siblings to work out situations rather than become physical. She was amazed and admired Larry for his behavior from then on. What I became aware of was that an authority figure approved of fighting which the school negatively sanctioned. Often the mixed signals in our society are impossible for adults to follow, but where do we expect youngsters to go to sort out the confusion?

More importantly the “Catch 22” that it creates in marital situations only allows a man to withdraw and put armor around his sentimentality. Then when a woman wants him to “understand” her as her girlfriends readily do, she feels that “he does not love her”. Other men might resort to unacceptable outlets, anywhere from: overworking, too many nights out with the boys (or girls?), drinking, drugs; you name it.

Those men who are having minor or major difficulties in the marriage are reflecting the degree of “catch 22 isms” for which they need aide.

First the problem must be labeled in order to work on the male self and the marriage. Then the real work starts in helping masculine ego’s to let a bit of what is considered the feminine into their psyche without becoming ostracized from the culture for being tender. Learning to say “I love you” may be a large task for some, for other’s it comes too easily without a true appreciation of the sacrifices it also brings with it. Some women automatically please, but men frequently have to be taught.

If significant others could view this as a cultural, physical, gender problem instead of personalizing it as being uncaring the first step towards solving the issue is being made. Cooperation from the male gender is also necessary to create an improved romantic and lasting relationship.

Counseling is often the most expeditious way in order to bring about a quick and lasting “fix”.