I’ve been accused of picking on men. Many of the books I refer women to illustrate how men are typically emotionally immature, spiritually shallow and when wounded—which is often—tend to “fight, flight or freeze.” In other words, they head for their “man-cave,” become aggressive or simply clam up.
I believe these patterns of behavior are prevalent and subsequently men are getting labels such as ‘Narcissistic Personality Disorder,’ ‘Passive-Aggressive,’ or worse. Sadly, many times these labels (which are generally unhelpful) have more than a kernel of truth to them.
But, let’s be fair. Men don’t run to their man-caves out of boredom. They run when feeling threatened. They run when they feel disrespected. They run when they have a sense that they cannot be heard and don’t have the emotional language to maintain an equal relationship. Feeling inadequate and ineffective, they give up.
On the other side of the equation, women want relationship/ connection. They want to be cared for and loved, however, often in an attempt to obtain that connection they resort to critical words. They challenge, chase and chide their men in an attempt to obtain connection. Of course, these strategies don’t work. This drives their men further into their emotional and physical shells.
In other words women, this is often a relationship problem. While it may be tempting to blame it all on his wounded childhood—which is often the case—look closer to home. Now, please don’t read this as blame-shifting. Men must take responsibility for their behavior and thinking patterns that cause relationship problems. Men are fully capable of acting passive-aggressively, running for their cave and striking out aggressively from hurt and deep wounds. But, look critically at what is happening right in front of you. Let me suggest some issues to look at closely.
First, wounded men need your help. Just as you need his help to heal, he needs yours to heal as well. He often cannot verbalize what is happening inside. All he knows is that he feels hurt and can only express that with anger and withdrawal. He wants to feel safe, but doesn’t know how to ask for safety. He wants intimacy, but doesn’t know how to ask for it.
Second, wounded men are often willing to change. Oh, I know it doesn’t seem like it. He has a protective shell a foot thick, but he really does appreciate connection and is willing to change when, but only when, he feels safe and understood. However, when he feels safe and understood he is often willing to talk and share the deep things in his heart.
Third, he must have a sense that it is not ALL about him. He needs to have a sense that the problems in the relationship are mutually created. Gasp! While it may seem to you that he has caused all of the problems, he needs to have a sense that he isn’t the sole problem as that triggers his feelings of inadequacy. He needs to know you are willing to look at your part in the equation.
Fourth, consider what you do to create a sense of distrust and inadequacy. Are you critical? Do you challenge, chase and chide him? Out of deep hurt and fear, do you become angry and scold him? Would you be willing to work at creating safety for him? Consider letting him know the ways you appreciate him. He desperately needs encouragement. Consider sharing with him an understanding that you participate in your relationship problems. Notice the ways he is working on the relationship.
Finally, join hands to adopt an attitude that you will work together to heal one another. Yes, a relationship can be a wonderful place to heal. While this does not preclude doing individual work, a relationship is a wonderful place to grow. Don’t get caught in fruitless power plays or coercive actions to try to get the other to change. Clean your side of the street. Don’t point fingers, even if you feel vindicated to do so. One person working on a relationship can have a profound impact. God will honor your efforts.
You and your mate will never solve problems out of the same mindset that caused them. You must create a calm, caring environment to talk about issues. Scripture tells us, “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm to the end.” (Proverbs 29:11)
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