Masculinity

Abraham Lincoln famously said, “Better to be silent and thought a fool, then to speak out and remove all doubt.”

Perhaps it was in Abe’s spirit then, that before everyone had GPS in their cars, it was a well-worn cliché among women that their husbands would drive around lost rather than stopping to ask for directions.

Personally, I never related to that behavior, but I knew it was a thing.

For me it was more like, “Hmm, I think I’m lost. I’ll ask for directions. Now I’m no longer lost.” But then again, I was never the kind of kid who didn’t raise his hand in school for fear of looking foolish, either. And it’s fair to say, I looked foolish and felt foolish a lot. Often it was embarrassing, and sometimes even painfully so. But I learned that being seen “not knowing” didn’t kill me, and by developing emotional resiliency, I could shift from “not knowing” to “now knowing.”

I bring this up because many of my women friends and women clients express frustration with their husband’s “fragile male egos,” particularly in the domain of intimacy. It’s normal that over time relationships change, and different challenges emerge. But deeply ingrained in men’s psyche is the need to be right and to get it right, and when things are not right, and we don’t know how to make them right, it’s scary. And it feels somehow safer to “drive” around lost then ask for directions.

At a very early age boys learn—more so than girls, I think–that love is conditional. We learn that life is a competition over scarce resources, and we only received approval when we won, when we got the good grades, when we “scored” with the girl, when we got the big paycheck–and it hurt when we lost, or made mistakes, and was especially painful when we got it wrong. We learned we were lovable (or not) for what we did, for what we achieved, not for who we were.

Sadly, we internalized conditional love for ourselves, learning to love ourselves only when we succeeded. From there, it’s not a stretch to only want to do things you’re good at, and to avoid areas of perceived weakness. To be a successful man is to be seen as a successful man—at all times!–and so the image of empowered masculinity becomes transactional, measured by money and the accumulation of trophies. Success means winning, winning means destroying your opponent, and life becomes a zero-sum game. Feelings of doubt or vulnerability are perceived as weakness and need to be quashed if you are to be victorious–and from there, it’s not too far of a journey of disconnection from our hearts and our humanity to the realm of toxic masculinity.

In the context of conditional self-love, then, it becomes understandable how admitting you’re “lost” could be so painful you will do all manner of psychological gymnastics to avoid it. However, we only learn from our mistakes, so if you’re not admitting your mistakes, you’re not learning. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing. If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

In relationship and in intimacy, what worked well in the past often doesn’t work so well anymore. Not because anybody’s wrong, but because everything and everyone changes over time. There’s no shame in that.

But if you’re not growing, you’re dying.

The shame is that the fear of “not knowing” leads to not looking. Old school masculinity “wins” in the short term by force, or by denial, but love always loses in the long term.

My mission is to empower men to create even more love in their world. To do that I believe we let go of having the answers, and learn to ask different questions.

What becomes possible when we stand centered and open-hearted, fully present in this moment, confident in our not knowing?

Let’s show the women and children we love that the patriarchy and toxic masculinity have had their day. Are you ready to join me in launching the 21st Century Man Project?

Harvard study discovers the #1 key to a fulfilling life

I was recently listening to a TED talk about a 75-year study by the Harvard psychology department, exploring the question of what brings the greatest happiness and satisfaction over a lifetime.  The study followed a group of undergraduate men, as well as a group of Boston area men who didn’t attend college.
At the start of the study in the 1940s, 75% of the participants said getting rich was very important, and some 50% said they wanted to be famous—a result similar to Millennials who were asked the same question today.
But over the course of the study, following up with the same participants every two years or so, what became clear was that the real key to life-long happiness and satisfaction, were close relationships, particularly the kind of reciprocal relationships that the participants knew they could lean into during life’s most challenging times.
In other words, what proved to be most important for happiness and satisfaction for both the financially successful participants, as well as the less financially successful participants in the study, were family, close friends, and particularly, long-term relationships (LTR).
Perhaps the conclusions of the study seem obvious.  All humans share a need for connection, safety, love, touch and intimacy; however, relationship dynamics have changed dramatically over the past few generations. Families are scattered across the globe. Friendship and even communities seem to come and go.  Many of the old assumptions about love itself have gone out the window in the modern world, and successful relationship doesn’t fall so clearly under the “live happily ever after with one partner for the rest of our lives” model anymore.  And finding satisfying love is more challenging, complex, and volatile than ever.
As an intimacy coach, empowering men and women to create more love in the world is my life’s purpose, and though I don’t claim to have all the answers, I’ve spent a lot of time asking questions that have led me to present my new webinar:
You will learn:
  • A new perspective that illuminates the complexities of the modern relationship dynamic
  • The 6 cornerstones of a successful relationship
  • How to navigate a world of differing needs, wants and desires
Do you want to know more about how to have a loving, long-term partnership?

A Failed Marriage?

The autumn days are getting shorter, but miraculously, here in Santa Cruz, the Indian Summer temperatures are actually warmer than during summertime, and I’ve been so enjoying swimming in the ocean a few more times before the water gets too cold.
Maybe because the school year starts in the fall, to me, now feels like the time of new beginnings.  It’s also the harvest time, and the time of letting go, when the leaves begin to die and fall from the trees.  These natural rhythms are just as real in our lifecycle as they are in the plant world, and in that spirit I would ask you to take a moment and answer the questions:
What are you harvesting?  What are you letting fall away?
As for me, what I am letting go of is my marriage to Kim-Elisha.  Or more specifically, since we separated in June, what I am now letting go of is the part of my identity that was intertwined with hers.  It has taken me a season of tears and grieving to come to this place.  Releasing our shared dreams and shared love, and letting go of the part of me that embodied that love and those dreams, has been lonely, and painful, and difficult.
And though our relationship only lasted 4 years, I don’t actually view it as a failure.  It was a hugely transformative time in both of our lives, and I am grateful for how she showed up for me, and I am proud of how I showed up for her, and how we loved each other all out until the end.
What I’m harvesting now is a sense of wholeness and self-love that I didn’t have when I met her, and that I wouldn’t have now if she hadn’t gone.  And from this place, the story and the details don’t matter.
As for the new beginnings, I’ll leave that for next time.
What about you?  What are you harvesting?  What are you letting fall away?  Hit me with a quick email reply—I’d love to hear.