Men who can’t love women

(If you’re new to Monkeytraps, Steve is a therapist who specializes in control issues, and Bert is his control-addicted inner monkey.

Steve speaking:)

Three times last week I gave  my speech on Men Who Can’t Love Women.

Twice I gave it to wives of men avoiding therapy.  Once I was talking to a man who’s a husband himself.

The speech I created spontaneously about six months ago, to address a relationship problem that kept cropping up in sessions.  

It goes something like this.

I see this more and more lately: 

Men who can’t love women.

No, they’re not gay, or impotent, or anything like that.

 They’re not even men who don’t want to love women.

Or don’t try to.

Usually they’re men who believe that they can and do love the women they’re with.

The women they’re with, sadly, tend to see it differently.

Because those women know there’s a fundamental truth about healthy relationships that these men simply don’t grasp:

Giving is getting.

These guys don’t get that.  They don’t see relationship as collaboration, where what’s good for you is good for me.  Instead they seem to see it as some sort of competition.  

They tend to act, often without realizing it,  as if relationship were a zero-sum game, where there’s only so much good stuff to go around, and where a gain for one means a loss for the other.

It’s as if on some deep level they believe, “When you win, I lose.”     

I hope (your husband, boyfriend, lover) isn’t one of these.

Because — due respect to the members of my gender – these guys can be damned hard to retrain.

The idea of giving-as-getting is something most women know in their bones. That’s probably because they’re socialized to value relationships in a way men aren’t. 

We train men to compete, not to partner.

Worse, we also train them to work, not to feel.  Which leads to another missing piece in their relationships, something else that many men don’t get. 

It’s the idea that love isn’t just an emotion —  it’s behavior.

Most of my male clients struggle with relationships with women.  And at some point I usually ask them, “Do you love her?” 

They almost always say, “Yes.”

And then I ask, “How do you show it?’

And they stare at me as if I’ve just lapsed into a foreign language.

Some just don’t get the question.  “What do you mean,” one asked blankly, “by show it?”

Many shrug.   The shrug usually translates as, Hey, I know how I feel.  I assume she knows too.  Don’t women just know this stuff?

Others argue that they already communicate their love adequately.  I go to work, pay bills, mow the lawn, drive Jimmy to soccer practice, put up with her mother, and even wash dishes occasionally.  Isn’t that enough?  Shouldn’t it be?

If I suggest otherwise, some get angry at me.

My work with these men usually heads in one of two directions. 

Some men — usually those who’ve come close to losing the woman in their lives and come into therapy genuinely frightened — are able to face their limitations.  We then have a series of conversations about the nuts and bolts of loving behavior (ways of communicating acceptance, attention and affection), which they work to internalize and practice.  These are the lucky ones.

Others stand pat.  Hey, this is me.  She can take it or leave it.  Interestingly, it’s not that they’re less frightened than the first group.  They’re just more scared of changing than anything else.  Some stand pat all the way to divorce court.

Some stand pat through multiple marriages and divorces.

My heart goes out to these men.   They’re not bad guys, most of them.  They’re not trying to hurt anyone.  They’re just undereducated and overdefended.  (Also victims of a socialization process that tends to leave men emotionally wounded in four specific ways, ways I plan to write about here shortly.)

But the hurt happens anyway, and it can be devastating to all concerned. 

So, some questions to chew on:  

~ Ever known a man who can’t love women? 

~ Ever been in a relationship with one?

~ Are you such a man yourself?

~ Are you sure?

* * *

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8 responses to “Men who can’t love women

  • john

    Im having a hard time commenting on this, 3 seperate times I had a long comment and 3 times I earased it, I guess all I will say is I need your help with this one Burt, this post really hit home for me. Im glad I am one of the lucky ones because I really have limitations in this area, Great post Burt

  • Gershwin

    need help with that 1 im hurting alot of ppl im heartless

    • Steve Hauptman

      Not sure a truly heartless would know it, much less admit it. Sounds like you have a conscience, at least.
      Hope you find the help you need. 🙂

  • Janna

    …and another “bad men, good women” therapist. (facepalm)

  • Stéphane

    These days people seem to speak a lot more of this problem: ‘Men who can’t love’, ‘commitement phobia’, men (and sometimes women) who run away from a relationship at the last minute, just before a marriage or simply just before settling down as a couple. Doesn’t all this seem strange? I mean, that people were not talking so much of this years before? A few years ago this issue-problem was named something like: ‘repetitive relationship disorder’. Well I have a clue why these problems are all coming up to the surface now, at the beginning of the 21st century: these men, and women mostly come from the sixties babyboom generation, in order words, they come from broken families, where parents were screaming at each other all day, where these poor kids didn’t know where to run to so they hid inside their rooms. Today they just see a relationship as another threat coming back from the past, so they are afraid to commit and they simply run away from the man-woman issue they have to deal with. Alas, this is the truth.

  • this is me

    I honestly think I was heartbroken so bad I never bounced back. I’m long over her but I don’t think I’ve been able to love since. It’s more finding women to hook up with then anything. My last girlfriend I dated for a year, she is honestly a really mean person but around someone a year and I couldn’t have cared any less about the relationship. Idk what’s wrong with me but I want to fix it. I’m going on 29 years old and I want to love someone. It’s extremly easy for me to meet women and hook up. So why is it hard to have feelings for one bc most are beautiful educated successful women That most men would die to have a chance with.

  • Gab

    Because there is no challenge with these woman who hook up so easily. You need to know and develop a friendship first. Sex isn’t love its just sex.
    Love is something that needs time to grow. Hooking up just ruins the mystery. So many woman don’t get this any more and behave like men with sex.

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