Beware the Advice of “Marital First Responders”

Bad advice will blind you, good advice will instruct you, excellent advice will enlighten you, and transcendent advice will elevate you.        ~ Matshona Dhliwayo

When you experience problems in your relationship, you might find yourself opening up to others about those problems. While this is probably more true of women, when things get really bad, even guys do it too (admit it!). You might go to friends, family members, co-workers, clergy, hair stylists, bartenders, or others to gripe, vent, seek reassurance, get perspective, or problem-solve (guys mostly on this one). These natural confidantes in your life then serve as “marital first responders.” They’re in the position of helping you do first aid on your relationship. Continue reading

The Male Mode of Depression, Part 4: Where a Man Can Find Help

We have found that once men stop depriving themselves of human connection and instead form authentic relationships with other people, their conventional presenting problems often disappear.   ~ Charlie Donaldson and Randy Flood

In prior articles, we’ve looked at several aspects of the way men typically experience depression. To recap, we’ve looked at how depression is expressed by a man (here), how it develops in a man (here), and what wake-up calls a man might experience that motivate him to get some help (here). Now, we’re finally ready to explore some ways that men can get effective help for their condition. You’ll see that the great majority of these methods involve gaining greater experience, competence, and enjoyment in connecting with other people. Over time, this tends to do the trick, as they say, although it’s not an instant cure. A lot of times, however, men will need to work their way up to these methods due to the last gasp efforts of the internalized Man Code to interfere with the process. Let’s see how this works. Continue reading

The Male Mode of Depression, Part 3: What Causes a Man to Get Help

The cure for covert depression is overt depression.      ~ Terrence Real

In prior articles, we’ve looked at what men’s depression, sometimes called “covert depression,” looks like (here) and where it comes from (here). Given that men typically hide their depressed feelings (overt depression) from themselves and others (hence, “covert), it takes a bit of doing for them to come to a place where they seek help. Most often, men don’t seek help without a major “wake-up call” in their life. This is much like (or the same as) when an addict hits “rock bottom” and admits they are powerless over what’s happening in their life. The word “powerless” describes a condition in which few men want to find themselves. Let’s take a look at some of the situations that push men into this condition. Let’s also look at how to speed things along (a good thing; really!). Continue reading

The Male Mode of Depression, Part 2: Where It Comes From

The three most destructive words that every man receives when he’s a boy is when he’s told to “be a man.”         ~ Joe Ehrmann

In part 1 of this series of articles (here), we found out what male depression looks like. I started there because I wanted you to know what we’re talking about and to have an idea of how it differs from so-called “clinical depression.” Armed with that knowledge, we’re now ready to explore how men get that way. If we know that, then maybe someday preventative measures can be put into place. In the meantime, let’s start our exploration by picturing a young boy standing in front of his father, step-father, brother, uncle, grandfather, coach, male teacher, priest, minister, or any other significant male figure in his life. Picture him hearing, over and over again, the words, “Be a man.” Continue reading

The Male Mode of Depression, Part 1: What It Looks Like

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.     ~ Henry David Thoreau

The official diagnostic criteria* for depression include such symptoms as a sad mood, loss of interest in things, loss of energy, difficulty concentrating, and so on. These symptoms are pretty obvious, so we might say that someone who has them is “overtly” depressed. Further, it’s interesting to note that statistics show at least twice as many women get diagnosed with depression as do men. Does that mean that women are more depressed than men or is there something else going on here? We’ll see that it’s not so obvious when most men are depressed, thus the term “covert” depression gets applied informally. What does this male mode of covert depression look like? What makes it “covert?” Let’s find out! Continue reading

How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Relationship Using Self-Justification

I yam what I yam. ~ Popeye the Sailor Man

Your relationship started out great. You were crazy in love, wanting to spend as much time together as possible. Your partner was perfect, couldn’t do anything wrong, made you feel terrific! And now? They drive you crazy! At some point, the reality of your partner set in. You noticed some things that didn’t sit well with you and you mentioned them to your partner. All you got back were justifications for why they were right and (even worse) why you were wrong. Now, they don’t listen anymore. They don’t care what you think. How did you get here? What happened? Can we please go back to the way we were (you say)? Let’s look at what happened and whether your relationship can return to it’s former glory. Continue reading

The Tragedy of the Walkaway Wife and the Too-Late-Woke Husband

Why didn’t you tell me you were this unhappy?” asks the Too-Late-Woke Husband to the back of his wife’s head as she walks out the door rolling her eyes.

This article is aimed at all you clueless husbands. Also, severely discontented wives might find it interesting to conspicuously leave a copy around the house before they finally give up on their relationship. The idea here is to wake you (the husband) up to the reality of your wife’s negative feelings about you and your marriage before it’s way too late. Many a husband doesn’t get “woke” (as the kids say these days) until they watch their long-suffering wife walk out the door with suitcases in her hands. They have now become a “woke” husband, realizing that their wife really means business. Continue reading

Coming to Terms with the Reality of a Difficult Relationship

I don’t want to believe it!” ~ Female client

Over time, I’ve worked with many people in difficult, if not toxic or abusive, relationships. These have included women married to confusing men on the Autistic Spectrum (formerly called Asperger’s Disorder), men married to angry women with Borderline Personality Disorder, and women married to verbally abusive men. With few exceptions, these people have trouble coming to terms with the reality of who they married. “I never realized.” “He wasn’t like that in the beginning.” “I felt sorry for her and felt I could really help her.” “I don’t believe it!” “I don’t want to believe it!” and the ever-popular “What do I do now?” In this article, we’ll explore some of these situations, why they occur, and what to do about them. Continue reading

Inside the Head of an Abusive Man

Abusiveness is not a product of a man’s emotional injuries or of deficits in his skills. In reality, abuse springs from a man’s early cultural training, his key male role models, and his peer influences. In other words, abuse is a problem of values, not of psychology.                ~ Lundy Bancroft

Contrary to popular belief, abusive men are typically not clinically mentally ill, deranged, or have so-called personality disorders (Narcissistic, Antisocial, etc.). Instead, they simply believe that their behaviors are perfectly OK and justified. In this article, we look at the beliefs the abusive man has, his mentality you might say, and offer you an opportunity to gain some perspective about someone you might know (husband, father, grandfather, son, son-in-law, brother, brother-in-law, boss, priest, minister, President of the United States, etc.). Continue reading

The Man Code: What Is and What Could Be

Abstractions and programs about gender always miss the mark, because gender, genuine and full of blood, can never be separated in real life from individuality.

~ Thomas Moore

Most boys in our culture, somewhere around three to seven years old, have imposed upon them something called the “Boy Code.” In its shortest form, it reads as follows: “Don’t be a girl.” Later in life, this evolves into the “Man Code” (also called Male Code or Male Agenda or Guy Code), essentially “Don’t be a woman.” There’s a bit more to it, which I’ll get into, but you get the idea. Both codes involve a so-called “negative achievement,” in each case a rejection and renunciation (as well as devaluing) of what our dominant culture deems as feminine.

Below, after some review of the situation and the damage that’s being done, I propose a new, improved Man Code. This new code does no damage, actually leads to psychological health, and does not require boys and men (or anyone else for that matter) to go through life constantly trying to prove a negative (which is impossible).

Continue reading