This bit in this week’s Telegraph nails something I’ve been wrangling with for a while. Maybe you men out there can relate:
Many men believe the world is now dominated by women and that they have lost their role in society, fuelling feelings of depression and being undervalued. Research shows the extent to which men have had to change within one or two generations, adapting to new rules and different expectations. Asked what it meant to be a man in the 21st century, more than half thought society was turning them into “waxed and coiffed metrosexuals”, and 52 per cent say they had to live according to women’s rules. What they apparently want is what some American academics have dubbed a “menaissance” – a return to manliness, where figures such as Sir Winston Churchill were models of manhood.
It’s not a “feminization” thing really, and to push back here isn’t being chauvinistic. Most guys are cool with being softer around the edges especially when we connect it to loving our wives and daughters in ways that are meaningful to them.
But our culture has fallen into the trap of thinking husbands are supposed to love the way they do. We’re supposed to be our wife’s best girlfriend, with a winkie and chest hair added as a bonus. After all, we rationalize, it’s our wives who understand what love is all about, and men who don’t climb on board their way of thinking are dufuses or oafs and are certainly not interested in the relationship…
But that doesn’t really cut it, does it guys.
A girlfriend that sometimes leaves the toilet seat up? That’s not what you really want either, is it gals.
A brother in our church’s men’s group stuck a copy of Emerson Eggerichs Love & Respect in my hands a couple months ago. Was up most of the night reading it. Also listened to an audio interview by James “What Wives Wished Their Husbands Knew About Women” Dobson, who essentially smacked himself in the forehead for promoting the husbands-must-think-like-wives mantra for so long that he missed the obvious.
It’s the point that the Telegraph’s reporterette finally gets to at the bottom of her article cited above:
Harvey Mansfield, a Harvard professor and America’s best known political philosopher, who tackles the topic in his book Manliness, says the issue is ignored. “A man has to be embarrassed about being a man. I am trying to bring back the word manliness. It’s not respected,” he said.
Men, says Eggerichs, are built for honor and respect. It’s as much our “love language” as when our wives wish we’d listen to them talk about their day or – hubba hubba – do the dishes or laundry.
In my grandad’s generation it was all about respect. Since then our wives rightfully received more fairness in the workplace (not always of course) and elsewhere in society thanks to women’s rights movements. It should be this way. God commands men to love our ladies in an understanding way, which means husbands do have a loving obligation to get inside their wives’ lovely heads and find out what their language of love is and communicate that love to them constantly and passionately.
But when’s the last time you heard any Christian authority figure – any marriage authority for that matter – suggest that wives should be reciprocating by letting her husband know every day that she honors and respects him above all the other people in her life? Our modern culture has gotten too afraid of viewing Paul’s admonition “wives, honor your husbands” as a pretense to domestic abuse [of course, “husbands, love your wives” stays on the table!]. And let’s face it, guys – we don’t expect to be honored anymore. We’d rather just suck it up than make it an issue.
Because of this we’ve denied families and society in general the benefit of strong, confident men who are strengthened daily by the honoring, affirming love guys can relate to.
Since I’m already probably in trouble here, let me run down Eggerich’s list of ways to build up men [source of this list and the women’s list here]:
Conquest – Appreciate his desire to work and achieve
Heirarchy – Appreciate his desire to protect and provide
Authority – Appreciate his desire to serve and lead
Insight – Appreciate his desire to analyze and counsel
Relationship – Appreciate his desire for shoulder-to-shoulder friendship
Sexuality – Appreciate his desire for sexual intimacy
Guys, I don’t know if this is registering with you at all, but it sure did with me. Before this I assumed the sort of love she needed to thrive was supposed to be OK for me too. After reading this list (chapters, etc) I realized why it was sorta like wearing a women’s blouse: It doesn’t fit quite right and the buttons button the wrong way.
Er, not that I, uh; well anyway…
I was also relieved to discover that my propensity to solve problems and lean into concerns about providing for my family were not failings I had to “get over” but God-given tools that I needed to learn how to use properly. Doesn’t relieve me of the responsibility to learn what makes her tick, but knowing what makes me tick helps a lot.
For you ladies out there, let me offer you a compliment, then a bit of unsolicited advice:
- You already know an awful lot about what your needs, wants and desires are, and are intuitively smarter at this relationship thing than we are.
- Your man wasn’t built to be your girlfriend. Stop treating him like one. If you’ll forgive me for saying so, you probably treat your girlfriends with more respect. Make it as important to you to figure out what makes him feel honored as it is to get him to understand what makes you feel loved.
Maybe with all of us working together, a menaissance – and a revival of loving, respect-filled and strong marriages – is in the offering.