Strong Men
Strong Marriage

Do Men Need to Be More Like Women?

Lately I’ve been thinking about how men approach marriages. Once the courting phase is over and the marriage has settled down (within the first 1-3 years), we may become pretty passive about our marriages. We do “care”; it’s just that we want our marriages to work without having to think much about them. We want our woman there, ready and willing to love us, nurture us, and have sex with us (not necessarily in that order). But we don’t want to do a lot of maintenance on the relationship.

In fact, a man can go for weeks without giving much thought to his marriage, once he thinks it’s up and running. He wants it to function like a refrigerator, to run well for a long, long time so he can forget about it while still enjoying its benefits. Like marriage, a refrigerator is important and necessary, but once it’s up and running he figures it shouldn’t need much attention. It may get too cold at time and then he’ll try to fix it. And occasionally the light may go out and he may pay attention then, too. But he is going to be most interested only if the power goes out altogether.

Similarly, a man is likely to figure that his marriage is doing fine unless his wife tells him it isn’t, especially when she begins to send the message that she’s about to leave him. It’s not that he doesn’t care about his mate; he wants to enjoy being with her. It’s just that he’d rather put his focus on his work or sports or other things about which he knows something and feels competent to perform and succeed.

If we men want better relationships with our women, we have to be willing to commit our energy, hearts and mind. Letting a marriage run on automatic doesn’t cut it any more, because most women won’t allow it. Besides, those kinds of marriages are no fun; they’re easier in some ways, but they are much more boring!

Anyway, I think about all this when men tell me that their wives/girlfriends are constantly bugging them to talk about what they feel and be more in touch with their feelings. (Their women usually end up telling them what they must be feeling, and that makes them even more angry and defensive.) What can a man do to turn this situation around?

Here’s the answer: we have to be willing to take total responsibility for what we feel and what we say and do in our marriages, and we must learn to become comfortable and proficient in the way we express ourselves. When a man takes complete responsibility for exploring and expressing his inner life he’ll get his power back, and he won’t care whether he satisfies his wife’s yardstick for being in touch with his feelings.

Men have evolved differently than women; over tens of thousands of years we learned to gaze outward to conquer, defend, hunt, create, and build. Women, on the other hand, learned to care for families, children, emotions, and the entire “unseen” realm. We all know that this is changing for both sexes; women are moving into traditionally male areas and vice versa. But it will take a long, long, time before our biology adapts to allow all men easy access to their emotions and to commune with others as well.

Our society has recently created a crazy idea: men should be like women in the way we listen, talk and feel and we should deal with relationships like women do; we should listen with tremendous empathy, strive for harmony, and speak fluidly about our feelings. This is patently absurd, and if a man buys into this idea he will constantly feel like a failure. If you observe how men communicate you will see instances of different communication style, not necessarily a worse communication style. (See Deborah Tannen’s work for research about this.)

My advice to men is this: talk about your life the most openly and honestly you can. Your wife deserves your commitment to intimate communication. But she doesn’t have a right to expect you to communicate in the same manner as women. If she wants that kind of communication, she should talk to other women.

If you take on the challenge of becoming familiar with your inner life, you will learn more about your feelings and how to talk about them and you’ll be a much happier person. Self-knowledge is power, and you’ll be stronger without having to keep up the “armor” that so many men set up to protect themselves. But, forget about communicating better to please a woman, because that will only weaken you. It’s not about communicating like a woman; it’s about communicating like a full human being.

©2008, Marty Friedman

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Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years. - Simone Signoret

Martin G. Friedman is the author of “Straight Talk for Men About Marriage—What Men Need to Know About Marriage (And What Women Need to Know About Men)”. For many years, Marty Friedman taught corporate managers how to create good relationships at work before tackling male/female relationship issues--and applying what he learned to his own marriage. The founder of Men in Marriage, Marty is regularly interviewed on radio and television, and talks to organizations and individuals from a unique, inspirational and humorous perspective. Find out more at

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