Dear Dr. Eve
I grew up in a household in which I had to man up. I learned to mask any
feelings of distress and was told that liking art and poetry was “unmanly”.
My father was one of those men who went to the pub every night before
coming home. Then he would just be quiet and go to sleep. My mother
would scream at him and I hated that.
Now I have my own family and my wife and I struggle to communicate.
She accuses me of being aggressive, controlling and during sex she feels
like an object.
I love her and really cannot see what I am doing wrong. All my friends
say their women complain about more or less the same thing. My buddies
and I like to be the dominant ones, you know, being men of the
household and all of that.
What do you suggest my wife and I do about this as it causes tension and
unhappiness between us.
Let’s talk about what it means to be male. This is not an easy gender to
belong to, not a comfortable space for people. It is pretty dictatorial in
terms of expectations, both subtle and expressed. And from birth,
socialization from parents and society, dictates to you, what it means to
be a male
For starters do you know that some parents may provide less affection for
their young son for fear of turning him into a “mama’s boy.” They may be
less quick to comfort him when he makes a mistake or hurts himself, and
they may be more lenient when he roughhouses or displays other signs of
“Boys will be boys” becomes the mantra. Parents may be more likely to
coo at, talk to, and read bedtime stories to a daughter than a son. So
right there you see why intimacy is a potential challenge for you.
In other words, masculinity can be harmful, to you as a person and to
those you love.
This is harmful masculinity. Tick off any that apply to you ;
– Domination in your relationship/s
– Requires attraction to a cisgender straight woman
– Devaluation of women, including objectifying them in bed
– Violence being an acceptable form of communication
– Believing that “manliness “ is based on the following: strength, lack
of emotion, self-sufficiency, sexual virility, sexual performance
– Hyper competitiveness
– Control – over finances, time, movement, social activities
– Low empathy
Karl, you may feel that being this “manly man” you will gain acceptance
into the world by living according to these exaggerated masculine traits. I
am sure if I had the opportunity to talk to you I would learn that you
were bullied (or bullied others) at school, perhaps struggled with school
and employment, engage in risky behaviors, perhaps use substances, in
addition to the loss of intimate connection with your partner/s.
Harmful masculinity, as described above, places you at risk of mental and
physical illness. After all “real men “ do not seek help. Depression, body
image issues, cardiovascular diseases are some of the consequences of
I applaud you for reaching out to me. You have begun your journey of
awareness of what it means to be male. Follow me on all social media
platforms throughout November to learn more.