Living Behind Facades

Facades can be designed both to protect us from those in our lives, and to turn us into new and more exciting versions of ourselves. They can misrepresent us by advertising ourselves as someone were not, or someone we want to be, and they put distance between us and the world.

Personality facades are artificial versions of ourselves, or masks we wear. They are basically roles that we play to others, which give us a limited sense of importance, success, affirmation to both ourselves and to other people. They can be adorned by the careers we have, the material items we own, the money we have, or the importance that we create for ourselves. They are superficial realities that we use to judge ourselves by, and judge others by, and are egoic in nature.

These masks or roles mostly serve to make us more appealing to others. They allow us – in a roundabout way –to get our needs met from those in our lives, be they friends, coworkers, family, or others we encounter. When we put our mask on, we then enter into a game in which the goal is to seek out love, adoration, acceptance, importance, or good standing with those who encounter our facade. They are needs we’re seeking to get met from others, that we can’t someone meet for ourselves.

The problem with living behind these facades is that our authenticity, or our true self, gets suffocated and snubbed out. When you suspend the facade or the false front, the real person behind it may be someone you feel is inadequate, inferior, insecure, or not up to par in someway to deal with others. That person may be someone you wholeheartedly reject, and never really allow to appear in your life because his or her perceived flaws are unacceptable to the world.

Sometimes, we get so used to clinging to the false fronts that we forget that anyone with actual substance exists behind them. The tendency to keep the facades going has become second nature and so unconscious that they exist on autopilot. It’s quite probable that we manufactured these facades growing up in our families of origin, or when we were young, as ways to protect us from inadequacy, weakness or insecurity. Creatively, we create these masks to compensate for personality deficiencies that could leave us vulnerable to others’ emotional or verbal harm of us, including from parents. Sometimes, the facades get built to insulate us and keep us imprisoned from the world.

Taking the risk to pierce or puncture old facades has its benefits. It can mean the difference between keeping a friendship or intimate relationship on a superficial level, and deepening it to one that is more fulfilling. I think that we think we run the risk of rejection if we open up and expose others to the real version of us, who we think will be less than adequate and unappealing. But, the reality is a bit different.

It can be that we ourselves reject who we really are behind the false fronts, and project that onto others. If we have a self critic, he or she can hammer at us and try to keep our true self in lockdown, especially in the case that we don’t like who we truly are. Dealing with the self critic, we may allow ourselves to truly shine through – warts and all. We may be able to learn how to embrace our true self, even if we have been unacceptable to ourselves in the past.

I find that relationships thrive when they are opened up to deeper dimensions, and are usually welcome by other people. Many times, other people in your life are craving the authenticity and genuine qualities of bringing your true or false self to the relationship, even if you think they’ll reject you. And it may be worth reconsidering those relationships that cannot deepen and seeing if they still work for you after you risk being vulnerable.

Facades are just avatars. They allow us to navigate our lives and our relationships, and are not bad things in and of themselves. Different situations and relationships require different roles, but the problem comes when you forget you’re playing the role and forget to drop the facade and bring our your authentic self.

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Barriers to Sex

Sex is far from just the physical act. There are myriad factors that can contribute to the health of your sex life, from timing, to stress, to emotional issues that play in. We’re looking at some of the issues that might affect your sex life, and offering some tips as to things you might consider or implement into your life, whether in or out of the bedroom, to create a more fulfilling sex life with your partner.

  • Learning how to communicate what you want is important to creating the type of fulfilling sex life that you desire. If sexual gratification is left to inhibition and assumptions, your partner won’t be able to satisfy you in that way that you need to be. Know or learn what you want, and speak your mind. It may not be easy, or it very well may be totally uncomfortable, but learning to communicate what you want is vital.
  • Pornography abuse is another barrier to sexual contact and fulfillment. I think that heavy porn use dulls and flattens the mind, and makes the act of sex flat, robotic, and digital. I think that overactive porn use creates a divide between getting sexually fulfilled by a computer, and having person-to-person contact with your intimate partner. Porn can certainly play into the relationship, but it takes both people being okay with it and accepting of it, in order to enhance the sexual part of your relationship in a mutual way. If it’s threatening or unacceptable to one partner (e.g. your wife or girlfriend), it’s going to create problems, lack of trust, and feelings of rejection on her part, and make things worse.
  • Anxiety about sexual performance is another barrier to sexual contact that I talk with many guys about. It’s more common than you think. This issue often manifests in things like erectile dysfunction or an inability to perform sexually, but can also appear as pushing your partner away or not initiating sex. Some guys – feeling like a failure in the marriage – manifest that experience in the bedroom. They have a hard time with performance because they are already feeling like failures, and so they carry this thinking that they will fail their partner into the physical intimacy realm.
  • Making the time is also difficult. When kids, exhaustion, grueling work schedules and poor timing collide, the time for intimacy can go by the wayside. If partners have different sexual schedules, one person may be ready for sex at night, when the other one is exhausted and just wanting to sleep. Syncing up schedules without losing the fun and spontaneity of sex then becomes a challenge. I think planning sexual intimacy is great, but again, it may lose some of the spark when it just becomes planned. Spontaneous sex is great if you can manage it, but realistically, it may also take some light planning, too.
  • Trouble initiating sex: There may be subtle power dynamics at play in your marriage, and when it comes to sex, those may play out unconsciously through sexual contact. It often goes that men who are good at initiating in other parts of their lives or marriages sometimes have a hard time initiating sexually or emotionally, so women are forced into the role, which creates resentment. Have a talk with your partner about initiating sex and making that a mutual thing. If one person is in charge of it, the effects of that will play out sexually.
  • Deal effectively with your stress: You’re not fully physically or emotionally available if stress is getting the best of you. Eat right, get the quality sleep you need, and exercise. Dealing with stress is an everyday pursuit: it’s not just a one-time deal. The better you deal with stress, the more energy and availability you’ll have with your partner when it comes to sex, and the happier and more physically available you’ll be for your partner.
  • Not being present is another barrier to sex. When you’re present, you’re not in your head thinking about other things, or thinking about the past or future – you’re right in the moment where you need to be. When you’re in the here and now, you’re actually involved in the act of lovemaking, and not somewhere else. It’s hard to be fully in the present, because that’s where all of our inhibitions and junk come up – not being good enough, not pleasing our partner, being uncomfortable, etc. Sex is a container for the rest of the unresolved issues in the relationship, so be aware of that as they come up, and get the help that you need to work through those issues so that you can be more present to the experience.
  • Emotional disconnection between you and your partner: If there is emotional disconnection in the relationship or marriage, it’s going to play out sexually as problems in the bedroom. Like marriage counselors know, understand that there is a direct correlation between the emotional and the sexual health of the relationship or marriage, and this can go either way. If there are emotional problems, they can manifest as sexual problems, and vice versa. Work on repairing any emotional problems or damage to the relationship outside of the bedroom for a better relationship inside of it. For guys, understand that issues that your wife or girlfriend may have from the past need to be worked through, and that they neither can “just get over them,” or are amenable to any “fix” or solution you may try to put on it.
  • Comparing your sex life to “others” or the media’s version of sex: Do you really and actually know what other people are doing in the privacy of their bedrooms? No, you don’t. The media surely doesn’t have it right, and people you know aren’t going to tell you if they are having sexual problems themselves. The fact is, you don’t know what other peoples’ sexual realities are. The “hot and heavy” period in the beginning of the relationship will fade some, so don’t expect a sustained libidinal consistency throughout the relationship. Address issues as they come up, and don’t compare your situation to others, especially when they might be in the same boat as you and your partner. Even if you never know.

You can spice up your sex life in a variety of ways, but to look at some of the underlying issues takes a little more introspection, courage and willingness to confront issues head on. In the long run, I think a healthy, long-term sex life is a function of working through some of those issues together. Without a sincere effort to work on those issues, you may be setting yourself up for other, bigger marital issues, like marital infidelity or divorce. So, invest the time and energy into solving those issues as they come up – together – and you’ll have not just a better sex life, but a better marriage or relationship in general.

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The Business of Marriage

When you get caught up in the business of marriage, the marriage starts to run more like a business or organization where two employees run side by side rather than enjoy an intimate, loving relationship with any depth. A “business marriage” becomes flat, stale, mechanical and unfulfilling, and it usually happens over time. “We’ve become roommates,” is also another complaint that I hear from couples who have experienced this phase in their relationship. Although it can happen gradually, it’s effects can be disastrous.

It’s certainly easy to get caught up in the day-to-day mechanics of your relationship roles, especially if you have kids and both of you have full-time jobs. There are schedules to plan, meals to prepare, activities to organize, and at the end of the day, it’s hard enough just to find five or 10 minutes for yourself, let alone with each other. What’s a struggling couple to do to rekindle or reconnect and prioritize their relationship or marriage?

So, what characterizes the “business” of the relationship?

  • Issues concerning kids: appointments, activities, school, etc.
  • Financial issues, like bills, taxes, investments, house issues (mortgage/rent), debt, purchases
  • Family issues, either your own or yours or your wife’s family
  • House projects, maintenance, remodeling and other plans for your home
  • Plans, such as vacations, trips, weekend plans, plans for the future
  • Other partnerships or roles that you both share that aren’t actually romantic or interpersonal connections
  • Feeling flat, uninspired, unfulfilled, bored or generally on satisfied by your partner or by your marriage
  • Checking out, whether emotionally, daydreaming you were somewhere else, or even having extramarital affairs or communication with other people
  • Things that don’t “connect” you or allow you to get to know each other, see each other as people, and allow you to drop the roles you play in your marriage (e.g. parent, domestic person, breadwinner, etc.)

 

I think the immediate first thing to do with a problem like this is just to both acknowledge that you have fallen into this trap, and commit to turning it around. Because it’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, diagnosing it may be fairly difficult. Just being able to label it as such and both agree that that is what’s happening is a huge step forward towards rebuilding your marriage or relationship.

A lot of couples try to remedy this with more date nights. Date nights are fine and good, but what you do with date night is important: merely scheduling it out and following through with it isn’t enough. Date night can become just as scheduled as everything else in your routine, so what good is it if it’s hyper-planned and boring? What fun will you get from it if you’re not actually connecting with your spouse or partner while you’re on it?

I think planning chunks of time in which to work on the “business” of marriage or a relationship is important, so that you can prioritize those business elements of your relationship, and clearly differentiate it from the romantic or interpersonal part of your relationship. It’s important that you draw the line in the sand, or else the romantic part of the relationship can get overrun with the demands of the business side of the relationship. Taking a regular chunk of time weekly, or monthly, to work on the business matters will allow you to get all of the logistics out of the way, so that you can establish priority to the romantic or intimate part.

Ultimately, you may choose to seek out professional counseling to help work through the issues that have created your business marriage, and look at some of the origins or unexpressed negative emotions that you both may be harboring towards each other. It may be essential to look at the past, as much as you and or your spouse may not want to. Identifying and working through those issues may help you prevent them from returning and creating the same scenario you have today.

Sometimes, we use items that make up the business marriage to avoid dealing with the real problems in the marriage. It becomes easy to hide behind the business of the marriage or the logistics rather than actually turn and face the sometimes monumental issues having faced you as a couple for a very long time. The kids, plans, responsibilities, jobs and the like then become tools of avoidance and distance from your mate and the marital problems.

Avoiding your marital problems by using the “business” end of your relationship will only create problems in the end, especially if there are kids. When the kids grow up and leave the house, you won’t have any connection with your mate if you’ve been only good business partners, or have sought to avoid any marital issues by focusing on the business of the marriage, including the kids. Those roles can only take you so far.

Like most issues, prevention is the key. Taking the steps to ensure that your marriage does not have to go down the road of a business marriage is a wise investment if you want to enjoy a loving, intimate marriage that is mutually fulfilling years to come. You may not always share this type of connection, because life demands that you share some kind of business relationship together, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve balance somewhere in between.

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How to Deal with Feeling Inferior

Along with powerlessness, feeling inferior is one of the most difficult experiences a man can have. When you deal directly with feeling inferior, this rips off any facade or structure that you have built to convince others of the opposite impression – that you’re powerful, competent and in charge. In other words, you don’t have to work at showing the world you’re something you’re not, if you feel inferior.

Most people feel inferior to some degree or another at times, and some people feel inherently inferior all their lives. Yet many of us work so hard to posture and build an identity to reject feeling that way. We try to run far away from feeling inferior, usually by gaining wealth and status or trying to become important in one way or another in the world. We try to create a persona of someone we want to be, or someone we’re not, to fight against the feelings we hold so deeply within us.

I think it’s harder for men, because as men, we’ve grown up and been socialized by so many institutions and media to be in charge and be in control. There is no room for feeling inferior in our modern culture, yet intimate relationships have evolved to demand our vulnerability as men. It’s a Catch-22: culture says be strong, but relationships say talk out feelings and be vulnerable. What’s a guy to do without going insane?

In my opinion, it’s OK to feel inferior. It won’t make you less of a man to feel inferior. You may think that others will reject you, including your wife or partner, if you open up and talk about feeling inferior or be vulnerable to any degree. If you are with the right person, that’s probably not true and won’t happen. If you’re with the wrong person, your mate will expect you continue to conform to all the false demands our culture has put on us: to always be strong and bulletproof, and show no weakness.

When we try to be “strong men,” what does that actually mean to you? Does it mean being a stoic rock, or not showing weakness to others? Does it mean playing the “part” of the man? How much do you conform to the rigid stereotypes that media and culture manufacture for men?

Thinking about and challenging what you know about feeling inferior is important to being able to eventually incorporate it, not fear it and start to accept it. It’s a natural and (sometimes) inevitable part of our experience, and the more you can get used to it, the better chance you’ll be giving yourself of not making unwise decisions to avoid feeling inferior.

How can you deal with feeling inferior?

  • Challenge what it means to “be a man” and to be strong all the time
  • Communicate your inferiority to yourself, and someone you trust, like your wife or girlfriend
  • Journal about feeing inferior: use a dedicated journal to write about your inferiority
  • Seek out professional counseling to help you further understand your inferiority, and to work through it
  • Understand it’s origins, by looking at your early childhood and growing up in your family of origin
  • Make friends with it, and don’t run away from it: accept it as it is
  • Try to not “overcompensate” for it, by trying to prove how superior you are or how competent you are to others. People see through other people when they’re not transparent, and are acting out a role
  • Know that other guys like you are feeling the exact same things as you are, and that you’re not alone with your inferiority
  • Ask yourself: “what’s the worst that can happen if I feel these feelings?”
  • Play out in your mind the worst-case scenarios, and figure out who would see you as lesser-than or reject you for being inferior. Ask yourself how you give them so much power over you.
  • See if you make decisions against feeling inferior. Understand what the consequences of those decisions have been for you

Feeling inferior is a part of the human experience; it’s not a bad feeling that requires you compartmentalize your feeling and run away from it. The better you can get to know when you feel inferior, the more likely you can open up your relationships in a deeper way – including your intimate relationship – and the less likely you’ll be making poor decisions because you’re avoiding feeling inferior.

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Is There Any Extra Space In Your Life?

 

When it seems like your life is packed with chores, obligations, work, and responsibilities, is there any room to breathe, let alone experience the benefit of having extra space or time for yourself?

Whoever you are, I think the practice of making regular space in our busy lives allows us a lot of opportunity for personal growth. It helps us take care of ourselves by just making it a habit to think about ourselves and prioritize ourselves. Making extra space in our lives – on a continual basis – allows us to replenish and get present to ourselves and what’s around us, after being caught up in the treadmill of life.

What do I do with more space? 

  • Time to think
  • Take a walk, hike, or exercise
  • Learn something new, like a foreign language or a new hobby
  • Call someone close whom you’ve neglected
  • Have fun
  • Breathe
  • Read
  • Do nothing
  • Time to do something good for yourself, like take yourself out to eat or get a massage
  • Sleep in
  • Spend time with your child or spouse
  • Relax without doing anything

This could go wrong if you over prioritize yourself. A lot of couples that I speak with tell me that their guy thinks too much about himself, and plans time or activities more for himself than for his family or marriage/relationship. I think the way to best handle this is to create balance, and not get so caught up in taking care of yourself – or thinking about yourself – that other things and people go by the wayside. The point here is not to neglect your responsibilities and the people that depend on you; in fact, it’s to become more available to them  when you have more in your tank to give to them.

A lot of people don’t know why they pack their lives to the hilt. Often, there are psychological or emotional reasons behind why we have to stay so busy, in spite of the real need to get things done or bring in a paycheck. Sometimes, we keep ourselves busy to distract ourselves away from a bad situation in our lives, or to avoid negative emotions that we would have to face if we stopped and stood still for a minute. Consider that if you’re packing your life with so much busyness, and ask yourself why. You may be running from something that is unconscious and that needs to be attended to so that you can create more space in your life.

Some people need to be “extremely busy,” because it gives them a sense of peace or a sense of identity. If I’m “that busy guy,” I might get affirmation or praise from people who I care about what they think about me. I may see myself as important or special if I’m so busy. I think we, as Americans, pride ourselves on being “busy,” and congratulate ourselves by being so “busy,” “productive,” and “important.” What would happen if we cut back on what makes us so busy? Would we lose those feelings that we get from staying so chained to our schedules and obligations? Who would we find if we are forced to face our “non-busy” selves?

I think money is also important in this conversation, because may times, we’ve obligated ourselves financially to our cars, houses, trips, and other expenses that we may not be able to afford, which strips us of our time, mental well being and ability to carve extra space out in our lives. Ask yourself: can I afford to cut back on things that may be draining my ability to create more space in my life? How can I cut back on expenses to be able to free myself of more time for space in my life? Time is directly related to money, and by “interrogating” your finances, you may see that you’re losing valuable time you could be creating because you’re too busy paying for things you don’t want or need.

How to create more space:

  1. Carve out a chunk of time (1 hour, 2 hours, etc.) for just you to do whatever you want on a regular scheduled basis.
  2. This is not time to do errands, pay bills, or to obligate yourself to things that you should/need/ought to do. It’s time to relax and create space for yourself.
  3. Communicate your intentions for making space or time to those that need to know – don’t just do it without letting your spouse or family know what you’re doing. They may need to plan around your planned time for yourself.
  4. Make this a regular habit. Plan on doing this on a schedule, like once a week, every two weeks, or once a month. If you don’t plan it, it may not happen.
  5. Assess, and see what the results are. What did you learn from the experience of creating more space for yourself? How did it benefit you to do this? Process the experience and develop self-awareness to identify the benefits of creating space for yourself.

Creating space is essential for when things in life get busy. When marriage, family and career arrive, those things usually get prioritized, and we can lose ourselves in the day-to-day aspects of those roles. By creating extra space for ourselves, we keep ourselves a priority and replenish ourselves so that we can be the best we can for ourselves and others in our lives.

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Creating and Keeping Male Friendships

Do you have solid male friendships in your life right now? Do you have other guys in your life you can call and hang out with, and enjoy being together with? Are you one of those guys who’s had a hard time keeping friendships going, either because life has happened or you’ve gotten too busy?

I think male friendships are valuable and necessary for a varied and meaningful life. Good friendships can provide support, brotherly love, masculine energy, common interests, reliability and happiness for a lifetime. They are an antidote to loneliness, stress and depression, and can meet your needs in a way that a marriage or intimate relationship might not. Marriages or intimate relationships can meet a lot of needs, but not all of them, and male friendships can fill in those gaps to create a complete life for yourself.

Male friendships take work and investment. They don’t just come to you – you also need to go to them. If you want friendships that last, the relationships require that you put yourself out there to make the effort of keeping the relationships going, by making the calls, setting the plans and doing the groundwork needed to keep them up. They demand you be there and “show up” by being present, and not be withdrawn or aloof, as well as not too needy in them where it’s one-sided.

A lot of men don’t want to put themselves out there, especially to make new friendships, because they’re afraid of rejection. They don’t want to be seen as not being wanted, not having enough to contribute to a friendship or being deficient in ways that they won’t be acceptable for. On the flip side, some guys have too high of expectations for others, which can translate into other guys not being good enough for them, which can create isolation and loneliness.

To make new male friendships can be hard, especially when you don’t have other men around you that you would necessarily hang out with. Without the comforts of college, work or another structure, it can be hard to find easy access to new male friendships. When career, family and life start up, the time and availability factors make it harder to meet new people and continue to connect with them on a regular basis. That’s why it takes a little extra work when your a working guy, married guy, or family guy – or all three – if you want a new male friendship, or to keep old ones going.

Laziness is also a friendship-buster. If you’re lazy, and don’t really want to do the work that is needed to keep a friendship going, you’re putting the expectation on the other person or people to do all of the heavy lifting involved to keep the relationship going. Then, it’s only one sided, and one-sided relationships can only go so far and only have so much shelf-life. People get tired and friendships burn out without both of you working towards it.

Making excuses is also another factor in squashing male friendships. Statements like, “I’m too busy,” or “I don’t have the time for anyone else,” may be true, but it depends on how bad you want make friendships. Do you really want them in your life? What are you willing to do to make them happen for yourself?

Here are some thoughts about how to go about and what to think about when increasing your male friendships.

What can you do to increase or improve your male friendships on a regular basis?

  • See what you want or need: do you actually want more time with friends? Do you want more male friendships in your life? What are you actually needing, and what are you willing to do about it?
  • Know who you want, and who you don’t want: not everyone you meet will fit the bill. Also, you may have outgrown other friendships, so see if there is still enough there for you to maintain the friendship. Sometimes, friendships change for the worse, and you can outgrow them, so know if it’s still worth the time and energy invested to keep old ones going.
  • Take a risk: put yourself out there and take a risk to meet new people, or reconnect with old friends.
  • Challenge your barriers: laziness, fear of rejection, inadequacy or other barriers can get in the way of you taking the step to keep friendships going. See what’s getting in your way and do something about it. Challenge yourself and your barriers to friendship.
  • Project your life into the future and see: are male friendships something that you see for yourself in your later years? Would more friendships make for a happy life as you age? Work backwards and do the work now; investing in good, quality male friendships now will pay off down the road, like a good retirement plan.
  • Find new friends: seek out parts of your life where new people may already exist, or find new places to go find people. Think about what interests you have, and where other, likeminded men would be to share those interests. Spend the time to go to where other guys who are like you would be hanging out.
  • Talk with your girlfriend, wife or spouse: maybe doing double dates would work in the beginning, so as to ease the transition into a new male friendship. It’s possible that your wife or girlfriend knows another female in her life that she would like to spend time with and get to know, and maybe that person has a significant other that would like to meet you. Plan an evening outing for the four of you, get a babysitter, and find an interesting new restaurant to meet up at. Take a risk, and even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll have put yourself out there anyways.
  • Go through your Facebook or LinkedIn contacts: this doesn’t have to sound cheesy, but maybe there are actually Facebook friends that you could meet up with in real life. Hey, it’s an idea, and who would have thunk: actually meeting someone live in the flesh from Facebook. It’s possible there is one or two guys who you could see yourself spending an afternoon hanging out with, or drinking a beer with.
  • Carve out the time: actually find the time in your busy schedule to meet a friend. Stop using the excuses that you can’t or don’t have the time, and make it happen. Create the time on a regular basis, on a weekend or weeknight evening where you’re available to meet with someone, and work around your and your family’s busy schedule to prioritize this for yourself, without impinging on any one else’s needs.

Male friendships – whether old or new – make for a happy and varied life, and can give a lot to you. They require work and availability, but they are some of the most important things for a fulfilling life. Think about the ideas above, and challenge yourself to see if you’d like more male friendships in your life by reaching out beyond your comfort zone to make a friendship happen for you.

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Ten Steps to a Healthy Marriage 

When it comes to being in a healthy marriage, it will depend on a number of factors that have to do with personalities, environment, work life, the time they have for each other, and so forth. However, different marriages exist happily for different reasons there are commonalities that allows two people to stay together for a long time.

While each married couple will develop their own standards that bring about happiness, there are some general traits that they find in common with each other. These particular traits can be shared and used by all married couples when it comes to finding a happier environment for their marriage.

Here are ten steps to living a healthy marriage that will help you and your spouse during the difficult times overcome challenges.

Communication

There is no doubt that a healthy, open line of communication is vital for the success of the marriage. This means that each spouse should feel comfortable talking to their partner about any subject. For married couples, this may be the most difficult aspect to keep open is the line of communication when it comes to all of their concerns. However, the feeling that you can go to your partner to discuss anything at anytime is vital to the success of a marriage.

Time

Spending time together, particularly in the early days of your marriage is vital when it comes to forming a bond. This means planning date nights, getaways, and vacations together so that you can learn all about each other. The more time you can spend together, the better. There will come a time when you will feel more comfortable spending time apart, but at least in the first few years of a marriage you should really get to know each other so that you can make the most of it.

Trust

Trust is earned, not given even in the setting of marriage. This means that each partner has to demonstrate that they can be trusted on a number of levels which will usually occur over the first few years of the marriage. When you can trust your partner, it takes a great deal of the stress out of the marriage because you are not worried about them in their daily lives.

Negotiate

Learning how to negotiate is another vital part of marriage as both sides are not going to get everything that they want. The most important point is not to get too emotionally attached to whatever the negotiations are about. Once too much emotion comes into play, the negotiations start to break down and suddenly you find yourself with one unhappy person in the marriage. Instead, learn about how to negotiate so that you can protect the feelings of you and your partner.

Know Who You Are

This may seem a bit strange at first, but understanding who you are is a vital part of your marriage. This means that learning about yourself will help your partner know more about you. This means understanding your dreams, what makes you happy, as well as knowing your fears. The more you can discover about yourself, the more you can share with your partner which makes for a happier, healthier marriage.

Be Respectful of Each Other

Arguably one of the most extraordinary things in a marriage is how each partner will treat total strangers with respect and not each other. Showing respect for each other is a very important part of the marriage because it demonstrates your feelings towards your partner.

Work on Your Spiritual Connection

For those who want to enhance their spiritual side, this is a great way for you and your partner to explore the connection that it offers. By exploring your spiritual connection, you can form a greater bond that provides greater peace, understanding, and commitment. You can start by attending a church, mosque, or synagogue or you can get in touch with nature by spending more time outdoors and exploring the wonders of the world. You can even achieve it through combined meditation or conversation depending on your time commitment.

Explore and Create Common Interests

People have their own interests which develop over time for one reason or another. You should explore the interests that both of you have in common as well as creating new interests that both of you can share. Learning to do new things is one of the best pieces of marriage advice because it is something that both of you have in common while being respectful of the individual interest that each of you have.

Learn to Forgive

Human beings make mistakes and learning how to forgive each other is another vital part of marriage. Most of the time, the offenses will be small. However, there will be ones that are large and you will need to make the decision whether to forgive them of what they have done or not. If not, then the marriage is essentially over with at that point. So, if what your partner has done does not breach what is unforgivable, then forgive them and move on with your marriage.

Always Look for the Best in Each Other

A person is as good as they have proven to be over time which means that you should always look for the best in your partner. Watch out for changes in perspective as what you might have seen as a thrifty trait might now be seen as being cheap. By giving your partner the benefit of the doubt, you can create a better relationship and see the positives that each of you brings to the relationship. One way is to create a list of the things that you appreciate about your partner and watch as you fall in love all over again.

Learning how to receive marriage advice is another important step in the evolution of your partnership. If you feel the need for an outside viewpoint, then it is important for both of you to get some counseling in a venue that works for both of you.

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What is Low Self-Esteem?

When it comes to mental afflictions that can happen at any age, one of the most prominent is low self esteem. Around the world, millions of people suffer from low self esteem in one form or another which hinders their own abilities to accomplish their dreams and may even lead to depression or worse if left unchecked.

However, defining low self esteem is not easy as the symptoms vary from person to person. Plus, the effects can be temporary or long lasting depending on a number of different factors. Before addressing the issues of low self esteem, it is important to understand what self esteem is and what are the causes or conditions for a person to view themselves in a negative light.

What is Self Esteem? 

Basically, self esteem is the subjective emotional viewpoint of a person’s value of their own worth. It is both a judgment and an attitude towards their own self-being that often involved questions such as;

  • Am I Confident?
  • Am I Worthy?
  • Am I Strong Enough?

Self esteem is the view that a person takes of themselves in terms of self-worth and how they perceive others viewing them. In addition, self esteem can be compartmentalized in the sense that a person may feel good about themselves generally, but have little confidence in a particular ability or attribute. Conversely, they may feel superior in a certain light while generally less appreciative of other attributes that they may possess.

The complicated nature of self esteem combined with how it differs from person to person makes detecting low self esteem a difficult task. In addition, the view of self esteem can change for a number of reasons which is why making the proper diagnosis and changes can be challenging. However, it is important to address issues of low self esteem when they arise.

Causes

There are a number of causes and usually it is a combination of different elements that causes periods of low self esteem to occur. Generally speaking, everyone undergoes period of self-doubt, but that is usually a very temporary state that may last for a few hours or days before it passes. The causes that drop the view of self esteem however are usually a combination of genetic, environmental, and other factors that contribute to the condition.

In essence, there is no singular cause but a combination of different events with the overall mental outlook of the person that can lead to a lowering of self esteem. People go through terrible events in their lives and some come out with little to no self esteem issues because of their personality or genetic makeup while others seem to be affected by events of a far less serious nature.

Symptoms

Chronic Indecision: The inability to make a choice because you are too worried about the consequences no matter the gain. Quite often, the person becomes trapped because not making a decision also offers consequences that they do not want to face which only heightens the stress.

Self Criticism and Dissatisfaction: Being overly hard on yourself after taking a test, performing in an event, or other task is a common cause of low self esteem.

Hypersensitive to Criticism: Feelings of resentment and being attacked after receiving criticism no matter how constructive may be more of a genetic issue in how people handle criticism perhaps combined with past events.

Excessive Wanting to Please: The unwillingness to risk displeasing any particular person is a sign of low self esteem. This is because they are placing their worth below that of another person.

Floating Hostility: Being irritable and hostile or defensive for no particular reason. Attacking others for no reason is a powerful sign not having good self esteem issues.

Perfectionism: While the ideal of achieving perfection is not linked to self esteem, the inability to reach it and the frustration that follows is a sign that something is wrong.

Envy, Pessimism, and Guilt: While all three of these symptoms in and of themselves are not considered low self esteem, but in excessive amounts do point to issues that the person might be feeling.

Another sign is overreacting to a temporary setback which affects them far more than it should. Again, many of these symptoms when taking individually may not indicate a dire condition. However, if they persist or grow worse it is a sign that something might be wrong.

Treatments

The general treatment for this condition does vary from person to person, but it is generally one for psychiatric treatment where the patient receives counseling that identifies and addresses the problem. This form of self esteem is one that is generally built up over time and needs to be addressed much in the same way bad habits or other mental conditions are treated.

Many people who suffer from this condition may not realize the severity of what they have until it is pointed out to them. Usually, treatments sessions from a psychiatrist offers the best solution as they can identify and see the effects of what their current state of self esteem has brought them.

Drugs or other treatments are generally not necessary unless it has progressed to the point of depression or other stage. For most people, it is general treatments in terms of psychological therapies designed to directly address the feelings and actions of the person that work the best.

Identifying when someone has a low opinion of themselves is never an easy one and today, millions of people who have this condition may be completely unaware that it exists. Furthermore, there is a noted difference between what a person says about themselves and how they act in public which may mean that self esteem is simply not all that important.

A person who says they are afraid of heights and yet climbs a mountain is probably expressing a fear and not a condition that expresses their own self esteem. Therefore, the actions of the person must be taken into account in order to obtain the right diagnosis.

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Dealing with Regret

Regret is one of those funny things that lingers a long time if you don’t deal with it, sometimes forever. We tell ourselves that time will help us get over things from the past, but regret is immune to time. It only grows with the passing of time, as it crystallizes our feelings of sadness, disappointment, shame and grief. It taints our views of our life, and settles into a long-term unhappiness for what we never made happen in our lives previously.

Forms of Regret

Regret can come in all shapes and sizes. It can come in any particular event in our lives, with the death of someone close to us, with a divorce, with our children leaving for college, or with missed opportunities that we didn’t take earlier in our lives.

It can come in the form of things not said when they needed to be said, at missed opportunities with people in our lives. It’s often difficult to say what we need to say when the time is ripe to say it, and when the moment or moments pass, we create regret for ourselves by not expressing ourselves in the moment.

Regret can also come in the forms of things we left unfulfilled in our lives, from not taking jobs we should have taken, to interests and hobbies we failed to invest in, to relationship partners that we let go in our lives. Regret is the byproduct of risk never taken, and the result of fear dominating us at the time we didn’t put ourselves out there in our lives.

Ruminating, or constantly thinking about what wasn’t done or said, is another form regret takes. It’s when you live in the past, always thinking about the situation in which caused the regret and not allowing yourself to move forward. When you are stuck in thinking constantly about the regret, it can mean that you’re not allowing yourself to deal with the painful feelings associated with your grief underneath it.

I think that we think, as men, that if we can come up with a “solution” to our regret – which we won’t or else we would have already – that we’ll be at peace when we figure it out. In fact, constantly thinking or ruminating about our regret is an avoidance from the pain of our regret.

Regret can also arise in the form of the self-critic, where you beat yourself up, guilt yourself, or shame yourself for things you hadn’t done or said in the past. You may not recognize it as regret, and in fact, you may have tried over the years to “right the wrong,” and completely change around your behavior to prevent from another regret-inducing decision from happening. But, that doesn’t mean you’ve dealt with the original regret.

Quieting the self-critic, and working through the difficult emotions associated with regret are ways to start to work through the regret. Communicating with someone close to you, journalling, writing letters to those associated with your regret, or getting therapy to help you work through the blocks of regret are ways to help yourself work through the regret and free yourself from the painful past.

Coming to Terms with the Past

Dealing with grief is a way to get over regret. I think unfulfilled expectations are just as powerful as sources of grief as can be the loss of people in our lives. When we deal with regret, it’s helpful to see what we regret as being a loss, like a death in a sense.

For men who don’t want to deal with the past, this can be a major obstacle towards dealing with regret. A lot of times, I hear, “the past is the past, so why should I spend any time or energy worrying about it?” I think it’s valuable to deal with the issues of the past so that they can lift us out of that past, setting us on a course towards happiness today, and into the future. If we avoid dealing with the past, it just gives that regret energy, forcing it back into our minds and allowing it more time to grow.

Communicating with people can be a powerful way to work through regret. Having difficult conversations, and owning or taking responsibility for your failures, and letting the people know who were a part of those failures, can be a way to put to rest regrets that you might be harboring. In fact, they may alter the course of your relationships for the better if you take the risk to work through your regrets of the past.

Some examples of dealing with regret:

  • Letting your children know your regrets about what you failed to do/say/be to them while they were growing up
  • Communicating with old partners or spouses what you didn’t do or wished you’d done in your relationship with them (you might want to first communicate with your current spouse that you want to do this, as to not cause further disruptions)
  • Working to let yourself off the hook by dealing with shame, anger, sadness, grief or failure

Regret is not always easy to work on, and may require professional help, but it can be worked through and doesn’t have to dominate your experience and your life. You can learn to work through the pain of regret and unfulfilled exceptions, so that you can more fully live in the present and be more available to yourself, and to others, in your life today.

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The Emotionally Available Man

As men, being in touch with our emotions is critical. It can be the deciding factor between success and failure for yourself in the areas of relationships, friends, dating and marriage, career and personal health and happiness. Unfortunately, there are still barriers to men becoming more emotionally aware and available.

Dying are the days of the “men don’t cry” culture: too many men are struggling too much in order to keep those outdated masculine fronts going these days. I think more is required from men in these harder times, especially in the realm of intimate and business relationships. Men’s poor mental health is driving a lot of men into depression and suicide, more than in the past. Romantic relationships demand that men be able to be more “emotional,” far more than relationships of the past, and soft or “social” skills are now expected of modern workers as jobs become increasing more phased out and more specialized.

For the emotionally available man, he is able to deal with and slay this stigma that he can’t be emotional or “feel,” because he’ll not be accepted or be ostracized. He doesn’t have to hide himself just because his friends or family do it that way, and can trust himself that his emotions can lead the way to a happy and authentic life. He can tune out other dissenting voices, like the media or other guys, if he knows what he feels and can act based on mindfully dealing with his emotions. An emotionally available man doesn’t need to run from his negative emotions, but can turn, face them, and deal with the world by harnessing them.

What characterizes an emotionally available man?

  1. A guy who can feel his feelings and not run from them
  2. A man who isn’t afraid to be vulnerable, and feel afraid, inferior, powerless or other vulnerable feelings
  3. Someone who doesn’t have the answers all the time
  4. Men who don’t have to resort to anger, rage or violence to deal with their emotions
  5. Guys who don’t have to resort to drugs, alcohol, work, other women or other escapes from their feelings
  6. A guy who can risk communicating his feelings and deal with the fear of rejection or failure
  7. Men who can “lose the ego,” not posture, and be authentic when dealing with others in their life
  8. Men who can do more than “intellectualize” their feelings as mental concepts – that can actually feel their feelings as they are rather than analyzing them

This is a demanding list, and there are plenty of factors that will certainly get in the way of being able to be all of these ways. But, I think these are the traits of an emotionally aware man.

Hiding Emotionally, and the Problems It Creates

Women want men to be emotionally available to them. They suffer when their men hide out and stuff their emotions away. Done consistently, it damages relationships and marriages way more so than if men were to express themselves emotionally.

Sometimes guys hide out emotionally because they’re afraid of conflict if they were to express their emotions.   Either, we’ll run from our emotions, and not deal with them, or just bury them for years to come and never working on dealing with them. They don’t go away, as much as we’d like them to, so they sit, ferment and create problems on other problems. Men will often hide out in work, alcohol, other women, to bring the comfort and the distraction we need to keep avoiding those painful emotions.

Soon, it’s difficult to see how you got to a certain place in life, when decision after decision has been based on avoiding your problems. Bad decisions come from other bad decisions, and a pattern of emotional avoidance is almost always a culprit in this poor decision making process.

Many men don’t know their feelings, and can’t communicate them. Some are caught in the trap of “intellectualization,” where they stay stuck in their heads trying to mentally understand their emotions, or their origin, and never actually feel them. I talk with a lot of men that are so busy trying to figure out how to solve their problems, rather than considering that the way to actually fix relationship problems is to connect to themselves emotionally, and then connect with their partner.

Working through a problem emotionally, rather than rationally, is a surefire way to repair relationship damage, although it runs counter to how guys usually think the fix comes. Getting in touch with whatever feelings were triggered by a certain incident in a relationship, and then communicating it, will ensure a new way to repair and rebond after relationship conflict or damage has happened.

Learning about your emotions is critical to a happy and authentic life. It can make or break huge decisions in your life, including negative ones you won’t recognize you made if you’ve been avoiding your emotions. Developing emotional awareness is one way to achieve good decision making, satisfying relationships with others, and a positive self-esteem and relationship with yourself.

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