More myths of men in relationships

In Community and Relationship, Men's Health by Living Now0 Comments

Relationship counsellors are one group who notice patterns well before they become statistics – and some reveal interesting observations and role reversals that counter a lot of common myths about men in relationships.

It may have been true a decade or two ago that men were reluctant to seek help in keeping their relationships alive, but there have been big shifts. Trends among women get a lot of press, while again there has been little reporting of the significant shifts men have also been making.

Relationship counsellors are one group who notice patterns well before they become statistics – and some reveal interesting observations and role reversals that counter a lot of common myths about men in relationships.

“Men don’t seek help”

Queensland relationships specialist Ross Thompson, who has counselled many hundreds of couples over 18 years and has been heavily involved in men’s growth work, observes that men are increasingly the ones seeking couples counselling.

“What I see now is that about 40 per cent of the men are the ones holding the emotional space in relationships. Twenty years ago it was 90 per cent women holding that space. And previously you could almost guarantee it would be the women seeking help for the relationship. Now the majority of counselling sessions are booked by the men.

“Because women are so career-oriented now, many women are just as much in their heads as many men. It is not helping where we want to get to.”

“Men don’t do housework”

It is a common complaint in women’s media that men are lazy when it comes to housework, yet again the male aspect is rarely represented. Deeper study often reveals that many of the surveys on housework rarely include the house maintenance and chores typically done by men.

Two years ago, a media survey of Queensland families found that 84 per cent of the families still relied on the male as the predominant breadwinner, that 54 per cent of the men did an equal or slightly higher amount of household chores and that men had equal issues of struggling to achieve work / life balance and wanting to spend more time with their families.

“Men are not good communicators”

It is often claimed women are better communicators because they speak around twice as many words a day as men. There are benefits to both styles of relating, yet speaking more words does not always equate to better understanding and many men prefer to get to a solution-oriented point with fewer words.

There is a lot to be said also for the delicious companionship of cosy silence and simply sharing each other’s energetic space, or contemplating what needs to be said in a meaningful way.

Many men think in a compartmentalised way and shy away from trying to process a lot of information that does not have structure. It is why a lot of them are accused of “zoning out” if their women have a need to “download”. Learning active listening is one of the greatest gifts we can give others and ourselves.

There is a reason many men retreat to their shed to do physical work – it is often more a space of mindfulness and reflection, something many people with busy lives wish they had more of.

Women’s beauty

How men view beauty is often a very different perspective from what many women believe or assume, and it could help both genders relate more authentically if men had the honesty to tell women what is real for them, and if women had the courage to listen.

Men will always appreciate women’s physical beauty, but what they will actually look for in relationships is often much deeper. Many men have grown through the boyish mentality of chasing after idealised beauty and see through the superficial glossy images the beauty and fashion industries project.

From relationships that haven’t worked, they know that what builds a successful, lasting partnership is life skills such as communication and mutual problem-solving skills, spirituality, patience, humour and an ability to relate. The more men deepen these skills in themselves, the more they look for it to connect with in women.

Although men will certainly look at and appreciate beautiful-looking women, it is increasingly not what affects their relationship choices. It is hard to connect or fall in love with an image. A lot of conscious men are realising that in these times it is more important to be in “right relationship” where there is a sense of purpose and quality of both companionship and teamwork.

What many men need to tell women is that it is who they are that counts, not how good they can look. There are still men who are more attracted to superficial beauty and many women still believe this standard applies to all men. A lot of people miss out on good relationships because of this myth.

It is an unfortunate message that is too often projected onto younger women also, with many placing their self esteem on how well they fit an idealised image of beauty. The media constantly pushes the message of “looking hot” as an ideal, and the unfortunate cycle it creates is that it often attracts the men who are still in that mindset rather than those seeking more depth.

 

Paul Mischefski is a spiritual counsellor, a member of the Executive Committee of Men’s Wellbeing, and an elder of the men’s movement in Queensland.

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