Many men feel an obligation to be the source of emotional strength in the home.
Our sense of what it is to be a man is often defined by our ability to be emotionally consistent.
To be unshakable in the face of problems.
The source of strength when things go wrong armed always with the insights to see the way forward when things go wrong.
To falter from this course is to be ‘weak’, ‘unmanly’, or letting down those who depend on you.
This presentation of the picture of how a man should be is a dangerous one. Buying into this vision is to buy into an illusion and deny the reality of how all people can feel throughout the course of life.
Vulnerability, uncertainty, and fear are all normal emotions for a man to have. Internalising those feelings or telling yourself that you can’t talk about them feeds unhappiness and the hold it can have over you.
By not sharing how you feel with those you are closest to can lead to isolation, disconnection from life and even greater unhappiness.
Simply put, talking about the unhappiness that you’re feeling with a person that you trust is the first step toward solving the issue that you’re facing.
So you’ve got that far and decided that sharing how you feel and telling the one you love what’s causing you to be unhappy is the best way forward. What are the next steps?
Choose the right place and right time
Choosing the right place and time is the first step in creating the conditions for a good discussion.
Choose a time where you’re not both not likely to be tired or distracted. Make sure you have the time you need to talk through the issue and not have it cut short by needing to be elsewhere.
Have the discussion in a place conducive to an undisrupted discussion. This may not mean the family home, a coffee shop or a place where distractions are likely.
Thinking about the time and place where to talk will result in a better and more open conversation.
With a bit of forward thinking it’s an easy one to achieve.
Be clear on what’s troubling you
When sharing how you feel and talking about your source of unhappiness, it’s important to be clear on what exactly the issue is that’s worrying you. Even if that may involve the person that you’re talking to.
Skirting around an issue or being untruthful is likely to lead to focusing on the cause of the unhappiness and not the way out of it.
Be open and clear on why you’re feeling the way that you are and transparent about the impact that it is having on you. This will help in setting the conversation up to focus on solving the issue.
Focus on solutions not blame
This next step can be especially difficult if the person that you’re talking to plays a role in your unhappiness. However, focusing on blaming that person never helps to resolve the issue.
You may feel better in the short term by focusing a conversation on attributing blame but it is ultimately self defeating.
Being clear on the problem and keeping the conversation focused on possible solutions is the most powerful way to bring your combined perspective to the issue.
The power of discussion with those who you love is that they know you best.
They can provide suggestions that you’re likely to respond well to.
They can offer a viewpoint that alters the way that you’ve been looking at an issue.
They can give you support, endorsement and understanding for changing the situation that’s been causing you to be unhappy.
Work through the issue together
The temptation for men facing unhappiness can be to have readymade solutions already worked out.
Having a solution worked out is part of that illusion of what man should be after all.
But it is one to be wary of.
In this situation a conversation with a loved one focuses purely on seeking endorsement for change. It shuts the door for a real exchange of views and developing solutions that you’ve come up with together.
By working through issues together you gain the tacit support for a course of action to overcome unhappiness. This is especially important if that course of action impacts the person that you’re talking to.
Real mutual problem solving creates the investment of responsibility and ownership in the solution which is an important part of seeing your solutions through.
Leave with a way forward
Having a conversation that doesn’t result in a next step often feels like a defeat. We take the step of opening ourselves up only for that to result in no clear pathway.
Working through complex problems can take time and often requires several discussions to fully work an issue through.
The solution to moving forward is to agree on the next step.
Why you may not leave with every detail of your plan worked through after an initial conversation, it is important to be clear on the next steps for getting there.
Leaving with a way forward also creates the conditions for more discussion and planning.
By breaking down our own internal barriers and being open to sharing how you feel we set ourselves up for an even deeper partnership with the one you love.
A real mark of man is an ability to admit that we don’t always have the answers. That we need the support of others to overcome life’s obstacles.
Let this reality be the way that we cast ourselves and for how we become happier men.