Last week I wrote of ways to work on a better family in this New Year. In this column, I wanted to share some information and thoughts on how to be a better father and husband – a better man.
It’s something we all want, but it’s not always clear how to go about it. Men aren’t like women, who share their feelings more readily with other women, blast out a few tears and feel better. Men keep it bottled up to “be strong,” then release it in not-so-helpful ways. One look at a police log from a Saturday night – with its litany of drunken acts of violence, verbal abuse or drug and alcohol stupidity – is enough to see that, when it comes to acting out, men win the prize.
That snapshot is of the extreme edge, of course, but it plays itself out in “normal” homes as well. A tired dad home from work roars at the kids over some slight, and if he keeps it up, a pattern of dreading the old man’s return at night can develop pretty quickly. We can become too comfortable in our marriages to where we’re not enjoying the part of the union that caused us to get together in the first place.
I was fortunate enough to be part of a men’s group when I lived in California earlier in the decade. There, I met a guy named Wayne Levine, who runs something called the West Coast Men’s Center and later went on to write a book about how guys can improve their lives and relationship by remembering a few key things. I helped him edit it, so I’m very familiar with the material. I have no problem plugging “Hold On To Your N.U.T.s” here because I truly believe any man who brings some of this into his life will be better for it.
The title, while an obvious wink about where a man’s power metaphorically lies, refers to “non-negotiable, unalterable terms” — a fancy way of saying stay true to what’s important to you. Wayne believes when men get married, they often give up the things they really value – be it golf, church, skiing or certain beliefs or ways of living – because they feel pressured to align with their wife at all times. Then, we get resentful and fight or brood over little things when what’s really bugging us is something bigger. Figure out your N.U.T.s, Wayne says, hang onto them and that little stuff will take care of itself.
Also in the book are eight tools for being a better man. Here they are:
- Silence the little boy
- Express but don’t defend your feelings
- Cooperate without compromising your N.U.T.s
- Run the sex and romance departments
- Be the rock
- Don’t argue
- Develop trusting relationships with men
I don’t have the space here to go into all of these in detail (the book does that), but they should all make sense on the surface. My favorites are No. 1 and No. 6 because they represent obvious traps men fall into often without realizing it. How often do you sound like a 5-year-old stamping his feet because you didn’t get your way? Cut that crap out!
Some men think it’s impossible to stop arguing with their wife (or anyone) since that’s how things get done. They’re wrong. Give it a try and, while you’re at it, remember to listen. It’s an attribute women often put at the top of the list of things they like to see in men.
For 2008, if you can embrace just one of these tools along with the notion of hanging on to those things that make you feel good, you’ll be in a better spot. And if you want help along the way, turn to the men in your life. It may take some work to get them back in, but men need other men to work these things out.
PS: You can find Wayne Levine’s book, “Hold On To Your N.U.T.s” on Amazon.com.
Alex Miller can be reached at email@example.com.