On the following pages are additional items to add to the mix as you think about your own program of self-improvement.
Resource: Quiz–Is your life in balance?
Take this short quiz. Feel free to share with others. Give yourself 5 points for each TRUE answer. A score of 70 or less might mean you should take some action.
- I am satisfied with the number of hours I work each week.
- Work is NOT an issue between my spouse/partner and me.
- I have close MALE friends with whom I can truly share everything about myself.
- I have a tension-free sex life with my spouse/partner.
- I enjoy sex and rarely, if ever, have difficulty in this area.
- I have a close relationship with my children (if applicable).
- I almost never miss family activities and I am fully present when participating.
- I have never had an affair or cheated on my partner.
- I am satisfied with my career and the demands it makes on me.
- I enjoy my work and feel I am making a significant contribution.
- I have a strong faith relationship.
- I pray regularly (at least weekly).
- I am involved in at least one organization that helps others.
- I attend church/worship regularly.
- I am satisfied with the communication between my wife/partner and me.
- I am satisfied with the communication between my children and me (if applicable).
- I have never lost a friendship over anger or failing to respect the other person
- I have a good financial plan which should support me in retirement OR
I have a good financial plan which will educate my children.
- I do not have a problem with drugs (including alcohol), pornography, or womanizing.
- I have no serious “dark side” that I would never want exposed.
- I have friends who trust me to listen without judgment when they are having problems.
- I am comfortable talking with other men about my personal life and beliefs.
- I have made serious attempts to work on my own “issues” through counseling or self-study.
___ My score
Resource: (AT LEAST) 10 MISTAKES GUYS MAKE IN COMMUNICATING WITH WOMEN
- Fixing (or attempting to fix) instead of empathizing.
(Try saying: “I’m sorry that happened to you.”
“That must be very frustrating. How can I help?”)
- Focusing on the facts/details instead of the relationship. (Instead of saying “You can change your schedule easier than I can,” try “It sounds like you need me to re-schedule that meeting so I can go with you to the church dinner. I understand that is really important to you.”)
- Making the decision, then communicating it (instead of getting her input and making the decision together).(“I’ve decided we can buy the boat and remodel the kitchen later.”)
- Interrupting instead of paraphrasing back her concern (reloading your guns).
- (“Yeah, well your parents sometimes don’t even know I’m in the family.”)
- One upsmanship or “Yes, but…”
(“Oh, you think you are stressed, let me tell you about my day.”)
- Telling her what she thinks or feels
(“You think you can just do whatever you want and get away with it. You just don’t care.”)
- Making “you” statements instead of “I” statements. Sounds like blaming.
(“You embarrass me when you do something like that.” vs. “When you do that, I feel embarrassed.”)
Turn it from a complaint into a request: “Look, I would really appreciate it if you wouldn’t talk about that incident with our friends.”
- Generalizing from this problem to something universal.
(“See, being late for this just shows how little you care about what’s important to me.”)
(“You always forget to lock the door.” “Everything you said was hostile toward my friends.”)
- (BONUS) Defensiveness.
(“Yes, I overspent but it was because you didn’t balance the checkbook accurately. You’re always making errors and then I get in trouble.”)
Special note: The biggest mistake we make is avoiding the conversation and withdrawing instead of dealing with the conflict in a healthy way! Most counselors will tell you avoiding conflict is a recipe for trouble.
Resource: 20 Assumptions About Marriage
from Men in Balance™ www.meninbalance.org
- Conflict is inevitable so trying to avoid it is futile. Learning to manage it is imperative.
- Men and women have fundamentally different ways of viewing the same information which can cause unexpected communication problems in a marriage.
- Most of our ideas about what constitutes a “healthy” marriage are formed in our family of origin and will probably not match those of our spouse.
- Our individual ego and pride can be major obstacles to a healthy marriage.
- Speaking up for our own needs in a marriage is not only healthy, it is essential.
- The demands and stress of maintaining a family can and likely will create distance between spouses. A conscious effort to reduce that distance is critical to a healthy marriage.
- Differences in sexual appetites between spouses is normal but needs to be negotiated in a mutually agreeable manner.
- Most marriages will at some point need counseling from an outside source. Both parties must be willing to participate and be willing to change for the sake of the marriage.
- Too much attention to career(s) or other distractions can cause couples to drift apart.
- Healthy marriages require intentional effort and routine maintenance.
- Romantic love may be the beginning foundation of a relationship, but will not sustain a marriage over time. The definition of love must change as the marriage matures.
- There is no “formula” for what constitutes a good marriage. A “good” marriage is determined by the individuals and what works practically for them.
- Communication is one of the most troublesome hurdles in most relationships, and certainly is in marriage. Good communication is a skill which can be learned.
- Blended families and mixed marriages have unique problems which will get worse if not dealt with.
- Open dialogue is essential to a truly healthy marriage and this requires that both parties be open and transparent in their discussions. This may be more difficult for men in some cases, but it is a skill that can be learned.
- Money, sex, children, discipline, career, religion and family are among the most troublesome issues for most marriages. You may need help with these.
- Second and third marriages tend to have even lower success rates than first marriages, indicating that we don’t learn from our mistakes.
- Wounds we carry from childhood and which we may not even be aware of can cause problems in any relationship but are almost guaranteed to cause problems in marriage because of its demand for intimacy and closeness.
- Children can become accomplished manipulators of parents. It is extremely important that both parents be “on the same page” regarding discipline and family expectations.
- Absolute and unconditional trust between partners may be an impossible ideal, but must be constantly the goal.
Resource: Couples Communication Guidelines from Men in Balance™ www.meninbalance.org
- Most important decision (made each day): We will stay together.
- Unresolved conflict creates distance in the relationship.
- Successfully resolving issues builds trust, intimacy. It shows your relationship is strong enough to withstand challenges. Avoiding issues means you are not sure.
- Finding your “higher calling” in your marriage puts smaller issues in perspective.
- Intimacy is being able to reveal your true self knowing that it will not be used against you later.
- We must allow each other momentary frustrations without making a big issue of it or taking it personally.
- We can be the “container” for our partner’s anger or frustration, allowing them to vent.
- Emotions are fleeting–sometimes it is best to let them pass without responding (especially when they are coming from our partner).
- It is important to speak up for what we want and represent ourselves truthfully in the relationship.
- We need to be clear about our boundaries and expect our partner to respect them.
- Defensiveness can be destructive and shuts down further dialogue.
- The only way to work on our own issues is IN a relationship.
- Assuming positive intent on the part of your partner can keep you from attributing sinister motives.
- Our partner is not our parent, our ex, our former lover–so we should not read into their actions our own assumptions or weaknesses.
- The best gift we can give each other is a healthy, loving relationship.
- Tone of voice and body language matter at least as much in partner communication as the words you say.
Resource: A special note about fathers and their influence…
For good reason, the first session of most Men in BalanceTM programs is about fathers and their influence. When I ask groups of men, large and small, how many of them had a good relationship with their fathers, only a few hands go up. When I ask how many had a troublesome relationship with their father, many hands go up. This has been consistent since I started the organization in 2007.
What are the implications of this? It means that one of the most important relationships in our life is either missing or troubled. If you are one of the few men who have a good relationship with your father and are pleased with that relationship, you are truly blessed. For many more of us, the father was either absent or highly critical or damaging in his approach to raising us.
There is a tremendous irony here: We adored our fathers in most cases and emulated their behavior in virtually every way possible. However, as adults, we find that their thinking may have been flawed or their attitudes not useful by today’s standards. The way they modeled their involvement in the household, treatment of their wife, treatment of their children – – all of these were largely appropriated into our behaviors as well. In many cases that model has not served us well and has created problems for a whole new generation.
Men who have suffered verbal abuse at the hands of their father (possibly as simple as put downs about their masculinity or worthiness) face special challenges. Those who suffered physical/sexual abuse (and that number is larger than you might think) deserve our sincere empathy and support. Those scars are permanent and literally inform almost every facet of our lives, especially close relationships. (How could you ever trust anyone again?) If you are in that group, please begin to find a way out of your suffering through counseling or other help. It is key to remember you did nothing to warrant the abuse.
In my opinion, it is time to stop the madness. My hope for men is that they realize they are not obligated to follow their father’s model. They are not obligated to do things his way or attempt to gain his support or approval. As an adult male, we have the right and the privilege to be our own person and to manage our personal lives and raise our children as we see fit. That means adopting a different way of treating wives and children. It may also suggest a different way of expressing emotion, acceptance and vulnerability.
The 21st Century Man
As this book has illustrated, women are looking for a different type of man in the 21st century. They rightfully expect a man to be an emotional support and soul mate who can be tender when needed and tough when required. It is no longer acceptable for us to isolate ourselves in an emotional vacuum chamber and not engage on a human level. It is not only okay, it is a good thing to:
- be open and vulnerable with your partner
- be loving and supportive of your children
- provide spiritual guidance for your family
- show tenderness and emotion easily
- cry publicly when emotions call for that
- seek out counsel when your marriage is in trouble
- teach your children to respect all people
- actively engage in child play with your children
- consistently help your partner with household chores
- own up to your failures
- use good communication techniques that invite collaboration
- assume positive intent on the part of your partner
It may be hard for us to realize that our fathers could have led us astray with their beliefs. We can be sympathetic to the fact that they probably inherited those ideas from their fathers and we have no way of knowing whether those ideas worked unless we saw open warfare between our parents.
A New Kind of Father
I believe what is called for now is a new kind of father who acknowledges his essential role in the family as a life partner and as a powerful co-leader with his partner for his children. Even if you are divorced, your goal should be to stay very active in your children’s life. You should insist on as much time with your children as possible and make sure you are giving them the best counsel you can, counsel that is grounded in strong moral and spiritual roots and will serve them as adults for the rest of their life. You do not have the right to abandon this responsibility.
If you are a new father, study how to be a good parent. Disregard any questionable advice from your own father and seek out opportunities to learn about your important role. If you are a stepparent, your role as a central male figure is very important. Clarify with your partner areas like discipline and direction, but don’t hold back from presenting a healthy, strong male role model for stepchildren of any age.
Finally, if you have not already done so, make peace with your own father about any outstanding issues. Trust me. If he dies without your having done this, it will trouble you for days to come. In one of our sessions, a man talked about his troubled relationship with his father and how it consumed much of his adult life. As he began his second marriage, his father developed a terminal illness which required him to move in with his son. This man became so angry that his father was intruding yet again, he shook his fist at the heavens in anger – – so much that he threw his back out and had to begin bed rest himself. In the same room with his father. Although there were fireworks at first, he said “I finally got to know the old man.” He teared up as he told the story realizing the lost years he and his father had spent estranged from each other. Life has a way, does it not?
I would love to hear your stories about your relationship with your father and any lessons you have learned over the years. My email is: email@example.com.
Resource: Men in Balance Survey Results
Here are the results of the survey. This is not a scientific survey — it is biased in favor of church-going men, our target audience (note the percent saying they regularly attend church).
|% answering agree or strongly agree|
|I tend to work more hours than my job requires.||52%|
|I work more than 40 hours a week because my job requires it.||54%|
|I am able to control my work hours and generally work 40 hours a week or less.||37%|
|My work causes me to miss family events.||34%|
|I get a great deal of satisfaction from my work even though it requires long hours.||62%|
|The primary reason I work hard is to maintain or improve our standard of living.||68%|
|I feel a great deal of pressure to provide well for my family.||70%|
|I have a strong sense of identity with my job.||71%|
|I have had conflicts with my spouse over the number of hours I work.||34%|
|I sometimes bring the frustrations of work home with me.||68%|
|I am able to forget about work once I am home with my family.||48%|
|My partner understands the work commitments required of me and is supportive.||71%|
|I would rather work fewer hours and make less money.||25%|
|I sometimes get so absorbed in my work I forget about the time.||63%|
|I have received promotions which required a substantially larger amount of my time.||39%|
|I am able to go on vacation or weekend trips and forget about work.||64%|
|I tend to check my voicemail or email when I am with my family.||64%|
|I am aware that work takes time away from my family but I don’t feel I have a choice.||50%|
|I have turned down promotions in order to have more time with my family.||24%|
|If I am honest with myself, I am a workaholic.||33%|
|My work and personal life are in balance, more or less.||62%|
|I have no real hobbies which occupy my time.||33%|
|I feel a lot of pressure to increase my family’s standard of living.||52%|
|I have no one I can really talk to about work demands.||36%|
|I miss being able to take more time with my family.||51%|
|Frequently I am too tired to really enjoy downtime or family time.||48%|
|I have no close male friends with whom I can talk openly about personal issues.||46%|
|I sometimes feel isolated about my personal life.||65%|
|I can talk openly with my partner about almost everything.||68%|
|My partner understands me and is supportive.||79%|
|I would like to be in a small group of men with whom I could share my thoughts and feelings.||62%|
|I would like to be more able to open up and talk with other men about personal issues.||67%|
|Most people would probably say I am a “private” person and do not talk much about personal issues.||61%|
|I have 5 or more “good friends” with whom I can be myself.||51%|
|My partner and I communicate well with few problems.||60%|
|My partner would like me to talk more.||61%|
|I do not enjoy talking to my partner about our relationship.||36%|
|I have concerns about my marriage/relationship I have not shared with my partner.||39%|
|I can sense when my partner has a concern and invite a discussion.||73%|
|There are a number of issues my partner and I simply cannot discuss.||37%|
|My partner does not understand the many pressures I am under.||43%|
|I enjoy “quiet communion time” with my partner.||70%|
|My partner and I talk at least a few minutes each day about things other than “logistics and schedules”.||72%|
|I do not have problems communicating at work, but I do at home.||32%|
|I am difficult to communicate with at home.||30%|
|I sometimes do not treat my partner very well.||46%|
|I tend to avoid conflict in close relationships.||63%|
|My partner and I can discuss differences calmly and come to agreement.||63%|
|My partner and I are in agreement about most family issues.||75%|
|My partner and I have a rewarding, close relationship.||68%|
|I wish my partner were more supportive of me.||35%|
|I have a satisfying sex life with my partner.||51%|
|I consider my partner to also be a best friend with whom I can talk freely.||77%|
|I have lost the enthusiasm for my relationship with my partner.||26%|
|I would like to be able to open up more with my partner.||56%|
|My partner has suggested counseling but I have resisted.||6%|
|I enjoy sex and rarely, if ever, have difficulty in this area.||62%|
|I have never had an affair or cheated on my partner.||78%|
|I would like more conversation with my partner.||66%|
|I don’t feel I know how to have a productive conversation with my partner on sensitive issues.||42%|
|I sometimes am critical of my partner around others.||24%|
|I would like more sex from my partner.||63%|
|I almost never miss family activities and I am fully present when participating.||74%|
|Our family typically has at least one meal together.||74%|
|My children openly share their feelings and concerns.||63%|
|I can be a “best friend” to my children and listen without offering advice or judgment.||60%|
|Our family frequently does things together (other than meals).||79%|
|I am disappointed in the amount of together time in my family.||42%|
|My children would say I am very involved in their lives.||66%|
|My children are involved in church activities other than worship.||49%|
|I make sure my children are in church almost every week.||48%|
|Our family has regular devotions or prayer.||37%|
|I am viewed by my family as a strong spiritual leader.||50%|
|My children enjoy family time together.||79%|
|My partner and I are in agreement about issues involving children including discipline.||63%|
|I wish I could communicate better with my children.||52%|
|My children would say I criticize them a lot.||20%|
|My family members talk openly about issues that are bothering them.||62%|
|My spiritual life is satisfying.||66%|
|I have a strong faith relationship with God.||78%|
|I pray regularly (at least weekly).||82%|
|I am involved in at least one organization that helps others.||76%|
|I attend church/worship regularly.||74%|
|I am actively involved in some church activity other than attending worship.||65%|
|I usually make time for regular church attendance.||74%|
|I do not have a problem with drugs (including alcohol), pornography, or womanizing.||75%|
|I have no serious “dark side” that I would never want exposed.||69%|
|I have friends who trust me to listen without judgment when they are having problems.||84%|
|I am comfortable talking with other men about my personal life, beliefs.||73%|
|I have made serious attempts to work on my own “issues” through counseling or self-study.||82%|
|I believe men should be able to handle problems on their own without resorting to counseling or coaching.||25%|
|I feel I have some unfinished business with my father (living or dead).||44%|
|My father provided an excellent role model for my life.||56%|
|My father was absent (emotionally or physically) or critical of me.||54%|
|I take good care of my health and have regular check-ups.||84%|
Resource: The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
(Provided as a methodology to solve other problems in your life)
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.