An understanding of men necessarily includes a healthy respect for the Man Cave. But women typically have a really hard time with it. They have nothing to compare it to, so it simply doesn’t make sense to them. But it makes a lot of sense to men.
That’s why I love to listen to men – especially older men. Because they always have something of value to say. And since I’ve never been a man, it really helps to listen carefully – if I want to learn, that is.
Your man doesn’t tell you what he needs from you when he’s struggling with something because:
a) he’s flooded (emotionally)
b) he doesn’t know what he needs from you
c) all of the above
Correct Answer: c) all of the above
When women are worried about something, we usually want someone to walk and to talk though it with us. For the most part, our American culture has trained us to do just that.
However, that same culture taught him to do the opposite! Remember the story of what happens to the toddler boy on the playground? His early experiences were the beginning of his education in The Boy Code. He learned that a man has to appear tough – a Sturdy Oak – in order to be loved and respected. And he learned that a man must figure out his own problems and deal with any vulnerable emotions – anger, sadness, fear, hurt, grief, shame, guilt, and doubt – on his own.
So that’s what he does. Automatically.
And he does it in the Man Cave.
But being shut out makes a woman more anxious … worried about him … and about herself. It feels like the Beginning of the End to her, and she doesn’t understand why.
So she tries to fix it. But first she has to get through the wall. Drastic times call for drastic measures. So she hauls out the Wrecking Ball. I mean, after all, doesn’t the Bible say it’s not good for the man to be alone?
“So what do I do? I suppose you expect me to sit down on the curb outside the Man Cave and just wait for him to come out?” you ask in your frustration. “If I do that,” you reason, “he’ll never come out!”
Nope. There’s so much more you can do to help him! Yes, you’re right about it not being good for him to be alone. But how you choose to partner with him in times like these will make all the difference in the world for you both!
- Let him know you notice that something’s up with him. And keep your remarks simple. You might say, “I feel like you’re disappearing, and suspect that something’s troubling you. Life is so hard on men. I don’t know how you do it.”
- Then shut up. Yes, I know I shouldn’t tell you to “shut up” because my grandson told me those are “bad words.” But it’s essential that we learn this Important Fact:
When it comes to his emotions, something said in fewer words holds more meaning for a man. He listens in sentences, remember? So don’t worry if he doesn’t respond or offer more. Your empathy did register with him. And it made a difference. It made an immediate, significant difference. And by not probing him with a lot of questions or pounding him with further verbiage, you’re demonstrating your respect for the Man Cave.
- And if he does share his struggle, simply listen. He’s testing the water to see if you’re safe. You are. Your goal is to learn about him. No advice. No suggestions. Let your words be few and empathic (e.g., “sounds hard”). And, most importantly … keep what he does share between you and the Lord.
There is One More — Even More Important — Thing you can do.
But I’ll save that for tomorrow!
The Lord … makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23-1-3)