Nearly every day, I’m contacted by men worldwide who are in the thick of painful relational challenges.
Each of them is hurting in extraordinary ways and experiencing tremendous disappointment and discouragement in their long-term relationships.
Many of these men are in sexless or sexless or sex-starved relationships. They feel a deep lack of far more than sex but of deep, connected emotionally-satisfying intimacy. In fact, that’s usually their chief frustration and complaint.
I ask these men what they want but what they believe needs to happen to have it. The vast majority of answers I receive to that question include some form of explanation that the core of what prevents the life he wants rests in deep-seated wounding in his female partner.
The majority of men in a relationship crisis, at some point, conclude that the path to what they want is blocked by something their wife hasn’t yet done or addressed.
It’s her physical or sexual abuse.
It’s her painful childhood.
It’s her undiagnosed mental health condition.
It’s her diagnosed medical condition.
It’s her menopause.
It’s her perimenopause.
It’s her low self-esteem.
It’s her PTSD.
It’s her shame.
It’s her… what else?
You get the point. Nearly man says the same things. I’ve come to call these a man’s “Story of Dysfunction” or (S.O.D)
I’ve heard all of these, and while they are definitely things that offer challenges to a woman, every man that follows the scent of his suffering down those trails finds that it ends in defeat and more suffering.
Recently, my wife, Zelda, and I hosted a Live call to talk about the role her past and mine too has played in our marriage and how this shows up in the many men I’ve encountered in my work as a Men’s Coach and Mentor.
Watch my conversation with Zelda, where we talk about women’s traumatic past
As you may have caught in the video (and what every woman reading this already knows without watching it), is that men blame women for the problems.
At least men who’ve not yet addressed their own hurtful pasts do. That’s why few, if any, answer my onboarding question with, “If I could just get my head out of my own arse, we’d be good!”.
Disclaimer: Yes, I know that women blame men for their problems too! I don’t argue or suggest otherwise. As a men’s coach helping men, I’m not focused on what women need to change. Otherwise, I’d be a women’s coach. I don’t coach or mentor men who believe their problems stem from others because, by that logic, they don’t need mentoring or coaching; their partners do.
If you don’t care to watch the video or want a quick summary, I’ve witnessed three pivotal shifts among men who turn their lives and, most often, their relationships around.
#1. They become their own hero before trying to be hers.
The desire men have to live and be heroic is a good desire. It’s what leads men to do hard and necessary things and serve, protect and defend others.
However, in our lack of understanding, we usually seek to live out the hero’s role in someone else’s story far too early than is helpful before we’ve learned to be the hero in our own journey first.
This leads many of our heroic deeds to go unnoticed or, worse, to be misunderstood. Few things hurt a man’s soul worse than having his heroic intentions mischaracterized, misunderstood, and misjudged.
This is often a deep source of pain and resentment for men in the disillusionment stage of their marriage.
Humans generally live their best lives when the hero in their story is themselves. This needn’t thwart a man’s desire to be a hero and even to lend his heroic nature to his bride. In all good stories we love, the hero isn’t perfect. Not even close. In fact, they struggle to find their way into that role with consistency, strength, and certainty.
Isn’t there always a guide? Luke Skywalker had Yoda. Neo had Morpheus. Bilbo had Gandalf. Forest Gump had Bubba.
And who is the guide? Another person who found their way to being the hero in their story too.
The men I’ve worked with who have learned to be the hero in their own lives are benefiting by living a better life. They also become well-suited for being trusted as a guide to their partner and others on the same journey. They do so while still honoring her personal agency and leadership of herself. Guides don’t control, manipulate, or need the budding hero to be something different. They offer empathy, compassion, support, and, well… guidance!
Want to restore intimacy and connection in your relationship? Become your own hero!
Unsure how? I can show you how.
#2, They begin releasing all blame and judgment.
Yes, all of it. I know firsthand just how hard this is!
Most men mistake letting go of blame with “taking on” the blame instead. That is not the same thing and also not necessary or productive.
There doesn’t need to be someone to blame to find the path forward through a difficult or failing marriage. Blame is an enemy of presence, connection, intimacy, and everything both parties want.
In fact, having helped hundreds of men, I’ve never witnessed someone move forward while hanging on to blame or assigning it to others. They stall, grow angrier, and generally move from victimhood to villainhood.
That’s because no amount of blaming others ever changes anything that has already transpired. Blame is not rooted in a love of truth and justice but in an insecure need to be right and to be found without blemish. Why do you suppose we feel a deep need not to be the guilty party? Because we believe it would make us disqualified for what we want, namely, love!
Sadly, that desire to be seen without blemish is also an anti-intimacy pattern. Intimacy is built upon vulnerability and being seen in all our imperfections without blame, judgment, or shame. Those are intimacy killers and useless and unhealthy energies to carry around a relationship.
Releasing blame and judgment doesn’t mean approving everything the other person has done, their perspectives, words, or actions. It simply means taking ourselves out of the role of judge over those things and returning our gaze to our own journey.
“Yeah, but Sven, I want to move forward, but my wife keeps bringing up the past and blaming me for it!”
I understand, believe me. Go read this and then come back
Want to restore intimacy and connection in your relationship? Stop blaming and judging everyone, including yourself.
Unsure how? I can show you how.
#3. They learn the liberating power of radical acceptance
To effectively release blame and judgment of others, we must first learn to accept others radically.
What do I mean by “acceptance? “
I mean to stop demanding that people be different than they are at this moment. Acceptance means to stop resisting what is.
Acceptance does not mean letting go of a desire that we have for another to behave or act differently, but letting go of the need for them to do so before we can experience something we want in our life.
When we resist what is going on and demand others change, we remain miserable and, in our misery, continue to blame them for it.
There is no path to intimate connection in such a relationship! We may be momentarily successful in getting someone else to play along, trying to make us happier by changing.
Still, these relationships end up crumbling as one or both partners realize the futility and fatigue of trying to own the happiness and well-being of the other.
Acceptance also does not mean approval. It is not an agreement with someone but an acknowledgment and awareness that they are free to be themselves and have their own perspectives, ideas, and actions that I might find very distasteful.
Acceptance is to stop demanding otherwise.
What do I mean by “radically”?
By radically, I mean unconditionally.
Suppose we refuse to accept others as they are without demanding they change while believing we cannot experience happiness without them doing so. Doing so places the power and agency of our lives into their care. It also begins to see them as obligated to do that well.
Not only do they not want that, but it’s also ineffective for creating the life we want ourselves because we can’t do so unless they change.
And this is why so many men are so completely unhappy – they’re living lives of complete disempowerment, wishing other people would make it better. They cry, moan, and wail to no effect.
The secret hidden in plain sight is that such men are actually experiencing a lack of radical self-acceptance. The rules they’ve learned to determine their worthiness for love, appreciation, and connection routinely leave them feeling short.
In their pain, they seek to make up for this deficit of self-acceptance by others accepting them.
The change will never come because it’s not a change in someone else that is necessary but a change within.
Want to restore intimacy and connection in your relationship? Learn the powerful freedom of radical acceptance of self and others.
Unsure how? I can show you how.
These changes are simple, yet not easy
These have been consistent shifts in perspective among the many men I’ve witnessed turn around failing relationships that were stuck in limbo, endless separation, bereft of intimacy, and headed for divorce. I know them the be effective, but I’ll be the first to say they’re not easy.
Fortunately, men are good at doing things that aren’t easy!
If this article has struck a chord with you, and you’re ready for “not easy” that leads to the life you want, I invite you to get in touch. I wake up every day to show men how to restore the broken parts of their lives and relationships and have the life they want.
Schedule a FREE Frustrated Hero Clarity Call, and let’s get you on your way to a restored intimate connection.