Men and women experience pain in remarkably similar ways but completely different in flavor.
At the root of each is an insidious and unrelenting sense of inadequacy (in women) or insecurity (in men). Men pursue resolution to their sense of insecurity primarily through the agency of accomplishment.
Brian has been married for 18 years to Ginny. They have three children, ages three to ten. They’re good people, and live in a nice part of town. They go to church and have a few close friends. Brian is a leader in his church where he is pretty well-respected.
He’s an experienced business man and owns his own HVAC company where he has done reasonably well for himself. He’s proud of that because he feels like he accomplished a lot more than even his own father and despite not having very many solid male role models in life. His employees not only respect him, but they’re friends. He treats them well and they treat him great in return.
Brian is a great dad. His kids love him and he knows they know that he loves them. He’s more proud of them than anything else in his life. He knows he’s been a better father than his own. He loves his dad, but carries within him some regret that he doesn’t have a better relationship with his dad.
Brian has always thought himself a great husband too. He’s never cheated on Ginny, he has no real vice to speak of – though lately he has been drinking more.
He’s been trending upward financially their entire marriage and provided Ginny with a wonderful home where he’s home every night except for a few business trips now and then. On almost every account, they’re living the dream. Because of his hard work and diligence, Ginny has been able to stay home with the kids since day one. It’s never bothered Brian; in fact, he sees that as being among his greatest accomplishments! They live in a nice home that is almost paid for and go on vacation to nice places.
Life seems to be pretty great most of the time and in most ways, but something has really been eating at him for years. Actually a few things.
He feels emotionally disconnected and lifeless.
He feels like his sex life is boring, infrequent and that Ginny isn’t all that into him. She rarely seems to invite him to have sex.
He also feels like for all his hard work, it’s never quite enough to move the needle. Ginny seems just as disconnected and no more eager to spend time with him.
She fills up her day with busyness and never seems to have time for him. By the time she’s done her day, she’s asleep on the couch or the bed.
Lately much of her attention has been focused on her goddamned cell phone that she never puts down except for when she needs both hands. He’s ashamed that he even thought the word “goddamned”. That’s not how he was raised!
But the truth of the matter is, he’s angry. Really angry. He’s also deeply disappointed with how things have been going.
This is not what he signed up for nor quite how he imagined it.
For all his hard work, effort, dedication and faithfulness, Brian feels alone. He finds himself feeling this way even when in crowd or with friends. If he could just fix this one thing, he would have the perfect life he imagined.
The problem is, he can’t seem to fix these things no matter how much he tries. More work, more dedication, more money. Nothing is working!
His life has become a monotonous, Groundhog Day-kind of existence. Go to work, come home, be with the kids, and then watch everyone go to bed. He’s just dying for something deeper and more meaningful and is just completely tired of feeling this way.
When will all the effort he put into life start producing some happiness for a change?
Sometimes Brian gets the courage to speak to Ginny about he’s feeling. He’s kinda gotten afraid of bringing it up because it never goes well and somehow it turns into a slugfest where he’s accused of every awful and terrible attribute and character flaw. This despite the fact that he’s never raised a hand to her nor even called her an unkind name.
That’s followed by her total silence and dismissiveness for what feels like weeks after. Even more disconnection and definitely no sexual intimacy. He’s in the dog house because that’s what she does to him, she punishes him for bringing it up.
Brian spends a lot of time trying to understand why this is. He’s pretty certain it goes back to her upbringing. Ginny’s mom and dad got divorced when she was young and though she remarried, he suspect that maybe Ginny never got over the loss of relationship with her biological dad.
“If only Ginny would get help” or “She needs to deal with her shit!” he often thinks.
He also really resents Ginny’s family because he feels like HE is paying for their failures as parents. It’s like Ginny is treating him as the punching bag for all her pain in life and he’s just done with it – completely tired of being that guy.
“I didn’t sign up for this!” he thinks to himself.
He secretly wishes Ginny would get in a car wreck or something. Anything that would allow him to just move on to someone else. Surely there are women out there that would much easier to love and who would appreciate a man with his character.
He doesn’t feel he can get divorced because he was raised to believe that marriage is forever and that divorce would be wrong. Besides, he can’t bear the thought of what that would do to the kids. They would suffer for it and he knows it.
Brian must carry on for their sake. They must not be harmed because of his unhappiness.
“I will live a miserable existence the rest of my days before I will get a divorce” is his common mantra. and miserable existence he is living and he just can’t seem to get out of it no matter how much harder he tries.
No other men around him seem to know what to do, let alone willing. He’s already living better than his own father and knows that he’s never appeared happy in marriage.
And so… Brian gets up again, goes to work again, earns more money, takes more vacations, and even agrees to try to have another baby – all hoping and waiting for something to change that never does.