Many of my male clients are struggling in their relationships. They do not know how to show their emotions; they say they can feel them but seem unable to unlock them. They know how important it is to provide a positive role model to their children and support their partners. Yet seem unable to make this belief a reality.
They often recall their own fathers as being absent, remote figures. Their childhood environment was one where there was an absence of acknowledging feelings. Talking about them was a non-starter. They sometimes suspect that underlying family tensions may have been resolved through violence, drink, drugs, or a wall of silence built out of fear, shame or guilt.
The picture these men paint indicate that their fathers were not only physically absent but also psychologically unavailable. And now, as fathers or partners themselves, they feel lost as to how they can support their partners and engage with their children.
If we continue to behave as children emotionally, then our relationships risk always being immature, short-term and unsatisfying. When we become parents we risk keeping our children emotionally immature too.
What to do?
Talking to a support group or seeking professional help can help promote personal growth and change. It can help us to find the courage to identify and leave those bits of the past behind which we have allowed to get in our way. And help strengthen those parts which can help us move ahead with the changes required. This can boost our self-esteem and our sense of worth.
Men can learn to be good parents and supportive partners by learning key social skills such as:
- Being around
- Setting boundaries
Once learnt, they are tools which can be used for a lifetime – as long as they are used on a regular basis.
And women have a role to play too. They are often the ones, in my view, who can help men achieve more satisfying and productive relationships.