Over the years of working with men and their relationships, not to mention my own 31-year relationship with Joyce, I have seen some central issues emerge. The last thing I want to do is generalize, saying that all men do this or feel that. However, I have seen certain tendencies which apply to many men. Men can learn to be more vulnerable and become a better partner to their wives by practicing these nine tips in their lives. If any of the following suggestions apply to you, take it to heart. If not, let it pass, but be sure you are not in denial.
1. Learn to take better care of your heart.
Yes, by all means, take care of your physical heart with proper nutrition and exercise. But also take care of your heart of hearts, your soul. Many men seem to have a tendency for workaholism, or as Swami Beyondananda calls it, the “do-be-do-be-do” imbalance. Many men are preoccupied with doing and spend too little time being. How about starting the day with a time of stillness and deep breathing? There are other ways you can find to nurture your inner life, like spending time alone in nature, reading uplifting books, or taking time throughout the day to give thanks for all the good in your life. “Soul-work” is a necessary precursor for fulfilling relationships.
2. Voice your appreciation to your partner and all your loved ones.
We often tend to remain silent, assuming our loved ones know how much we love them. Let them know at least once a day. Our words of appreciation are nectar to the ones we love. More than simply saying “I love you,” let this person know exactly what it is about them you appreciate in this moment. Overcome your embarrassment about being poetic. Women are hungry for heartfelt expressions of love. Everyone is.
3. Learn how to be more vulnerable.
Intimacy is “into me see.” We can let our partners see us more deeply. We can feel and express our feelings. Yes, we as men sometimes feel afraid, but we’re taught to keep it well hidden. Outwardly, we often present a strong, competent image. When we can show the women in our lives our human frailty, this is giving them a very wonderful gift of love. When we feel sad, instead of covering it up with activity, we can share it with a loved one. Instead of jumping into an angry posture every time we feel hurt, the vulnerable (and courageous) approach is to reveal the hurt feelings directly. Whenever I have done this with Joyce, I have short-circuited a potentially long, drawn-out argument. When I only show her the anger, I am keeping myself defended and lose out on the love I could be receiving.
4. Ask for help.
We as men tend not to ask for help enough. This can be another way to become more vulnerable. Ask for help with physical things, but also ask for help with your emotions, such as sadness, confusion, or fear. Showing your partner that you need their help allows them to love you more fully.
5. Learn to be a better listener.
Really listening to our partner is a profound gift. Often, we can’t listen because there is so much clutter in our own minds and emotions. Taking better care of ourself and being more vulnerable will help us to be more present with our partner.
6. Practice taking the lead in the relationship.
Too many times, we as men yield leadership to women when it comes to the relationship. It often comes across as, “Here, the relationship is your thing. You make it work better.” Women can’t help but resent this attitude. Let’s make our relationships just as important as our work. When we are dying, we won’t be complaining that we didn’t spend enough time on our job. It’s our relationships that more deeply nourish our souls.
7. Initiate relationship growth.
Ninety percent of the couples who register for our retreats are signed up by the women. Invite your partner into a deeper conversation or ask her to read aloud from an inspiring book.
8. Nurture your partner.
Remember that your partner needs fathering by you as much as you need parenting by them. It can bring such sweet joy to give your nurturing fathering to your partner. Make it a practice to sometimes see past the grown-up, powerful woman to the innocent little girl in your partner. Gently and tactfully invite her to be held in your fathering arms in a physically non-sexual way. It is so important to many women to not have physical sexual energy mixed in with fathering energy. Likewise, allow yourself to feel the little boy within you who needs the love and comforting embrace of the mother within your partner. This is another way to give a profound gift to your partner and deepen the relationship as well.
9. Reach out more to your brothers.
Many men tend to isolate themselves from meaningful relationships with other men. I have observed that many men are nearly starved for father/brother love. In our fear of being “sissies,” we have pushed away half the population of the earth. Practice vulnerability with other men, and you will find it becomes even easier to be vulnerable with the women in your life. Deepening your friendship with a man leads to deepening your friendship with yourself. And this allows you to become more accessible to women.
Call 831-684-2299 for further information on counseling sessions. Visit their website at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationships and living from the heart. For opportunities to bring more love and growth into your life, please visit Barry and Joyce Vissells’ events page.