Andie is a wonderfully attractive 39-year-old woman who has a lot to offer a man. She’s in shape, smart, intelligent, funny, and has a great job that allows her to support a nice lifestyle. She’s solid, real, emotionally available, and a person that can be counted on, but, with all of that, she still has a problem.
“Doctor B, I can’t seem to find my male equivalent,” she says. “I have been wanting to have a boyfriend and a committed relationship for most of the seven years I’ve been single, and yet all I seem to attract is men who aren’t solid mentally, they’re not commitment-oriented, or emotionally available. So many of them don’t take care of themselves as they should. What’s up with that?”
I really empathize with Andie. After all, I’m single and have had similar experiences, and yes, it gets frustrating … I mean, wouldn’t you think it’d be easy to meet someone who was just sort of healthy, available, and balanced?
Now, you must know that this conversation is not to bash men, because I love guys, and so do the women I talked to for this article. But I do think part of the problem has to do with the same reason that so many men (in the classic scenario) cannot bring themselves to ask for directions – it’s simply abhorrent for them to ask for help, and they prefer to figure things out for themselves.
To get some male backing on this, I called San Antonio psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Benzick. He said there is a survival of the fittest thing going on, and explained that since cave man days the strongest men were self reliant … so all the dudes of today are just carrying the DNA of millions before them who valued doing things themselves.
"It is at least partially biological, I’m sorry to say," Benzick says.
So, doc, is there a pill for it? The way many women see it is that they don’t care so much about the whys of it, they just know that this self reliance is keeping them cold at night. To them, both genders experience pain, loss, and disappointments that come with life, but a whole lot of females have long been sorting through and dealing with the baggage life brings, and since we have, we’re feeling good and are ready to reconnect. The self reliant men aren’t working on their mental and emotional health, and at the end of the day, all of us are needlessly alone, and that’s sad.
Patti, a 57-year-old professional in Dallas, says the male predisposition to be self reliant is driving her nuts in a different sort of way …
“I date men my age and a little older, and many of them are limping around in the bedroom, if you know what I mean … and frankly, I’m sick of it” she says. “When I muster up the courage to ask them about it, I have yet to hear one say, ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to go to the doctor and find out what’s going on and maybe get Viagra to help me out with this.’ Instead, every single one has some excuse why he could never, ever use Viagra or any drug for ED (erectile dysfunction). It is so frustrating, but what can you do – date younger men, I guess?”
Uh, I hope not. So, I hear what Benzick says about why men have an allergy to seeking help, whether it’s mental, physical or emotional health, or even a style makeover, and I do agree with him. But I would also add that there are cultural pressures as well, including some nasty old stubborn pride – a characteristic found in humans that ruins more relationships than I can count. After all, in our culture it’s considered manly to be viewed as strong, perfect and infallible. To that end, American boys are often taught not to exhibit sadness, vulnerability or fear, as these qualities are considered to be weak, and folks, weakness isn’t manly.
You know," Benzick says. "Almost every man can remember the moment between age 3 and 5 when someone told him to be a man and to not cry or be weak. I remember that moment myself."
And of course, sometimes men do ask for help, because I can attest that there are some who come in for therapy. BUT, most of the ones I see have not been spending years and years on self improvement as so many of their female cohorts have. Instead, the majority come in for the first time between age 38 and 55, and only when they’ve just about hit rock bottom after not being able to cope or fix things on their own. Even then, so many come in once or twice, hear a few things, and figure that’s all they need.
Benzick advises that men may need a little push from their women in order to get them to work their stuff.
"It does work when a woman says the relationship can’t move forward unless he gets help," he says.
Yeah, but that’s for men who are at least semi-connecting, so the question is, how can we motivate those who are mentally and emotionally hiding and isolating to get the help they need without them having to hit super-mega-lows? Do we have to have a government intervention and have vans drive around and pick up emotionally wounded and unavailable men and haul them off to physical and mental health camps to force them to get healthy? It’s just unfortunate that so many men wait such a long time to get help that could improve the quality of their lives and create the possibility for relationships whereas before there was none. If I could wave a wand over the male gender and change this about them, I would, because selfishly speaking, we girls are ready to connect.
So guys (and women, too!), what do YOU think?