He may never admit he worries about anything, but trust us, he does.
Weakness and men don’t mix. With protector/provider ingrained in their DNA, men believe it’s their primal job to be strong. If outside influences upset a man’s strength or ability to provide and protect, the man may experience angst, stress and a desperate desire to regain control. However, since men are unlikely to share their feelings, the silent anxiety affects their relationships in untold ways.
The man wants to solve, push through or dispel his fears, but he doesn’t want to admit them to others. Meanwhile, his significant other can sense his worry, but may not be able to put her proverbial finger on the issue, which results in a disconnection and lack of understanding. She might think he is being distant, cheating, uninterested or worse.
As problem-solvers, men look for the fastest, most effective ways to work through issues, and many think the best way is to do that alone. But therein lies the main challenge for relationship dynamics: He wants to work through it alone and thus fails to communicate it, and his significant other knows something’s wrong, but doesn’t know what it is, and may assume it has something to do with her, even if it doesn’t.
So, what’s your guy scared of? Here are the top seven things men worry about:
1. Do I make enough money? Money is a huge issue, but it isn’t only about cash, it what the cash represents: Self-value (what he believes he’s worth), perceived value (by the world, by a superior, by his family, by his family of origin), security (for himself, for his family), flexibility (lifestyle, providing for his family), achievement (self and in the eyes of others) and future considerations (college for kids, retirement, weddings, vacations). Yes, women also work and contribute to these items … but most men will see this as their job.
How you can help: Stay active in the finances. Pay the bills — all the bills — together, regardless of who makes what paycheck. A joint effort means that success/challenges are addressed by both of you, and the stress is then shared. And let him know you’re proud of him. It sounds like such a small thing, but your pride in him will mean a lot.
2. Have I accomplished/done enough in life? Men look back often and wonder: What have I accomplished in my life? What is my legacy? Will I be remembered in some way? Is this what I want? Am I happy? Is the grass greener somewhere else? This self-evaluation leads to wondering if they are living life to their fullest.
How you can help: Talk to him about it … without judgement. What are his short- and long-term aspirations? What does he want for himself, and what does he need from you to make it happen?
3. Am I going to lose my job? His job is a very big deal to him, especially in these tough economic times. This fear causes men to (re)focus on their career/job. As they put their attention to it, other things suffer from a lack of attention — family, relationship, etc. He’s probably not doing it on purpose, but it leads to women asking why he doesn’t care or put effort in any more.
The rub: She doesn’t want to tell him that she feels he’s dropping back, because then his renewed effort isn’t “genuine” (read: he didn’t think of it himself, so it isn’t him wanting to).
How you can help: Acknowledge the issue and the stress that accompanies it. Remind him that you are in this together. If life throws you a curveball, you’ll be there — with him and for him. At the same time, gently remind him that he needs balance. Jobs and money might come-and-go … but you are there and that is where his effort needs to be also.
4. Am I getting old? Men do worry about their age and attractiveness. Finding gray hairs, losing eyesight, getting tired constantly … these insecurities are a combination of societal pressure, self-evaluation and a sense of nagging mortality.
How you can help: Just like you, he wants to know you still find him attractive. Let him know … and show him.
5. Am I losing my health/do I have cancer?Whether it’s a result of pure procrastination or the invasive tests/probes, many men hate the doctor — until it’s something that cannot be avoided. At the same time, he is worried … he just doesn’t want to know.
How you can help: Remind him that if he wants to see his grandkids’ grandkids graduate, he needs to stay fit and get yearly checks. Then … make it something you do together (OBGYN/pap smear, anyone?)
6. Is my significant other sexually satisfied? This issue is tricky. He wants to know that he’s “doing his job” in bed, but he doesn’t want to know if he’s not. Male ego hinged on sexual prowess, virility and skills are surely part of the reason we have Viagra for sale via mail order but male birth control is (mostly) in the testing phase.
How you can help: Talk to him … sensitively. If he’s not doing it for you, don’t tell him what he’s doing wrong, talk to him about what you like (bonus points if you say it in a breathy voice, horizontally sans clothing). The more fun/no biggie you make things, the less likely he will be to get a bruised ego. And the payoff with what you do like will increase, because he will know and he will want to.
7. Am I a good dad/will I be a good dad? If he’s considering taking the plunge into fatherhood (or is already a father), most men worry about their ability to: 1) Pass on what they know; 2) Not pass on the bad parts of their parents/fathers/childhood experiences; and 3) Be a balanced/fun/strict/good dad.
How you can help: There’s no rulebook for parenting; it’s a tough gig. Talk to him about your fears about you (because women worry about motherhood, even if nurturing comes naturally for most) and ask him about his fears. By sharing your similar issues, you can make it safe for him to be vulnerable.
Above all, women need to know that a man’s fears are his, and nothing she can do will make him face/get through/get over them. He has to firstly acknowledge the fear and then start down the path of dealing with them. While she can create an environment that makes it safe for him to discuss things, it is still his choice to do so. It’s not her job to make him do it, nor is it her failure if he chooses not to. All she can do is be there … but she can’t force.
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