A much-needed book advising men on how to become better husbands....
Early in his career as a gynecologist, Dr. Jim Schaller realized that most wives were unhappy, or at least very disappointed in their marriages. While wives had very specific ideas for improving their marriages, most husbands hadn't given it much thought. As a doctor, husband, and father, he realized that American husbands did not give their highest priority to becoming a great mate . . . but needed to get in touch with buried feelings so that their wives could relate to who they really were. And, they needed help, especially in running the gauntlet from boyhood to manhood.
The central challenge to men is that making a great marriage requires more energy, perseverance, honesty, and courage than any other manly pursuit, yet no achievement in life can be more praiseworthy or satisfying than being a great spouse. Intimacy may be the crowning jewel, but real success in marriage involves coping with day-to-day events with the motivation to "go for it." The right attitude in both partners can turn a marriage around, change minds, open hearts, heal families, and solve violence.
In covering a wide variety of topics, Dr. Schaller discusses
Table of Contents
Understanding the Message
PART ONE - THE PERILOUS PATH TO MANHOOD
1. What Can You Expect from "Snakes and Snails and Puppydog Tails..."
2. "No More Tears" "Everything Is Just Fine"
3. Is Mom Really a Problem? Who Else Cares about Us?
4. Man's Futile Search for Sports Glory
5. Coping with Inadequacy in a Boy/Man's Way
PART TWO - THE DIFFERENT NATURE OF A WOMAN: FACT or FICTION, MYSTERY or MYTH
6. When "Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice..." Becomes Something Else
7. Keeping Women in their Place
8. Oppressor and Oppressed: Still a Core Marriage Dynamic?
PART THREE - A MOST WORTHY CHALLENGE: GETTING MARRIAGE RIGHT
9. Brides and Grooms Rarely Get What They Expect
10. Fall from Grace? "My Fair Lady" "The Little Mrs." "My Old Lady"
11. The Woman Beside Every Man
12. The Core of the Marriage Challenge: Staying Free and Equal
13. Self-Awareness - the First Requirement for Reaching Maturity
14. Some "Growing-Up" Dividends
15. Simple Recipes for Marital Disaster
16. Re-Searching What You Want from Marriage
17. Keeping Your Own Candle Burning
18. Why So Many Things Go Wrong for So Many Wonderful People
19. Who Can We Blame?
20. The Communication Games Married People Play
21. The Problem: Foreplay Includes Everything But...
22. Work, Sports and Sex - Do Husbands Ever Think of Anything Else?
23. Some Couples Don't Just Get Older, They Also Get Better
24. Yes, We Can Turn Our Marriages Around
25. Needed: an Open Mind and a Change of Heart
26. Healing Our Families - The Solution to Violence
27. A New Understanding of Intimacy
PART FOUR - A LEGACY OF LOVE
28. Putting the Realities of Love Together
29. Becoming Heroes, Again
30. Giving Your Wife What She Wants
31. In the Absence of Love
The Chain of Disconnection
American men are trained to worship the god of independence above all other gods. Our ideal is the man who is unaffected by anyone or anything around him, who sticks to his goals and does not falter, providing for spouse and children, and being loyal to his job, church, community, and country - the transcendent hero glorified by Emerson and innumerable movie heroes from John Wayne in Stagecoach or Gary Cooper in High Noon to the next generation's "James Bond" or "Dirty Harry." Brave, stoic, or unemotional, any relationships these silent heroes might have had were clearly secondary to getting the job done. Take your own survey, if you like, and you will find that the loner is "a man's man."
When Walt Whitman, who has been proclaimed the American poet, the writer who best expressed the unique American spirit, wrote the words "I Sing of Myself," in his most famous work, Leaves of Grass, he was echoing two centuries of male idealization of non-attachment. Carl Rogers, the man of the twentieth century who, along with John Dewey, his mentor at Teacher's College of Columbia University, most influenced our educational system and our view of human development, never included marriage or "affiliation" on his pathway to human maturity.
Precisely because this male ideal of independence does not give priority to affiliation, that is, the creation of loving relationships, the domestic and social violence in America greatly exceeds the level of violence in any other developed nation in the world, and contrasts sharply with our natural riches and blessings. Besides leading the world in the speed in which a divorce can be accomplished, no industrialized nation comes close to our statistics for violence. In the words of Mother Teresa, we are "the loneliest, the most disconnected, and the most unhappy nation on earth."
"Give My Wife and Family My Best Efforts? Who Are You Trying to Kid?"
The Feminists, specifically the most radical ones, ascribe the blame for America's woes (and the world's) to the innate qualities of men. Certainly, these women have a point, especially when they assert that men, not women, possess the penis envy (translation: excessive competitiveness), which fuels the need of American men to dominate. However, most experts would say it is the way boys are raised, not their nature, or innate qualities, that produces the violence in our country. Nancy Chodorow, for example, insists that masculine gender role training is much more rigid than the feminine. A boy is forced to repress all those qualities he takes to be feminine which he discovers inside himself.
My book, It's Your Life!, responded in detail to the assertion that men are violent by nature. It is granted that those of male gender are biologically wired to be aggressive, to need plenty of space, to constantly compete, to measure all relationships in terms of status, but all this does not make them thereby violent, or sadistic. Indeed, the large number of diverse "male movements," for example, the "Promise Keepers" and the "New Warriors," whose meetings are supported by lay and church groups alike, reflect a change in consensus, namely, that the root cause of violence is the way boys are guided to manhood. The idea is finally being accepted that too many men are living our country's misguided male ideal.
When boys/men are constantly reminded that "bonding" and "community" are for women, many eventually attain a level of autonomy or isolation at which their only major human "connection" is a competitive one (for survival of the fittest) with other men. Led away by economic, political, and social realities five hundred years in the making, from any idea that a deep and abiding love for a woman should be their life's highest priority, American men are wasting their opportunities, betraying their true calling, and hurting themselves and others.
Breaking the Link to Violence
It is not too much of a stretch to connect a man, whose life is devoid of love or human consolation, to violence. Destructive behavior is simply the final link in the chain of disconnection. Violence is now our number one killer of males under thirty-five, replacing war. Suicide is next. Over 1000 times more people are killed with firearms alone, than in any other industrialized nation. The year in which there were forty thousand people killed with guns in America, there were thirty-three deaths from guns in Great Britain and sixteen in Japan!
This country seems to excel in producing more and more violent, isolated, and angry men. What can be done to reverse the trend? Certainly, nothing will be achieved by arrogantly deciding, as some feminists have suggested, that we should raise boys in the same way we raise girls. Nor would I suggest that we accept violence, often mislabeled as "bullying," as a normal part of a boy's (or girl's) socialization. To label any form of violence - even verbal abuse or intimidation - as "normal male aggression" is a serious mistake. Any violation of one person's free choice by the use of force (exception: in the proper exercise of authority) is wrong, whether we are talking about girls/women or boys/men or any combination of these.
Everyone Has a Bias in Dealing with Boys, Fueled by Natural Differences
Boys have always "played harder," and this will probably never change in our lifetimes. But, again, the strong should not, in any circumstance, be allowed to intimidate the weak, and certainly should never be praised for such actions. In socializing our children we need to guide both genders to an awareness and acceptance of their separate ways of thinking, feeling, and doing things, and provide each gender with an understanding of the other's differences. Abundant scientific data exists proving that boys are different from girls in every part of their body, brain, and mind - a fact that most parents of both sexes would affirm. My wife, Marianne, mother of our three sons and three daughters, correctly predicted the sex of each baby before birth, presumably on the basis of how often and how hard they kicked, while the incredible difference quickly became apparent to me in the first few weeks after delivery.
There is plenty of scientific and anecdotal data that shows clearly that even those parents who claim to treat their infant sons and daughters in the same way, typically do not do so. When I was revising parts of this chapter during a vacation in Disney World, an article appeared in the Orlando Sentinel written by a feature editor about her two-year effort to raise her son - she "wanted a girl - like a girl. Unfortunately, all her son cared about were trucks, both real ones like the trash truck, whose coming made his day, as well as any kind of toy truck.
The "gleam" in the parents' eyes - the "unconditional positive regard" as defined by the child psychologists - that makes a child feel treasured, worthy, and affirmed, is much more likely to be bestowed on a daughter than a son, even in infancy. Consistently, boys are talked to less, held less, stroked less, and kissed less. Experiments have shown that, when an infant girl cries, her parents tend to judge that she is afraid, and hold and soothe her, but when a little boy cries, they often judge him to be angry, and leave him alone! The trauma of infancy and childhood that is the most common cause of an adult's feelings of "unworthiness," or of not being lovable, is the trauma of neglect. This passive trauma is three times more likely than the active trauma of physical abuse. Both traumas are much more likely in boys, as explained below.
Boy Babies Are Very Feminine
Male infants and young toddlers are proven consistently to be more sensitive from birth to injury and deprivation than their female counterparts. Their heightened sensitivity also causes them to be more emotionally expressive than girls in the first two or three years of life. This increased sensitivity remains for life, and accounts for their heightened biological responsiveness, specifically those bodily responses described in any medical text or dictionary under "fight or flight reactions."
Those old enough to have watched and enjoyed the Lawrence Welk "Family Christmas Show" over the course of many years might recall that it was invariably the little boys who refused to perform or to say anything. In fact, most of them seemed to be an embarrassment to their parents, typically preferring to cry or to hide.
Ironically, the masculinization process becomes even more powerful after boys reach the age of three, and have completed the first, and most important stages of psychological development, namely the attachment, or bonding stage in the first year-and-a-half and the exploratory stage that follows and lasts the same period of eighteen months. In the emotional-affiliative years from three to adolescence, the increased adult pressure and influence drastically changes the outward reaction patterns of boys. By adulthood the average man exhibits no feminine qualities, and has effectively, but at great personal cost, buried his feelings and emotions.
Narcissus, from Greek mythology, though only an adolescent, was so far removed from innate feeling and authentic internal emotion, that he never connected the changes in the expressions of his image reflected in the water with the changes in the expressions he was making in his own face. He fell in love with the "person" in the water - ignorant of the fact that it was his own reflected image - and starved to death pining for a "love" he could never capture.
While American husbands have often been described similarly, and accused of being totally oblivious to what their wives are asking, saying or feeling, the reality in most instances is that they are aware, but that they are unable, or unwilling, to frame a visible or audible response that is comfortable for them. Perhaps a few men are without a clue as to the effect their frowns and sneers and grimaces and other visual signs of scorn, annoyance, anger, or uncaring are having on other members of the family, but I think that that level of insensitivity is not common. Thus, a husband does not typically "speak," or express any emotion other than his anger. This emotion is acceptable according to the Boy Code, that is, the set of rules for raising boys. Weakness, sadness, fear, anxiety, doubt, pain or desperation are women's emotions, never to be seen in a real man. Even though anger is allowed, men will more often employ silence, or coldness, to express anger and resentment. The sad result: "more families and marriages are dying from silence than from violence."
Blue Dolphin Publishing, 2000
Also by James A. Schaller, M.D.: