by John Wineland
A number of men show up on my doorstep, somewhat confused and sad as to why they are hitting a wall in their marriages or long term relationships. The common refrain is something like “I don’t understand what is going on. I do everything to take care of her and our family and yet she is still unsatisfied and unhappy.” There’s this idea that over the past hundred years, specifically the last fifty, that has embedded itself in our collective consciousness. The idea that if a man shows up, earns money to take care of his family, is committed to supporting his wife in her own career or her own desires, is a good father, is there and helps to co-parent his children, supports them either with time or money or, ideally both, is as involved as a parent as she, that this certainly should be enough to make his wife happy. Unfortunately it isn’t. And so, I’d like to deconstruct this belief, what I call, The Myth of the Good Husband.
I have seen it over and over, men come to me who consider themselves to be good fathers, are committed, who make good money. These are men who support their partners in either what they want to do with their lives or their own careers, but are still bumping into the problem that she is often still dissatisfied. This myth, the one that suggests that if he just provides these stability and support, then he's golden, was forged by previous generations and not really applicable in modern relating. What I've discovered is that providing the things I’ve just mentioned is more of an ante that just gets him into the game. It’s no longer the finish line, it’s simply the starting point.
What men have got to come to grips with is that today, being a good husband has so much more to it than just being a good provider, a good father, and a supportive partner. More and more, the common refrain from the successful, attractive, deep women is, “where are the men who inspire and can lead me?” These days women often make equal or more money, can provide as well as any man and are very capable of leading themselves in virtually every facet of life. In this case, where the feminine partner is just as capable as her partner, and both can lead and contribute as parents; a flaccid and often uninspiring partnership ensues. One year, two years, five years, ten years down the road, women begin to feel that there is nothing really special beyond partnership. I hear women say often, “I'm not being led into any new and exciting territory and I'm not being felt or fucked in a way that opens and melts me." If this continues for long enough, even the most happy brides will resent her husband. These resentments may surface in other, more mundane complaints. But the real issue is she is not being led somewhere she can’t take herself.
From that place, I think a man has to take a good hard look at what makes him an inspiring leader. If he has been through a few months or years of dissatisfaction, he should start with the question, “Where in the relationship am I not showing up in a way that really would matter to her? Do I know what her love language is? Do I take her places sexually that are exciting for her, or do we just do the same thing every Tuesday night? Do I stay aware of what's going on with her emotionally and try to lead her, not fix her, but lead her and witness where she is, and support where she is emotionally, or do I try to fix her and/or avoid her?”
Men tend to fall into this pattern, “If my woman is upset, I'm either going to avoid it and hope it goes away and hope that she takes care of it herself,” or, “I'm going to try to fix it.” Neither of those approaches work. “Am I taking care of myself or my life in a way that would inspire devotion?”
So my first approach is to have men start with a Leadership Inventory. First, “Where am I really falling short in the ways that would make her truly inspired to be the love of my life?” Second, “How trustable am I in my own life?” A man has to look in the mirror and decide; “Am I in a job where I'm truly happy? Am I showing up with integrity? Am I leading men in my own life? Am I taking care of myself in a way that inspires me or not? Am I stuffing my dreams to the point where I'm no longer trustable because I don't have the balls to go after what's most important for me in life?”
The third area of inquiry is, how trustable or integral is he in the relationship? This a very important question to ask when trying to right the ship or transform the way a relationship is
going. “Am I living my life with a deep integrity? How trustable am I in my life and how trustable am I with her Emotions? Can I create a space for her emotions that is healing and relaxing? Do I lovingly witness the way her beautiful and often wild feminine heart needs to express life’s heartbreaks.
Only from this place of sincere inquiry, where a man is taking a good, hard look at his leadership, not only in his own life, but as a wise, feeling and capable captain in the relationship, can he inspire long term trust and surrender. The rules of committed relating are shifting rapidly as women are surpassing men in the professional and political worlds. We are just now starting to understand how this shifting landscape is going to affect romantic relationships. But for now, we are seeing more and more, being a Good Husband, is simply not enough.