UNDERSTANDING YOUR MAN
--By Theodore Isaac Rubin
Simple as it may seem, too many men think of themselves as men rather than as human beings, & too often not as living, breathing, talented, vulnerable & whole persons, but as mechanical, God-like, but at the same time sad creatures. The result is a destructive personality trend leading toward what is known as "machismo".
Many men are terrified that they will in some way exhibit womanly feelings. It is difficult for a man who questions his masculinity to display a touch of softness in the way he behaves, so he takes refuge in an excessive show of manliness known as "machismo".
If a man's feelings, especially empathetic, sympathetic, loving & generally softer ones are deadened & repressed, his capacity for creativity & enjoyment are repressed too. Eventually everyone around him is victimised--his partner most of all.
Unfortunately, most men find it very painful to hear the truth when it runs counter to their own self-image. But so many men would profit enormously if their wives could slowly introduce them to the world of poetry, music, romance, & yes, weeping & tears.
A large part of being in charge or radiating machismo lies in the eyes of the beholder. The image a man gives to the World very often depends on who is looking at him.
SEXUAL PROWESS: MEN NEED
Male pride in sexual performance can be enormous. Few men want to be taken anything less than seriously in lovemaking, & nothing will bring down an erection quicker than a woman's joking or teasing during the sex act. Hurt pride can lead to rage & often retaliation. In most cases, that counter-attack is nothing more than an injured expression or a sharp word or two, although some men may resort to real violence.
"LOVE" IS HARD TO SAY!
Some men have an intense, prevalent fear: Expressing (revealing may be a better word) emotions.
It is extremely demanding for many a man to tell a woman, "I love you." This is true not only for bachelors, it plagues the married as well. Most women have a great need to hear these words, & men who realise this--many responsible men do--are still hesitant to say them. They are inhibited to the point of paralysis.
Men who are more dependent on women like to hear the words just as much as their female partners, but that doesn't mean they find it any easier to say them.
The question then arises, if men also like to hear the words, & if they have the emotional ties that make it possible for both partners to say them, what is all the difficulty about?
Ned was like so many men when he said to me, "I love Jill, but it's hard to tell her that. I don't know why, except that it sounds foolish. I get a knot in my stomach when I think of opening up & showing that I'm vulnerable. I don't want to seem that vulnerable, even to myself. If you show emotion, you're not being rational, in command."
Tragically, if a man is convinced that a display of emotion isn't masculine, he won't even use the words "I love you" during lovemaking. But without genuine emotion, even minor physical signs of affection such as kissing are bound to be mechanical.
Some men who are afraid to exhibit feelings resort to teasing because it serves as a barrier & false front, which helps them avoid the need to reveal true emotions. Through the use of teasing, men can replace affection as well as hostility. Teenage boys rely on this tactic with friends they like, just as adult men often use it to establish contact with children.
There is a great deal of role playing that people do in their adult years. At various times every man feels the need to be a child, to be--though usually momentarily--in a dependent situation. If he is sick, he will want to be mothered, or if he is feeling especially vulnerable, to rest his head against a woman's breasts. And then there are the moments when he must be in the position of authority, when he has to play father. But many men are not the "fathering" type. Many are more comfortable playing "child".
More often than not, the arrogant & "overly strong father" personality camouflages a frightened man trying to convince the outside world, & himself, that he is as strong internally as the image he projects.
Though it may shatter a few women's illusions, nearly every man needs reassurance at one time or another. Some need it almost every single day. There are many for whom no amount of bolstering is too much, & yet it must be done in a quiet, loving, intelligent, honest way. Often it doesn't take much to shatter a man's shaky self-esteem. Many men must be assured & reassured (& reassured again if necessary) that they are good, that they are doing the right thing, & that they are loved, respected & wanted.
ANXIETY & GUILT!
Guilt & anxiety are powerful enemies of sex & if pervasive enough can result in complete absence of either sexual urge or the ability to function. There are any number of possibilities as to the origin of this guilt or anxiety. Most men have a relatively poor tolerance for frustration & great sensitivity to rejection or to any action which can possibly be interpreted as rejection. Many men also make claims on women for unqualified total acceptance, regardless of how they themselves behave. This, of course, makes for considerable anger any time temporary rejection (especially in the sexual area) takes place.
But men prideful of self-control or fearful of disturbing the "nice guy" image or the image of being perpetually rational & "adult" often repress the anger they feel. They become anxious if they fear they'll show this anger outwardly. If the anger is turned toward oneself in a final attempt to repress it, guilty feelings & depression also occur. Of course these feelings make sexual functioning difficult, especially for the lover who for the moment is viewed as the perpetrator of the difficulties in the first place. It is not easy to be a good lover & to combine tender open feelings with lusty sexual ones while in a state of rage, anxiety & depression, let alone attempt to please & make happy the person with whom one is angry.
THE PHYSICAL & THE SPIRITUAL!
Generally speaking, women are more complex than men, less concrete & better able to view a man in general terms rather than merely according to his physical attributes. Consequently, men tend to be terribly concerned about the size of a woman's breasts or nipples (or whatever), while women make their judgement based on the overall men they see before them. A woman may get excited by the way a man talks or walks, by her feelings about his potential mastery, capabilities, voice & so on--in other words, not by any one feature, but by a combination of some or all features & the kind of personality they reflect.
Women are very often influenced by the degree to which they feel they can trust their man. It has been demonstrated, for example, that her partner's penis size rarely has anything to do with a woman's problems in reaching orgasm. Men, in contrast, will complain, "If only my wife's breasts were bigger, I would be able to get it up more often." The woman, rather than being detoured from orgasm by a real or imagined lack of adequate penis size, may fail to reach her peak because she has difficulty trusting her partner.
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Merely because a man reaches orgasm, ejaculates & is able to sustain an erection 15 minutes later doesn't necessarily mean he'll be able to do the same thing next time. It may take him twice as long or even a few days. The same is true in reverse. I've known many single, sexually experienced men who were unable to achieve an erection during the first attempt at lovemaking with a particular woman & found that they were not given a second chance to try.
A partner who is understanding, who realises that the man is pressured by his whole upbringing to "prove" himself, & who is aware that mood, fatigue or setting may be having a negative effect at that instant can sometimes rescue the situation. She must reassure her lover that there is no problem, that he should relax, & that they'll make love the next time.
Impotence, a common & demoralising problem, can manifest itself in several ways, including total inability to achieve an erection or the loss of an erection once insertion is attempted or takes place. The experience itself may generate enough anxiety to perpetuate the condition, & repeated attacks of impotency continue to produce a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course impotency often prompts concern about masculinity as well as fears of physical decline.
Some men go so far as to place the responsibility for their condition on their wives. This can further complicate & sometimes destroy a sexual relationship. The woman may at the same time begin to feel rejected, or may interpret the man's "failure" as an indication of her inability to arouse him. One thing works on another until both partners are entangled in a complicated & unhappy relationship that often extends beyond the sexual area of their lives.
Physical causes of impotence. In discussing impotence, it is vital to realise that most troubles stem from psychological causes & not from physical difficulties. There are, however, on rare occasions physical causes. The most common example is the impotence some men suffer as a result of drinking too much alcohol. Of course the tolerance level for one man will not necessarily be the same for another. While one can down the equivalent of ten shots of whiskey without much change in behaviour patterns, another needs only one scotch & soda to suffer the effects of alcohol. Depending on the user, alcohol may sometimes serve as a stimulant (or a paralyzer if taken to excess), but this, too, depends on the individual & the amount of alcohol consumed.
Malnutrition or improper diet can cause impotence by upsetting the body's circuitry & draining it of energy, & any type of deep fatigue (hard work, exercise, emotional drain) can also be a factor. The body's intricate system may also be upset by a number of internal problems, including infections. Still, physically-caused impotence is relatively unusual.
Impotence of emotional origin. Every man experiences some impotence temporarily sooner or later. It can be engendered by the mere fear of impotence. A perfectly normal man may be so frightened by the thought, that he will inadvertently bring it upon himself.
Initial sexual experiences are often frightening to young men worried about performing successfully. Much of the fun & joy of sex is replaced by anxiety large enough to cause failure to maintain an erection. Some men get over their inability without undue repercussions. Others become disturbed & it turns into a chronic problem.
Human beings are social creatures & need others, not only for nourishment & growth, but for actual survival. Our way of life is complex, & we all depend upon others. But the farmer, the doctor & the mechanic aren't the only people necessary for life. A network of interpersonal relationships of some sort, regardless of the duration of the relationship, is also needed. Some people search for a lifelong mate, some for a traveller to share only a portion of the journey. Some men are lucky enough to find what they want. Some search forever.
One of the more frequent questions I've been asked comes from single women who are looking for male companions: "Can you tell what a man is like immediately?"
No, you can't, unless he provides a blatant indication, there isn't any way to tell at first glance what a man is like. The only way for a woman to tell what a man is like is to have contact with him long enough to learn what's beyond her first impression. In short, two people can't know each other until they know each other, & a relationship can't be a relationship until some genuine relating has taken place. With time, a genuine emotional investment helps the partnership grow & develop.
Let's assume contact has been made & the basic relationship has gotten a bit beyond the self-consciousness & restraint of the first few dates. Perhaps it's gone further, even up to & into marriage.
It is not, as some men & women would like to believe, a general rule that sexual response & adjustment occur instantly. Foreplay & intercourse don't necessarily lead to mutual sexual satisfaction. Patience & compassion have a great deal to do with the growth of a relationship, & nothing is more important than communication. Great lovers aren't mind readers; they can do what they think is best, but they can't know if it is really good until they are told. Moreover, two human beings don't always do things the same way or at the same rate, so like two soldiers marching out of step, they must work to be attuned to each other's sexual schedule & intensities of desire.
Incompatibility is seldom due exclusively to physical differences in response or size. Sex between people is more often a reflection of how people relate to each other in general. Much "sexual incompatibility", therefore, finds a solution in a better relationship.
Since the passage of time & familiarity constantly threaten to chip away at spontaneity & excitement, all relationships, including sexual ones, need to grow in order to survive. In the course of coexistence, people will find imperfections & highlights in others. Many men & women expect more, though, & actually become convinced that they've fallen out of love or have lost physical interest for a particular woman when their sexual experiences don't continue to reach the peak of intensity of earlier days.
Compatibility is, of course, the responsibility of both partners, & I've seen some examples where both members were trying their very best to get along & still failed. Why?--Because they were unable to express their inner feelings. Many men & women consider discussion of physical likes & dislikes crude, mechanical & downright unromantic. For some men, it is not easy to be told that they aren't making love quite the way that their partners would like it. Obviously, since telepathy doesn't work for most of us, some sort of communication has got to take its place. But some people try to discuss the issues during lovemaking, which just makes matters worse. I don't mean to suggest that the topic should be raised at the dinner table or while shopping at the supermarket, just not during lovemaking.
No matter how great the love, the extrasensory perception that love provides isn't enough to impart full knowledge of a partner's thoughts. Both men & women must contribute their sexual "education" to the relationship & help guide their partners to greater mutual happiness, but most male pride requires the employment of subtlety, if not extreme delicacy. To put it simply, the woman will sometimes be the teacher, but in those cases she must somehow get across the point that her input is in no way meant to diminish his masculinity & sexuality. Even men who don't bathe adequately or who consistently fail to shave until they're covered with stubble need to be told gently.
At the same time, many men have a difficult time conveying what they want & can't get themselves to express particular sexual desires. There is simply no substitute for open, cooperative, compassionate conversation to convey mutual needs.
THE FAKED ORGASM
To pretend or not to pretend is a question faced by many woman at one time or another. No one is always in the mood for sex or able to enjoy it on every occasion. Fatigue, a cold or preoccupation with other problems can cool desire. A woman whose partner is very much aroused & looking forward to sex will satisfy his needs, even if her own participation isn't as much as usual. But should she go through all the emotions as well as the motions?
Sexual lying is fraught with many perils. Even for those women who make the effort in an attempt to foster greater intimacy with their partners, the threat to that intimacy they seek far outweighs the temporary gains to be achieved.
In order to be intimate, you've got to be intimate. Real intimacy is based on closeness on all levels of a relationship, & there's no room left for dishonesty of any kind. I once offered this opinion to a woman who was deeply troubled by her inability to reach orgasm & what she considered her duty to make her husband feel he was satisfying her in every way.
"I was a virgin when we married, so I don't have any basis of comparison," she told me unhappily. "I just don't think I've ever reached an orgasm in all the three years we've been married. What am I supposed to do, tell him he isn't a good enough lover? I don't even know if that's true or not. We have a good life together & I don't want to mess it up. I'm not going to kid you by saying that I don't wish I felt something better when we have sex. I do, only we get along well & I don't think the risk is worth it."
It was her choice to decide whether the risk was "worth it", but once she did, it was my obligation to tell her that their relationship would be even closer if they were more open with each other. That didn't mean she had to stare her husband in the face, smirk & blurt out, "You're a loser in bed," or "Didn't you ever learn anything about satisfying a woman?" It did mean that she would be doing a service to their partnership if she carefully & thoughtfully brought up the issue & tried to work it out.
THE IMPACT OF A CHILD
The addition of children to a family adds a little something extra, both literally & figuratively. An eager, expectant father has to make many major adjustments in dealing with his wife, including understanding the physical problems that occasionally force a mother-to-be to abstain from intercourse. There's also a unique feeling of special warmth & love that couples experience when they're about to have a baby. Many wives have reported that their husbands demonstrated an increased tenderness once pregnancy was confirmed.
But, as always, there are men who react poorly to the prospect of children. Perhaps they feel they don't have enough money to support a growing family. They may somewhat selfishly not want to divert the time they alone shared with their wife to the care of a growing infant. Other men, feeling like children themselves, can't tolerate the added responsibilities of parenthood.
But despite changes throughout the years & the increased divorce rate, the family remains the basic & most important unit of human development. How can it be otherwise when we consider the dependency & needs of small children?
The family also continues to be the only reliable source of emotional sustenance necessary for full human development. By full human development I mean human beings who are capable of the full range of human feelings, yearnings, talents, desires & the ability to relate with satisfaction, on a sexual level too, with other human beings. Children brought up in institutions without parents, however much is provided towards their physical needs, almost always suffer as adults from a kind of emotional stunting, including blunted feelings.
It sometimes takes many years to find out that giving of oneself provides the best kind of getting from others. I don't mean martyred, self-glorifying satisfaction. I mean the genuine pleasure felt in coming to full life & fruition as we care for & feel for others. Family life provides the best place for both the development & exercise of caring, feeling & giving.