The LATE Men
Do you know a man who tends to self-sabotage? Are you one of these men? In my “Who’s In Charge?” model, there is a type of adult man I refer to as LATE Men – Lost, Angry TEens. These men are emotionally under-developed, and like teenagers, they often show up late – late to mature, and late to make or keep commitments. Some typical LATE Men behavior patterns include:
*Avoidance behavior and lack of commitment
*Inattentive with girlfriend, wife, children
The LATE Men have become a fixture in movies and TV sitcoms (such as the men in The Hangover movies). These fictional characters are funny, and the situations may be comically exaggerated, but ask many women about the truth in these portrayals. LATE Men behavior can also be observed in the anger and infidelities of well known politicians and other leaders in business, sports, and other fields. All too often women can identify similar behavior patterns and attitudes in their boyfriends and husbands.
How does this happen? Why do these LATE Men self-sabotage, and hurt others in the process? I’ve identified 5 major reasons:
- The Father Wound – Almost all of the men I see in my psychotherapy practice had fathers who were unavailable or absent. These fathers either worked excessively, were emotionally and physically detached from the family, or they abandoned their children due to separation, divorce, or addiction. Many fathers were excessively controlling, sometimes in an emotionally distant and harshly militaristic manner. And quite a few fathers were hyper-critical and abusive verbally and physically. This neglect, abandonment and abuse will cause deep wounds in a vulnerable, sensitive child. Young boys need responsible, attentive and loving adult male role models. I like to think of young children as diamonds in the rough – beautiful, even strong and resilient – and they need to be carefully, lovingly, shaped into a faceted gem. It takes a healthy, loving adult man to teach the boy child how to become a man. Neglect, abandonment and abuse create a wound that prevents many boys from becoming that brilliant diamond. Instead, they get stuck in an adolescent level of development – lost and angry.
- The Mother Wound – The LATE Men I see in my practice often had mothers who were over-burdened with too many responsibilities. They often worked outside the home, in addition to taking care of the house and raising their sons and daughters. They did the best they could, but often struggled with exhaustion, anxiety and depression. Their children feel abandoned, and some become “parentified” – children who become parents to younger siblings and surrogate partners to their burned out mothers. I’ve found that when these male children become adults, they may unconsciously look for women to fill their unmet needs. The women they marry become surrogate mothers instead of wives, causing marital distress. The LATE Men tend to avoid responsibility, and their wives react with anger and attempt to control their husbands. Like teenagers, The LATE Men then rebel against these frustrated wives. They act out with alcohol and drugs, infidelity, and/or angry, passive-aggressive resistance.
There are other types of mother wounds, including abuse, which will be mentioned in #3, below.
Another type of mother wound worth mentioning here results from the “Helicopter Parent” phenomenon. These mothers are over-protective, hover over their children excessively (such as constant communication by cell phone), and generally micro-manage their kids. LATE Men who are raised by enabling, cosseting mothers either rebel like teens against their adult female partners, or become excessively needy and demanding.
- Trauma And Abuse – A majority of the LATE Men I see in my practice have some history of emotional, verbal, and/or physical abuse. This childhood trauma is most often perpetrated by angry fathers – often associated with alcoholism and drug abuse. The abuse is often aggravated by fearful mothers, often abused themselves, who do not adequately protect their children from a raging father. And the LATE Men also report abusive mothers. Many LATE Men were bullied by siblings or other kids in the neighborhood or at school. And a smaller, but significant number of LATE Men were sexually abused as children – by parents, older sibs, and others. Trauma and abuse is terribly damaging to children of all ages. LATE Men who were traumatized as kids get stuck developmentally, and are chronically angry, insecure, and emotionally stunted. They tend to be full of shame and self-doubt, they have a fractured sense of self (identity confusion), and they are prone to self-sabotage.
- Societal And Cultural Factors – The LATE Men are often confused about their role in the world today. It’s not surprising. The messages we see and hear today are confusing. Men should be strong, decisive, and powerful. But men should be sensitive – in touch with their feelings. Men should be competitive, successful, even aggressive, and unafraid. Even today in the 21st century, there is a clear expectation – “Big Boys Don’t Cry”. Women want us to be romantic, to dress properly, and to be emotionally responsive – just don’t be too feminine. We should be independent – leaders – but not controlling or domineering in any way. And women’s roles have changed dramatically in the past few decades. More women are in the work force than ever before, and many women are in leadership positions. Today’s men are struggling to compete for dwindling resources – often against the same women who want them to be more sensitive and emotionally available.
- Emotional And Behavioral Problems – Shame, fear, depression, and addiction – these are the problems that result from the powerful forces affecting boys and men today. Children who are wounded by absent or abusive fathers, smothered or neglected by mothers who are enmeshed or overwhelmed, or traumatized in other ways become emotionally unhinged. The LATE Men are full of shame and self doubt. They don’t know who they are as adult men, and they feel like they’re never good enough. Growing up, they didn’t have consistent, secure role models to teach them how to manage their emotions. And they didn’t have adult men to teach them how to cope with the challenges facing men today. They’re afraid to try because they’re afraid of failure, criticism, and rejection. The LATE Men experience a great deal of emotional pain that can result in depression and anxiety disorders – and often expressed indirectly as anger or rage. Or they self-medicate with substances, video games, pornography, and sexual misbehavior.
In my next article about the LATE Men I’ll talk about what they need – what men can do to become the loving, responsible Adults they truly want to be – and what their women and others can do to help them. Your feedback regarding this article, and other articles and information in this web site is welcome and appreciated. Do you know a LATE Man? Is the description here accurate, and would you change or add anything?
The Who's In Charge series is the foundation for understanding the LATE Men concept. The LATE Men articles follow.