And Suggestions for Positive Connection
By Richard J. Loebl, LCSW, BCD
This is another article in my series about The LATE Men – men who are chronologically adult but late to mature – late to show up as fully functioning adults. They’re stuck, emotionally, psychologically, and relationally, in an adolescent level of development. The LATE Men experience relationship distress because they’re lost and angry – they don’t understand women and what they need, and they react with anger. With some relationship coaching, the LATE Men create more successful partnerships with the women in their lives.
The LATE Men
The LATE Men (adult men who function as Lost, Angry Teens) are emotionally and behaviorally undeveloped, and like teenagers, they often show up late – late to mature, and late to make or keep commitments. These men tend to self-sabotage, causing relationship distress, and problems at work and at home. LATE Men can be narcissistic, confused, angry, controlling, passive-aggressive, and defensive.
The LATE Men typically come from dysfunctional families – with divorced parents or broken homes, fathers who were emotionally or physically absent, mothers who were over-worked or overprotective, or they were mistreated emotionally or physically. Relationship coaching and specialized counseling for men, can help the LATE Men to become the loving, responsible Adults that most men truly want to be.
Understanding Women and Their Needs
Women aren’t all that different from men emotionally and relationally. All of us experience the primary feelings of anger, sadness, joy, love, fear and shame. And all of us need positive, safe emotional connection with others. The LATE Men often have difficulties recognizing and understanding their own feelings. So it’s even more difficult for them understand the women in their lives. This guide is offered to help men manage – and even prevent – relationship distress caused by misunderstanding and negative reactions.
- It’s All (or Mostly) About Emotional Connection One of the most frequent complaints I hear from men is that their women just keep talking, on and on, about things that are meaningless, irrational, or insignificant. Women complain that their men don’t listen, or that they are dismissive. This is not a communication problem. Rather, it’s about emotional connection. Boys learn to talk mostly about external things (think cars and sports) or actions (performance). And boys are generally discouraged from talking about feelings or relationships. In the absence of these relational skills, the LATE Men misinterpret adult women, resulting in angry reactivity, conflict, and relationship distress. Unlike men, women frequently talk to create or maintain emotional connection and intimacy. Women want to be seen and heard – and they’re looking for emotional attunement (literally tuning into each other’s emotional wavelength).
- Safety First Historically and biologically, women have been smaller, less physically strong, and more vulnerable than men. At least in the past, Job #1 for men was to protect and provide for their women. Times have changed, and women are more empowered, but fear and anxiety is still a core emotional reality for women. Women need to feel safe in relationships with men. When women are critical, controlling, or demanding, they may feel unsafe (possibly feeling abandoned or insecure in the relationship) – and they may be looking for reassurance.
- Love Obviously… But what does that mean? I’ve learned from many women that they feel loved when there is emotional support, when their men are available, attentive, and responsive, and when there is a sense of positive emotional engagement. Women want to know that their men are there – and they care.
- Desirability Women want to know that their men want them and find them desirable. They want to know that their men find them attractive and sexually appealing. (But most women don’t want to be ogled or groped.)
- Respect Aretha Franklin got it right: “All I’m askin’ is for a little respect when you get home.” She wants to be appreciated and valued for who she is – not just for what she does.
- Partnership The old patriarchal code is dead or dying, even in our current political climate. In fact, our current political struggles could be symptomatic of this doomed male dominance. Women are no longer resigned to playing second fiddle to their men. Partnership will replace patriarchy in the new world, or at least the new, emerging American order. Women will continue to need men – as committed partners who, as men, are both strong and sensitive.
Relationship Coaching for Positive Connection
The LATE Men can learn to do much more than to just avoid relationship distress. And they can do much more than simply please their women and make them happy. They can empower themselves to become more complete human beings – to live fuller, more meaningful lives with a fuller range of emotional expression and much more satisfying relationships. These are the most important tips for creating successful relationships with women:
- Empathy, Compassion, and Emotional Support It’s not that hard. Even the toughest, most emotionally disconnected LATE Man can learn how express loving kindness. Relationship coaching is highly effective in teaching men the most effective winning strategies with women. It’s all about connecting heart-to-heart. Men tend to react from their own narcissistic wounds, and they can learn to see things differently – to rationally understand that it’s not about them. It’s about women in distress – and women who need support and positive emotional connection. Then, the LATE Men can access their own internal sensitivities and simply express compassionate understanding and support.
- Reassurance It’s amazing how positive and responsive women can be when they feel safe. A little reassurance goes a long way. Just let her know that you’re there and you care. Not in a flippant or dismissive manner of course. Look into her eyes and hold her close – even if she’s a little resistant or angry (without forcing it!). Let her know that you love her, and that you’re there for her. Tell her that “Together we will work this out.”
- Show Her You Love Her Do you know her well? Most LATE Men don’t know a lot about what she likes, wants and needs. John Gottman developed a very effective Love Map exercise (also available in our Connections: A Workbook for Couples). Tuning in to these preferences and desires is a wonderful act of love that will pay many dividends. And just telling her every day that you love her – in person, in little love notes, texts, etc. – will result in a much improved relationship. Listen with interest when she talks; and let her know you understand and appreciate her feelings. And flowers, doing chores, or washing her car without being asked are acts of loving kindness that will be much appreciated.
- Respond – Don’t React You’re feeling blamed or attacked. She’s upset – maybe angry. Your natural response is to react, with defensiveness or anger. Don’t do it. Stop, pause, take a breath. Now do the opposite – instead of anger or shutting down, try empathy, loving kindness, or just ask her what she needs from you, gently and patiently. Set a loving boundary when she does cross that line (that is, when she’s truly offensive or abusive).
- Open Up Let her know about your authentic self. Practice the language of feelings: mad, sad, glad, ashamed and afraid. And know that your anger protects your more vulnerable feelings of sadness, shame and fear – and avoid blaming, critical, and defensive behavior. Be willing to let her see your internal self. Let her know what you need. Share your hopes and dreams as well as your fears. She will feel closer to you, more trusting, and more compassionate.
- Respect & Appreciation Isn’t that what you want from her? Start with the belief that she loves you and that she’s doing the best she can. Just like you. Let her know you appreciate all that she does and respect her uniqueness and individuality. Treat her like she’s your best friend. You don’t have to agree with everything, but respect and appreciation goes a long way.
- Partnership You’re not the boss. There’s no place for domination and control in the new world order. Women have the same rights as you and are just as equal. Millennials have it right –they are much more egalitarian in their relationships and marriage than any other generation in our history. And they report much more relationship and life satisfaction. Let her influence you and your decisions – this is one of the most important keys to a successful partnership.
The Who's In Charge series is the foundation for understanding the LATE Men concept. The LATE Men articles follow.