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The Invisible Struggle of Married Men

Why aren't we talking about "voicelessness" in married men?

Harriet Lerner
Source: Harriet Lerner

So much attention has been focused on the fact that women don't have a strong, clear, assertive voice to bring to relationships. This is often true in the workplace.

Interestingly, however, men lose their voice in marriage far more than women do. They may distance or stonewall, telling themselves, “It’s not worth the fight.” They may remove themselves emotionally from the relationship, and then feel devastated when a partner leaves them “out of the blue.”

My own research on marriage and coupling up indicates this: Many men tolerate too much criticism, intensity, and negativity from their partner, rather than taking a firm and loving position on their own behalf.

Many men haven’t found their voice to say to their partner, “I’m here to talk to you about absolutely anything. But you need to approach me with respect. Let’s set a time on Sunday where you can tell me your concerns, and I’ll do my best to really listen.”

Instead the man may distance and stonewall. He may close the door on the conversation by announcing, "I don't want to talk about it." This only invites his partner to anxiously pursue and, when that fails (which it will), to coldly withdraw. This dance is a good recipe for divorce.

It's never too late to use your relationship as a laboratory to experiment with new behaviors. Nothing is more important than learning to have a clear, strong voice with a partner, especially when you feel angry, stuck, frustrated, or desperate.

And remember this: Anything you need to say can be said with kindness. Any firm limit or boundary you need to set can be set with kindness. No exceptions!

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