Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Page from Men: The Missing Owner's Manual

I was asked about why men would give up sex in a relationship. There are two groups of answers I think, one is that he has found some other direction to put his energy: career, hobby, or other relationship. The other is that he's been unmanned in some way: medical, personal, or worldly. I'm going to talk about the second here.

In the first article of this series I made a reference to beating a man's manhood out of him. It can be done, but the cost is, well, what makes him a man. Sexual functioning is part of that. The most common culprit for beating a man's manhood out of him is... himself. Followed by the world and the women in his life. Often it is a team effort, where man makes bad decisions, the world makes him pay for those decisions, and then the women in his life never let him forget it.

That means that there are things that you need to be looking out for.

On thing is something simple, look out after his health. Men are not very good at this in general. Part of it is toughness, part of it is they don't see details, and part of it is the worry that the medical system makes them less in control. And part of it is being lazy. Not all men are like this, some are the other way too much, and some are good at keeping an eye on weight, not smoking and drinking in reasonable limits.

That's the easy one. Now let me get to a harder one. You know, in three thousand years of literature I've studied, I've never run across a text that was called In Praise of Nagging. On the contrary, anti-nagging bits are found in some of the oldest works we have. A few things are clear. If nagging worked, then we'd live in a cleaner world. If telling people to stop nagging worked, there wouldn't be the constant reminders not to do it.

So it's something we have to live with, but it is also something that is clearly toxic when it fills too much of a relationship. That's why I am not going to say not to nag. You won't listen to that any more than he listens to you when you nag. Nagging makes you sound childish. It disempowers. So when is the time to nag? When you don't want to be listened to, and when you want him to come in and rescue you when it is all done. Seriously. Only nag when you want to seem more helpless, and you then are going to ask him nicely to do something after admitting that, well, the big oaf put something on the top shelf and you can't get it. Really. What I am saying is that nagging is something that is like venting. We all do it, we all need to do it, but it doesn't accomplish very much by itself. The way to make nagging productive is to look at yourself through his eyes. In those eyes you are less adult and less attractive when you nag, so the thing to do is to be attractively sweet and vulnerable afterwards.

Nagging over the course of days and weeks can get things done, but it has high costs. It's a trap early, when things are easy, the sex is hot and frequent, and the dreams are big. But men are trainable, and you train yours. Train him to believe that walking through the door means nagging first, and he will dread the door, you, and anything you describe as "communication." Think about it this way, would you want him to come home, and instantly tell you that you look fat? I don't know anyone who likes this kind of thing. So don't start with it.

Then there is the world. This is really hard.

You see, no matter who you are, unless you are so fortunate that the waters part before your feet in the morning, there will be ups and downs. There will be days when he will be corrosively angry, and spewing such pain and rage that it will be impossible to even think of the other side. Then is not the moment to tell him it is his fault. Never side with the world first.

The best way to deal with this is avoid it, and avoiding bad decisions means being educated about money, since this is the source of most bad decisions by both men and women. Fear in excess of risk, and greed in excess of potential gain. When your man has a money idea, then the thing to do is not argue with him or play "devil's advocate." This is because the more you argue the devil's advocate, the more he will be committed to it.

Instead, use the Together principle: do things together in a way that engages his masculinity, and leads to results that are good for both of you. In this case, go to the book store, dig in. Constantly ask him to explain things, apologize for being slow to understand. Find the killer arguments in the books, present passages and say "what do you think of this?"

Because, often, the difference between a bad idea happening and one not happening is research, and as often the difference between a good idea and a bad one, is how you do it. In this it is important to remember that with money, be goal focused. The more you focus on process, on requirments, the more you will seem fearful, and the more he will brush off your objections. The more you are goal focused, the more he will have to engage them. Let's say he wants to quit his job and start a business. This might be a good idea, but if you both don't know about it, it is almost certain to be a bad one.

Tell him over and over again that you need to understand "so that we can do this, and I can help you and support you." Even if you are bent on killing the idea before it gets going, let the facts and the numbers speak for themselves. Maybe it can work, maybe it can't. But if you are not open to being persuaded, if there is persuasion there, then he will close his heart to you.

On the other hand, there isn't much money to be made in dipping yaks in chocolate and selling them on the street in San Francisco. Stopping these kinds of stupid ideas is,h however, going to be a kind of enlightenment: it comes from within, and it flowers slowly.

About the men who have poured their energy into something else, there is not much to be done. But about the men who have been unmanned, there is a lot you can do. I don't think I need to remind you to look at the scale in the morning, if you want to know where some of his attention has gone. But there are many ways to be attractive, and weight and looks are not even the most important. The most important is making him feel that you respect and cherish and admire those things that make him feel different among men.

So if you are wondering where your man's sex drive went, first look for signs that he has found another place to put his energy, but then, look to whether he feels he is a man. Often the first was caused by the second.

1 comment:

  1. Good article, as usual.

    Admire. If you can't admire someone (male or female) more than you despise them, you don't belong with them. They will know, and they will usually wind up despising you in return. You don't always get from people what you give, but you rarely get from people what you don't give.

    Nagging: my personal response to nagging the first time I lived with someone was the silent thought of "what's wrong with you? In the time you spend nagging me you could have just done it."

    Of course, in retrospect the nagging was not about whatever the task was, but it was the wrong way to get what she really wanted from me, which wasn't really help doing some task she could usually have handled by herself.

    Live, learn. I'm enjoying these manuals. Some of it I know. Some of it I don't. Some of it I wish I'd read when I was 20.