Q. What are “men’s issues” and how can you help?
A. Cultural norms about men’s identity are ever-changing. As a result, the pressure
that men feel about how to be in the world is confusing. Giving men a safe place to
sort out how they’re feeling about all these issues is very important. This could include
connecting with others and learning how to form and maintain friendships.
Men have an old roadmap from their parents that no longer applies, and yet they have
modeled themselves after their parents unwittingly and unconsciously. What their
partners want from them and what the expectations are about being partners and
fathers is quite different than the previous generation. Men continue, over generations,
to struggle with identifying their feelings and expressing them appropriately.
Q. My husband has no friends outside of work. I’m worried about what will happen to his
social life when he retires. Can therapy help men learn how to make friends later in life?
A. Sometimes women want things for their partners that their partners don’t need.
Some men don’t feel a need for many friends. On the other hand, there are men who
are quietly lonely and don’t have tools to address their loneliness. If a man feels lonely,
therapy can help him connect with his feelings as well as help him strengthen his
social skills outside of a work setting.
Q. I was raised to believe that therapy is for the weak, but ignoring my feelings isn’t
helping me resolve issues with which I’m struggling. Do “real men” seek therapy?
A. Men have not been socialized to express feelings, so they struggle with feeling that it’s
OK to have them. When men struggle with any emotions, which come from PTSD, abuse,
depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges, they feel uncomfortable seeking
therapy because it conflicts with their perception of masculinity. While it has become more
socially acceptable for men to seek therapy, parts of mainstream America still frown on it.
Additionally, men who come to see me for couples’ therapy sometimes seek individual
therapy because they want to address issues interfering with a happy, healthy relationship
with their partner. They come to see that this can benefit all their relationships.