According to world-renowned marriage expert, Dr. John Gottman,
“What men do in relationships is, by a large margin, the crucial factor that separates a great relationship from a failed one.”
Yet most relationship advice has been written by and for women. I have been a marriage and family therapist for more than fifty years and early in my career I made the same mistake of neglecting men and focusing on women. I will also admit that I went through two marriages and divorces before I decided to learn what it took to have a great marriage.
For us, the third time really was the charm. My wife, Carlin, and I have been married now for 43 wonderful years and I’d like to share some of the important things we have learned along the way:
- Join a Men’s Group
After I finished my 15th book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, I thought it would be my last book. But Carlin challenged me to write another one.
“With all the conflict between men and women, you need to write a book that guides men to be the best they can be and give them the secrets of how to have a great relationship that lasts.”
I took her advice (she’s a very intelligent woman and I’ve learned to listen when she speaks) and wrote 12 Rules for Good Men. Here’s what I said about Rule #1: Join a Men’s Group.
“Looking back on our heritage as men and our lives as hunter-gatherers over the last two million years, one of the things that stands out to me is that men spent considerable time in small groups with other men.”
We can’t learn about what it means to be a man, what it means to be a good man, or how to have a meaningful relationship that lasts without knowing ourselves deeply. And we can’t do that unless we are in a men’s group. Carlin will tell you that one of the reasons we have had a successful 43-year marriage is because I have been in a men’s group for 44 years.
- Get some Man Therapy
Like me, many men grew up believing we should be strong, independent, and work out problems on our own. Psychotherapy was seen as something women might need, but real men figured things out themselves. Fortunately, I sought out help and found a good therapist. But men’s resistance to therapy isn’t just about guys being stubborn and bull-headed. Too often, therapy is practiced in a way that is more conducive to what works for women, not men.
Man Therapy® was created by a multidisciplinary team of mental health experts, marketing strategists, and suicide-prevention experts to make mental health approachable by using humor to break stigma and help men take action with tools and resources. The best part about it? It works. The results from a 4-year, $1.2 million study, funded by the CDC, show that Man Therapy® not only helps reduce depression, suicide risk, and poor mental health days, it also improves help-seeking behavior in working-aged men.
I met Joe Conrad and his team that created Man Therapy three years ago and have been impressed with their ability to create an innovative, engaging, and helpful way for men and their families to get help. They focus on men’s mental, emotional, and relational health and more than 375,000 men have taken their “head inspection.” Check it out here.
- Talk to a woman who specializes in helping men with their relationships.
If you want to improve your relationships with women, and every man regardless of his sexual orientation, should do so, it helps to talk to an experienced woman. Shana James is an expert counselor and coach who specializes in working with men. She is the author of Honest Sex: A Passionate Path to Deepen Connection and Keep Relationships Alive.
My friend and colleague, Ed Frauenheim, co-author of Reinventing Masculinity: The Liberating Power of Compassion and Connection, says,
“Shana James is a blend of the Dalai Lama and Dr. Ruth.”
When you spend time with Shana you will understand that Ed was perceptive and accurate in his assessment.
Her TEDX talk, “What a 1000 Men’s Tears Reveal About the Crisis Between Men and Women,” has been viewed by men and women throughout the world. I’ve worked with Shana over the years and she offers a unique and valuable perspective on how to improve our relationships.
Although Shana works with men of all ages, she has a unique set of skills and experience that help her work effectively with mid-life men.
“While dating and relationships are never easy, after 40 there are more physical and emotional challenges,”
“It is also, however, the best time of life to create deeper connections, more supportive dynamics, and a satisfying sex-life (that doesn’t have to fade as you age).”
Men, check out her new online Masterclass specifically for you guys who have already done some loving and living. It’s called 3 Skills That Create the Best Love and Sex of Your Life After 40. You can learn about it here: https://shanajamescoaching.com/bestloveandsex/. And you can’t beat the price. It’s free!
- Learn why disillusionment is the key to real lasting love.
In my book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, I describe the following stages:
- Falling in Love.
- Building a Life Together.
- Real Lasting Love.
- Find Your Calling as a Couple.
Like many people, I thought there were only two stages for having a great relationship. First, the magic moment where we meet that special someone and fall in love. Second, we become a couple and live happily ever after. However, like many whose marriage hit the rocks and disillusionment overcame us, I got divorced, became depressed, decided I had chosen the wrong partner, and eventually healed the wounds and tried again.
Unfortunately, like many, I didn’t yet understand the five stages of love and my second marriage also ended in divorce. But, I finally got wise, I mean wise in truly understanding the hidden truths about sex, love, relationships, and marriage. My wife, Carlin, and I have now been married for forty-three years and the key is understanding the real purpose of Disillusionment.
The evolutionary purpose of falling in love is to bond two people together so they will mate, have sex, and produce children that grow up to have children of their own. It isn’t to make us happy, fulfill our lives, or help us to develop a lasting intimate relationship with a partner. In fact, all of us project our illusions of love on to our partners. When they don’t live up to our projected expectations we feel we have been cheated. We become disillusioned, and often leave the relationship.
But the real purpose of stage 3 is for us to go deeper, to let go of our illusions, and heal our wounds from the past, so that we can love the real person and be loved in return. If we have the courage to stay with it, we go on to find real lasting love and learn to create a calling as a couple.
- Find the one thing all women look for in a man and learn to develop it in your life.
John Gottman, PhD, is the guy who is known for being able to predict with 94 percent accuracy whether a couple will get divorced. John has also had a successful, long-term marriage with his wife Julie Schwartz Gottman, PhD. What many people do not know is that in addition to being the world’s leading marriage researcher, he has distinguished himself by being in many disastrous relationships with women before he met Julie.
As he says in his book, The Man’s Guide to Women: Scientifically Proven Secrets from the “Love Lab” About What Women Really Want, written with Julie and two other colleagues, he says,
“My history with women is mostly a field littered with the corpses of failed relationships.”
Like John, I haven’t always had a successful love life. If you visit me at MenAlive, I will greet you with my welcome video, “Confessions of a Twice-Divorced Marriage Counselor.”
I highly recommend The Man’s Guide To Women to everyone regardless of whether you are male or female or how you identify. You will learn a great deal including “The One Thing All Women Look For in a Man.”
“What is the one number one thing that women are looking for in a man?” asks Dr. Gottman. “Is it six-pack abs, a six-figure bank account, or someone who is handsome?”
“No, no, and no,” he says. “The number one thing women look for is simply this: trustworthiness. That’s right trustworthiness.”
This may seem obvious, and most guys will say, “Of course, I’m trustworthy.” But it isn’t that simple.
“What trustworthiness looks like in dating and mating,” says Dr. Gottman, “is this: You are who you say you are and you do what you say you are going to do. It’s about reliability, accountability, and showing up just as you are.”
Being trustworthy is not a decision we make and forget about. It is a life-long journey, a hero’s journey really, to continue to work on ourselves throughout our lives. And here’s the bottom line. We can’t do it alone. That’s why we need to be in a men’s group, get some man therapy, talk to a woman who specializes in helping men with their relationships, and have the courage to go through disillusionment to find real lasting love.
I look forward to accompanying you on the journey. Come visit me at MenAlive. If you’d like to receive my free weekly newsletter with announcements of upcoming events and my latest articles, you can do so here.
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