Let’s all take a deep breath. (Like for real, please take a deep breath.) The subject of talking about men’s emotional health…well let’s be honest: is just not talked about. That is increasingly part of the problem. Ironically, we talk about everything else in this world, except this utterly important issue.
“Women are not helping” may sound a little harsh to one’s ears, but in some very important ways it is devastatingly true. I had to acknowledge that I had been one of these women. As painful as that was at the time to admit—after all, I cared about these men and I was trying in many ways to be supportive—I made myself see the significance and power behind my new, honest perspective. In this way, I moved past my inner wall and was able to keep learning.
The problem has developed from a couple of different angles. One thing I notice as I talk with women about my work with men is that they use this exact line:

“My husband would never talk to a coach.”

I hear it so often that now I just wait for it.
Women are convinced that the men in their lives will not talk to a coach—someone who specializes in helping men feel better and move forward in their lives.
It is even more fundamental than that though. Women are convinced that men are not going to talk. Period. It’s another one of those times, where our belief feeds into the problem. By expressing that belief, they reinforce the cycle that men cannot grow and have strong connections, especially through communication.
Unfortunately, women have been living in a society where men have not been “really” talking. As a result, women have experienced a lot of pain at not being fully connected to the important men in their lives. For some women it’s under the surface—their men shy away from addressing certain things head on and these subtle evasive maneuvers build up over time. For other women it has become an open and complete disconnect which can feel like a chasm in its absoluteness. In either scenario, women have been hurt. When that happens, women tend to feed into a cycle of doubt regarding men’s capacity to feel and connect, which steers them towards blame—blaming men for the feelings and expectations that have led them to reflect this behavior in the first place…which then can only create further emotional disconnect.
Furthermore, in some cases, women might even be angry that men are talking to someone else, and not to them. That anger can make men paralyzed and creates distrust in relationships. So even though we think we are helping men climb out of this emotional hole, we really aren’t. We are quietly perpetuating these skewed standards of society because we want to accept men “as they are” (as a stereotype that both men and women have wrongly saddled men with), and in turn, squirreling away inner resentment and distrust over these stereotypes (that we helped to perpetuate). Coaching helps step outside the strains of predefined roles and stereotypes so I can help men find strategies to improve their connections with the people (and the women) they love.
Everything I have experienced while working with men shows me that men are the complete opposite of what our society portrays them as. They want to talk and they want to be heard. They have a deep desire to have connections with others around them. Beyond that, they also want to express who they are, without others being critical. Coaching helps men navigate and take ownership of their own wellbeing.

So how can women help?

• Listen intently when men are sharing experiences and feelings. It may not seem like it happens often at first, but when it does, pay attention.
• Make it known that you believe in them, especially when they try something new. This is already an intimidating experience for them—as it would be for anyone. Make sure they know that you are with them through it.
• Remember that your support means the world to them. You are very important to them and having you as a cheerleader makes them feel ten feet tall.
• Remember that being critical stings both of you. This is the person that you care about and you have chosen to share your affections with. Attacking them unnecessarily reflects back on your own self-worth and self-affection, not to mention injures the trust in your relationship.
• Take a deep breath when they share something that makes you uncomfortable or triggers your doubt or anger. Remember they are sharing with you and that is important. Think first if it is actually about them before projecting it onto yourself.
• Remember each of us is still learning to embrace our full capacity. Be patient with the inherent learning curve to self-understanding.
• Remember to be kind to yourself. You are not the enemy. You are the ally. Don’t view yourself negatively, but rather, think how you can bring your amazing and positive traits to the table.
Together we are learning to “unlearn” ways of life that are no longer serving us. The bottom line is: we each need to take steps to help each other. There is nothing more powerful than seeing these cycles get broken. It means families are strengthened, people feel better, and relationships can become amazing!
Is it worth the work? I have no doubt that it is.

Read more about the previous “Men are Dying” posts here.