Good relationships foster a good life.
A seventy-five year Harvard study of 724 men, half from Harvard’s sophomore class and half from the poorest neighborhoods in Boston, found out that a good healthy long-lived life depended on good satisfying high-quality relationships including partners, family, friends, and community. This means loneliness is toxic and often kills men (1 in 5) in their late forties and early fifties by ill health or suicide.
Married men in good happy marriages fared the best.
It turned out to be important to have a partner to depend on, without question. The men were happier, healthier, and lived longer – with healthier brains. It turns out the men suffered more memory loss in high conflict marriages.
So, why can’t middle-aged men find happiness?
Once upon a time, the fairytale goes, a distraught powerless virgin maiden, possibly a princess, must be saved by a knight, possibly a prince, whom she marries and lives with happily ever after. This storyline permeates our culture. Women are helpless to change their lot in life and must be saved by a man.
Our hero then marries her. He indoctrinates her to the fact that his powerful logical male mind always rules over and controls over her emotional scattered female mind. He then justifies her subjugation by the centuries-old belief that women were things to be owned and used, infused, damaged and abused.
As in all else, things change, and no change has baffled men more than accomplished women.
Gone is the mythic “little woman” – the perfect wife who stays at home and minds her business while the “Head of the House” works and only does manly things. This means the little woman does all the housekeeping, shops for food, takes care of the family’s clothing, and births and raises their children. In the meantime, he is free to work, golf, have a few beers with the guys, watch sports from his special chair in the company of snacks, drinks, and a few friends, all of which she’s arranged. And, after she puts the kids to bed, cleans up, and he wakes up, makes herself porn-star attractive for sex.
The new paradigm is an equal partnership.
Men and women work. They both have tough days, angst over expectations, worries over promotions, stretching paychecks, and finding time. Add to that, more likely than not, there is a pet and at least one child. Similar situations used to be called baggage. Now it’s called responsibility.
Men: “Ugh. Who wants to work that hard? Shoulder responsibility? I can have sex anytime I want. Two minutes on TINDER and I’m good for the evening. When I get home, Mom will have done my laundry and put a cold beer in the fridge.”
All is good until the day men find their relationships are gone. Parents inaccessible. Friends busy with their own lives. Job meaningless and stressful, if there is a job. Our society puts a premium on youth, ignoring experience, wisdom, and perspective.
From Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster’s Me and Bobby McGee, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” At twenty-five, maybe a good thing. At fifty, it can be deadly.
Invisibility starts around forty-five to sixty-four. This is the critical time when men age-out socially and women age-out visually. For women,
For Females, the transition is a bit easier. Women have cultivated a community that survives ageism. Women share their stories and support each other through loss and challenges. After fifty, women are still working to support themselves. While they may or may not be looking to jump into marriage, many would welcome a partner.
For Males, it’s harder. Men become invisible to the prized younger women in the dating scene and find they are targeted to be replaced by younger workers. Many take these two signs as evidence of their disposability which initiates a spiral into depression. The isolation feeds excruciating loneliness. Out of a Total population for 45-64 men set at 39,743,543 in the 2010 census, the CDC reports suicide rates per 100,000 of 30.7 for white men or 12,201 people and 10.3 for black men or 4093 people, 9.4 for white women=7,660, and 1.6 for black women=1303].
Men who get help find the strength to explore the rest of their life.
In my experience, men return to the social scene, embracing archaic belief systems and believing they are entitled to (and envision themselves with) the perfect woman. Men have no problem seeing women ten years or more their junior, with Olympian bodies: “Let me buy you a drink.” They avoid women their own age because they feel there’s no need to look in a mirror. Women over sixty aren’t even seen. I know that because when a man bumps into me, they say, “So sorry. Didn’t see you.”
If men haven’t been able to hook a “babe,” then it’s on to “care-taker.” During one internet date, the gentleman, who lied about his age and mobility, said, “I love to take bus tours but I can’t manage the steps very well. We’d travel, and you could help me navigate.” He was truly annoyed I wasn’t interested in a second meeting.
The Point: Relationships are the cornerstone of life.
Whether it’s friends, partner, family, and/or interests circles, relationships are critical. They pull you out of your “room” and add color to the emotional, intellectual, and creative self.
Dating is tough. No one likes to be rejected. Everyone likes to be seen and heard through conversations at bars, meet-ups, social interest groups, seminars, and classes. Basically, somewhere that strips artifice and lets one be authentic to make organic connections.
Life changes over the years.
Relationships are no longer borne out of frustration. Rather than need a partner, the new emphasis is wanting a partner who is comfortable in their own skin; has nothing to prove; dealt with the past; lives in the moment; has interests, curiosity, and a positive “can do” attitude. Add mutual attraction, an ability to laugh at life’s absurdities, and respect. The result is an energized, relationship that enhances emotional and physical health.
Put down your phone and shut down your TV and computer. Go out, open your eyes, have conversations, and build relationships. It’s the healthiest thing you can do for yourself.
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