Becoming Your Spouse's Better Half (8 page)

BOOK: Becoming Your Spouse's Better Half
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Men’s Mode #4
 
Sustenance
 
Man Does Not Live by Bread Alone
 
 
 
Woman’s success in lifting men out of their way of life nearly resembling that of the beasts—who merely hunted and fished for food, who found shelter where they could in jungles, in trees, and caves—was a civilizing triumph.
Mary Ritter Beard,
Woman as Force in History
 
 
M
en have certain basic needs (besides sex) that keep them healthy both physically and emotionally. I think a man’s needs are less complicated than a woman’s, but they are still extremely important from the man’s perspective. Getting those basic needs met lays a foundation that men can rely on in order to focus on a healthy relationship. When their needs aren’t met, they are more apt to focus on those needs instead of on the relationship. To put it plainly, until a husband’s needs are met, he cannot satisfy his wife’s needs. Whether we like it or not, that seems to be true. Perhaps old survival instincts steer a man to focus on himself before being able to focus on others. Again, this may make sense in light of the fact that since the man is the historic sole protector and provider of a clan, his death or illness virtually guaranteed the death of his family. Therefore, it was only logical that a man’s needs were met first so that he could then fulfill the needs of others.
Besides sex, men must have these important needs “fed” in order to feel fulfilled and content. They may seem obvious, but they’re crucial to a man’s well-being.
Food
 
You’ll seldom find men attending an event that doesn’t offer food. The concession stands at major sporting events routinely draw more revenue than the paid attendance does. In fact, it’s common wisdom that if you want men to come to an event, you have to serve food—the more (and unhealthier) the better. (I can always tell when a woman has influenced the food at a men’s event—it includes fruit and low-calorie snacks.) And there is an old adage that our wise old grandmothers recited: the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
It might be my physiology, but much like a bear, I get pretty grouchy if I go too long between feedings. The truth is I can be downright surly and rude when I’m hungry. My wife has learned over the years that if she wants something, the best time to ask is
after
I’ve eaten, not before. When my hypoglycemia kicks in, I am less likely to be able to function well. I joke about feeling “faint” from hunger, but that analogy is not far from the truth. I have trouble concentrating on anything other than my stomach when I am hungry. Most men function better if they are fed regularly.
I teach classes in prison, and interestingly, one of the biggest complaints of the men is the quality of the food. You’d think with all the other issues they face on a daily basis (like lack of freedom, potential assaults on their person, etc.) that food would be lower down the list, but time and again I hear how bad the food is.
Being well fed on a consistent basis is a basic need for a man.
Shelter
 
Men need shelter as protection from the elements but also as a power-based showpiece to tell the world how successful they have been. Additionally, a man will generally try to appease his wife’s need and desire for a nice home to nest in. Beyond that, I don’t think men put all that much priority on the home.
However, men do enjoy having a clean and pleasant “castle” to come home to in order to relax and escape from the daily stress and pressure they face. A man likes a home that is calm and well ordered. Coming home to the chaos of screaming children and an angry wife is less than soothing to his psyche. Men in ancient times would just go back out hunting if faced with chaos around the cave. Men today often find ways to stay away from that environment—through extra work, hobbies, or even unhealthy activities.
Sleep
 
A lot of men do not get the sleep they need in order to perform at peak function. I often struggle sleeping at night because the stress and pressures of the day whirl through my mind like a cyclone, picking up speed the closer I come to sleep. Years of pacing the floor at night while my teenage daughter was out on dates have not helped my sleep cycle either.
Many men ignore the need for a proper amount of sleep each night. In the stresses of working and raising a family, it is easy to let sleep slide. Unfortunately, lack of sleep negatively affects many areas of a man’s life, including his ability to perform at his job, his physical health, his immune system and ability to regenerate lost functions, his mental health, and even his sexual performance.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found I need a power nap every so often, usually once an afternoon. A little fifteen- to twenty-minute nap and I am invigorated and ready to go. My agent’s wife, Becky, says she studied her husband and noted that if he lacks food or sleep, it affects his mood and ability to get things done. She makes sure he gets something to eat or a nap if he loses focus and has trouble paying attention to details.
A woman can help her husband by observing him and understanding his needs. She needs to get that “PhD” from studying her husband so she can understand what is best for him.
Emotional Support
 
A man needs a loving wife to take care of him. He needs the emotional nurturing only she can give him. Most men have a shell they present to the world that protects their fragile ego. That ego is fragile not because men are prideful (although some are) but because most of them secretly feel inadequate. Most men generally lower this shell (if just occasionally) only to the one person they trust in the entire world—their wife. It is why a man’s wife has the power to destroy him with her words or to empower him to greatness like no one else. Men almost never become vulnerable and trust anyone else by giving them that kind of power over them.
I’m not sure most men consciously recognize this need for emotional nurturing, but in their heart they know they need what a woman brings to the relationship. It is one of the reasons men can be such babies when they are sick—they desire that nurturing touch from a woman. And when the world is beating them up, they need the restorative healing that a woman’s touch brings. Her understanding and empathy is important in grounding them when the world crashes down on them.
A woman’s belief in a man empowers him like nothing else. His need for her respect and admiration is foundational in his self-esteem and belief in himself. God has empowered women with the ability to nurture men emotionally.
Balance
 
To be whole and healthy, a man needs to have balance in four major areas of his life. These four areas are connected and overlap one another. Most men do not recognize the connectedness and ignore at least one or more of these areas of their being, and therefore they are top-heavy or tilted in one direction. Being overfocused or underfocused on one or more areas means they are missing out on living a healthy life. For instance, a man who works too much ends up ignoring his family, possibly causing irreparable harm to the relational area of his life. Likewise, a man who spends too much time on hobbies or in school might miss out on several of the other important areas of his life.
The first aspect of this “consciousness” in a man is education. This includes the ability and willingness to be a lifelong learner by attending college or taking classes; reading books; listening to tapes; or attending workshops, seminars, and retreats. A man needs to continue to learn and be taught by other people in order to stimulate the portion of his personality that thirsts for wisdom and knowledge.
The second part of his entity is spiritual. A man needs to continue to draw into and be discipled toward a closer relationship with God. He needs an adventure in life that gives it significance. He needs to fight a battle between good and evil. He needs a mission. He needs to fulfill his duty to God by discovering and following his path in life. If the spiritual aspect of his being stagnates or is allowed to atrophy from idleness, then he will become myopic in his vision of life. Spirituality requires intentionality. If I am reading the Bible and praying on a daily basis—regardless of whether I “feel” close to God, or regardless of whether I am struggling with a tough situation—my mental, physical, and emotional health is always better.
The third area deals with the relationships of a man’s life. This includes a loving relationship with his wife and family. It involves having healthy friendships and mentors in his life. This area seems to be the one a man struggles the most with but may be the most important to his well-being. A good portion of this book is dedicated to helping a man fulfill and satisfy this need in his life.
Lastly, a man needs exercise to ensure that his physical health stays balanced and stimulated. My daughter is much like me in that we are both kinesthetic/tactile learners and very physical beings. We are athletic and stimulated by physical activity. If I do not participate in physical exercise for an extended period of time, say a week or more, my body fails to release certain endorphins and other chemicals that give me a healthy mental and psychological framework. Lack of exercise also causes me to have trouble sleeping, which can contribute to other problems such as depression. Consequently, if I am not exercising regularly, I am often grouchy, stressed-out, and full of anxiety. Because I recognize this, I try to maintain a consistent exercise regime that helps battle the effects of stress and keeps this segment of my being in balance.
Work is also a part of this aspect to a man’s character or essence that needs to be balanced, but we talked about that in another chapter, so I have skipped over it here.
Here’s how these all work together. Physical exercise helps maintain balance in a man’s mental, emotional, and psychological health. Maintaining good relationships also helps with his emotional health, and continuing to learn and educate himself helps with his mental health. Friendships and other relationships stretch and grow his emotional side and keep that portion of his soul fine-tuned.
Most men either do not know or do not recognize this need for balance in their lives. And because men are generally less intuitive and in touch with their beings and bodies than women, they need to understand what makes them tick in order to maintain a healthy presence. A woman can use her intuitive gifts to help her man see when he lacks balance in one or more areas of his life. Her encouragement to participate in activities that develop balance in these areas of his life is crucial to his well-being and, ultimately, their relationship.
Time to Himself
 
A man needs time to himself. Often when he comes home from work, it takes a while for him to disengage from work mode and transfer into family mode. Time to himself helps him facilitate this change. Additionally, when he has been under a lot of stress and pressure, he may need to get away by himself to feel grounded and get his bearings back.
I frequently speak in front of large crowds. Afterward many people usually want my attention. My wife thrives in that environment. While I function well in that environment for short periods of time, I always need to get away by myself in order to recharge and decompress. If I am forced to continually be “on,” I start shutting down. If that continues, I may even become rude toward people (or at least they may perceive my actions that way). My wife knows this and helps me take a short break in our hotel room or some other venue where I can be alone and regroup.
Down Time
 
Vegetate:
1) to lead a passive existence without using one’s body or mind, 2) to engage in relaxing or passive activities, such as watching television, 3) to grow exuberantly or with proliferation
 
The word
vegetate
has two meanings—it can mean either to germinate and grow or to stagnate. In order to recharge their batteries, men often need to just sit and vegetate. Women frequently recharge themselves by talking with another woman. Just listen to a woman who has been deprived of female companionship for a while when she gets around another woman. She is like a dry sponge soaking up life-giving conversation. She often can’t talk fast enough to satisfy her need for conversation.
Because they are wired that way, many women feel they are helping their husbands to de-stress and recover by getting them to talk. Unfortunately, that often has just the opposite effect. Men frequently recharge by cocooning, or pulling into themselves. Conversation is work for most men. Most women do not understand this, but they need to know that it is okay for their husbands to just sit and do nothing occasionally. There may be some logical explanations for this conservation of energy.
Hunter-Gatherer
 
For thousands of years a man’s main role in life was to hunt game to provide food for his family. Because this was a life-or-death situation, every hunt was extremely important—no food meant they literally starved to death. Hence a man needed to be prepared and energized to be able to perform his duty as a hunter whenever an opportunity presented itself. If a man was so tired, run down, injured, sick, or preoccupied that he missed a kill, his family might perish. And the longer or more often he failed, the harder it was to succeed as his strength and stamina diminished. Therefore, whenever a man was not hunting, he was generally conserving his physical and mental energy. Often he sat around staring into a campfire, replaying and learning from previous hunts while resting, preparing, and reenergizing himself for the next hunt.
BOOK: Becoming Your Spouse's Better Half
10.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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