When I got married for the first time, nobody offered me a handbook describing how to be a man in matrimony. I had no idea what it truly meant to be a “good husband.” All I had was experience watching my dad be a husband to my mother, and my grandfather be a husband to my grandmother. So I tried that.
Despite my good intentions - I found out that the world has changed a lot. When I was a young boy, my mom stayed home to raise my brother and sister and me. My dad went to work. His salary paid the mortgage and the bills. This was my model for how to interact with women.
Today’s man who is a dad and a member of the workforce faces new challenges… dual career families, women as breadwinners, men wanting to spend more time with their families and wanting to be successful at work.
Men face a double-bind that they might not be able to admit, let alone address. Yet there is an opportunity for everyone to be better off if men and women can come together in gender partnership both at home and work. This will require some different ways of being for us, guys.
A divorce “woke me up” and my life as a conscious and aware man began. When I started on my journey of gender partnership, marrying for a 2nd time, and eventually working with women, I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I learned the hard way. Once again, I had no handbook, but this time was different. I was more aware and open to the idea of learning about my emotions and blindspots.
The women around me didn’t let me off the hook. They gave me honest feedback. The more work I did around connecting to my emotions, the more my relationships and opportunities prospered.My hunch is that you didn’t receive a handbook describing how to be a man either - if there ever were handbooks.
So what’s a guy to do in today’s world where the game has changed? One thing for sure is that the old tricks don’t work anymore and a new skill set is needed. There is a saying, “Home is where the heart is.”
The saying I invite you to consider is “The Heart is where the Power is”
The Heart is Where the Power Is
Winning at home and work requires being a good partner to your spouse and the women you work with. To be a partner requires knowing yourself better. Part of knowing yourself better is connecting to your heart, which will enable you to have Curiosity, Compassion and Courage.
You may not know it consciously but you are likely already doing some of what I am suggesting in your personal relationships. The opportunity is to take this same ability into the workplace.
Curiosity about yourself, what makes you do what you do (your beliefs), the feelings that correspond (sadness, fear, shame, anger, joy) and how your actions affect others (impact). If you are like most men, the idea of connecting to your feelings and the stories and behaviors that go with them is unmanly. As a result you repress them and don't experience them. The problem with that way of being as a man is that everyone loses: you and the women in your life.
I say BS to that and encourage you to toss out this outdated masculine norm that says “men can’t feel their feelings or be emotional” that was handed down to us.
Your heart is where you feel, and us guys will do just about anything when we feel fear, sadness or anger. Your daughter wants to be a CEO? No problem. Your daughter wants to start a technology company? No problem. The idea that she may not have the same opportunity because of her gender? Are you feeling yet?
Maybe you don’t have a daughter, maybe you have a sister, spouse, mom, or friend that has a story about being short-changed because she is a woman. All of these scenarios - if you are human - produce emotions that, if felt, can move you into action. As opposed to overreaction which is often what happens when we don’t make a commitment to being emotionally literate.
My invitation to you is to develop a healthy relationship with your feelings. The upside is tremendous:
More partnership in the workplace
More business success
Hint: You can’t do this alone.
Suggestion: Connect with a buddy or two and have honest conversations about the kind of husband and father you want to be. Get curious about how much of “how you are being” is similar to or opposite from your father figure. Is it working? For you? For them? Ask your wife/partner for honest feedback and be willing to hear it. Notice the feelings.
Compassion is defined as concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. The only real way we as humans can truly have compassion is if we are connected to our own feelings. Us guys have male privilege which affords us a different experience in life relative to women which is a simple accident of birth; most of us have no idea what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a woman in life and the workplace. Take your curiosity to the women you know and work with and get interested in their experiences - this will bring up feelings again… and I encourage you to allow them. Most guys I have worked with are able to be allies once they have learned of the injustices and unfairness many women experience.
Compassion for ourselves as men is necessary because we have and will make mistakes. Maybe we know already of women that have had it rough. The key here is what can we do as men once our compassion has been evoked?
Hint: Your ability to connect to your heart and feel emotions will aid in your compassion for both yourself and others.
Suggestion: Ask 3 women in your life/work what it’s like to be a woman at work and LISTEN. Notice what you feel as a result of what you hear.
Now that you have taken your curiosity into your heart and have learned both about yourself and the women in your life, the answer to the question “what’s a guy to do?” should be self-evident.