And yet, rates of divorce (and the number of affairs) remain as high as ever.
In this episode, I’ll explain why I think this is happening, PLUS what we can do about it.
Listen to the Full Episode:
What You’ll Learn In This Episode:
- Why men are being called to AWAKEN inside marriage relationships
- How your over-functioning is making things worse (and how to STOP!)
- The idea that completely changed the way I relate to my husband
Featured On The Show:
Struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage and you’re serious about finding that answer?
Book a Truth & Clarity Session with a member of my team. We’ll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there’s a fit for you and I to work together so you can make - and execute - the RIGHT decision for YOU and your marriage.
Welcome to The Loving Truth podcast, where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. And now, your host: relationship expert and certified master life coach, Sharon Pope.
Hello, loves. This is Sharon Pope, and this is The Loving Truth. Ladies, today we are gonna talk about men. Yeah, we're gonna talk about men.
Now, here's my disclaimer before I get into any of this, and that is what we're going to be talking about and what I'm going to be describing is not every man on the planet, all right? This is a broad generalization based upon what I've seen from women who are struggling in their marriages and the repetitive stories that I hear about what is causing that disconnection in their relationship as it relates to their husbands.
It's not the total source of disconnection, but when I start asking them about their husbands, they give me a sense of this. So this is not every man on the planet. There are some really good men out there, and by good, I mean emotionally intelligent and self-aware enough to be in healthy relationship with another human being.
There are plenty of those good men out there. I've worked with some of them. Frankly, I'm married to one of them. So they exist. So we're not talking about every man on the planet. And for the most part, today I am going to be speaking to ladies, since that is my primary audience, knowing full well that there's probably gonna be some men that tune into this.
And that's cool too, because I am never a coach that gets into male bashing. If we go down the male-bashing route, I'm not actually helpful to either of you. And it just keeps you stuck, because I bet you've done that. I bet you've gotten together with your girlfriends, and you have lots of times gone down the male-bashing path, but it's not helpful to move you forward. It just makes you feel a little better and a little more self-righteous. So that's not what we're going to do.
But the reason I wanted to talk to you today about men is because I think that men are being called to awaken in a new way. And what do I mean by that? I mean they're being asked to do things that men in general have not been asked to do inside their marriages, right? Invest in the relationship, not just rely on your spouse to take care of everything, not just under-function while you watch your wife over-function. We're asking them to learn, to communicate better, to be open, to understand their emotions, and be able to articulate that inside the safety of the relationship.
We're also asking them, very frankly, to have an eye on our needs as well, and not just their needs. And I'm not just talking about in the bedroom, but that is a big piece of it. And you might be wondering, well, why now? Because I really have a heart for the experience of what men are going through right now.
Now, I also don't let them off the hook just the same way I don't let women off the hook when it comes to relationships. I think we both can do better, but why would I say that now? Men are being called to step up. They're being called to do more. They're being asked to awaken as it relates to relationships.
And the reason for that is because historically these things have not been a requirement in order to maintain their marriage, right? Their wife might be unhappy, she might nag him, she might complain about it, but it wasn't a requirement to remain in the relationship, whereas now, not in every relationship, but in many relationships, it is. Because women no longer have to remain in their relationship in the same way and for the same reasons as prior generations. Now they have choice, and they want it to feel good, and I can't blame them for that.
So here's the deal. The reason I can say that is because divorces are consistently going up. In the US we have a 50% divorce rate, and that's for first marriages. It's a 64% divorce rate on second marriages, and a 73% divorce rate on third marriages. So a 50 to 73% divorce rate, and that includes mature marriages that are for couples over 50 years old. Their divorce rates have doubled in the last 25.
So divorces are going up, and two-thirds of the time, those divorces are being driven by women. That was not the case a generation ago or two generations ago. Even if women could divorce, oftentimes, it wasn't a practical option for them. My mother, it wasn't a practical option for her. My grandmother, that wasn't even an option on the table. She wasn't allowed to divorce. The government wouldn't allow her to divorce. So now, in just two generations, we're at a place where the power dynamic in the relationship is changing, where women used to have no freedom, but they knew exactly what their role was inside that marriage.
Today, we have lots of freedom. Women, don't we? We can stay or we can go. We have lots of freedom. We don't have a lot of role clarity inside the relationship and the expectations that we have for our spouses today as women are very, very different than the expectations that our mothers had in their generation or our grandmothers had in their generation.
Now, the other thing that I want to note is that affairs have also gone up. While men have been having affairs since the beginning of time, really since affairs were actually a thing, it's been pretty consistent over the last several decades, where 50 to 60% of men who are in a relationship have had affairs. I think that number is understated because this is just people who will, number one, admit to it on a survey and admit to what they did was in fact an affair. And we don't have a common definition of what an affair is. Is sending a naked picture of yourself to someone else considered an affair or cheating? Right? So we don't have a common definition. So that's why I say I think that number is understated, but let's just go with it. So 50 to 60% of men inside of marriages will have affairs.
Ladies, we're not far behind. We are now at 40 to 50% of the time, women are having affairs as well. Again, an enormous shift compared to generations before our mothers and our grandmothers; most of them were not having affairs or even multiple affairs. And this is what I mean, that the dynamic inside of a marriage has completely changed in the last generation, call it the last 40 years, right? And this is why I can say I have a heart for the male experience here, because think about it. Who taught our men what it looks like to be a man? What it looks like to be a husband, and what it looks like to be a father? Who taught them? The primary male in their experience growing up, which oftentimes is their dad. But maybe it's not their dad; maybe it's a grandfather or something like that. But that's who taught them what it looks like to be a man and what it looks like to be a husband and what's expected of you.
Except if you think about what was expected of men inside of a relationship just one generation ago, it looks pretty different, doesn't it? I make a joke about this, that when I was born, my father was across the street getting a sandwich, and he never got up in the middle of the night and changed a diaper. I don't think he ever changed my diaper. So it's just very, very different today. We want men to be equal partners with us in terms of taking care of the responsibilities that the two of us decided to create together, right? There's still a little bit of this residue when kids are still “women's work.” The home is still women's work, the family functions, and the social calendar – all that is still women's work.
It doesn't have to be that way, but it does require us to have some open, honest conversations. But this is why I can say – who taught them how to be a man and how to be a husband and how to be a father – that example is no longer really relevant in today's day and age and what is expected of men today.
And there was no training for them. There was no one who pulled him aside and said, “Hey, the rules have changed. And now in order for you to maintain a healthy, loving, connected relationship that lasts until death, you're going to have to step up in a new way, and your marriage is going to look very different than mine, son.” No one has pulled them aside and said that.
And so what's happening is that they're on the receiving end two-thirds of the time of their wife coming to them and saying, “I think we're all done here.” And so that is why I can say they're being called higher, and they're being called to awaken. And if they don't, many marriages are ending. So this is a really important time for men.
Now, the other thing that I wanna talk about is, look, everyone wants to be understood, but very few people actually want to take the time to understand someone else's experience. Now, as women, I would say, because we're more compassionate and empathetic, that comes naturally for us. We might be a little bit more willing, or we might try to do that.
But when it comes to men, I think we can agree that we're not overly anxious to try to understand the male experience. What we want is to change the male experience. We don't really want to understand it. I always say everyone wants to be heard. No one wants to listen. Everyone wants to be loved unconditionally. But we come to our relationships with a boatload of conditions, right? And it's the same way here. Everyone wants to be deeply understood and accepted as they are, but no one really wants to take the time and effort to understand the opposite sex and accept them as they are. We are not good at that.
And I think if we can open our minds to, look, if we are going to be in relationship with the opposite sex, if you're heterosexual and you want to be in relationship with the opposite sex, then one of the best paths forward to healthy relationship is understanding one another better. And I'm not just suggesting that women need to understand men. I think men also need to understand women better.
So this is a huge part of some of the stuff that I teach inside my membership program. It's a really big part because it really opened things up for me once I could really understand the male experience. It changed the nature of my relationship with my husband. And for sure, it has changed the nature of the relationship for a lot of my clients in a healthy and beneficial way.
Now, the other thing that I want to just touch on here is the ways in which women will over-function inside a relationship. Because we have a lot of ideas around what we want it to look like and how we want things to be. And because of that residue, that idea of what is “women's work” or kids for example. Parenting. There's usually one person that is the front-row parent. Now, it's not always the women, but I think we can agree that more often than not, that front-row parent is the woman.
I'll give you an example here of what I mean by over-functioning. If you have ever planned a birthday party for your child, you got the invitations, you knew who you were going to invite, you knew what was gonna be on the menu and what you were gonna serve, you ordered the cake, or you made the cake, you knew what your kid’s favorite cake flavor was, what the party's theme was gonna be. You planned the whole thing without any real involvement or engagement from your spouse, and all he had to do was show up.
If you have ever had a situation like that, you are over-functioning in your relationship. I'm just here to tell you, as long as women continue to over-function in their relationship, which then makes it okay and workable for your spouse to under-function in the relationship, we're not going to get anywhere.
I don't think women like to over-function. I don't think we do it intentionally. Every woman I speak to, they want an equal partner who's going to stand there with them and help create and sustain a really interesting, vibrant life together. That includes kids, that includes family, that includes home, that includes travel and interests and passions, and all of those things, right? They want an equal partner.
So we're not doing it on purpose, but when we over-function most of the time, what we do is we complain to our partners about it. We don't call it over-functioning. We complain about why they're not helping–my clients know I start to twitch when they use the word help. Because when men are engaging with their children, when men are doing things around the home, this is just you taking care of the responsibilities that the two of you chose to create. The word “help” implies it is your job. It is women's work, and he's out of the kindness and graciousness of his heart helping you because it's not his job, when we never actually sat down and said, “Oh, this is going to be my job and this is going to be your job.” We never really assigned those jobs in most situations.
So as long as we continue to over-function and then just complain about it, we're not going to get anywhere. And that's sort of the dynamic of what a lot of relationships are experiencing right now, where they're going beyond just complaining about it. They're saying, “This is a deal breaker for me, if you're just not going to be present in our lives.” Now, that can look a lot of ways. I see situations where the husband is overworking, which is a socially acceptable way of not being present in your relationships. I'm having a coaching call where the woman's husband is in the basement playing video games till all hours of the evening.
Now, I have some thoughts about that, as you can probably tell. But that's just another way of avoiding and not being engaged with your life. Another way is overdrinking and certainly using drugs. It's a way to numb out and avoid being actually present for the people that you say you care most about in your life. So we can't just sit here and complain about it. We have to make it a requirement. And in those cases where we make it a requirement, that's when things get real. That's when, if he's ever going to step up and grow and invest in himself to learn how to communicate better, to invest in the relationship, to understand his emotions better, and be able to articulate them, to be emotionally available inside the relationship to understand the female experience, that's when he's gonna do it.
And sometimes he doesn't, and sometimes he does, and it's still too little, too late for the woman, and the marriage ends. So here's where I want to go now. Marriages used to be about the woman needing men. Women needed men for providing and protecting. And that wasn't that long ago. And just because our modern world has changed, where women don't need men for providing for the most part, unless they've set up that dynamic in their household. But it doesn't mean that women can't make money and can't support themselves. They might have just made an arrangement where they've made the agreement that the woman might want to stay home and take care of the kids, and that's her contribution to the family, whereas his contribution is going out and working and providing a paycheck. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't mean that a woman can't support herself. And so we don't need men for providing the way that we used to need men in that way.
And protection–we're not really in danger, right? When we were being chased by animals or dinosaurs or some random thing, and we had to hunt for our own food, yeah, we needed the stronger sex next to us to protect us. In my mother's age and maybe my grandmother's age still, they're not being chased by wild animals, but their version of protection that they still needed from men was social status.
They needed the acceptability of, I'm married and I have children, and I have a family. And that's what was socially acceptable for women. And so now that's not necessarily the case. It's completely socially acceptable to be married or not to be married. In my mind, it's completely socially acceptable to have children or not have children. It's all just a choice.
So times have completely changed, except as long as you are heterosexual, then maybe we don't need men for the same reasons that we used to, but we certainly want them in our lives. And here's what that's gonna mean. It means that yes, one element of this is I need to find (that's where most people go. It could be a whole ‘nother podcast)–but I need to find and/or attract a man who has done some personal growth work, because this wasn't taught in school, and it probably was not taught to him by his father. So he's done some degree of personal growth so that he can be more self-aware and he can be more emotionally mature and intelligent in order to really be in healthy relationship.
Now, those men exist, they really do. There are a lot more men who are seeking resources to be able to help them grow in this way so that they can have healthy relationships. So that exists, but it's not all about finding the man. “I just need to find the guy who will check the boxes so I don't have to work so hard.”
So ladies, this is where I'm going to challenge you a little bit, and I think we need to understand men better and understand the male experience better, and all the many, many, many ways in which they are very different from us. I think we have to stop trying to get them to be like us.
As Allison Armstrong says, “They are not your hairy girlfriend,” right? Sometimes what we're reaching for is trying to get our men to be like our girlfriends. To anticipate what we need, to communicate in the same way that we do, to understand our emotions at the same level that we understand our emotions. And that is not something that men actively do, nor, and I'm gonna get into this next week in the podcast, nor is it something that physiologically they're able to necessarily do to the same degree that women can do. So we've got to get better at seeking to understand their experience and really be able to appreciate the uniqueness of what makes men amazing and fascinating and sometimes super challenging for us.
So this is what I really wanted to talk to you about because I wanted to open your mind up to learning about the male experience, because if we are going to be in relationship with one another, we've got to understand one another better, because this idea that the way we see it, the way we experience the world, the way in which we are in relationship is the right way, and he just needs to get on board–how's that working? If it worked, I promise I would tell you to do it. Just convince him, nag him enough. Threaten him enough to become like a woman, then you'll be happy. No, you won't.
Because there are many parts of the male experience that women really do enjoy. Quick example, we want men's masculinity. As much as we like to be in charge, ladies, we want men's masculinity. When we say we want an equal partner and we want someone with an opinion and we want someone who's going to stand there with us and have the difficult conversations and not run away, we want that masculinity. But we have to appreciate that part about them. You don't get the good stuff, the good parts about men, without getting some of the things that are different than us and therefore challenging. So open your mind to the idea that we are very, very different. We are never going to be the same. You're not going to become like a man, and your man is not gonna become like a woman. And in many, many ways, that's a really beautiful thing.
All right? I hope that was helpful for you. I will see you next week in the podcast where we are going to talk about some of those very real differences between men and women. Until then, take really good care.
If you're listening to this podcast because you're struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage and you're serious about finding that answer, it's time to book a Truth and Clarity Session with a member of my team. On the call, we'll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there's a fit for you and I to work together so you can make and execute the right decision for you and your marriage.
Go to clarityformymarriage.com to fill out an application now. That's clarityformymarriage.com.