The Blindingly Obvious Thing that All Men Need – Actually, there are a few.
Men are simple. We say what we mean, and we mean what we say. Unless we’re navigating the feelings of those we care about, or those who can make our lives more complicated if we say the wrong thing. It’s exhausting, so if you see us ‘resting our eyes’ as all Dads do, it’s because of the mental work it takes to translate what we want to say into something that doesn’t ruin a perfectly good day, is hard.
Something we don’t ask for is affection. I don’t mean the physical stuff. I mean a hug, to be held, to be the small spoon, and to feel safe.
Conversations between men aren’t often very deep. They usually skirt the issues and frustrations, occasionally getting into the silly. It’s more comfortable to stay pretty impersonal even with those we’ve known for years.
What would happen if we said to a friend, “I’ve been feeling pretty down recently”, or “I’ve had some thoughts about suicide, but I’d never do it because…”?
What if we said, “I could use a hug”? Would it be weird? Are we so worried about what other people think of us that we would stop an opportunity to feel a little better, a little safer, a little more heard before it happens?
I’m speaking as a man (but not necessarily for all men), but I really want to feel appreciated, loved, and to be nurtured. I don’t want to have to wait for my turn to talk. I want to feel like people want to hear what I’m going to say.
Men love to feel useful. If given a task that’s within our wheelhouse, we will knuckle down and get that thing done. Whether it’s hooking up a printer, making an IKEA cabinet, or helping build a Lego princess castle, we’ve got this. Obviously, the other person can do these things too, but that’s not the point. The point is that we did it. Let us complete it and then revel in the bask of the glorious Lego castle. It looks so good on the shelf. Nobody can touch it because it took ages and I threw out the instructions.
Men love to feel loved. Like the moment you walk in the door after a long day and your kid runs up to you. All the pointless meetings, the micromanaging boss, and the commute frustrations melt away. Seeing someone who loves to spend time with you, doing the things you enjoy, is pure pleasure.
There’s a reason why a dog is a ‘man’s best friend’, in fact, I’ve seen the statue of Old Drum in Warrensburg, Missouri where that phrase was recorded. Men and dogs go together because they show each other affection. There is no stigma to openly declaring their love, long walks through sunny days and bitter storms, and of course, cuddling up on the couch. It’s a deep bond that isn’t about romance. It’s about acceptance and companionship.
The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world—the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous—is his dog.
Gentlemen of the jury, a man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and poverty, in health and sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow, and the snow drives fiercely, if only he can be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer; he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.Attorney George Vest’s closing argument on behalf of Old Drum’s “best friend.”
Men (and all people I suppose, but I can only talk about my own experiences) want to feel safe. Safe to fail and not have to face repercussions. If we try to help or take on a new task and ‘fail’ or it doesn’t go as planned, making them feel bad about it isn’t going to inspire them to try again. It’s easier for them to accept that maybe it’s not a strength and give up. If this gets repeated and confirmed enough times, a learned behaviour will frustrate everyone.
We love trying to give our partners, friends, family, etc. what they need. Whatever the love language, tell us and it’ll be something that we can work toward. These leaps into the unknown can be a big deal for some guys though. A gesture could go either way and if not received as intended can leave a feeling of rejection, even if it’s not meant to.
We need a safe space to be completely vulnerable. A judgement-free zone where we can get what’s holding us down off our chests. Sometimes it can take a while to get there, but we will. Just let us do the work.
I was talking to my daughter tonight while I was trying to convince her to brush her teeth, that life is too short. Our time on Earth is a blip, so we should fill it with things that make us happy, make others happy, and that we enjoy. Nobody should be denied the things that they need, whether its food, a friendly ear, or a hug.