The Nurture of a Man

male nurture

For a better understanding of male nurture, let’s take a quick look at the second part of my last post. According to Attachment Theory, healthy human development relies heavily upon the processes of relationship, especially upon our primary need for emotional connection with someone who is available and responsive to our needs.

However, boys typically experience relational trauma that girls rarely do. Early on in life, it usually goes something like this …

As a toddler, he got picked on by another kid at the park …

  • And His mom or dad held back to see what he would do.
  • When he came to report the offense, he was required to provide explanation.
  • His tears were something shameful.
  • Big boys don’t cry, so stop whining and figure out what to do.
  • He learned that he was on his own.
  • He would have to solve his own problems somehow.

Childhood was a very different experience for him than it is for a girl.


He knew he had friends because of their shared activities. Unlike a girl and her best friend in childhood who shared intimate secrets, he was busy hanging out with a whole gang of guys who did stuff together. No secret-sharing.

 

Male Nurture & The Boy Code

You can ask any man about this. But according to research psychologist Dr. William Pollack, every boy learns “The Boy Code” as a matter of course:
  1. Be a Sturdy Oak.
    Whimpering, crying, complaining, or any sign of weakness is strictly forbidden.
  2. Give ‘Em Hell.
    Risk-taking behavior of a macho, invincible, sometimes violent, high-energy superman is encouraged.
  3. Be the Big Wheel.
    Dominate others and refuse to let anyone know you actually feel like a failure or like life is out of control.
  4. No Sissy Stuff Allowed.
    This last commandment is what Dr. Pollack believes prohibits boys from expressing any feelings or urges that might be viewed as feminine, such as dependence, warmth, empathy. Great, huh?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  • Have you observed the Boy Code in action?
  • How do you think it plays out for an adult male?

The Nature of a Man

male nature

What’s so amazing about the Nature of a Man? Researchers have found evidence that male infants are more emotional than female infants from birth until at least 6 to 12 months of age. Compared to girls, infant boys

  • coo and smile more often,
  • cry more frequently and intensely,
  • and experience more rapid fluctuations in emotional states.

However, by 2 years of age …

  • there is already a noticeable reversal in verbal expression.

And by 6 years of age …

  • there is a noticeable difference in facial expression as well.

Furthermore, boys seem to have a natural tendency to express their feelings more through action than by talking about them.

Whatever the reason, boys demonstrate an ability to avoid overt responses to emotion between four and six years of age – interestingly, about the time they usually enter kindergarten. (We’ll explore some possible explanations for that, too.)

Male Nature –  fast forward to adulthood

  • Once they grow up, do men even have feelings anymore?
  • Or have they simply been disconnected from their own emotions?

Marital research conducted over the past several decades suggests that men really do have feelings – very strong ones – and that they are highly aware of each and every one of them.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  • What do you believe about men and their emotions?
  • How do you think your belief effects your relationship?

The Making of a Man

male development

I love to see a woman who knows how to love her man. She knows he’s sensitive to her. And she uses that knowledge to build him up. She responds lovingly to the man that God created him to be. Affirming both who he is – as well as who he is is becoming.

She gives her man something he cannot get anywhere else. She nurtures his heart. Something every man needs. Daily. But far too few experience enough of being “loved on.”

And I’m determined to change that!
“So just how does it work?” you ask.

Case Study #1

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting led by a man whose teachings had greatly impacted my life. At the end of his presentation, I walked up to thank him for what he had done in accelerating my own spiritual growth.

Within moments, his wife was by his side. As she snuggled his arm with great affection, I gave her a quick, one-sentence summary of what I’d been saying to her husband.

She was all smiles. “Isn’t he great? Have you listened to his talk on ____? It’s the best! Amazing and powerful. I think we have it on the back table. You should get a copy!”

The man had been friendly and cordial up to that point. But he was obviously exhausted.

At the sound of her voice, his face broke into the one of the most joyous smiles I’d ever seen on a man. Her actions and her words were a mirror reflecting how God saw him.


Suddenly he just couldn’t help himself
because he was basking in her reflection of him.

Although a gifted speaker, he was an introvert. She was an extrovert. And I had the distinct impression she was rescuing him. I could see how tired he was. But she could feel it.

Case Study #2

Just this morning, I was watching a video on YouTube. Different guy. One I’d not heard speak before. He asked his wife to come up and pray before he began. As soon as she began to pray, her enthusiasm for the Lord made him smile.

Then she touched her husband’s shoulder and continued, “And, Lord, this amazing, handsome, talented, kind, wonderful,” [paused with her hand on his back and head briefly on his shoulder] “man. God, we just pray, Lord, all of what you have to bring through him. God, we just say yes to that, too.”


His face lit up like a little boy’s on Christmas morning.
One who’d suddenly discovered exactly what he’d asked for there under the Tree.

I actually replayed this clip several times.
Such joy! Such fun! Such pure delight!
Both of these women understood their own man.
  • They knew his hopes and fears.
  • As well as the nature of his sensitivity.
  • And they knew how to nurture his heart.

You can’t love and encourage a man if you don’t take time to get to know him.

So let’s talk about Nature and Nurture in a man’s life.

Researchers and philosophers have long debated the role of nature versus nurture in directing the processes of human development.

Findings have been inconsistent in terms of which is more powerful:

  • our biology or
  • our environment.

Consequently, they sort of gave it all up and focused their studies on understanding the interactions between these primary two factors.

Psychological experiments on human beings are unethical. So we must rely on observations of what exists naturally within the world – just like King Solomon did.

Without the benefit – or the risk – of studying cause-and-effect relationships, we can only recognize correlations among various factors and suggest probabilities.

The Bottom Line: Researchers can only report what’s likely true. We can’t really know anything for sure. That is, we must admit that it depends upon a multitude of factors.

Nevertheless, what we learn can be helpful in providing some probable – or at least plausible – explanations for why people are the way they are.

The same is true for the info I share.

  • It probably applies to most men.
  • It may or may not apply to the man in question.
  • So give the info serious thought.
  • Include some thoughtful discussion. If you ask him if this applies to him – and actually listen to what he says, it’ll be an affirming conversation for you both!

What We All Need to Know About Men

  • Nature: Men are more sensitive than women. (more on that later)
  • Nurture: And they learn The Boy Code at a very early age.
    • Be a Sturdy Oak.
    • Give ‘Em Hell.
    • Be the Big Wheel
    • No Sissy Stuff Allowed

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  • What info I’ve shared – so far – seems to fit or not fit the men you know?
  • How have you observed the interplay between these factors?

Positively Amazing

men are amazing

Men are amazing! Positively amazing. You may not share my opinion. Especially if you’re a man who’s failed. Or a woman who’s been deeply hurt. But it’s a fact. An absolute fact. And the woman writing this? She’s been hurt by men. A lot.

I have sons.
Three of them.
Raised by a single mom.

And I wasn’t a psychologist back then. So I had no clue about what men were really like. Fortunately, my sons have forgiven me – for the most part – for all the mistakes I made.

My youngest son graduated from college
the same year I earned my doctorate at Biola University.
The same year I wrote my dissertation on mothers and sons.


I cried while writing it.
Because I had no clue what a boy’s experience
was like until I started doing research for that paper.

I wasn’t alone in my ignorance. Most women don’t understand how a man thinks. What he feels. Or why he behaves the way he does. Simply put, a man is complicated because a woman has no explanation for him … at least not one that he readily offers.

So women are confused about men. And men are sometimes confused about themselves. But mostly, men operate by Very Different Unspoken Rules than women do.


And one of those Unspoken Rules says there’s no need to explain the obvious.

However, what seems obvious to a man can be utterly confusing to a woman.

What do you know that ain’t so?

Men try to act as though they have it all together.
And most women erroneously believe that men think they have it all together.

But most men struggle with a degree of anxiety and/or depression. Almost every day. However, it plays out differently for men than it does for women.

  • Men worry if they will ever be good enough.
  • Some men fake it by adopting a domineering persona.
  • Other men withdraw, choosing to live a life of quiet desperation.

But the Lord sees a man differently than he sees himself.

Gideon had given up. Filled with anxiety about his future. Threshing wheat in a wine press. Hiding from the Midianites. Then the angel of the Lord showed up. Told Gideon what he thought of him. And a whole new conversation began. One that changed everything.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon,
he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

(Judges 6:12)

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • How are men portrayed in the media today?
  • What are some commonly held beliefs about men?
  • What life experiences have affected the way you see men today?

EXERCISE

  • MEN: Ask the Lord how He sees you. Ask every day until you hear His answer. Then engage in an ongoing conversation with Him about who He made you to be.
  • WOMEN: Ask the Lord how He sees the man you love. Ask every day until you hear His answer. Then engage in conversation with the Lord about your role in his life.

A Heavenly Gift

submissive woman

When God created Adam, He knew that one person wouldn’t enough to fulfill His dreams. Although Adam was clueless about what he was missing, his All-Wise Creator wasn’t. The Lord knew man could not do so very well on his own. He would need someone to adore.

So God’s personal gift to Adam was his woman – created from his own body. So much like himself, yet so very different, Eve would have the natural capacity to complete Adam and to help focus his passion on someone outside of himself.

In the 21st Century, a man’s love for his woman is intended to spur him into the realization that she is God’s gift to him – his reason for living – his hope and his joy in the full experience of the Lord’s goodness.

Without a godly wife, a man will starve to death emotionally and relationally. Instead – with her by his side – he gets to feast on her femininity – to draw energy and inspiration from the closeness of her Beauty.


Feminine Strength + Submission = Beauty


Ladies, do you consider yourself a strong woman?
Many of us do.

But what is the Source of your strength?

By now, you’d think I’d know myself pretty well, and I do. Yet I’m amazed at how the Lord continually reveals truth to me … not only about others, but also about myself.

I knew I was pretty good at that “submission stuff” in my first marriage, but I didn’t realize until recently, that I didn’t understand the whole equation.

My submission wasn’t a strength-based choice.

It was rooted in my fear. Fear of displeasing my husband. And losing him. And because of my fear, I was never a truly strong woman. And I lost my husband.


Many women I meet are good at that “strength stuff” in their marriages.
But their strength is often false. Rooted in fear. Defensive.


Sometimes we toughen ourselves up to get through life, and we lose our true strength in the process. In other words, many women develop a false sense of strength as a defense against being hurt. But in the end, it causes them and their partners to experience unnecessary pain, and they both lose.

Defensiveness simply doesn’t work in marriage. Ever.

So what’s the source of our True Strength? It’s the Joy of the Lord. He is Our Strength and Our Song. We abide in Him, and He produces the Fruits of the Spirit within us. Truly, there’s nothing sweeter than that!

So learn to live in the reality that the Lord cherishes you as His Beloved Daughter. And that His desire is to teach your husband to cherish you, too!


Submission is a choice.


From True Strength you have the wonderful opportunity to choose Submission … to the Lord first, then to your husband. That’s what makes a woman truly Beautiful.

Clearly, we are created as partners.

Essential partners in the work of the Kingdom of God. Through Christ, we are redeemed to fulfill the purpose for which we were created. Man is the Leader, and woman is the Follower. He’s not a dictator, and she’s not a silent, powerless subject.

Fortunately, as we get things back in their proper, Heavenly perspective, man has what he needs to do his job, to live out his life passionately doing what God designed him to do.

If you are a wife, you are created to be your husband’s “rescuer” (Genesis 2), so it’s important to know exactly how to do that … and how to do it really well.

So much of your husband’s success depends on your walk with the Lord … and your desire to be the woman that he needs you to be.

As women, we have never been without relationship of another human being. We, therefore conclude that we are the “Relationship Experts.”

But most of us make the grievous error of believing it is our job … as the “Relationship Expert” … to fix, manage, and control a man. Indeed, it is most assuredly not! We have a much Higher Purpose!


A woman is to be her man’s Sweet Companion and Confidant.
Motivated simply by her presence, he will do almost anything to make her smile.


She’s there to let him know when he’s on the right track. Not to criticize him when he’s not. Her positive, affirming influence will cause her man to excel. And most importantly, to grow in his relationship with The Lord.

But what if she doesn’t think he’s on the right track?

A godly woman will always pray first, then expresses her concern lovingly (Ephesians 4:15) … and briefly. She may be assured that he heard her the first time. So her job from that moment forward is to pray for her mate with insight, fully confident that The Lord will answer her prayers.

If her man needs changing, The Lord will most surely do it (1 John 5:14). However, she must remain humble, knowing that it might be her The Lord desires to change.

Every Woman’s Dream

fear

It’s not Rocket Science: Men and women different from one another. Equal value. Yet very different in some essential ways. So what I do is show favoritism toward both genders. A favoritism based on how God created them. Their needs. Their desires. Their beauty.

You may already know that I do training seminars for pastors and counselors. A female attendee once asked, “Do you think what you’re teaching is true for all cultures?”

“Well, I can’t say for sure. But I can say that I’ve never met a woman from any background that didn’t have a deep-down, though perhaps unstated, desire to be led by a godly man who loves her enough to protect her, to guide her, and to hold her,” I replied.

Even from the front of the classroom,
it was easy enough to see her eyes go instantly teary.

A Christian woman’s Number One “fomo”
is directly related to her Dream.

Many a Christian woman fears that her man will not be the Spiritual Leader of their family. So she takes over, and she doesn’t do it well. Although it’s better for the man to take the lead, especially with the children, she reasons that a female Spiritual Leader is better than no Spiritual Leader.

However, once she’s taken on that role – before or after marriage – it’s very difficult for her husband to step up to the plate. So please, guys, be the leader, in every sense of the word. Don’t live life under the curse anymore!

The most important task a man has been assigned is to continually direct and redirect his loved ones toward Christ. Only He can meet everyone’s needs!

Leadership is a man’s responsibility.

Men were designed to take the lead. God created men with all that it takes right there inside of him. It’s a learning process, for sure, and no man comes into this life knowing how to lead. So men need to get all the support they can.

As a husband, he’ll be held responsible before God for his family. God knew it was Eve who took the first bite of the apple, but He came looking for Adam.

You can believe me when I say I know that women can be difficult to love at times. I’m one of them, remember?

As Christian women, most of us have been taught that the man is to be the leader in the family. But in reality, women have been running the show for a long time now. Yes, a woman knows she can make it through life without a man.

But can she really live the life she desires?

Yes, she would survive. But in taking charge, she misses the beauty of what God intends your relationship to be. She not only makes it impossible for you to lead, but she denies what her heart and yours are both longing for.

Sidebar for Singles
Nice girls don’t chase boys.
Wait for him to take the lead.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  • How many women do you know who “wear the pants” in their marriage?
  • What could a woman do to encourage her husband’s leadership?

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
(Colossians 3:18-19)

Couple Communication 102

Stephen Covey wrote, “If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication.”

why do men stonewall?In my earlier post about Sean and Nicole and couple communication, “What, if anything, do you think Nicole was doing wrong?”

Nicole — like most people — wasn’t listening with the “intent to understand,” but had been listening with the “intent to reply.”

She hadn’t been trying to gain a deeper understanding of Sean. She filtered everything he said through her own experience, reading her autobiography into his life. As soon as Sean had started talking, she had already begun formulating a response. She hadn’t given him any space to really be in the relationship with her.

  • She didn’t understand him because she wasn’t listening.
  • She had been way too busy formulating her reply.

QUESTION:

Use your powers of self-observation and take notice of your self-talk (what you’re thinking or saying to yourself) when others are talking.

  • Are you silently evaluating the words of your friends and coworkers … while they’re still talking?
  • If so, you’re probably evaluating his, too.

EXERCISE:

Get better at couple communication by practicing on your friends. Listen until you’re sure you understand the other person’s point of view. That is, wait until you’re sure you’ve heard the whole story before you offer your own thoughts and feelings.

To answer before listening—
    that is folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13)

Couple Communication 101

We can’t stop communicating … for one simple reason! According to Communications Experts, 93% of our communication is nonverbal. Your parents told you that a long time ago when they said: “Actions speak louder than words.”

slides-communication

Consider Sean and Nicole …

Nicole’s Point of View: Sean was a quiet guy. And that was one of the things that Nicole found irresistibly attractive. But after they’d been dating for awhile, she wanted more from him. During a silence, Nicole would ask him what he was thinking.

He never gave her a satisfactory answer.

Then she began begging him to talk to her. He was hesitant at first. But at her encouragement, he began to open up. He offered up two or three sentences. Then Nicole got excited about getting closer. In her enthusiasm, she’d try to get more information from him.

Then all of a sudden — at least it seemed to be sudden — Sean quit sharing. He was more withdrawn than ever, and Nicole was really confused. She kept asking him what was wrong. And he kept refusing to talk about it.

He’d just shrug his shoulders and mumble, “Nothing’s wrong.”

Sean’s Point of View: He had a very different experience of their relationship. He really liked Nicole. When they first met he loved her energy — and her chatter. She was always ready to fill the silence, so he didn’t have to worry about what to say.

After they’d been together for awhile, he wanted to tell her more about himself. But he felt like he could hardly get a word in edgewise. Nicole kept telling him she wanted to know what he was thinking. But it didn’t seem like that to Sean. As soon as he would get a word out, Nicole would begin her critique.

Nothing he said was right.
It seemed like everything he said set her off in one way or another.
So he gave up.

He began dreading their time together. And started to think about breaking up.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  • What nonverbal communication was Nicole sending?
  • Do you think she was aware of what she was “saying”?
  • What nonverbal communication was Sean sending?
  • Do you think she was aware of what he was “saying”?
  • What could each of them done differently?

Going Sideways

Yes, we all go sideways at one time or another. However, this can be to your advantage!

Yes. Yes!

It is so true!

You really can learn something new from the process and come back …

  • stronger in your faith and
  • closer in your love!

I’ve seen it happen so many times with couples! No matter what the challenge!

How do we get ourselves Sideways?

I’m glad you asked! Several years ago, I conducted a survey among my clients about what they each did to make things go sideways in their romance.

Men were more likely to check the boxes beside:

  • I become silent, withdrawn, and don’t want to discuss things.
  • I often want to avoid talking about our relationship.
  • My partner often pushes an issue and won’t let it drop.

Whereas women were more likely to check the boxes beside:

  • I often get angry and critical to get my partner to talk.
  • I often want to push my partner to talk about our relationship.
  • My partner withdraws a lot and won’t face an issue when I want to talk.

All defensive moves folks use with the intent to protect themselves … or their Love! However, these knee-jerk strategies have the opposite effect!

Your Defensiveness always hurts the One you love.

You wouldn’t need to be defensive if you understood your partner’s Bottom Line. And I can honestly report that what causes most conflict is simply misunderstanding. Most often, both a man and a woman trying to connect. And misinterpreting the signals.

Yes. It’s that simple.

She’s asking for more of him.
He hears a complaint that he works too much.

He’s asking for more of her.
She hears that all he cares about is sex.

She’s too busy asking, “Do you want me?”
He’s too busy asking, “Is it me that you want?”

Neither hears the other’s question.
Which leaves no place for a real answer!

Through all of my work with couples, I’ve noticed the Bottom Line for both partners is often the same.

They just aren’t hearing one another!

To be continued …

The Beauty of a Woman

woman

Woman is creatively designed to follow, and her partner’s love and understanding are essential if she is to follow well. So why are we starting with the follower instead of the leader? Because without her, he’s got no hope for becoming all that he could be. It isn’t good for the man to be alone, remember? And you can’t be a leader if no one is willing to follow you.

But isn’t she where things went so wrong in The Big Inning?

Yep. And that’s exactly why we’re starting with her … so we can begin to set things right again … under the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Psychologists haven’t been able to explain women to men.

Remember Dr. Sigmund Freud? Despite all his work with women in exploring the possibilities of “a talking cure,” rumor has it that he died still wondering what women want.

Actually, we’re not that complicated, but poor Siggy didn’t have anyone to translate for him. Now you’re going to get the inside scoop! I’ll share with you what a woman wants and needs from a man that will invest her with an absolutely irresistible desire to follow him.

Now how cool is that?
Way cool.

Most of us believe that women are more complicated than men, but we’re not nearly as complicated as we may seem. In fact, most problems men have with women can be solved using a minimum of words and energy.

Really?
That’s a relief!

You see, The Problem is how you see the problem.

And the problem you think you see is probably not The Problem at all. Women have just been taught to communicate in a very different way than men were. Our sex is actually required to communicate in a *Secret Code (e.g., going around in circles, using too many words, never getting to the point).

All she needs is your understanding and love. And all you really need to understand is that she’s not a guy; she’s a girl. And love her simply because of who she is. I can break the code for you so you can figure out what she needs and what she wants. And I’m brief.

You guys like to get to the point.
I love that about you.

* A Word of Encouragement: I spend a lot of time helping women learn to be more straightforward in their communication with men. We’re all a lot happier for it.