depressed chained man statuePart of me hates just writing a book just for women. I feel guilty and a little bad about it because I know that many men have similar problems. They, too, have difficulties in their lives and relationships. Sometimes, they can’t seem to set healthy limits, they give a little too much at the office or at home, they hook up with the wrong girl and can’t seem to let go … you know what I mean.

Men can still have these same codependent tendencies that the GAG girls have and it can make life tough. As a social worker, I feel strongly that our cultures shape us. Therefore, men are privy to different gender shaping and gender expectations than women overall. I know there are exceptions to this, but some tendencies do tend to stand out.

Career as Identity

Men seem to be more likely to identify themselves strongly with their careers. An example of how “giving it away” can present in certain gender specific forms, I look back to my work in drug and alcohol treatment. When I would meet with men who were drug addicted or dependent on alcohol, they seemed much more likely to hit “rock bottom” and admit their helplessness when their jobs were in danger. When the wives, girlfriends or family members were drawing the line, it didn’t seem to get the same response.  The commitment to treatment seemed to turn the corner once the job or company was involved: That is probably partially because it was so tied with their identity.

Workaholism

I remember John. He worked overtime climbing his way up the corporate ladder of a major Fortune 500 company. Brilliant, he invented patented ideas that made the company a fortune. But, he was never home, couldn’t spend time with wife and kids, and he rode the wave. Then the wave stopped. The political current changed and the guy in charge just didn’t like John. He was fired and there he stood. By then, his kids were long gone and grown up and his wife had divorced him. He was filled with regret.

Health and Self-care

Men die sooner, are much more likely to be addicted to drugs and alcohol than women, and are more likely to commit suicide. Men give it away too.

Here are some common ways that men struggle with giving it away:

  1. Have difficulty getting out of unhealthy or difficult relationships.
  2. Can be too passive in relationships, difficulty sharing honest feelings openly and setting healthy boundaries.
  3. Neglect self-care: don’t set up regular medical appointments, dental appointments … may not eat regularly and maintain healthy sleeping routines.
  4. Work too much.
  5. Give their “all” to work to the point of self-neglect and self harm.
  6. Reluctant to get support and reach out for help.
  7. Conflict avoidant to the point of self-sabotage.

Therefore, in my work with my male clients, we work a lot on separating one’s identity from society’s expectations, assertively navigating relationships, and setting healthy boundaries. If you know of a man who struggles with these challenges, point out that talking to a counselor could be extremely beneficial.  As I tell my clients and friends, “Just because you may be able to do it all on your own, doesn’t necessarily mean that you  should.”

Photograph by Alastair Clark via Flickr

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