The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Monday, November 23, 2009

Relationships and growin' up

I had a great conversation with one of my favorite Manly Men yesterday, asking questions about that pesky maturation/gender question. A little to my surprise, he insisted that a male doesn't become a man until he is married. That, in essence, his woman makes him a man. The idea is that until a man must provide for a family, he doesn't really mature. There were a number of elements in his overall position:

1) A man must learn to listen to his woman with his heart, and not his head.

2) Because he can never raise his hand to her, he must develop a completely different method of conflict resolution than that used in bluntly dealing with other men.

3) Whether she earns money or not, he SHOULD be prepared to support her if she decides to be a stay-at-home wife/mother.

4) He must learn to channel his sexual energy so that he is no longer wasting energy chasing nookie...thereby betraying his marriage and risking his children's safety.

5) When/if she has children, he must be prepared to protect them above his own life.

6) If he has sons, he must be prepared to dominate them when they begin to push back and try to assert themselves. They will try to prove that they are equal to him in "manhood" from the age of 9. They must learn that they are wrong.

7) He must provide a role model of proper respect and treatment of women, so that his sons can follow his path.

##

There was more, but these were the most important points. Also remember that he is talking about very traditional marriages, common in his generation. How does this apply to living together? Not so much...and I've had countless people tell me that everything changed as soon as they got hitched. "Playing house" is a children's game. Marriage is a contemplation of mortality and the importance of building something larger than yourself. I liked the "channeling sex" thingie. Looking at Think And Grow Rich, "the mystery of sex transmutation" is one of the aspects that rewriters and re-issuers try mighty hard to minimalize or marginalize.

There are many aspects to "sex transmutation" that are perfectly mundane, and others that flirt with the spiritual and metaphysical. On a perfectly mundane level consider the amount of time people think about sex. According to Kinsey, 54 percent of men think about sex daily, or multiple times a day. Young men would raise that ferociously, trust me. How often? Don't know...I wouldn't be surprised if males between fifteen and twenty-five think about it fifty times a day. More often than women, from all research I've seen, but women think of it plenty as well.

Now, what would happen if instead of mooning about sex, you concentrated on the behaviors which are "feathering your nest", building the aspects of character, physicality and circumstance that actually lead to being more attractive to your species, and match the energy level of the partners you desire? You'd end up having more sex, better sex, more deeply satisfying sex. But you have to concentrate on the tasks that will actually take you there.

In TAGR, the emphasis is on wealth, and while Napoleon Hill makes it extremely clear that money is only one form of wealth (and not even the most important aspect) this is where the book concentrates. And for men, probably nothing will increase the chances of finding a healthy, satisfying relationship more than being economically stable, and owning your own house (women report that a man who owns his house is about three times as attractive as one who doesn't).

So...what would happen if you conditioned yourself to think of your goals, and the steps to their accomplishment, every time sex entered your mind? I don't mean that you don't have sex--sex is one of the best things in life, and when it is shared with someone you are REALLY attracted to, who you also love, and with whom you share a future...I'm really not sure there is anything in life that equals it. Why settle for less? So...this aspect of "Sexual Transmutation" is a matter of creating a Pavlovian stimulus-response loop between your goals and the most powerful positive neurological sensation the human being can process. I call that pretty powerful magic.

My assumption is that gay relationships are much the same (although I distinctly remember gay men telling me that their relationships are a way of "staying young." Hmmm. Probably just a phase, I hope. Because that would seem an attitude in avoidance of true maturity.) So until I have other evidence, we'll assume that all bonded human romantic relationships carry within them the potential for maturity. Thoughts on sex and relationships as a maturing, motivating force?

23 comments:

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"A man must learn to listen to his woman with his heart, and not his head."

I'm reflexively distrustful of any advice that extols the "heart" above the "head". Suppose one's woman (or man) spews or acts an endless stream of counterproductive or illusory wishful thinking, fantasy or outright garbage? Are we advised to indulge such nonsense, instead of honestly and rationally spelling out the partner's errors or, when necessary, saying they're full of it?

Listen to your heart, but always act with your head.

Dan Moran said...

1) A man must learn to listen to his woman with his heart, and not his head.

Yep. Ethiopian, I see nothing in this that conflicts with acting with your head. Listen, evaluate, act ...

2) Because he can never raise his hand to her, he must develop a completely different method of conflict resolution than that used in bluntly dealing with other men.

This is true of all people who are smaller and weaker than you are. It's not just a gender thing. Men who want to swing on Mike Tyson are self-correcting.

3) Whether she earns money or not, he SHOULD be prepared to support her if she decides to be a stay-at-home wife/mother.

Mother, sure. Wife, no. At its heart this is a sexist comment dressed up in respect-the-woman stuff. Women without children should work. (Women with children do work, with rare exceptions.)

4) He must learn to channel his sexual energy so that he is no longer wasting energy chasing nookie...thereby betraying his marriage and risking his children's safety.

The hardest thing to do for many of us, but absolutely true. I've known people in open relationships, but every case I've known of where there were children involved ended in divorce -- 7 for 7, by my last count. I'm sure there are cases out there where it all worked out, but not among my social circle.

5) When/if she has children, he must be prepared to protect them above his own life.

6) If he has sons, he must be prepared to dominate them when they begin to push back and try to assert themselves. They will try to prove that they are equal to him in "manhood" from the age of 9. They must learn that they are wrong.

7) He must provide a role model of proper respect and treatment of women, so that his sons can follow his path.


Yep.

The whole thing about being a man is that it's a series of things, not any one thing. I became a man when I had sex the first time. And again when I married. And again when I divorced. And again when my sister had a child, no father, and abruptly I was needed to be a male role model for my nephew. And again when I married a woman with 3 small children. And again when she bore me two sons. And again when my father died. And again when my sons started getting old enough to challenge me.....

"You're not a man unless" is a tricky phrase. Some of these experiences aren't available to all men, and some of them various individuals have succeeded at, or failed at, or succeeded at and failed at to varying degrees ...

"Man" and "husband" are not the same thing. "Man" and "father" and "parent" are not the same thing. It's helpful to distinguish.

olddude said...

EI- a man much smarter than me said that the point is not to listen to the heart but to train it. When the heart and head are trained you can't distiguish between the two.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Article about DNA tests, relationships, and American law-- might be of interest on what it means to be a father.

Kate said...

The "staying young" thing isn't surprising, or particularly limited to gay men, I suspect. How many people feel younger when they have a lover to confirm to themselves that they're still sexually attractive? Most, I would think.

Whether or not it applies to committed long-term relationships is another thing.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

IN my opinion, maturity is also attained by physically and psychologically surmounting formidable odds. Acquaintances who've had to work and fight hard to earn their achievements display far greater maturity and depth of character than those who owe their status to financial, social or health advantages.

I can easily envision the patriarch of wealthy bluebloods appearing immature and shallow compared to a self-made achiever who happens to be a bachelor.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Dan, I know of three stable polyamorous relationships where there are children.

*****

Not specifically related, but I think the current movie Law Abiding Citizen would be interesting for a lot of the folks here.

Shady_Grady said...

I saw that NYT magazine article Nancy. It was very interesting. The key thing is that those guys had their choice taken away via fraud.

I think there will be more changes to the law to reflect that, such as the Georgia(?) case mentioned.

suzanne said...

I think men have a role to play wih daughters, too, Steve!
and with the kinds of "push back"
they present. . .

I agree with Dan that
nowadays
women without children
ought also to be working

I'm curious why you are restricting yourself
to giving a leg up
only to young men

you think females have it together?


females who have babies at 12 13 et cetera
or who are likely to
they need some wise
likely to be taken
adult advice as well!

Marty S said...

I don't get most of this stuff at all. From my point of view one always makes decisions with one's head. It's the only part of you that thinks. If I'm about to make a business trip that will make me $10,000 dollars, but my beloved uncle dies and I forgo the trip and the $10,000 to go to the funeral, this is not thinking with my heart, its my head telling me that for the rest of my life if I go on the trip and forgo the funeral I will regret the decision more than the other way. As for dominating, I don't seek to dominate anyone, wife,children or strangers, excepting to convince them that they are making a mistake, when I believe it will hurt them or others. I also generally resist others trying to dominate me. In my view being a man is more about acting appropriately than "winning".

Mike Ralls said...

I definitly feel more mature/adult/manly after two years of marriage. It really is a trans-formative experience in a way serious dating and even moving in together just isn't.

Mike Ralls said...

Side note; Interesting/horrifying story here of a man who was in a coma for 23 years who everyone thought was brain dead, but who could actually think and hear and see everything;

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1230092/Rom-Houben-Patient-trapped-23-year-coma-conscious-along.html

I can not imagine what it must have been like to have nothing but your own mind to interact with for TWENTY-THREE YEARS, and then to have people discover, "Woops, he's there after all!" The man describes it as a second birth.

Steve Perry said...

Everybody is going to bring to the table his or her own set of definitions about what makes a man. I would not be surprised at all to see that many, if not most, of these ruminations are self-serving.

Thus: I am a man, therefore what I am becomes the model of how to get there ...

A man is an adult version of a boy, and the key word, for man or woman, is "adult." Those definitions range from the dictionary versions concerning physical maturity and legal majority, to the esoteric "real men are ..." that allows us all to fill in the blanks how we choose.

To say that a boy can only become a man once he is married is of of those self-serving things that is ill-considered.

"Man" and "experienced" aren't the same. Is a fellow who has been married ten years therefore more of a man than one who has been married but five years? And what about gay men, or bachelors, or married men who have no children? They don't count?

A well-rounded, experienced, wise man might be more use to himself and society, but one is who less these things is not necessarily a boy.

It's the modifiers that matter when you start parsing definitions as broad as this.

I also have to point out that thinking with one's heart is a metaphor, and that it involves processes other than pure cogitation. Logic is wonderful, very powerful, but not every thought process is constructed through it. Gut-feelings, intuition, snap decisions, all these have been show to have a certain validity that will at times be more useful than the most careful reasoning.

I know a man who, after a long and painful breakup with his first wife, sat down and told me how he was going to choose his next mate. He had a list of qualities he had assembled, detailed as to how she would look and think and be. He had worked it all out reasonably and was going to apply it henceforth.

Then he met his second-wife-to-be and the list went out the window. She was way better for him than the list, and while she had many of those qualities, she wasn't a match for the petit papier, but for him. They've been together for more than ten years and still seem like newlyweds.

That's what thinking with your heart is ...

Mike Ralls said...

Interesting article on people deluding themselves;

http://americanheart.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=864

ORLANDO, FLA., Nov. 17, 2009 — Some obese people misperceive that their body size is normal and think they don’t need to lose weight, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2009.

In the Dallas Heart Study of 5,893 people, researchers found that 8 percent of the 2,056 who were obese said they were satisfied with their body size or felt they could gain weight.

“Almost one in 10 obese individuals are satisfied with their body size and didn’t perceive that they need to lose weight,” said Tiffany Powell, M.D., lead author of the study and a cardiology fellow at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “That is a sizeable percentage who don’t understand they are overweight and believe they are healthy.”

suzanne said...

wishing a most satisfying
Thanksgiving Day to all of you

Scott said...

8-10% might be right; might really be carrying that much lean mass. If I can run a 5k in less than half an hour and I'm stronger than you, Doc, even pound for pound, maybe I'm an exception to your BMI rule, hey?

Scott said...

"Those with a misperception of body size believed they were healthy. But 35 percent of them had high blood pressure, 15 percent had high cholesterol, 14 percent had diabetes and 27 percent were current smokers. These risk factors are similar to obese individuals who acknowledged they had a weight problem and needed to lose weight, Powell said."

In other words, two thirds of them were right, and three quarters of the wrong ones were smokers.

Scott said...

Some good advice heavily riddled with error and limitation, ouch.

> A man

Person.

> must learn to listen to his woman

to everyone, actually.

> with his heart,

Right.

> and not his head.

Wrong.

> Because he can never raise his hand to her, he must develop a completely different method of conflict resolution than that used in bluntly dealing with other men.

That is not the first reason to learn non-violent conflict resolution.

> Whether she earns money or not, he SHOULD be prepared to support her if she decides to be a stay-at-home wife/mother.

I'm with Dan on this one.

> He must learn to channel his sexual energy so that he is no longer wasting energy chasing nookie.

This is another lesson useful even before marriage.

> He must provide a role model

Stop right there.

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