No Drama, Please. No Drama? Guys…This Blog’s For You!
It’s Men’s Health Awareness Month. Therapy is mental health, and mental health is health. So hey tough guy, this blog’s for you!
Men’s Health Awareness Month
June is Men's Health Awareness Month and I would like to start off by saying how much I truly love working with male clients in therapy. Well, I like working with a lot of different clients actually…but specifically, why do I love working with men?
[Full disclosure: I want more men to go to counseling. Not because men are more off the chain than women. Both parties are pretty equal there. The reason is because men are only about 30% as likely than women to seek counseling when counseling is warranted. And since men are nearly half the population, their well-being is pretty important. If the men are not well, the people around them also suffer. So yes, everything I’m about to say is geared toward reducing stigma and normalizing therapy so more men will feel comfortable doing it. No shame in my game.]
Men and Therapy
So why do I like working with men? Well, generally speaking, with men I can be blunt, direct, and throw F-bombs! It’s so freeing to just “tell it like it is”. I can use sports references (one of my favorite subjects) and men get it that way too. Sometimes people just need to hear the truth, and generally most men can handle how I say the truth. Speaking so freely is like switching out of your business clothes at the end of the day and putting on your pj’s. Ahhhhhh……comfort…..let that belly hang all out…..
The ease of working with men often stops there, however. Men have all the feelings insecurities, behavior challenges, and relationship problems that women have. They sure do. As a therapist, I am thrilled when men seek counseling to better their lives. And, as a woman in my personal life, it’s very attractive to see a man intentional with his personal growth. As a woman, I wish that all men would see a therapist from time to time. A lot of the things that men tend to complain about could be addressed and even solved in the counseling office. Now as a therapist in my professional life, guess what? I can help you. Yes, I can! Read on…
In preparing to write this piece, I briefly reviewed many of the male clients I have worked with in private practice. A lot of them have had issues with substance abuse or some other kind of addiction. This is actually one of the common reasons that men seek counseling: substance abuse, gambling, or sex addiction. [For a review of addiction issues, we’d love for you to review our blog post here]. Substance addiction (and this includes drinking alcohol) affects 10% of the population. It’s fairly common. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please reach out for help. There are great resources available. Just ask :)
Common Challenges Men Address in Counseling
In the meantime, I’d like to highlight some other common challenges that have brought men into my office for counseling. See if you can connect to any of these stories:
A First Responder or a Veteran suffering from job-related PTSD. Throw in a little alcohol, depression, and relationship problems for good measure
An otherwise normal dude who suffers from low self esteem, feeling socially awkward, loneliness, and maybe some video game or TV addiction to ease the pain
The very successful man who has a wife, a child, or a parent who has mental health or addiction problems. He feels bad about himself because he cannot fix the issues no matter how much money he spends or how heroic efforts his efforts have been to come to the rescue. His family member is stuck, therefore he is stuck
The angry man who is making it okay in his work life, but his anger is wreaking havoc at home. His relationships are volatile, or his family is afraid of him and they steer clear. It’s a frustrating, lonely existence
The Uber driver who poured out his soul (yes, on the drive!) about his history of sexual abuse and became a client. An attractive, creative young man trying to find his way but held hostage by his personal pain
The man who has a faithful significant other, but who does not know how to communicate well or “fight fair”. These men don’t always know it, but because of their poor communication skills, their intimate relationships are increasingly on the rocks. This is especially true for men who lack verbal communication skills but expect women to be ready for sex at a moment's notice. Sorry fellas...the older women get, the less likely they are to go along to get along, if you know what I mean. Guys, this is the most common issue I have seen in couples counseling. When the relationship gets funky in your 30's, 40's, 50's and beyond, please get help before it's too late to save your marriage. [Side note: Men, when women are no longer complaining about such and such and you haven’t changed anything, this is not a time to be lulled into complacency. Chances are, when she’s done fighting, she may well be done with you (ouchie!) and planning her exit strategy. Seen it a lot, and IJS… Get help before it’s too late!]
The former professional athlete who has brain trauma (and probably some addiction, PTSD, or depression to go along with it)
Many of my male clients have at least some college education, are at least middle class, have children and are, or have been, married. They are normal people. The guy you work with, the guy sitting next to you at the sports bar, your neighbor, the guy you go to church with, or the guy at the gym. You get the picture.
On the Flip Side
Now, from another perspective, the most common reasons I have seen for which some people wish the men in their lives would seek counseling is that they want the man to listen. Whether it’s a teenage child, a spouse, a parent of an adult son, or the adult child of an aging father, the most common reasons people want their men to go to therapy is so that the men can learn to listen, communicate openly, and fight fair. To the willing recipient, these are skills that can be taught. So if this sounds like your story, feel free to ask for help. We are here for it!
No Drama Please
You see? There are lots of reasons for men to go to counseling. But here is one of the most challenging reasons I see: Many men go to counseling because they are in a toxic romantic relationship. One of my clients has described the woman he is attracted to as a “beautiful disaster”. Well, that about explains it all, doesn’t it? These are good looking, successful, affectionate and loving men who seem stuck on women who “cause drama”. And the logical question anyone would have for these men is: Why do you stay? That is the million dollar question. I should be rich for as many times as I have asked it ;-)
A lot of seemingly successful men even write in their dating app profiles something to the extent of, “No drama please.” A reasonable request, right? It’s one thing for a teenager or a 20-something to “cause drama”. But when someone 40-something and older is doing it, there is a problem. At middle age, chances are if you are getting “drama”, then you are attracting “drama” and entertaining “drama” for long enough and often enough that you feel compelled to use 200 or so of your limited dating app profile character limit to request that your dating matches not cause drama. I hate to tell ya this, but if you are writing this on your profile, you may want to speak to someone about what it is about you that attracts and retains partners that are full of “drama”. The common denominator is you. Maybe it’s time to take a look? Again, ijs…And, counseling can help!
You Are Not Alone
Now, for those men who feel they’ve totally been put on blast, let me tell you that all of the issues I have described are commonly seen in women too. Women become addicted, struggle to communicate, don’t fight fair, and stay in toxic relationships where they look like the “normal” one….women have these issues too. But hey, I’m not writing that blog today….AND, women are more likely to seek out help soooooo…….this blog’s for you tough guy!
My hope is, if you are a man who has ever doubted himself, ever felt lonely in his relationships, ever felt disconnected, ever struggled with some kind of compulsive behavior, you may be a candidate for therapy. This doesn’t mean you’re crazy. It just means you don’t have all of your shit together all of the time, and maybe you haven’t figured out how to solve all of your problems. Welcome to the human race Bubs. Jump on the Imperfect Bus. We love having you!
So guys, in conclusion, I believe most of you are doing your best to succeed in life and to have fulfilling relationships. But sometimes you’re preparing for a math test when you’re actually getting tested in English Literature. You’ve got all your formulas memorized, but what people around you really crave is something that can’t be measured. They want your time, your curiosity, your empathy. Your ear, your attention, and your heart. If you struggle with the “softer side of life”, and many men do, maybe see what you can do differently to get what you want. I can almost guarantee that as you gain more insight and learn more of the softer skills, you will attract less drama. Yes, counseling for “normal” things can pave the way for a more peaceful, satisfying life.
No drama, no drama. You got it. We got you. Happy wife, happy life, right? Let us help.
Thank you so much to #teamsoulspring counselor Wynne Stallings for her contributions to the content of this article.