Whenever the subject of relationships comes up, many women ask why so many men can connect physically or on the surface, but avoid deep levels of genuine intimacy. Frustrated, many women create their own answers to these questions. They say "men only want sex. They're designed that way." But it is that simple? Are men just emotionally numb robots who have no feelings and live for sex?
There are few things more dangerous than broadly brushed generalizations. First, men aren't avoiding intimacy. Second, men are individuals and have to be approached as such. We're human beings with spirits first, then men. We are not only capable of achieving intimacy, we're equipped and designed for it.
But if that is the case, why do so many men avoid intimacy? The answer to that question can be found in society's age-old beliefs about manhood. Our society has long supported the view that being a man means we have to conquer and control; make lots of money; have lots of women. Men must also learn to ignore physical or psychological pain; we pretend we don't have emotions. We men are groomed to only experience half of ourselves. But just because we've been trained that way doesn't mean that it's right or the best pattern by which to conduct our lives.
Many of us have felt the strain of the warrior mentality wearing us down and unraveling our lives. When I was on the road promoting Brothers, Lust, and Love
, I recall a conversation I had with a radio producer in between segments. He asked me what my next book, Understanding the Tin Man
, was about. I said, "It's about how some men avoid intimacy because we've been taught that our manhood is defined by our ability to dominate and have power over our surroundings. Intimacy is the opposite of that: It involves interdependence and sharing. Since most men have been trained to maintain control at all times, we tend to avoid intimacy. But by denying our own emotions and feelings many of us travel down a self-destructive path that leads to promiscuity, addiction, neglect of our health, and overall unhappiness. After we wear ourselves out, we realize there's something missing and decide we need to establish a new and healthy approach to life." I thought the rugged producer would be turned off by the idea of men needing to be more sensitive and connected to their lives, but I was wrong. He nodded his head in agreement. Then he stroked his beard and uttered a deep "Mmm hmm ... You're right. I know exactly what you mean."
I've had that same reaction from men of all ages, incomes, and ethnic backgrounds every time I bring up the topics in Understanding the Tin Man
; we all feel that our lives and relationships must change, but we haven't given ourselves permission to break out of the mold. Society hasn't allowed us the freedom either, and so we remain the same and we live by a definition of manhood that leaves us stressed out. We then seek solace in sex, money, drinking, getting high, or develop an insataible desire for power and control. But those things only lead to more of nothing. Some men can never have enough alcohol, drugs, sex, money, or power to make them feel complete. We have to turn the equation inside out; develop what's on the inside. By putting out lives in balance and developing the right perspective, we can enjoy our lives with increased health and prosperity.
Excerpted from Understanding the Tin Man by William July II. Copyright © 2001 by William July II. Excerpted by permission of Harmony, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.