Chapter 14 is called Do Men Do Intimacy Differently?
This is the longest chapter in the book, and the one all the women will run to in attempt to understand the men in their lives. Will it accomplish that? I’m not sure.
The first sentence is one that struck fear in my heart: “Men move towards what makes them feel competent.” (pg. 187) Don thinks this is likely why men run from intimacy – because they don’t feel competent in intimate relationships. This struck fear in my heart because my immediate thought was, “I already have a lot of expectations on me, now I have to make sure men feel competent around me, too? Sheesh. Am I their mother?”
But men aren’t bad at intimacy, he claims. He’ll talk about his feelings because that’s how his wife connects with him. But it is not something that comes naturally to Don, and most men. So men are led to believe they are bad at intimacy. This is closely tied to feelings of masculinity, because as men are drawn towards what makes them feel competent, they are also drawn toward careers that make them feel masculine, he says. He lost me a little at this point, and never really fleshes out the masculine concept (which is probably a good thing, because I think there are many ways for men to be masculine. But that’s another post for another time.)
Don moves on at this point in the chapter and doesn’t really connect the dots for me just yet. He begins to tell the story of Dan, a guy he hired to help grow his company. Their conversations didn’t start about a business plan for the future; they started with a life plan. Particularly a plan for Don and his marriage with Betsy. Slowly, Dan begins to show Don how asking what you want your marriage to look like is about two people working toward a fixed point. As all relationships are living and moving and becoming something, two people, in romantic relationships or otherwise, should walk together with the same goal in mind. This is about building… and nurturing and growing.
This nurturing and growing concept in relationships is interesting to me. Because if we allow things to “take a natural course” then as Christians, we know that will lead to a more sinful place. We are broken people in a broken world, so for us to just “let things happen” in our relationships likely means what will happen also be something broken. So it makes sense to me that we must make an effort together to direct the relationship away from our natural tendencies of brokenness, ultimately to a healthy and God-honoring place instead. “I let friendships, business relationships, and even my relationship with Betsy take a natural course rather than guiding them to a healthy place.” (pg. 194)
So “building” is how men do intimacy, I guess. Though Don never comes out and says that in plain language (again, that’s not really his style.) But this makes sense to me, because as all women have probably experienced in their lifetime, men like to fix us when we feel broken.
Fixing is not that different from building, if you think about it. Metaphorical fixing is far more likely to happen in a world that already has a lot of assumptions built. Cultural assumptions, historical ones, gender-based ones. These expectations and assumptions are built into us and the world, and are part of what makes us feel broken. They are definitely part of what makes us experience brokenness. When a man sees a woman they care for sad and broken then I imagine all they want to do is build something to make it better for us. Or simply fix the thing already built that is causing us the pain to begin with.
It’s sweet, really. I get that. Not always necessary. But it’s sweet.
If men are wired for building, what can we do as women to foster and nurture this, rather than make them feel like they are bad at intimacy, because it looks different than our way of connecting? How can we help men build without dismissing our own way of connecting, not making them feel incompetent?
“Men like to build and create and feel their power, and if they don’t do it in healthy ways they usually do it in unhealthy ways.” (pg. 203)
I’ve seen men with the desire to create and feel power build it in unhealthy ways. Through a relationship with a woman who is needy and weak, a job that builds them up so they want to spend every moment there, a hobby they are exceptional at so every extra cent of their paycheck is poured into it. It’s pretty normal, actually, once you start looking around for it. Now I just have an understanding of why.
Men are from Mars and woman are from Venus. Both we’re both still planets, you know? And that means we can both try. Try to understand each other and figure out some way to meet in the middle, so that intimacy isn’t just a series of let-downs and disappointments, but about two people moving together and toward each other at the same time. For the sake of love, for the sake of friendship, for the sake of healing.
Because this world needs oh so much healing.