The Male Independence Need
by David A. Morris, LCSW
Many of my married male clients over the years have expressed a need for independence. It typcially sounds something like “If I could only get away. . . “, “I wish my wife would give me a moment to think . . . “ and “I didn’t expect marriage to be like this . . . “. Times have changed. The patriarchal culture in which a man could do and say what he wanted, when he wanted has come to an end. Unfortunately an unintended consequence is that fatherhood is on a steady decline. Those men who are participating in their children’s lives are expected to work 40-60 hours a week, be emotionally available when coming home, attend to the house’s repair needs, and engage in the marriage. Women have been doing this since the dawn of time and are clearly more advanced at it. Men struggle with this increased responsibility and find their independent mindset and desires are not a priority anymore.
Some report this desire for independence is innate and others say it starts in the nurturing of little boys, regardless of your theoretical persuasion it is creating a generation of men whom are avoiding committed relationships, avoiding having children, experiencing depression and increased agitation in their marriage. Typically, this is where the pursuer-distance pattern begins. The male desires more independence and starts taking it in little suggestive ways such as ignoring, being forgetful, or disconnected. The female senses this and attempts to pull her spouse back into engaging the relationship, the chores, and the children. As she pulls him in, he distances himself; of course as he pulls away she pursues him to gather him back in. Soon the gap between the two is wide.
This result is not inevitable. Men can do things that both engages them in the family and meets their independent need. See below:
- Let go of the rope – the tug of war between blaming, criticism and trying to change the other person is damaging. Let go of the rope and purposefully choose to compliment, validate, and appreciate your spouse at a rate of 5 to 1. (that’s five positives to every negative!)
- Tune in to your moment – the best way to engage in your children’s and wife’s life is to tune in to what is currently happening. Set aside your to do list, your future goals, and your disconnected thoughts so you can be in the moment. It will increase the value of your time while often reducing the amount of time you need to spend. Quality over quantity.
- Set boundaries – let your spouse know when the independent needs and desires start to arise. Set a weekly or monthly time for you to spend time by yourself or with your buddies. When it is predictable you can trust it is there and she can plan accordingly. In addition, you may find she needs the same time for herself
- Don’t count – stop making lists in your mind of all the things you do for everyone. More than likely your spouse is also doing a lot of little things to keep the house running. By “keeping score” you build up the negativity which piles on and influences your independent voice. It builds a sense of urgency to leave that may not be accurate.
If you can relate but also find your mood is significantly impacted please give us a call. A understanding, supportive therapist can walk alongside of you to help you reach your independence without sacrificing the people close to you.
Stay tuned for the female perspective and independence need blog in a few weeks.