By Dr. David B. Hawkins, Crosswalk.com
Change is difficult. It is even more difficult, sometimes even impossible, when one feels isolated and alone.
There is a growing movement of men gathering with other men for the purpose of being healthy husbands and leaders in their marriage. Before they can lead effectively, however, they must sometimes face emotional challenges and self-defeating character traits that create problems in their marriage.
I have begun working more intensively with men seeking to change. Often with a history of being selfish and emotionally abusive, the men reaching out for help seek to grow emotionally. Often facing a marital crisis, they struggle to be vulnerable, or admit weakness in their character.
“It is harder than I thought,” one man said to me recently. “I thought it would be easier to give up my defensiveness. It hasn’t been easy. I’m learning that I hate to be criticized, and when my wife does it I turn on her. That only makes matters worse.”
Another man who was recently separated from his wife because of his anger said:
“I realize I’ve been angry for a long time. I blamed her for my anger, and it wasn’t until she separated from me and I was alone, that I could see I was responsible for the way I responded to my wife. It’s not about her, I’ve got to clean up my side of the street. It has not been easy.”
Yet another man who came to one of my Men’s Intensives had this to say:
“It’s not easy being labeled ‘emotionally abusive,’” he said. “I had to swallow my pride to come here, and I discovered I was not alone. It has helped being in a men’s group where we’ve learn to talk about our feelings. I never realized how emotionally challenged I was until I sat with other men. I think I’m finally beginning to get it.”
More men are seeking opportunities to gather with other men for the purpose of emotional growth and ridding themselves of defensive, crazy-making tactics that destroy relationships. Those seeking help develop insight into why they respond the way they do and how they can respond more effectively. They learn how to identify and manage their emotions, how to ask for what they need in respectful ways and even how to develop boundaries.
Here are a few additional advantages for participating in a men’s group:
To gain the experience of not being alone. We all long to know we are not alone when facing our problems. We feel shame when hiding, but rid ourselves of shame when sharing our true, authentic nature with other men. We become bonded to other men and experience the scriptural promise of ‘iron sharpening iron’;
To share your burdens with other men. Our problems and defective character traits grow in the shadows. Many Twelve Step programs say, “We are only as sick as our secrets.” Scripture tells us, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed (James 5: 16). Sharing our failures promotes humility and receptivity to change;
To gain insights from hearing other men’s stories. When sharing our story with other men we learn from their experience. Other men have likely experienced problems similar to yours and can offer insight from that experience. You will gain new perspectives in listening to their challenges and how they faced them;
To offer support and receive support from other men. Not only will you gain support from other men, but can offer support as well. Men appreciate helping other men and this connection/bond can be very healing. Someone needs to hear your story and what you are doing to overcome a struggle;
To share your experience, strength and hope. These groups offer experience, strength and hope. We long to know someone is there for us and knows our story. We need someone who will hold us accountable for change. We all long to be told there is hope for our situation. Someone has been where we are and has found a path through the problem.
Are you struggling in your marriage? If so, are you gaining support from anyone? Consider participation in a men’s group. If you would like further help to restore brokenness in your marriage, we are here to help. Please send responses to me at [email protected] and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives as well as our newly formed Subscription Group, Thrive, for women struggling from emotional abuse.
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/digitalskillet
Dr. David Hawkins, MBA, MSW, MA, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who has helped bring healing to thousands of marriages and individuals since he began his work in 1976. Dr. Hawkins is passionate about working with couples in crisis and offering them ways of healing their wounds and finding their way back to being passionately in love with each other.
Over the past ten years, Dr. Hawkins has become a leader in the field of treatment for narcissism and emotional abuse within relationships. He has developed several programs for treatment of men dealing with these issues and the women who love them. Dr. Hawkins is also a speaker & trainer for the American Association of Christian Counselors and writes for Crosswalk.com, CBN.org, and iBelieve.com. He is a weekly guest on Moody Radio and Faith Radio and is a best-selling author of over thirty books.