By Steve Horsman for Good Men Project
Every chronically unhappy husband I work with is battling a very common affliction.
It’s his mindset.
The way he thinks about his role and his life as a married man is in need of what I call a “mojo makeover”.
And until he decides to buckle down and focus on changing his self-sabotaging thoughts he will continue feeling what he’s feeling and getting what he’s getting.
He will keep trying to “make her happy”. He will constantly worry about what she thinks of him.
And he’ll continue doing anything and everything to get her attention, gain her approval and feel her appreciation.
He will jump through more and more hoops each day just so she might give him want he wants.
In his mind, he’s been a really “good husband”. The best kind. The caring, attentive, provider kind.
Everything would be fine if she would just acknowledge that and validate him.
(Note: Obviously, mojo makeovers are equally essential for chronically unhappy wives. There are many resources out there for that.)
Why “Good Guy” Doesn’t Always Equal Good Husband
A client I’ll call “Kevin” told me once that his wife just blurted out one day, “Just because you’re a good guy doesn’t make you a good husband!”
“What the hell does that mean?” he asked me.
Kevin is like thousands of unhappily married men who aren’t getting what they want from marriage.
He’s a powerful and competent man at work. He is highly respected and appreciated by his co-workers and his clients. Kevin is decisive, quick witted, funny and persuasive.
He has a pretty tight group of friends and considers himself a caring, sensitive and conscious guy.
After hearing how he was operating in his marriage, I was able to pinpoint the problem.
Kevin is used to getting what he wants. His relationship skills outside of his marriage are effective at engineering the outcomes he desires. He knows how to get people to like him and get their agreement with doing the things he wants them to do.
Outside of his relationship, it seems to work pretty well. His wife knows this about him. She sees how effective he is at work and how people gravitate toward his confident and assertive nature. He is patient and kind with everyone.
She doesn’t respond to his manipulations and subtle games of getting his needs met and that pisses him off. He not only wants her to want him…he needs it more than anything.
While he gets his “validation bucket” filled easily at work, it’s not so easy at home. He relies heavily on his wife to make him feel okay about his masculine value and his sexual worthiness on a daily basis.
His need for external validation from her is insatiable. His subsequent dark moods, angry outbursts, and seething resentment create a predictable pattern in their relationship.
He wants to know how to change her.
How can he make her more appreciative and desirous of him?
Shouldn’t she want to make him happy?
Being a Happy Man First – Happy Husband Second
Kevin’s personal challenge is hardly rare these days.
I didn’t escape it either.
It’s the mindset and belief that we are dependent on outside validation and acceptance in order to be happy men.
It’s the trap of holding others hostage for making us feel whole and worthy.
It makes us resent them for not filling those needs. And, in turn, they resent us for being given an utterly impossible assignment.
I regarded women, sex, and marriage as oases from which my sense of well-being could be filled – anytime I needed. Feeling like a happy man required me to be dependent on feminine approval, sexual surrender and unconditional commitment.
Perhaps like me, you are the product of a few generations of men who have obtained their PhD’s in the art of pleasing women and using relationships with them as the wellspring for your sense of masculine purpose and value.
This is a habit we develop early on when we find easy targets in our mothers, aunts, and teachers who are all too willing to let us drink from their generous fountain of approval and “attaboys”. This is exacerbated by the absence of strong, masculine role models to teach us another way.
So what now? We’re decades past our formative years and still confused on what to do next.
The only possible way to achieve true happiness inside our relationships is to take responsibility for learning what it truly means to be a happy man outside our relationships.
First things first.
This means we must deliberately and mercifully release those we’ve held accountable for our happiness. I don’t mean leave them – I mean release the pressure from them. Not only will they feel a massive wave of relief as we lighten their load…so will we.
As we take our own initiative we will feel the departure of our clinging inner boy who has feared this day for some time now.
The Key to Becoming a Happy Man
Learning to become a happy man is your paramount mission.
Nothing else is more important and nothing else will improve your life more dramatically.
Men first approach me with this problem when their intimate, committed, romantic relationship has hit a wall. It’s in these relationships where we first feel the intense pain of masculine inadequacy and powerlessness.
It’s the first time our lack of emotional self-reliance is so vulnerably exposed. And our women don’t waste much time testing that sensitive underbelly. They can’t and won’t accept our demands for attention and validation like our mothers and teachers did.
It’s actually a favor if you can get yourself to see the beauty in it. I know how tough that can be.
The key to becoming a happy man inside our relationships is to learn that we already have everything we need inside of us to be happy.
We have the ability, imagination, and initiative to create whatever we want and to become whatever we want.
Happiness comes from choosing to manipulate our own circumstances – not the people around us.
If we no longer want to be an unhappy man who seeks his well-being and worthiness from others, we can change that circumstance. If we want to feel more confident in ourselves and our sexual value, we can change that circumstance.
And if we want to build emotional self-reliance and a sense of personal power, we can change that circumstance.
This is totally achievable when we develop more clarity around our personal values and self-expectations. We must reprogram our confused notions about our masculine value, women, and sex.
And we have to accept responsibility for believing in our own self-worth and developing the confidence to stand strong in what we expect from ourselves and for ourselves.
Is it significantly more work to do that than to demand others to do it for us?
But which one will create the real results and lasting happiness we want for our next 30 years?
Owning our happiness and facing our fears is a scary proposition. Fear of change and the unknown is what freezes us in place. I wrote this free ebook for men who are feeling frozen. The Hard-to-Swallow Secret to Saving Your Marriage. Get it HERE.