In our dominant world culture, the male world is one of success. Men have to be winners. Men are to provide for their families and to have power. If men are friendly with one another, they will support and help each other in this task; if they do not know one another, they will compete.
Women or the woman is the essential status symbol in this world, more than anything else. The choice of the right woman to represent a man and his power is essential. Once a man has made his choice, it is assumed that he will stay with her – after all, he is expected to demonstrate reliability. So when a relationship splits up or a marriage is divorced, this is regarded as his failure – in some cultures more so, in others less.
Men are to bring health and happiness to their families. If, however, they are responsible for family property, especially out of tradition, this property can sometimes become even more important than the family itself. Men feel responsible for upholding a tradition. This can also be the case with property which they do not own but are paid to take care of and feel responsible for. Even in such business relations, personal interests can be more important than the business matters.
If men are highly competitive and success-oriented, women cannot expect them to change once they have entered the matrimonial home. They will still act in the way they have been brought up to act in a world they have been conditioned for. So they will usually – unless they have trained themselves exceptionally well – react very defensively and negatively to any form of criticism. In the world of sheer survival, friends and staff – and members of the family – are expected to support one another.
The same sort of negative reaction often occurs if a wife or loved one is not happy. Most men interpret this as personal criticism, as they feel responsible for their wife’s happiness. And they react accordingly: they defend themselves, often even getting angry. Their spouse feels more unhappy, as in revealing her unhappiness she had hoped for help rather than admonision.
Men should be criticised only in the appropriate situation, which is very often not right away. Likewise, a woman’s unhappiness should not appear unless it is the right moment. What is the right moment? It should to be a moment in which a man feels secure of the support and love of his wife. There has to be enough time to talk. The problem is that if women choose this moment regularly for criticism, men will instinctively begin to avoid such moments.
Women are often the initiators of talks about problems and unhappiness. Almost as often, they find that men are unwilling to talk about them. Most men do not like problems, conflicts, pain, or arguments. They prefer not to talk about difficult topics and expect and hope that their spouse will be able to resolve them herself. For many women, however, it is most essential to be able to talk about everything with the man they love. When the desires do not match, and the man reacts as described, the woman must attempt to solve these problems without his help.
It becomes more difficult if the problems can only be resolved with his help, i.e. the woman is unhappy as a result of his behaviour, habits, or what he says. A woman can, of course, make a man listen to what she wants to say. She may even be able to make a man do what she wants, but it is not certain that he will do this more often than the one time she asked it of him. Most men are set in their ways. If a woman wants a man to change his habits, her chances of success are most uncertain. She then has to decide how to live with his habits or, if she cannot, if she has to live without him.
Not many men are prepared to change. Their defence systems and survival techniques bring about a certain way of behaving. The danger that such systems might dysfunction if changed seems to be high, so they tend to be very conservative in that respect. Fortunately, we live in a society in which personal freedom and development are possible and so we – men and women – may be able to find new ways of living together with enhanced respect, even when maintaining this respect may necessitate more distance between one another.
[Text by Marion Schneider]