Jay’s Blog for Men

Men in Love

In Side by Side (Side by Side: The Sacred Art of Couples Aging with Wisdom {2023}), our focus was the intersection of aging, spirituality, and marriage.  During the interview process, I became very curious about the responses from the men in the project.  I was pleasantly surprised that many of the men talked about emotional and psychological needs being met through marriage.  In fact, the men overwhelmingly desired a committed and loving relationship with their partner; they highly endorsed marriage as the single most important element to a fulfilling life, one that is deeply satisfying and even sacred.

These men did not arrive at their positive conclusions about their marriages without the difficulties of working through many issues with their spouses and, especially, their perceived (by their partners) ambivalence for improving their marriages.  Often the trigger to seriously looking at themselves for self-growth was a first step to deepening their relationship with their partner.  In fact, their partners demanded they elevate their marriage to a higher level.  A level that included self-disclosure, truth-telling, vulnerability, deep listening, and action.  Don’t just say, their wives would state, that you love me, show me, and regularly!

The demand was received as a warning and a signal that any form of denial or hiding from our partners, our marriage, and especially, ourselves, had to stop.  Interestingly, not one of the men was terribly surprised by the demand.  Okay, they said to themselves, it is time for me to do better with this person who does not feel I care enough about them and our relationship.  These men, understood at some deep level, as Martin Buber has stated, “…Our relationships live in the space between us which is sacred…All real living is meeting”.  These men discovered that the “space” Buber was writing about, according to their spouses, was in danger of becoming a void. 

The men in these interviews decided if they want something different, they needed to do something different.  As Coach Lou Holt used to quip, “…Men who complain about the way the ball bounces are likely to be the very ones who regularly drop the ball”.  Our marriages are decidedly more important than baseball, and if it isn’t, well, that is another challenge to consider.  

What to do?  Many men in this study asked for help.  Sometimes it is with a close friend, other times a therapist or a marriage counselor.  Whatever the direction for assistance, new information is needed in order to change our behavior.  Personally, I discovered a brilliant therapist who was willing to take me on and I am so very grateful (more on therapy in Conclusion Section of SIDE by SIDE).  She was able to help me break through some life-long issues originated in my childhood.  She also did some foundational couple’s counseling directly linking early childhood trauma operating for Caryl as well for me.   Additionally, we were introduced to various models of communication skills and strategies that we have been able to employ immediately, which have turned out to be very helpful.  My marriage, and my own personal evolution, as a human being, is a work in progress, and to be clear, it always will be. 

My next writing piece (May 2023) will continue with my learnings from the men in the Side by Side Project, other men’s groups that I participate in, and the evolving knowledge in the area of masculinity, especially for eldering men, but for all men as well.  The men in the Side by Side Project are actually pioneers of masculine disruption (not language they would readily use), but have unknowingly developed the early work of what I call “Masculine Singularity.”  Stay tuned, and thank you for your participation in my Substack world! 

Jay Casbon

May 12, 2023