This month I was honored to have been asked by Allison Maxim, owner of Maxim Law, in St. Paul, Minnesota to write about men, mindfulness and relationships. Below is Part I of my two-part series on these topics. Allison is an attorney who helps couples mindfully make decisions for their marriage, their relationships and their family. Whether couples decide to stay married or to divorce, Allison is there to guide and support them as they decide what is best for everyone involved.
Breaking the Cycle of Fear and Shame for Men in Committed Relationships
-Brian Zirngible, LMFT
Safety… Mindfulness… Independence. These are just a few of the main hot topics that are explored in my office with men and couples. It might not seem realistic to maintain all of these needs at the same time, but with some guidance and practice, we can certainly work together towards a more hopeful future.
Have you seen the "bed scene" in the movie "The Story Of Us" with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer? It's hilarious yet exquisitely valid at the same time. Their characters attend a couple's therapy session where the therapist describes marriage as not only the two people that get married, but marriage also includes their parents as well. This dynamic often shows up in my work as we explore family of origin issues, genetics, and how varied parenting experiences can inform our intimate relationship dynamics.
In this post, we will focus on the importance of safety in a relationship. The next post will include a discussion of mindfulness and independence and the important each play in your relationship. Both blog posts provide links to important resources and examples which build upon the topic by providing tools and templates for you to take action.
Safety: The Foundation of Happiness and Security
Who doesn't want to feel safe? We feel loved and cared for when we feel safe. Imagine that safety is like cuddling into a warm, cozy blanket on a cold winter night while drinking a cup of hot cocoa as your Sade album gently crackles on the record player… that's safety!
The feeling of safety and security in relationships is vital to growing together as a couple. I help the men I work with to think about safety as building trust within relationships. If our partner doesn't trust us, they won't feel safe. And if they don't feel safe, there will be problems of connecting on intimate, physical and sexual levels.
One of the most helpful tips I offer men and couples is to help them learn about their partner's Love Language. If we are able to "speak" our partner's Love Language more often, that will help increase the trust and safety within the relationship. Our Love Language can change, mix and switch back and forth over time and this is quite normal.
I also encourage men and couples to practice patience, self-love and to forgive themselves, as nothing changes overnight. We tend to beat ourselves up and talk negatively to ourselves when things don't automatically change. Change, personal growth and healing take time. Calm down… take a breath… have a relationship plan.
Another helpful resource for the men and couples I work with is the book called "I Don't Want To Talk About It" by Terry Real. He describes the abusive and traumatic relationship between he and his father. He describes our society as one where boys are taught not to have or express feelings or emotions. I see this dynamic nearly every day in my office and I am proud of all the men who are brave enough to call "bullshit" on the "boys will be boys" myth and stereotype.
Stay tuned for Part II which will touch on subjects of Mindfulness and Independence within committed relationships. Until then, be good to each other and to yourselves!