THIS IS A LONG READ – and it’s simply my opinion on how we as men need to act out of respect to the women in our life. It’s my acknowledgement of International Women’s Day.
I feel very fortunate to have so many amazing women in my life and in fact most of my best friends are women. Growing up, I didn’t have any real male role models, most of the male behaviour that I witnessed was pretty terrible. There was a lot of violence and in fact abuse of all kinds. I’ve had my share of good and bad relationships, and I certainly don’t claim to be any kind of relationship expert. But what I have learned over 50 years is how to treat a woman.
The women in my life talk a lot about their relationships. Their fears, their own perceived failings, their regrets and how their men treat them. I have to say most of these discussions are not happy ones. Many men seem to have lost the ability to actually treat a woman the way they should be treated. And then they wonder why their partner shuts off.
I see a lot of men who talk a big game when it comes to women, how they treat them and how they act in a relationship, but rarely do their words match their actions. As I said, I don’t claim to be any kind of expert, but I believe that I have grown up with an incredible respect for women. To be honest I am in awe of what they do, the load they carry and their absolute and total commitment to others, in particular their children (and I was abandoned by my mother at 6 months of age – and I still have nothing but love and respect for her and I’ve never even met her).
At times I’ve been accused of being incredibly hard on men. I’ve been told I’m too hard, I expect too much. That might be the case, but I’m not going to change. Surely women have the right to expect more from their men and even more importantly, surely we as men want to be more, in every way imaginable. To me there is nothing sadder than that sense of resigned acceptance of a bad relationship that so many people live with, knowing nothing will change.
And in all reality, I think that often women accept men behaving badly, rather than calling them on it. If there are no ramifications, people who behave badly will continue to behave badly. So whilst I don’t think it’s ever just an issue with one side of the gender group, I think that we as men should be strong enough to realise when we aren’t acting in the most respectful way possible, even if the woman in your life accepts your bad behaviour that doesn’t make it right.
For me, as a man, I feel strongly that the following 9 points are what it takes to be a real man, who is fully present and engaged, in a deeply loving relationship.
1. Grow up
I see way too many men who are still little boys, acting like teenagers when they are in their 30’s and 40’s and even 50’s. They don’t grow up, step up or take responsibility. They are lazy in relationships, they are self-centred and their partners are forced to become their Mummies. Then the man wonders why the passion and intimacy leaves the relationship. Not too many Mum’s want to have sex with little boys. Growing up means stepping up, understanding what your woman needs in your relationship and being the man she needs. Being grown up means being mature enough to put the needs of your woman before your own and that means being less selfish.
2. Evolve as a man
A lesson I’ve learned in life is that if you aren’t growing in some way you are dying. One of the biggest issues that people complain about in relationships is that one partner outgrows the other. This is generally the result of one of two things – a mismatch from the beginning or one partner gets lazy and stops trying to become better as a person. My advice to the men of the world is that if you feel like your partner is outgrowing you, trying to hold them back is the best way to destroy the relationship. It’s time for you to be absolutely and totally committed to becoming the best version of yourself that you possibly can become. Learn, grow, experience – get passionate about something, anything. Be curious, be energetic. Most importantly work on yourself every single day, to become the best man you can be.
3. Do more than say you are supportive
It’s really easy to say you are supportive of someone, let’s be honest words are easy. Actions are a whole lot harder and not everyone can deliver. Some of my best female friends feel totally unsupported by their partners – yet their partners talk a big game about support, but they don’t do anything supportive. In my opinion if you say you are going to do something, make damn sure you do it. Whatever part of the relationship you are responsible for, do it exceptionally. If your job is to clean the house or look after the kids, do it. Don’t half do it, don’t say you’ll do it and then be pathetic at it, waiting for your woman to step in and fix everything. If you say you’re supportive but your woman can’t depend on you, she will lose respect for you and rightly so. Be a man, do what you say you are going to do and show your woman with your actions that she can depend on you in any and every situation, not just the situations that suit you.
4. Be strong
Our role as a man is to be strong. We need to be protective of our woman, and this means physically, emotionally, financially, sexually – the lot. We have to be big enough to weather the storms of a relationship, we have to be strong enough to accept when we are not being enough and do something about it. We also need to be strong enough to know when a relationship has run its course and we are not being fair on the woman in our life by not telling her. We also need to be strong enough to tell a woman when we don’t feel that we are being treated respectfully, it’s a two way street. But we have to learn to do it in a loving way, not a male aggressive way. Most importantly, we simply have to be the strongest version of ourselves, even when there are times that we don’t feel that strong. That’s our role, that’s why we are men.
5. Make it more than sex
I encounter a lot of men who seem to have an expectation of their woman to provide sex. They think that because they are married or in a relationship it’s the womens job to be on tap whenever the urge strikes him. Personally I can’t think of anything more degrading for a woman. To me, real men understand intimacy, passion, love and even lust. They get that the more of a man you are, in terms of being grown up, evolving, being supportive, strong, being fun and being loving, the more your partner will be want to be intimate. But nudging her in the back at 10pm after she’s had an 18 hour day of work and looking after kids (and often the big kid) with no intimacy, love or support during the day is not the way to do it. I’m surprised and saddened by how many woman I know who say that this is exactly what their sex life is like, sex on demand from the man. And men wonder why the intimacy leaves a relationship. It should not be like this.
6. Communicate in a mature way
Real men need to be able to communicate on every level. We need to be able to have an emotional conversation with our partner. We need to be able to listen, to understand, to put ourselves in their shoes and get where they are coming from. We need to be OK if they don’t know why they are upset and most importantly of all, we need to be mature enough to accept that if we are not giving them what they need on some level, we can talk about it. Men hide from hard discussions. In my view if a woman has a man who can have a mature, deep and meaningful discussion about anything, they should consider it a blessing.
7. Be absolutely respectful
To me this doesn’t just apply to the woman you are in a relationship with – this applies to every woman on the planet. I grew up watching men treating women badly, in some instances as bad as you can imagine. From this I was fortunate enough to learn that woman should be respected – in every way. Respect is a big word. Fathers actions will teach little boys how to treat women, and from what I see, some fathers should be ashamed of the lessons they are teaching their boys. Respect for women is non negotiable, it is a 24/7. It manifests with how a man talks to women, how he talks about women and how he acts towards women, all women. It’s much more than being “nice”. There are many “nice” men who are totally disrespectful to women and they are totally oblivious of their actions and other men rarely call them on it. Often it’s the things they don’t do as much as their actions that kids learn from. Lazy fathers create lazy boys. Disrespectful fathers create disrespectful boys. Weak fathers create weak boys.
8. Believe in her and her dreams
We all have hard days. We all have times where life is not that easy. But the worst thing a man can do is crush the dreams of his woman. It’s our job to be her number one fan, the one person who will never doubt her and her dreams, regardless of how wild they may be or what impact they may have on us. We need to do everything we can to help her achieve her dreams and she has to know that she can count on us, no matter what. Few men have the courage to do this fully. They get scared, what if she outgrows them or leaves them behind? Well the answer to that is simple, keep up. Have your own dreams, be a man that your woman looks up to and admires because you are passionate about life. The greatest act a man can do is to support his woman’s dreams, even when he knows that by doing this he will ultimately lose her. That’s hard I know, but that is incredible unconditional love and what a real man will do, simply because he puts his woman first, and his dream is to help her achieve her dreams.
9. Adore everything about her
Last but not least, the woman in our life deserves to be adored. To me adoration is always about the little things. It means being loving, it means being romantic, it means having fun together, laughing at each other and with each other, it means gentle touches, kissing often, it means a crazy amount of giant hugs, it means leaving little notes or cards, it means thinking long and hard about every single gifts that have deep meaning, it’s about forgiving quickly, its about being kind and gentle and doing all of this every single day. Make her the centre of your universe and then be the man that deserves her love.
So there you have it. Of course, no relationship is perfect, and we all go through tough times, but in the tough times, either our best self will come out or our worst self will come out. As I said in the beginning, I don’t claim to be any kind of relationship expert, I’ve certainly had my share of good and bad relationships. But what I’ve learned along the way is that as a man, if you can live up to what I’ve written here, and I know I’m asking a lot, every part of your life will be better.
What better means is up to you. It might mean making your relationship better, it might mean ending your current relationship because you are man enough to admit that it is over, or it might mean taking the leap and starting a new relationship with the intent of making it the most amazing relationship you’ve ever had.
It doesn’t matter, to be better in any role, whether it be partner, parent or friend, we need to always be striving to be the best, most authentic, most loving version of ourselves that we can possibly be.
Last but not least, whilst I’m asking men everywhere to step up, rest assured I know many men who do live up to this “man code”. They are extraordinary. They are my role models and not surprisingly they have great relationships, not just with their significant other, but with all of the women in their life (and all the men in their life as well).
So March 8 is “International Women’s Day”, I hope that this article will encourage men everywhere to be the man our women need us to be and want us to be.