I have yet to figure out why a large number of men, as they get older, become increasingly quiet, withdrawn, and cynical. It's like the whole system begins to "shut down," and it starts shutting down first at the social and emotional level. Middle age men tend to come home, eat supper, read their paper, and watch TV until it's time to retire. Children, of course, have grown and moved out, so you would think that he talks to his wife all the time. No! The fact is that she might say, "John let's talk," only to have him reply, "I thought we did that last week."
Though he makes no deliberate
effort to relate to his spouse, he becomes extremely dependent on her,
both emotionally and physically. If she were to ever leave him or
to die, he likely would be lost without her. Yet, he hardly puts
in any effort into strengthening their marriage.
Once men enter middle age, they rarely make new friends. Relationships with children become shallow and stilted. Sadly, when they lose their spouses, they are ill equipped to deal with it.
Men are more resistant to change and they are even more resistant to let anyone help them to change. Even when they know they are stuck and spinning their wheels in a rut, they rarely do anything to change the situation.
It is said that the true definition of "craziness" is to do the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Now, that sure is craziness. But we suspend all our reasoning and use such arguments as, "That's the way I am," "This is how I have always done it," That's all I know to do," or "I can't change now."
I'm not exactly thrilled by the excuse, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks?" This simple phrase has put more stumbling blocks in the path of change than any other excuse and it's wrong. It's not too difficult to teach an "old dog" new tricks, but the dog has to be willing to learn. You can change any time you want to, and there is no time like the present!
Gail Sheehy, author of "Men's Passages" says, "Some men have to literally break down—have a physical blow out or plunge into depression before they can give themselves permission to make a major change." It just makes common sense to start changing and taking help before one reaches the breakdown point. Besides, it will hurt less. We might know that but pride gets in the way.
False pride often covers our shame. We men are too ashamed to admit that we have been wrong or that we are no longer in control. We are more afraid of losing control than we are of dying. For us, bending even a little bit equals submission. Seeking guidance or advice from another translates in our mind to admission of failure.
Psychologist Erik Erickson felt that a person passes through eight stages of development between childhood to old age. The last two stages, spanning midlife and old age, are called "generativity" and "integrity." According to this concept, in midlife and old age our "job" is to be creative and productive, help others and the future generations, and to attain the highest level of personal integrity. If we do not do our job, we become stagnated and despair sets in.
So if you have begun to feel stagnated, do something about it. Keep your edge! You can never retire from the job of becoming a better and more complete person and helping the next generation. This is why spouses, children, and grandchildren are there so you can do your job of nurturing them and bringing joy into their lives and yours.
Here are some questions that Sheehy
asks all men who are approaching midlife or old age :
How do you plan to prolong your physical health?
What is your plan to stimulate and enrich your mind on a daily basis?
What will you do for your spiritual fulfillment?
Are you willing to risk deeper intimacy with your partner at all levels including the physical, mental and spiritual?
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Copyright 1996, Mind