Give a man a problem to fix; he feels right at home. Ask a man to love; that becomes a problem.
Men tend to demonstrate love through acts of service like doing things or fixing problems, or we may seek to feel loved through sex. However, loving with an open heart is hard for us. Sure, we can give a woman flowers or tell a close male friend in an off-handed way, “Luv you, Bro.” However, real love asks us to embrace intimacy (Into-me-see).
Intimacy is about being vulnerable, something men have been taught to avoid. If we identify with the images of masculinity as portrayed in the media and by culture, we will value toughness, self-sufficiency, and invulnerability. Those qualities of a warrior may work in the field of sports, but they don’t translate well with love and intimacy. That doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t long for love. Hell, everyone needs love. Deprive infants of love and they don’t survive.
To find love, we often lean into the beliefs that if we are good enough, strong enough, smart enough, or successful enough, then we will be loved. Unfortunately, this outcome depends on external praise and reinforcement. We can be extremely successful in the outside world yet feel unloved on the inside. Worthiness doesn’t come from others; it comes from the inside—where real love exists.
To love with an open heart requires tremendous courage because love is fraught with fear for many men. We either fear rejection and abandonment, or we fear getting smothered and losing ourselves. No wonder love is so difficult!
To build a life of love, we must be willing to move past our defenses and cultural images of masculinity. If we grew up with guilt, shame, rejection, or abuse, we have likely erected barriers around our hearts and carried on stoically.
The mystic Rumi tells us, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
Building a life of love requires us to seek out those beliefs that act as barriers. Here are but a few that get in the way:
Real men are tough and invulnerable.
I’m not the problem, you are!
If you see the real me, you won’t love me.
When I’m successful, I’ll be loved.
I don’t deserve love.
After becoming aware of our unspoken and often unconscious beliefs, we must dismantle the negative ones and replace them with heartfelt loving ones. Here are 5 steps to do that:
1. Accept yourself the way you are. Even though you may be frightened of opening your heart, you can still accept that you are fearful of getting hurt and still move forward toward intimacy.
2. Become aware of thoughts or beliefs that prevent you from receiving or giving love.
3. Open your heart to act in loving ways toward yourself and others. (Affirming words, acts of kindness, tender touch, time for play, etc.)
4. Institute a daily practice of self-care and love.
5. Share that love with a loved one, a friend, or your family.
When we become self-generating lovers, we have more love to share with others. And love is what the world desperately needs!