By Vincent Corvino
I’m a man who’s not afraid to say that I have needs. All men have needs, and any man who says he doesn’t is trying to project invincibility while fearing the truth, and you can’t be both impenetrable and scared. That just isn’t possible.
When a man’s needs are met, he’s able to better perform the roles that he’s established for himself and those that others have created for him. But most societies do not raise men who are comfortable articulating their needs or feelings.
Think about it. How many more girls than boys keep a personal diary? Supermarket magazine racks offer article after article about women’s needs and emotional issues and give guys little more than car-buying or ab-sculpting tips, peppered with occasional blurbs about prostate or cardiovascular threats. Dr Phil doesn’t sit down and cry with men over their problems, and daytime talk shows dedicate themselves to exposing and admonishing poor male behavior, subjecting guys to lie detector and paternity tests and offering none of the emotional or circumstantial support that these shows offer to equally irresponsible women. Too often, she is always a victim, and he is always a villain.
So, how does a guy achieve wholeness in a society that expects so much of him yet derides him whenever possible? How can a guy ensure that his most intimate relationships meet his subconscious psychological and emotional needs?
First, he has to identify his needs. Though these do vary from individual to individual, it is understood that most men want their efforts and accomplishments acknowledged by others. Men want to know that they are appreciated. Other people in our lives contribute to the way we see ourselves, and a man cannot be happy if he derives no pride from his identity. Does this make men egotistical? Absolutely. Is the male ego a bad thing? Not really and not always.
When considering questions like this, I like to refer to evolutionary psychology, which emphasizes the man’s role as provider. In today’s society, in order to “provide”, a man must possess some value that can be monetized. But in order to truly satisfy him emotionally and psychologically, this value must be highly regarded by the people in his life who matter to him most — especially his significant other.
How can you tell if your current significant other is capable of meeting your deepest needs? The answer is both abstract and concrete. Consider how you generally feel in the relationship and what she does and doesn’t do for you.
I’ve never left a relationship hating the other person. I’ve only ever left a relationship because I hated what I had become in it — bitter, resentful, and, as a consequence, mean. In an abstract sense, if you don’t like yourself while in a relationship, you should examine whether or not the relationship is to blame and is or isn’t meeting your needs. This will lead to a closer scrutiny of facts in the relationship.
Does she compliment you or more often criticize you? When talking to others about you, does she do so with pride? Does she seem to want to show you off to her friends or candy-coat what she sees as your subpar qualities and accomplishments? Does she actively involve herself in your health and well-being, or does she leave these essential aspects of life entirely up to you? Does she honor or restrict your freedom? When you share your goals with her, does she participate in your enthusiasm and offer encouragement, or does she seem to be merely enduring the words coming out of your mouth? If she isn’t meeting your needs, are you at all responsible for her inability to do so? Have you considered and addressed her needs, or is the relationship all about you?
As we enter the New Year, our minds are either purposely or inadvertently occupied with our designs for the future. This year, let’s all commit to working as hard on our psychological and emotional well-being as many of us will work on our abs, our diets, and our pesky vices. Let’s take inventory, a close look at anything about or around us that has been stealing our joy and either change those circumstances or configure new ways of living with them. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Too many of us guys have been discouraged from getting in touch with our feelings, understanding them, and using them as springboards for necessary changes in life. Though my 41-year-old instincts incline me to disparage new hip sayings, the term “YOLO (you only live once)” is a valuable one. Before we have “shuffled off this mortal coil,” as Hamlet says, let’s be honest about our needs and get them met.
How is this done?
Be honest with yourself: Guys who talk about themselves in the third person aggravate me, but they do represent something true about all guys. We all have an ideal identity that we either doggedly pursue or stoically maintain. Too often, this attachment to an ideal identity distracts us from understanding who we really are. Take inventory of your best and worst qualities and embrace them all, even if they end up comprising the person you truly want to be. Once you really understand who you are, you’ll really understand what you need.
Men can be confused by their needs, as they too often seem to conflict with one another. There’s desire for company and for solitude. There’s desire for security and for risk. Men like to see themselves as established, yet always on the way to something bigger and better. Life is full of conflicts. It’s okay to have needs that seem to contradict one another.
Be honest with others: What’s wrong with sitting down with someone and telling them what you need from them in your relationship? If the other person is truly interested in your happiness, and your requests are not completely unreasonable, the worst the other person can do is dismiss your needs or initially accept them but fail to meet them. In the end, you will have learned something valuable about this relationship. On the other hand, the other person might fully comprehend your needs and willingly meet them.
Reevaluate the word, “tough.” As mentioned earlier, most guys don’t discuss their needs, because they’re afraid of revealing their vulnerabilities. I don’t think that succumbing to fear makes someone tough.
About the Author:
Vincent Corvino’s writing has appeared in several literary journals, among them The Quarterly, New Letters, The Crescent Review and The Blue Moon Review. He is currently the lead singer of the New York City hard rock band, Urbansnake. He is a former student of Zen Buddhist Roshi, Rich Hart, and has trained as a boxer under former WBO Middleweight Champion, Doug Dewitt. He possesses an MA in Education from Columbia University and a Post-Graduate Certificate in School Leadership. He has been an English teacher since 1996.