The Deeper Issue

In The Men on my Couch, Dr. Brandy Engler claims that when men seek therapy for sexual problems the issue really comes down to love.

One example: “Hank” had marital problems, and threatened to leave his wife if she wouldn’t give him blow jobs. Engler’s doesn’t judge this but instead digs deeper.

Hank was always the one to initiate sex, and would go down on his wife without her having to ask. So the real issue was Hank’s feeling of rejection. His marriage felt one sided due to his wife’s failure to reciprocate. Although Dr. Engler doesn’t address this, I’d bet anything that Hank’s wife doesn’t reciprocate much even outside the bedroom.

Men are constantly berated for treating treat women like sex objects, but the flip side is women objectifying men as utilities, or “love objects”, as Engler puts it.

Case in point: On Valentine’s Day the flower delivery guy constantly shows up at my office with flowers for women while the men receive nothing. It’s a competition between women to see who gets the best bouquet – and no doubt many a husband comes home to an angry wife who berates him for the inadequate bouquet he sent – while she ignores the fact that she’s done nothing for him.

Too often women complain that men aren’t romantic enough. But most women leave the romancing entirely up to men, failing to realize how hard it is to be romantic all the time when it’s a one way street. If romance were viewed as a mutual endeavour then women would have more romance in their lives.

Hank’s way of expressing his hurt may have been crude.  But the blow job is symbolic of a larger pattern in his marriage, and the real issue is that he feels unloved.  But Hank didn’t have the skills to address it in an emotionally positive way.

Hank’s wife isn’t any more skillful, however, and she too was unable to see that the blow job wasn’t the real issue.

I think we all can identify times when we’ve been in a similar situation.  It might not be focused on sex.  It could have to do with the dishes.  Or at work, wanting to tell ‘em to fuck off because you’re always the one to empty the shredder and refill the photocopier.

But recognizing that this is not the real issue, but rather is symbolic of something deeper, goes a long way toward directly dealing with it.

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