Speaking Up | Counseling | Therapy

Speaking Up

Alex Robboy , CAS, MSW, ACSW, LCSW — Founder & executive director

Speaking Up: individual counseling services in Philadelphia, Ocean City, Santa Fe, Mechanicsville image

Speaking Up: men and women have been equal in modern America for several decades. They can work the same jobs, take the same roles in military and politics, and they have the same rights in the eyes of the law. Gender roles within the family have also become interchangeable. It is no longer unheard of for a woman to work while her male partner stays home to watch the children, and two-job households are very common. We no longer have clearly defined gender roles to fill, and thus both sexes have much more freedom to pursue the lifestyle that makes them happy. However, despite these changes, many people still feel pressured by traditional stereotypes. For women, the pressure is to look attractive in order to be found appealing by men. But men often feel that society is pushing them to fill the traditional role of “man of the house” and be regarded by other men as the clear head of the family, or risk ridicule and snubbing. The old days of “a man’s home is his kingdom” still exert their influences today, and although for many men the influence is strictly subconscious, it still causes problems.

One of these problems, an issue which unfortunately receives little mainstream attention, is an uneven balance between partners in a relationship where the power has clearly shifted to the female. Because men may feel that they are expected to be in charge, to fill a dominant role in a relationship, this problem can be difficult for them to recognize, or even admit to themselves. Many men may be unaware of the problem, or subconsciously unable to accept that it exists because of the feelings of shame or inadequacy it may create. Once they recognize the problem, they may feel unable to confront it for fear of social reprisal. They may feel embarrassed at admitting that their feelings matter and are bothering them, as many men are not encouraged to put much value on feelings. They may even fear a negative response from their spouse – they may feel that admitting she holds more power and influence in the relationship will make her look down on him, or see him as somehow less than a man.

These feelings are not uncommon, and they can be difficult to face. However, it is important to know that these feelings are predominantly the result of created social stigmas and stereotypes – in no way does moving away from these expectations mean that you are not normal. Many men do go through relationships where they feel inferior and seek to correct that situation, men who are just like you. You have to remember that you are not alone, and that your psychological health is much more important than appearing to fit a certain stereotype. If you feel powerless and second-class in your relationship there are things you can do, and there is help. But first you must be willing to evaluate, honestly, if there is a problem.

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