How to be a great husband in a post-feminist world

Updated on 25th May 2020

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How to be a Successful Husband:

Essential knowledge and skills for men in relationships

By Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

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With Renata Taylor-Byrne, BSc.(Hons).Psychol

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Foreword

“I don’t think it’s the work of women (to help unempathic men; violent men; emotionally undeveloped men; and ‘hard men’; to reform their personalities),” said Wade Davis, a former American footballer. “I think it’s the work of men like myself who need to be talking to our brothers, fathers, our friends (about the necessity for change).”

Adapted from ‘What is toxic masculinity[1]?’ – By Maya Salam, The New York Times, Jan 22 2019.

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Front cover, 1BThis book is designed to help younger men to have happier, more successful marriages, or marriage-like relationships, which will, in turn, positively impact every aspect of their lives.  Every young man, starting out on the road towards finding or creating a committed sex-love relationship, needs the kind of advice and guidance contained in this book.

It used to be argued that “Every successful man has a woman supporting him”. I prefer to think that every successful man is in an equal relationship with a successful woman; and that every successful woman has a man supporting her.  (And by ‘successful’ I do not necessarily mean in terms of money, though money should not be scorned. The most important aspects of personal success involve the quality of our relationships; our emotional intelligence; and finding our life’s work).

Any man who believes he can achieve personal success – however that is defined – by getting the support of a subordinated woman, is self-delusional. If he tries this approach, his success will be superficial; and it will not last long.

It is also now well known that very many physically sick men are likely to have a conflicted relationship with a wife or partner driving their illness.  Unhappy relationships make us sick, physically and mentally.

By contrast, happy relationships make life worth living; improve our immune functioning; and bring sunshine to our otherwise difficult lives.

This book consists of a course of self-study, designed to teach younger men some of the basic knowledge and skills they need in order to be successful husbands to equally successful and happy wives.

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Dr Jim Byrne, Hebden Bridge, May 2020

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[1] The most convincing evidence that domestic violence is not about ‘toxic masculinity’, but rather about human evil, is this: I have had several lesbian clients for counselling and psychotherapy. The major problem that they have brought to me can be summarized like this: “I am involved in a relationship with an older woman who beats me and assaults me violently; and I am frightened to return to her!”  Try wringing ‘toxic masculinity’ out of those data!

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Preface

“Some people say a man is made outta mud

A poor man’s made outta muscle and blood

Muscle and blood and skin and bones

A mind that’s weak and a back that’s strong”.

Song lyrics: Sixteen Tons, by Ernie Ford (1960)

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Front cover, 1BThere was a time when many men (but by no means all) would have identified with – or wished to identity with – this image of a hunky man, (a Mister Universe type), with a big right (or left) fist and a ‘big steel d**k’. (And it is probably true that most women, throughout most of history, loaned their support – however qualified and indirect – to this stereotype: gladly sending their men off to war; or rejecting them if they refused to go!)

But times change, and we all move on. (And women should not forget the roles they played in co-creating this now unworkable stereotype of masculinity – including the mothers who put in the basic socialization into every man’s life!)

And, in any case, this is an overly rigid stereotype of maleness, which was never true of most men.  It was most likely strongly influenced – or dictated by – a theory of criminology created by William Sheldon in the 1940s. This psychologist theorized that there were three types of men, based on their body types: thin, rounded, or muscular. And ‘Big John’, in Ernie Ford’s song (above) was just one of those types: the muscular (or mesomorphic) type.  However, we have better theories of human personality today, and no need for such unhelpful stereotypes.

Maleness, like femaleness, is socially shaped by historical forces and tendencies. It is not a fixed biological entity at all.  There are underlying biological components to masculinity and femininity, of course; but the overall shape of those gender identities is determined by cultural forces.

Dr Jim's officeFor example: The arrival of the most fully-formed feminist movement, the ‘third wave’, in the 1960’s – aided in great measure by the availability of the birth control pill – has changed the nature of society, and forced men to rethink their relations with women.

– Some men have reacted against feminism, and they are a kind of dinosaur movement which cannot withstand the forces of history for long, without distorting their personality and character, and making themselves very unhappy. (However, some fourth wave feminists seem to have grasped that earlier feminists often provoked this kind of rejection, by blaming individual men for creating and/or maintaining a society that was co-created by ancient men and women, at the dawn of ‘civilization’!)

– Some men have pretended to go along with greater equality for women, while working behind the scenes to maintain inequality (for example, in unequal pay for work of equal value; some done by men [highly paid); and some done by women [less well paid]).

– Some men have merely kowtowed – or bowed down – to feminist criticism from their wives and/or girlfriends, and tried to passively get along with a woman who ‘makes them wrong’, and blames them for thousands of years of female subjugation. (Imagine how unworkable those relationships prove to be, in practice, over time!)

– And some men, bravely and wisely, have recognized that they have no idea how to be a man in a post-feminist world, and therefore they set about re-educating themselves.  Some of this re-education is done via reading books on the Men’s Movement in a post-feminist world; and some by joining Men’s Groups, where they can get support from (sometimes) older and wiser men who have begun to address the ways in which men, too, were shaped by, and screwed over by, the various forms of oppressive and exploitative societies in which we have grown up over long stretches of historical time.

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Whole cover, 3B

You will still find some macho men around today, in 2020; but they are not the explanation for domestic violence.  The explanation for domestic violence is to be found in history – the history of warfare, and the history of exploitation of one social class by another.  Those historical facts have left a lot of wounds in the psyche of most individuals in most modern societies.  And when a person (male or female) grows up in an overtly aggressive environment, they are seven times more likely to engage in domestic violence than those who do not.  (And this applies to half as many women – who commit domestic violence against their male partners – as it does to men who are violent with their wives).

Domestic violence, and verbal abuse, can arise in families regardless of the body-types of the partners involved.  This is a psycho-social problem which is not taken sufficiently seriously by any government in the world today; and hardly addressed at all by the US government.

In addition to the macho man stereotype, you will also see a lot of the ‘silent actor’ type.  This man is just going through a performance; hamming it up that his life works for him; and hoping and praying that, if he just keeps this act up long enough, one day he will stumble into happiness and a viable life. (But it never happens!)

Back cover, 2BThen there’s ‘man-as-celebrity-clone’, with the ‘right’ car, clothing, and visible lifestyle, but no substance.  (He’s kind of dead inside).

There’s also man as Responsible Workaholic, who attracts a mate by virtue of his professional or business success. But his perfectionism makes his life, and his partner’s, a long way from happy and content.

Then there’s ‘man-as-playful-resister’, who passively draws a woman into rescuing him; but then struggles endlessly with her, thereby spoiling life for both of them.

And finally, ‘man-as-enthusiastic-overreactor’, who attracts women by being delightful company; but who then tends to overreact emotionally at the slightest frustration or provocation.

Against these male stereotypes, I want to advocate Man as Equal Partner, sharing a pleasant and joyful life with a wife who is also his best friend.

This book will present a blueprint for moving in the direction of Man as Equal Partner; and some readers will then want to find and join a Men’s Group to complete their education in gender refinement.

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Some of the issues which are addressed in Men’s Groups include:

– Healing the wound in your psyche that was caused by the fact that you and your father were unable to be emotionally close. This is a real loss, and has to be grieved, now or later.  The bill eventually falls due, even if you try to ignore this issue.

– Clarifying a viable, moral basis for an effective relationship with a woman.

Jim and the Buddha, 2– Examining your sex education, to see if you have been shaped into operating more from the animal side of your nature – your ‘Inner Stallion – and how to balance the animal and spiritual aspects of your maleness.

– Clarifying the nature of useful work; and what you could do with your time on Earth which would be worthwhile, enjoyable, and a contribution to your society/community; and not just a source of a wage, a salary, or a big fat profit.

– How to have real male friendship.

– How to be a good dad.

– And, finally, the meaning of freedom: The return to nature and to your own spirit.

In this book we will begin this journey with you; helping you to get a toe on the road.  But you would be well advised to finish the ‘basic training’ in a Men’s Group.

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Clearly, some progress has been made (for women) over the past fifty-five years of the third wave of feminism; and many men have made their own form of adaptations to those changing times.  This is not to deny that there has also been slipping back to old ways in various aspects of male/female relations.

Furthermore, in relationships at home, there is still a disturbing degree of physical and mental violence and abuse.  (However, the statistics for England and Wales show that fully one third of domestic violence is perpetrated by women against men. So domestic violence should not be characterized as ‘a problem of toxic masculinity’.  It is a problem of human evil; a manifestation of the Bad Wolf side of both men and women)[1].

All forms of coercion within relationships should be outlawed (by you; by us), and all self-respecting men should refrain from using any form of coercion to get their way in negotiations with their female partners – (or their male partners, in the case of gay men).  Instead, every man needs to learn how to attempt to skilfully influence their partner, up to, but not exceeding, the degree to which they would be willing to allow their partner to influence them.

Dr Jim's officeIn my work with couples I teach this principle:

“You can still get away with pursuing inequality in the marketplaces of work, education and investments, and so on. But it is no longer realistic or morally defensible to try to practice any form of inequality in marriages or marriage-like relationships.  If you try it, you will find that it will eventually end in tears and unhappiness”.

So, to be a successful husband, or a good-enough husband, you must make a commitment to total equality with your marriage partner.

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Morality and relationships

The most important aspects of the morality of being a successful husband are as follows:

– To practice forgiveness, loving-kindness and peace.  To accept your wife, exactly as she is, provided only that she does not engage in illegal or immoral actions.

– To apply the Golden Rule to your marital relationship; to always treat your wife as well as you would wish her to treat you if your roles were reversed; and to never treat her in any way that you would not wish to be treated. Thus there cannot be any violence (including verbal or nonverbal aggression, coercion or intimidation.)  There cannot be any oppression or exploitation. You must actively ensure that you cause your wife no harm – physically or psychologically.

Front cover, 1B– To always act fairly and justly; to always avoid any thought or deed which would give you an unfair advantage over her; and to avoid all forms of ‘profiting at her expense’. Make all money decisions jointly.  To negotiate with her, and to only try to influence her to the same degree that you would want her to influence you; and using negotiation strategies that you would be happy for her to use with you.  (No manipulation, or indirect or passive aggression).

– To practice total equality; which means sharing the work of the relationship (including any parenting work) in a way that you can both agree is fair and just; sharing the responsibility equally; and making all decisions jointly. Showing respect, and listening actively and nonjudgmentally to her.

– To keep sex and love in a constant combination; and to restrain your ‘Inner Stallion’[i]. To integrate your animal nature with your spiritual/cultural nature. To study female sexuality to ensure that you pay as much attention to your partner’s orgasm, and sex-love comfort, as you do to your own. And to only make love by agreement regarding time and place, and what is acceptable to your partner.  (See Appendices B and C, below).

These moral behaviours and attitudes are manifestations of what we call your ‘Good Wolf’; and the outlawed behaviours and attitudes are manifestations of your ‘Bad Wolf’[ii].

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[i] The ‘Inner Stallion’ is a concept discussed by Steve Biddulph, in his book:

Biddulph, S. (2004) Manhood. London: Vermilion.

The ‘Inner Stallion’ is the manifestation of the animal side of a man’s sexuality, unintegrated with his spiritual/cultural side.  At its best, this produces a cold and distant form of ‘shagging’ or ‘humping’; and fails to achieve the levels of intimacy which would justify the label, ‘making love’. And, at its worst (when it expresses the Bad Wolf side of a man’s nature) it involves rough sex which either is, or borders upon, rape and sexual abuse, even within the marital bed.

[ii] One of the earliest principles of my theory of counselling and psychotherapy was this: We represent every new-born baby as containing two potentials:

– to develop pro-social and caring attitudes; and:

– to develop anti-social and egotistical attitudes.

These are the predictable human tendencies towards both good and evil. 

The Native American Cherokee people created the idea of a war going on inside each human being.  That war is between two wolves: the good wolf and the bad wolf.  And the wolf that wins the war is the one that is fed the most! 

Part of the process of socialization is designed to ensure that the new little person mainly develops their ‘good side’ (or what the Native American Cherokee people called the ‘good wolf’) through the moral teachings of their parents, teachers and others; and that their ‘bad wolf’ is constrained and contained. (The ‘bad wolf’ or immoral or vicious side of human nature cannot ever be totally or permanently eliminated. We each contain the capacity for significant levels of ‘evil’ to the ends of our days!) But the happy functioning of social animals depends upon the extent to which we develop our pro-social, moral virtues, and resist our anti-social, immoral or amoral vices.

Some men and women are clearly operating mainly from ‘good wolf’ and some are significantly operating from ‘bad wolf’. That latter group of men and women need coaching in moral philosophy; and encouragement to operate mainly from ‘good wolf’, and to ‘starve their bad wolf’.

If you do not already have this range of moral behaviour hard-wired into your brain – or heart and mind – then I can help you to rewire yourself like this, in Chapter 3, below.

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To be a ‘successful husband’, you do not have to be ‘perfect’.  Being perfect is actually impossible for a human being, so what is the target to aim for as a husband?

Jim and the Buddha, 2Firstly, you must strive to follow a set of consistent moral rules, like those above.

Secondly, just as attachment theorists believe a mother only needs to be ‘good enough’, in order to raise her children well, we believe that a man only needs to be ‘good enough’ in order to prove to be a successful husband in the eyes of his wife.

But this is easier said than done.

Some men invade the space of their partner; and some men allow their marriage partner to invade their personal space.  This is not a viable way of managing a durable marriage.  Both partners need to have their own boundaries in place, so they can let ‘good stuff’ in, and keep ‘bad stuff’ out.  (See Appendix A, below.)

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Woody Allen famously said that, if you want to be wealthy, you must choose your parents very carefully.

The same could be said of being a successful husband.

But if your father was not a successful husband – and your mother was no better – then how can you ever hope to be a successful husband?

There is a way, and I will show you how in Chapter 2, below.

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Most men have learned very little about the kinds of guiding principles which produce successful relationships.  That is why, in Chapter 3, I address the question of how to learn a conscious philosophy of life which promotes happy relationships.

Front cover, 1BAnd then, in Chapter 4, I will teach you a model which I learned in 1984, which saved my marriage.

The background to learning this model is as follows: Renata and I had been friends and lovers, dating and mating, for more than four years, and we’d been engaged to be married for a few months, when a problem of conflict arose in the relationship.  We went to see a very nice counsellor, by the name of Marjorie Ashdown, in Leeds, who introduced us to Transactional Analysis (TA) – which is described in Chapter 4.

It turned out that I was operating too often, and unhelpfully, like I was Renata’s ‘Controlling Parent’; and she was operating, too often, and unhelpfully, as if she was my ‘Rebellious Child’.

What we got from studying Transactional Analysis with Marjorie was that we both became much more ‘Adult’; and you can learn how to do that – and to avoid behaving in inappropriate ‘Critical Parent’ or ‘Adapted/Rebellious Child’ ways – by studying Chapter 4, below.

Renata also went on to study assertive communication skills, which I had studied in 1983; and you can learn how to communicate more skilfully, in your intimate relationship – using assertive rather than aggressive approaches –  by studying Chapters 5, 6 and 7, below

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E-CENT logo 2 no lineI hope you find this book very helpful in improving your chances of being seen to be a successful husband by your successful wife!

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Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Hebden Bridge, May 2020

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Contents

Front cover, 1BForeword……………………………………….. 3

Preface…………………………………………… 5

Chapter 1: Introduction…………………………………. 13

Chapter 2: Rewiring your Inner Couple…………………………………………… 19

Chapter 3: Learning a conscious philosophy of happy relationships………………………………… 31

…Revised course of study for happy relationships………………………………… 31

Chapter 4: Let the adult part of you manage your relationship behaviours……………………………………. 49

…Transactional Analysis will help you to understand your relationship communication problems…………….49

Chapter 5: What is your style of handling conflict with your partner?…………………………… 79

Handling conflict skilfully – Knowing your personal style………………………………………………. 79

Chapter 6: How to communicate authentically and strongly, but not aggressively. And how to avoid being too weak or passive!…………………………………………………………………………… 93

…How to act constructively, using loving-and-kind assertiveness…………………………………… 93

Chapter 7: Communication skills for successful husbands………………………………… 113

Chapter 8: Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………….. 129

References…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 131

Appendix A: You need strong boundaries in your relationship, but not barriers..133

Extract No.1: ´Barriers´ and ´boundaries´ in couple relationships……………… 133

Extract No.2: Boundary management issues – Including case studies……………. 142

Appendix B: Sex education (101)……………………………………………………………………. 181

The importance of the clitoris……………………………………………………………….. 181

Appendix C: Sex education (201)…………………………………………………………………… 189

Daniel´s piecemeal sex education……………………………………………………….. 189

Endnotes…………………………………………………………………………….. 203

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