Effective counselling for men asks us to acknowledge that today, in most parts of the world, men live in rapidly changing social and cultural settings. The days when the roles of men and women were clearly defined – when men were the sole bread-winners, the heads of their families and were privileged from birth with power and status in relation to their women partners – those days, to a great extent, now belong to the past. This has lead to changes for both straight and gay men. The change has taken place, and continues to take place, within a brief moment of history, within a few generations. As a consequence, many of us find ourselves frequently trying to keep up with the pace of change.
As men, we often find ourselves playing catch up in numerous areas of our lives, even in the most personal. This is true of gay and straight men. We are often asked things by our partners that are hard to answer:
“Why don’t you talk to me more?”
“I never know what you’re feeling”
“Why don’t you spend more time with the kids?”
These are not questions we have historically been obliged or expected to answer. And now, suddenly, we often feel we are on the spot to come up with an answer – and it better be a bloody good one too! And so, some of us will one day find ourselves doing what we never before imagined: talking to a counsellor.
Counselling for men will explore what might be the importance of emotional awareness, not only for the man’s relationship, which at the moment is having difficulties, but also for the individual man’s own being. This is an important moment for a man. If he has sought out counselling solely to placate his partner, he will likely be disappointed by the outcome. Becoming more emotionally intelligent is not a task like repairing the deck or trying to move up the career ladder. It requires different skills and sensitivities. What is similar is that all those aspirations require genuine, sustained motivation, that is to say, a desire that comes from inside ourselves as opposed to a desire to please or impress others. That wish for our own sakes to become more emotionally aware is crucial for men in our current day to meet the relational and social expectations that confront us. Counselling for men can help us meet that wish and make the desired changes.