I walked briskly up the curved driveway of a beautiful Southern California home. Not a mansion, not a tract either. I rang the doorbell of a male friend, Frank, that I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, that is, since I was best man at his wedding.
Our individual lives had become busy with our goal driven fever of early retirement and neither of us paid attention to the fading of our friendship. But now, after my call, we both sounded delighted to be seeing each other again.
He opened the door with a big and tender smile and we warmly embraced, said the usual things and I walked into his spacious living room escorted by his new wife, a beautiful woman in her mid thirties. I looked around.
“Where’s Frank?” I said. They both stared at me like I was loony. I mean, I stammered, “where’s that beautiful print of the farmer milking cows, and the couch, that rugged leather red adorably comfortable room maker. What happened to it?”
His wife looked at me and smiled and I thought I saw a little ‘poor boy doesn’t get it does he’ in her face. She sort of chirped “well we decided the couch was old and didn’t go with our look.” Frank quickly added, “and the cow thing just wasn’t appropriate for this style house.”
There was in fact nothing of his old Venice apartment – charming, warm, idiosyncratic, creative, masculine – in this new home they shared. This now was ‘their’ home. But I couldn’t help but wonder ‘where is Frank?’
Later that same year I visited the home of a retired insurance executive who proudly showed me his ‘trophy’ room. It had his new BMW 750 and the walls were decorated in plaques commending him for his various contributions to the insurance industry. It was the two car garage attached to the multi million dollar home they shared. Inside there was nothing I could see of his personality, his sense of life, his family history or even his colors. It was a totally feminized environment. Beautiful certainly, and creatively done by a high end decorator. But it held nothing of his ‘cave.’
Men are amazing in their capacity for denial. Both men professed happiness with their homes yet neither of them spent much time inside except when ‘entertaining’ and gathering compliments on their homes.
Ten years later I wrote a book entitled “The Heart of a Wedding” in which we take the ideas of rebirthing marriage into the domain of weddings. The idea is this: marriages fail at fairly high rate and we argue that that has as much to do with the underlying paradigm of marriage – a paradigm stitched together from a twelfth century notion of romantic love, a fifteenth century attempt by the church to protect women along with animals and a twentieth century idea of ‘wedding – as – extravagant – party’ as does the current anxiety about faithfulness, busyness and worldliness. Our marriages simply lack a sound philosophy underlying them and are unbelievably naive to boot.
Additionally most of us that are familiar with weddings notice early on that ‘it’s a woman’s world.’ The jokes bordering on bitterness one hears testify to a kind of ‘shelved’ male who simply hangs back and lets the wedding happen to him.
Men have a hard time finding their voice in the design of a wedding even as women find it difficult to assert their voice in political dialogue in the family. I have long wondered if both those things can change.
I recently asked a man who was about to marry about this. He told me that he thought bachelor parties were for men but there wasn’t much to do after that. I said “when was the last time you went to a bachelor party and found it interesting?”
Perhaps we’re afraid. Perhaps no one mentors us to speak out. Perhaps we feel lucky just to have her and we don’t want to rock the boat. But men are missing in action in most of the weddings I’ve been to and I think the weddings suffer for that.
In a future article we’ll take a look at what men bring to the event of joining together for life.
Stephen W. Frueh PhD is a coach, consultant, writer and speaker. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805 338 4286
“Healthy marriages make the world a safer place for children.”
Author’s Note This article may be reproduced with my full permission, at will. All I ask is that you credit the source- me.
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