Doing the Work Isn't Whining

12/29/2011 10:40 am ET | Updated Feb 28, 2012
  • Ken Solin Boomer Author, Columnist, Date Coach for Women Over 50

Hundreds of men and women weighed in -- both supporting and taking exception to -- my article "Whine, Women, and Woe." In response, I reiterate my position that whining -- as defined in the dictionary, "complaining, often in a high-pitched tone" -- isn't a particularly manly or effective way to respond to women, or anyone else, for that matter. But there's an alternative.

Men do have legitimate beefs with women, but complaining has never changed anyone's behavior and does nothing to alleviate frustration and anger. All it does is fan the flames of discord. So, if we expect them to hear and respond to us rationally, we're going to have to engage in constructive relationship dialogue. That means, for example, considering how our own behavior may have contributed to the problem and articulating our position fairly and rationally so women will have a reason -- and an opening -- to respond. Of course, women have to be willing to do the same, and many already are, in women's groups.

Easier said than done. It's very difficult for men -- or anyone else -- to examine our behavior objectively because so much of what motivates it is unconscious or influenced by unresolved past experiences. Admitting that we're part of the relationship problem is the first step. The next is to dig into our issues, preferably with the help of other like-minded guys. That's the purpose of men's groups -- to work together toward becoming truly empowered men, which means becoming aware of, and fully in control of, our emotions and, ultimately, our lives.

Empowered men act from a position of strength, which makes us better boyfriends, husbands, and fathers -- and best friends to other men. We've done the hard work of facing down our demons and know ourselves on a deeper level. We have a realistic sense of our manhood, good self-esteem, and a generally positive attitude about women. We admit when we're wrong because we know that taking responsibility for our behavior is strong -- not weak -- and have learned how to catch our dysfunctional behavior before we inflict it on the people around us. We know how to be supportive and can be trusted because we've learned support and trust doing the work with other men.

But I wasn't always empowered. I endured horrific violence as a boy and became an angry, lone-wolf adult. For decades, I took my anger out on every woman I dated. I convinced myself that my issues were their problem -- not mine -- to resolve. A woman's worst nightmare. I finally woke up in my men's group, when the other guys confronted me about my dysfunctional behavior and pushed me to dig deeper to understand the genesis of the anger that was destroying my relationships. I learned to identify and take responsibility for my behavior -- the first step in changing it.

The guys in the group never allowed each other to hide from our truth or draw the others into our dysfunctional behavior. We confronted, but never coddled, one another. While we were never gratuitously brutal, we insisted that everyone engage in open and honest dialogue -- no one coasted or got a pass. Those who refused were asked to leave to make room for other men who were willing to do the work.

Men's groups aren't for wimps. It takes strength and courage to face other guys and share your most painful truth, but that's how change begins. What you get in return are the experiential information and real-life support that fuel ongoing change and eventually lead to true empowerment. The work isn't -- and isn't meant to be -- group therapy, and therapists have no place in it. What it is, is unfacilitated, self-directed, mutually supportive, and demonstrably effective healing.

So where's the proof? In my new book, Act Like a Man. This unique, first of its kind, group memoir follows the eight men in my men's group -- regular guys from a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds -- for over two decades. Our stories of anger and betrayal, friendship and dating, intimacy and sexuality, marriage and divorce, and parenting and fatherhood are told in our own words. And I assure you that you'll recognize yourself or someone you know in them. The book has earned five-star reviews, from men and women, on Amazon, where it's available in Kindle and print editions. Buy it, read it, and learn what it means to become empowered and act like a man. And only when both men and women are authentically empowered, will we have true equality of the sexes.