HI PRAYING & FASTING FRIENDS. This is your weekly reminder that we are praying and fasting this Monday, during what would be lunch, for 1) marriages for those who long to be married, 2) courage for men to walk upright and into relationships, and 3) willingness for women to be able to see where we need to change (and to risk changing).
As you fast and pray, you might be interested to ponder the words from Michael and Susan, a couple who share some of their thoughts about men and intimacy. As you pray-hopefully with a friend-ask God to stir up in the men you know a desperation for intimacy that is strong enough to merit their revealing the truth of who they are to God, to other men, and to a woman. And ask God to fill up in men whatever they are brave enough to admit they “want.” We believe that God can and will honor these prayers!
A couple of weeks ago, my husband Michael and I were returning from a holiday visit to family. While he drove, I marveled at mountains and played ‘Whac-a-Mole’ with my email. Curious to better understand men in general, and particularly Michael, I re-opened Connally’s year-end prayer/fast message and read him the question she’d kicked around with her housemates [What enables men to grow in intimacy?]. Finding his response helpful, if a bit startling, I began taking notes. Perhaps some of our ‘car talk’ will come in handy as you pray and fast this week.
S: “What from your perspective helps a man grow in emotional capacity for intimacy?”
M: “Desperation!” [The response was instantaneous; and certain, like final answer!]
He further shared that most men are inherently resistant to the idea of intimacy. “It’s just a fact.” And despite any pull toward intimacy by love’s insanity, men must also be forced, or pushed to overcome their barriers and discover the benefits.
S: “So, what causes the resistance?”
M: “We equate it with weakness. Intimacy (into-me-u-see) exposes even your shortcomings to someone. It’s communication without filters–pure unadulterated truth. And why would a man willingly want to expose his weaknesses, especially to someone he’s trying to impress?”
Here we discussed one of our dating struggles; how Michael needed to gain my confidence in order to stop trying to impress, and I needed him to stop trying to impress in order for me to extend that trust. Maybe it’s just us, but my hunch is this happens with a lot of couples.
M: “If a woman expects a man to willingly expose his weaknesses while he’s dating her, she’ll be disappointed. I was crazy in love, yet I couldn’t offer the ‘unplugged’ version of me until I was done trying, desperate, and ready to give up.”
S: “What if you had known that this vulnerability was just what would ‘impress’?”
M: “That’s possible, but it might not have.”
He had a point here. Sometimes we’re NOT receptive to; much less impressed by, the reality of a man’s limitations. For any of us, it’s scary to think how another person might respond when we expose all our ‘stuff’ and especially, it seems, for men.
M: “In guy/girl attraction, a girl is more inclined to think, ‘I really want him to know me,’ while we guys think, ‘I really don’t want to mess this up.’ It’s possible that he will avoid intimacy because he doesn’t want to lose her. But not always. Also, what a man will trust in another man is not what a woman will trust, so we men have to completely relearn.”
S: “So, what’s our role? Can we make you desperate?”
M: “Well, your receptivity is a ‘pull’. Do as much you can to create an accepting atmosphere where it’s safe for men to expose their weaknesses. Be encouraging when we fail, don’t freak, ask questions, invite us to expose feelings. For example, ask, ‘How did you feel about that?’ Say, ‘Wow, I can imagine that would be really difficult.’ When we continue to resist, be direct with us; ‘I’m ready to be completely open and honest, but i don’t feel that you are. Is there something in the way?’”
In addition to safe atmospheres, guys often need our help to find language for intimacy. There is a time for gentle encouragement and patience. There is also, according to Michael, a time for ‘bailing’ from the relationship, giving clear reasons. For example, “I don’t sense you are being real, open, honest… etc.”
M: “Most guys don’t ‘get’ that in the moment we’re most honest, a girl is more likely to offer us the trust and respect we seek. You only really gave me trust when I was most desperate. It’s just illogical. My being ‘trustworthy’ (strong, reliable Boy Scout) didn’t work. And that’s what guys try to do. My desperation, my great weakness, is that I need to be trusted. A guy can’t say that out loud unless he’s desperate. I can do that now, but I couldn’t do that when we started dating. My gosh, how pitiful is that?”
So, it seems there is great hope in a man’s hopelessness for intimacy. Heck, maybe this desperation is the best hope for anything wonder-full. A heart that is “wanting” is a heart that has room for “filling.”
I’ll close with some encouragement from Michael:
“Don’t lament the fact that this matter of intimacy is difficult for men. It is this difficulty that can lead men to the intimacy you desire. Once, even the thought of [intimacy] made me feel desperate. But now I find myself desperate without it.”