Old stereotypes lead us to believe that women are more focused on relationships than men, but I’ve found that this is not the case even though men and women see marriage through different lenses. A loving, intimate, and joyous marriage is just as important for men as it is for women. It is just as painful and heartbreaking for men when a marriage ends. I know I’ve been a marriage counselor for over fifty years, specializing in helping men and women who love them.
Before I tell you about the five stages of love, I need to tell you about the different lenses through which men and women see themselves, each other, and the world. But before I do that, I have to say something about “generalizations”. When I say that men are taller than women, most people will realize that I am not saying that all men are taller than all women. As a man who is five feet, 5 inches tall, I am very much aware of this fact. So please keep this in mind when I talk about men and women.
I must also say that gender differences have often been used to denigrate or restrict one gender, usually the woman. This doesn’t have to be the case. There is good science and research that identifies gender differences without putting one gender above or below the other, or suggesting that women are unsuitable for certain roles, e.g. B. as a soldier, professional baseball player or president. or that a man shouldn’t be a kindergarten teacher, a nurse, or a first gentleman.
I wrote a book, 12 Rules for Good Men, along with “The Good Men’s Manifesto” about men, who we are and what we need. Therefore, here I will only address a few key differences that are especially important in helping a man understand the five levels of love, why most relationships end in level 3, and what a man must do to save his troubled marriage.
Louann Brizendine, MD, is an American scientist, neuropsychiatrist who is both researcher and clinician and professor at the University of California at San Francisco. She has written two books, The Male Brain and The Female Brain, and notes significant differences, including the following:
- Medial preoptic area. This is the realm of sexual persecution and is 2.5 times larger in the male brain.
- Amygdala. The alarm system for threats, fears and dangers and bigger in the male brain.
- Mirror neuron system. The emotional empathy system “I feel what you feel”. Synchronizes with other people’s emotions by reading facial expressions and interpreting tone of voice and other non-verbal emotional cues. It’s smaller and less active in the male brain.
- Anterior cingulated cortex. It is the center of worry warts, fear of punishment, and the center of fear of sexual performance. It’s bigger in the female brain.
- Hippocampus. The elephant who never forgets a fight, a romantic encounter or a mistake, no matter how old he is – and does not let you forget either. It’s bigger and more active in the female brain.
Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Cambridge University, has conducted a number of research studies on brain differences. In the first few lines of his book The Essential Difference: The Truth About the Male and Female Brain, he says simply: “The subject of the major gender differences in the mind is clearly very sensitive. I could be walking around on tiptoe, but I suspect you want to be clear about the theory of the book. So here it is:
“The female brain is primarily hardwired for empathy. The male brain is predominantly hard-wired to understand and build systems. “
The 5 stages of love and why most relationships end in stage 3
In my book The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages Of Relationships And Why The Best Is To Come, I describe the following stages:
- Fall in love.
- To become a couple.
- Creating real, lasting love.
- Find your calling as a couple.
Like many people, I thought there were only two stages to having a great relationship. First, the magical moment when we meet that special someone and fall in love. Second, we become a couple and live happily ever after. Like many whose marriages shook us and whose disenchantment overwhelmed us, I divorced, became depressed, decided I had chosen the wrong partner, and finally tried again.
Unfortunately, like many, I have not yet understood the five stages of love and my second marriage also ended in divorce. But I finally got wise, I mean wise, in really understanding the hidden truths about sex, love, relationships, and marriage. My wife, Carlin, and I have been married for 40 years now and understanding the five stages is key.
In my article “The 5 Levels of Love: Why Too Many Stop at Level 3” I highlight important points in the book. Here I am going to touch on some subtle but critically important distinctions that most people do not understand.
- Falling in love is a ploy to deceive us.
When we fall in love we think we have found our dream lover, who we have been looking for all our lives, who we can build a life with and who will make us happy. The truth of falling in love is nature’s trick of getting people to choose a partner so that our species can move on. It feels so wonderful because we are full of hormones like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, testosterone and estrogen. Evolution has no interest in making us happy, just making us pass on our genes.
- First of all, we build a life together on a wrong foundation.
Once we find the right partner, we imagine that we will have the regular ups and downs of life, but that we can now relax and focus on careers, children, livelihoods, and living together. We think we create real, lasting love, so it’s easy to take our partner for granted. Instead, we prepare for disillusionment.
- Disenchantment is not a sign that something is wrong. It is a wake up call to the journey of the true hero in our lives.
Most people who have been together for more than a few years will be disaffected. “Is that all there is” we ask ourselves. “This is not the person I married. What happened? Where did they go? “We blame our partner or we strive to repair ourselves. What we seldom do is understand that disenchantment is the third and most important level of love. For those who have the courage, true love warriors you are called to face the greatest challenge of your life.
What a man must do to save his marriage
- A successful marriage is your most important task in life.
Like most men, I grew up believing that my main role in life was to support my wife and family by becoming a successful breadwinner. I thought it was my wife’s job to support us by taking good care of me and our children. But we are now living in a new world. Men and women have changed. The world has changed. After going through two divorces myself and counseling thousands, I realized that men have the skills to make relationships work. We just have to learn it.
Modern marriage is a complex system and the brains of men are hardwired to understand and build systems. We just have to take the job, learn the skills and apply them.
- You need to stop paying so much attention to pleasing your wife.
I know most men are accused of being selfish and taking too little care to please their wives. Is not it. Men are obsessed with pleasing their wives but feel like failures. “It seems that no matter what I do, it doesn’t work,” the guys will tell me. “After trying and trying, I finally give up.” It is not your job to please her! (Say it again until it sinks in).
- You need to stop blaming them for your inability to make them happy.
There were many reasons my first two marriages didn’t work out. I did not understand the five stages, but I also blamed my wives. On the surface, I blamed them for not giving me enough sex, love, and kindness. Really, I blamed her for not being able to make her happy. As a kid, I was obsessed with pleasing my mother because I was afraid that if I didn’t, she would leave me. Although I appeared to be a successful independent man, I felt that I needed my wife to validate me so that I could feel like a real man. When I couldn’t make her happy I felt like a failure and it made me damn mad.
I had to learn that she is perfectly capable of making herself happy. She’s the only one who can. You are not to blame for their misfortune. The world is not a very happy place these days and it is not your fault.
- You have to find your manhood in the company of other men.
My father was an angry man who became increasingly depressed when he couldn’t make a living from supporting his family. He eventually “had a nervous breakdown” and was hospitalized and left. I was raised by my mother. “A father may be physically present but spiritually absent,” says author James Hollis. “His absence may be literally through death, divorce, or dysfunction, but more often it is a symbolic absence through silence and the inability to convey what he may not have acquired.”
Without the presence of a loving, dedicated, and caring father, men “grow up with a hole in the soul in the form of their father,” said Roland Warren, past president of the National Fatherhood Initiative.
My wife, Carlin, and I have been married for 40 years. She attributes much of the success of our marriage to my 41-year participation in a men’s group. The poet Robert Bly said, “Young men must be in the presence of older men to hear the sound that male cells are singing.” Whether or not we had an engaged father, we can heal the father’s wound and fill the hole in our collective souls by being part of a group of men. Unsurprisingly, the first rule in 12 Rules for Good Men is to join a men’s group.
Men cannot be fully alive for themselves, for the women they love, for their families and friends, unless they understand and embrace their manhood.
Hope you find these ideas helpful. You can read more of my work here.
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