A Man
Overboard

 

 

 

May interview with Neil Chethik


Any man that does not know we are living in a feminist entrenched media environment is a fish that does not know it's swimming in water.

The morning of this writing, Kate White, Editor-In-Chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine was on a talk show espousing the benefits of being a single woman during the holidays, including the “confidence booster” of full-on flirting with men.

If women are given such profound advice from media mavens, where are men to get their deep theoretical orientation?

Fortunately, I've seen author Neil Chethik out and about on the talk-show circuit. He has a new book entitled Voice Male – a read I highly recommend - published by Simon & Shuster, NY. Frankly, I was amazed to see anything from Gotham City that would challenge the status quo. The publishing house issued an extended press release with the book:

“While hundreds of books have been written on marriage, the vast majority approach the subject with a female sensibility, focusing on priorities for women and wives. Few seem to acknowledge the complexity of the male perspective or consider the issues of concern to husbands.”

According to Chethik, “We’ve been led to believe that men are emotionally disabled, relationally inept … yet most of the men I interviewed were nothing like this stereotype. They could identify the troublesome dynamics in their marriage, their marital strengths, and the series of trade-offs they made to maintain their relationship.”

And here’s the part you don’t hear much: most men find a great deal of personal satisfaction in traditional marriage.

Some truths discovered by Chethik:

  • Men like the company of a steady mate.
  • Men do like self-confident women.
  • Men are open to change and influence from their wives.
  • Men in mature marriages report sexual satisfaction, regardless of frequency.

And …

  • By a 3-to-1 margin, husbands said that their marriages got better rather than worse after the birth of a child.
  • 25 percent of couples receive marriage counseling and ¾ of the husbands say the therapy was helpful.
  • ¾ of the husbands married 35 years or more say they are “very happy” in their marriage.
  • 93 percent of all husbands surveyed said they’d marry the same woman again.

Hey man, it doesn’t appear we’re really all that bad after all. Maybe we’d be fun to have around during the holidays.

Chethik is a New Warrior, a former journalist, and a writer-in-residence at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington, Kentucky. He contracted Dr. Ronald Langley at the University of Kentucky’s Survey Research Center to conduct a national telephone survey of nearly three hundred husbands. Chethik personally did in-depth interviews with 70 men.

I most appreciated the first parts of his book that dealt with developmental issues around marriage. It turns out that how you interact depends largely on how old you are and how long you’ve been in your marriage.

In the book, Chethik follows the male point of view from bachelorhood through four distinct phases of marriage, including the honeymoon (first 3 years), family (years 4 to 20), empty-next (years 21 to 35), and maturity (years 36 and beyond).

C.G. Jung supports this position in his developmentally oriented writings.

From Voice Male: “It has long been noted, by psychoanalyst Carl Jung …that the genders tend to evolve differently during adulthood. In young adulthood, men are generally more competitive and work-oriented than women. Women, meanwhile, are more family-oriented and openly emotional in their young adulthood. In middle-age, however, the genders converge – and sometimes pass by each other. Men tend to mellow, becoming increasingly emotional and home-centered; midlife women often become more independent, shifting their focus to activities outside the home, including their own careers.”

Chethik refers to mythologists Michael Meade, author of Men and the Water of Life and the idea that indigenous tribes used marriage as a transformative experience.

“Meade told me in an interview … young men and women who want to marry must go through rites of passage that test them and welcome them into adulthood. Before marrying, they must have proven themselves ready for it.”

Today, most men stand anxiously at the altar because they know there is a promise, at least implicit, that they are sacrificing their personal desires to something greater than themselves.

Does modern feminism promote this notion for women as well?

In Chethik’s chapter A Final Note he states: “Here, though, at the end, I’m optimistic. The women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s necessarily shook up the American marriage system. Some husbands reacted against this shake up. But today, most seem to agree that the weight of the changes has been for the better … the rash of antimale stereotying in the late 20th century seems to be on the wane too.”

I’m not as hopeful, but I’d like to believe he’s right. Unfortunately, I believe radical feminism is still there - simply more subtly ensconced in our culture.

I spoke with Chethik by phone. I experienced him as a calm, yet self-assured man. His experience in men’s work goes back to the intense weekends conducted by the triumvirate Bly, Hillman and Meade in the 1980s. At the time the author covered men’s issues as a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News.

After Chethik moved to Louisville, he began a syndicated men’s column that ran in 35 newspapers. Following four years of writing about men’s lives, he turned his attention to his first book, FatherLoss – which sold 35,000 copies.

“Bly got us into grief work. His contribution was really to say that we have to go down into the ashes and muck around down there; it’s the only way to get toward our wholeness. It’s the area of our psyche we stay the farthest away from … a lot of my work is with grief. But now I feel like I’m coming out from that place, more into a relational area involving the male and the female.”

The writer, age 48, said he remembered the 70’s & 80’s and the “real anger level” of women at that time.

“There was something biting back hard … and I didn’t like it. I didn’t feel comfortable with it. I subsequently came to learn about it and where women were coming from … and get to the point where I could honestly look at myself.”

Now maybe it’s men’s turn …

“Over the last 10-15 years there has been an interest in hearing what men actually have to say,” the author noted.

He said he believed the “heightened anger” toward men is being reduced. Again, I hope he’s right.

“I tell women that they need to recognize they’re going to be in a relationship with men … with sons, co-workers, brothers, fathers … you have to begin to accept that they are human beings with depth to them. I have seen an opening there. My book is an attempt to widen that opening. If a man has something to say, if he speaks his own truth, it isn’t a denial of women’s truth. It’s not meant to say no to a feminist point of view. It’s meant to assert that men have a point of view too.”

Chethik admits there is still a “pervasive female sensibility" overwhelming our culture. Oprah and Dr. Phil are a long way from accepting the male point of view, he added.

“I have been accused, at times, of being too accepting of women’s point of view,” he said. “But, a lot of women come to me and want to know what’s going on with men. I think I get through to them on some level by not disrespecting them. I can be pro-feminist and male-positive.”

When it comes to asking questions about relationships, even the words can appear charged with bias. I asked Chethik what he thought about the idea of a “traditional marriage with traditional values.”

“I’m not sure I would totally buy your assumption … most men have a traditional view of marriage if you mean that marriage is a relationship that you get into, work at, and try to make last for a lifetime. That’s true. Men are wanting to be in a committed relationship with another person where they can share a personal, sexual, and emotional partnership. They want to have children, raise children, and stay with the woman throughout. Men like to be monogamous.”

Men are not the unconscious buffoons played on TV. They are aware of emotional intricacies in relationships with the weaker sex.

“Men know relationships are a reality of messiness, and struggles, and mistakes of highs and lows … most men would like to look back and say I had all that in my marriage. It wasn’t always easy and not always happy, but it was fulfilling.”

Remember, these conclusions came to Chethik from what he experienced as the mainstream of men’s experience in our culture.

So, it turns out that men are looking for a level of connection with women that they can not get in short-term relationships.

“There’s something about the male animal, and probably female as well, that is seeking to mate for a long time despite the societal pulls in the other direction.”

Throughout our discussion Chethik touted the principles and values of The ManKind Project.

“I see the New Warrior foundation as a wonderful way to build a relationship for a long-term marriage. I’ve seen it in my own men’s group, where most are married, that they are out there working very hard at their relationships.”

Chethik said in his younger years he originally looked for women to help him figure himself out, but “that didn’t work.”

“Only when I got in the company of men, where I was forced … encouraged … invited to look at myself – could I begin to peel away layers … to reach my core.”

The author plans on doing more study and work with men and women.

“My personal opinion is that there are different stages of growth, including going through an all male period and having an all male group available; another stage is in contact with women and doing deep work there. As a married person for 19 years, there is a growth I’m experienced with my wife that is different then what I had in my 20’s. We’re learning how to be more in integrity with ourselves and each other.”

The writer said he worked hard to find a way to “mainstream” his discoveries about men.

“What seemed to be the best approach was one of the oldest and truest aspects of communicating - which is story-telling. I decided to let a man tell his own story and not ask him how he felt. Most men will go a lot more easily into communicating with others by telling their story. I knew when I shared these stories that everyman would hear it in his own way. I hear women tell me, ‘I didn’t know that’s how men think.” They said, ‘This is very edifying for me. I could turn around and make use of it. My husband may be thinking this and I may even ask him about it.’”

Here are a few more ideas I was excited to discover:

Men fear a woman's anger. Probably more than women fear men's anger.

“I think there are going to be people who react to that statement … but many will welcome that fact. People might say that if men are afraid then we are denying the violence against women. And, I’ll have to stand in my own personal truth and say what I believe no matter what the reaction."

A man is more positively influenced by a good father than a good mother.

“Fundamentally, what I have to do is honor where the feminists are coming from and then go back to what I have learned in my study and my experience of men. There were a few feminists who came up to me after a speech and challenged my assumptions and my findings. I was okay with that … and I realized that the less I snap back at them and the more I heard them and honored whatever experience they may have ... while still disagreeing with them ... the more they were willing to part with some of their beloved beliefs."

The author said he refuses to engage in "shouting matches."

"I try to disengage from emotion without giving up what I believe. I let emotion come out in my passionate beliefs as opposed to coming out in anger. Some of this idea is in the message vs the messenger. I have to determine how I'm going to present this information. One of the problems Warren Farrell has had with his earlier work was that he seemed to battle in a way. I think anger can sabotage the ability to get a point across. Also, I don't want to subjugate anger; I get angry at times with people who lay their anti-male shit out there. I will dismiss it or challenge it."

When I first read Farrell, I was actually attracted to the anger in his tone. I sensed that someone actually heard me. However, I agree with Chethik's approach that it's easier to catch more bees with honey than gaul.

Chethik gives credit to his I-Group for helping him process his anger into a more tempered energy.

"I’m much more aware of who I am because of my work in the group. I'm more comfortable with myself. My anger is my friend, and, I’m integrity with myself and my work. There's accountability in my group: I tell them what I’m going to do and I do it."

I really loved Chethik's clean style of writing. Any open-hearted people will see the truth for themselves.

In return for my appreciation of his work I got a blessing.

"Reid, I admire your work in The New Warrior Journal. It does not read like political commentary but more like a personal sort of soul exploration. I see your trying to understand by putting into words what you're feeling ... what you're experiencing ... and you do that successfully. I support you and urge you to continue to go after it! There's so much need for your kind of writing that simply puts out a man's experience; it can be raw, hard to hear, and even scary. But, it needs to be out there. We should honor it and not pretend it doesn't exit."

Wow, I'll take that. And, I share it with all of you men in your courageous communication with others.

Bless yourself and others. Read Voice Male.

© 2006 Reid Baer

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The fame you earn has a different taste from the fame that is forced upon you. - Gloria Vanderbilt

Reid Baer, an award-winning playwright for “A Lyon’s Tale” is also a newspaper journalist, a poet with more than 100 poems in magazines world wide, and a novelist with his first book released this month entitled Kill The Story. Baer has been a member of The ManKind Project since 1995 and currently edits The New Warrior Journal for The ManKind Project www.mkp.org . He resides in Reidsville, N.C. with his wife Patricia. He can be reached at E-Mail.



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