Dr. Helen

Men Who Do Too Much

I get a number of men writing to me weekly to tell me about the struggles they face with family and work obligations. I am always surprised at how many emails and messages I get about my book, Men on Strike, even though it’s been out for a while.

I suppose men have few places to discuss their situations and many tell me about their wish to do something for themselves. Recently, a father told me that he spent the last 12 years living near his sons even though he had been divorced the whole time and stayed in the area. His ex sounded entitled and possibly abusive but he stayed there to help, putting his own life on hold so that the family that he was separated from could prosper. His kids are now in college and he wants to move to another town but feels guilty to leave.

Why? Every day in the media and in our culture, we hear about the needs of women;ee from the “You go girl” mantra to the #MeToo hashtags that label every man a suspect, the meme is “women’s needs are all that matter.” Men, not so much — and heterosexual men? Their feelings and desires not only don’t matter, they are held in downright contempt, and possibly subject to jail time, whether the man is guilty or not.

So what can one do as an individual man in our society who finds himself putting his life or own needs on the back burner while he helps others, often with no gratitude or understanding and often even with downright disdain on the part of the recipients? First, stop accepting this without pushback and most of all, stop internalizing such a crummy message. No matter how strong and silent you are, there has to be some anger or frustration when all you hear is how men (and hence, you) stink. Maybe you can’t change the ingrates around you, but you can change your acceptance of putting others’ needs first.

Start to ask yourself what you want out of life. What makes you happy? Where do you want to live? What work would you really like to pursue? You don’t have to stop being the person who helps others, whether financially or other ways, for maybe that is your personal happiness, but what aspects of your own life have you put on hold and how can you find time to pursue your own dreams and feelings of contentment? Not in some fluffy entitled way, but in a way that gives your individual life meaning and purpose.

Start reading books that focus on how to improve your life in a healthy way. One book suggestion I have is Albert Ellis’s How To Make Yourself Happy. There are many others that are helpful for the man who does too much for others and not enough for himself. If readers have suggestions for good books for men who do too much, drop them in the comments.