As you probably remember, a few weeks ago we had a giveaway of Wayne Levine’s book: Hold On To Your N.U.T.s. The response to his post was phenomenal and many of you requested that AoM provide more advice for men on relationships. So we’ve brought Wayne back for a new, regular feature here on AoM, called “Ask Wayne.” Every other Thursday, Wayne will answer relationship questions submitted by AoM’s readers. And we encourage you to add your own insights and advice to his.
Q: I know it is irrational, but I cannot help thinking, quite frequently, that my wife will someday suddenly leave me and our boys. That terrifies me. Although we broke up once early in our dating relationship, and she has made comments about the kids being a “mistake” a couple of times when she was very upset, there really is nothing else to suggest that she would actually leave. Nonetheless, I get insecure and sometimes I obsess on the possibility. I wish I could make this stop.
A: There’s no way of determining whether your fear is irrational. If she leaves, I guess it isn’t. But what I can tell you with confidence is that your obsessive fear is positively unhealthy-for you, your relationship and your family.
One might suggest that, to know whether your fear is grounded in reality, we’d have to either hear from your wife or somehow read her mind. But that’s not the case. Your fear of her leaving has grown because of your obsession. The more energy directed toward that fear, the more likely it’ll come to pass. That’s the dark side of the “power of intention” we’ve heard so much about lately.
So rather than focusing your energies on the negative, and on someone’s behavior you can’t control (though I’ll discuss in a moment how you can certainly influence her), let’s direct our attention to what you can work on, what you can control…you.
Your fear suggests that you don’t think too highly of yourself. I wonder why. Were you abandoned in your childhood? Did you grow up feeling “less than?” And who taught you the fine art of obsessing? These are some of the important questions you’ll want to answer for yourself. Understanding where your behaviors come from can help quite a bit when you’re ready to change them.
Whatever the cause, you’ve become a man who has learned to give his power away. In this case you’ve given your power away to your fears and to your wife. I suspect it’s fairly easy for you to be separated from your cojones in most situations. Now THAT’s something to fear.
As men, we need to be able to hold on to our N.U.T.s, our non-negotiable, unalterable terms. We need to know what we’re committed to and what defines us as men. When we are not aware of or not committed to honoring our N.U.T.s, we become lost, frightened, angry, and weak. That’s why you, my friend, need to find your N.U.T.s.
You find them by identifying what you’re committed to, like being a strong and present father. You identify the N.U.T.s you need to develop by looking at the areas where you’re not being the man you want to be, like showing up like a rock in your relationship.
You can’t wait to see what your wife decides to do before you commit to changing how you’re showing up in the relationship. In fact, when you start acting like the strong, confident man you’d like to be, I suspect a couple of things will happen. First, your fears will begin to subside as your focus turns toward the positive. Secondly, the more you behave like the man you want to be, the more you’ll probably be the man she wants to be with. And when that happens, how likely is it that she’ll run for the hills?
This transformation may seem impossible from where you’re standing today. It isn’t. What you need is to ask for help, professional or otherwise. Surround yourself with men you can trust and ask them to support you as you make commitments to be a better man.
As those masculine relationships grow, and you put more and more effort into showing up strong and confident, you will become that better man, and you will marvel at the many rewards of your hard work.
Got a relationship question for Wayne? Email him @: email@example.com
Wayne M. Levine, M.A., mentors men to be better men, husbands and fathers. See how you can become a better man at www.bettermen.org