Why Half a Heart is Simply Not Enough
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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World
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Until four years ago, I had a serious issue with literally one-half of the entire human species – specifically… men. I didn’t feel comfortable being around them and never felt like I really “fit in” or was accepted by them. In essence, when it came to other men I just shut down and encased myself in a protective armor that would never allow for true vulnerability. And without vulnerability and authenticity I had no chance of establishing deep, meaningful relationships with other men.
So why do I need relationships with other men when I have an incredible relationship with my female partner? Very simple: you can’t be fully connected and intimate with anyone if you are shutdown to half the population. If I hadn’t transformed my relationship with other men during a fateful September 2012 weekend, I doubt seriously if my partner and I would even still be together…
You’re Not a Real Man
That was the message I received from my father and brothers growing up. As the youngest of four brothers by at least eight years and the 2nd youngest in a family of eight I evidently was quite different from what my Dad and brothers expected. Ours was a very patriarchal family where my Dad ruled with an iron fist and a stern look that by itself could put you through a wall. His idea of being “manly” was head-butting, concussion-inducing sports activities where 2nd place is not an option, along with a healthy dose of hunting (ideally with a bow and arrow) and fishing.
The implicit message was only the strongest and most brutal survived and women, well… they were second-class citizens preferably appreciated as seen but not heard (much to the angst of my four sisters). I simply couldn’t relate nor measure up to their definition of what it meant to be a “man”. I was far too sensitive and considerably more cerebral in my interests for their tastes. Towards the end of his life my Dad even admitted that he had no clue who I was during my teen years. Thanks to this bitter early experience I made a point of distancing myself from every male I encountered beginning at a young age. This impacted me so profoundly that I had substantial anxiety over the thought of having a son for fear we may not be able to relate (I did, and we do quite well now). It also robbed me of any potential male mentorship, which to this day I deeply regret.
I have learned since then that the inability to form relationships with men based upon authenticity and vulnerability is common for many men. This appears to be especially true for the Baby-Boomer generation – the one that signaled a shift from staunch testosterone-driven reactive behavior to a more conscious and balanced approach to life. But we had very few role models to help guide us through this magnificent shift. As a result, many of this generation feel adrift when it comes to relating to other men.
The Weekend That Changed Everything
The 2012 was the year where I was saying “Yes!” to nearly everything. I committed to facing my fears and demons no matter where it took me. I was through with feeling shutdown and disconnected. That way of life was killing me slowly and robbed most of the joy from my life and I was determined to no longer allow my fears to dictate the quality of my experience, no matter the circumstances.
So in June 2012 I chatted with a very wise woman who saw that I had a big problem with men. She suggested that I participate in a strictly male weekend event that was scheduled for that upcoming September. She said it may help me reconcile my anger and fears that were blocking my ability to have meaningful relationships with other men. And without hesitating I said “Okay” even though I had no clue as to what it was or how it worked. Shortly afterwards I completely forgot I signed up for it until a few days before Friday afternoon drive to remote retreat center. That’s when I started thinking “Oh shit, what did I just sign up for?!” Indeed…
The event is called The New Warrior Training Adventure and is put on by the ManKind Project during weekends throughout the year all over the world. I arrived that late Friday afternoon wary, guarded and even a bit angry (more self-directed for allowing myself to be involved with so many men like this.) By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, my ability to form deep personal and authentic relationships with men was completely transformed. I now no longer have the fears associated with male relationships and celebrate the depth of my male friendships at the same emotional level as I do with my female friends. And that ability is still with me, stronger than ever, three years later.
Words cannot do justice to that weekend because it is primarily experiential and evokes insights and states of being that transcend the ability to adequately describe. So, I guess you will just have to take a leap of faith on that one.
Making Peace with My Masculinity
What I didn’t realize before that is so clear to me now is that it is impossible to fully accept yourself if you are disconnected from the rest of your gender. And, not fully accepting yourself will get in the way of any kind of relationship you want to have, be it male or female.
We are all born with both gender energies / essences. A fully actualized person will welcome, embrace and utilize both. Then and only then can you expect to achieve the fullest possible depth of intimacy and connection with another human being, regardless of whether they happen to be a friend or your Life Partner.
A heart that is open only 50% is one that is feeling the pain of disconnect. Fortunately, we all have the ability to make it 100%. And yes, it does take courage and the determination to face ones fears without blinking –knowing that once you do you will never look back.
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About the Author
Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.
He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.
Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.
iTunes: Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng