There is a phrase chalk full of wisdom, profundity and great relationship advice that echoes through the halls of locker rooms, fraternities and groups of beer-drinking men everywhere.
Bros before hoes.
This simple statement represents a concept that has helped me have a more passionate, fulfilling marriage, and I can’t believe it took me so long to see it.
Let’s start with the problem.
My Wife Is Not My Therapist
It’s not my wife’s job to help me process my stressful emotions, especially when those emotions are related to her (which is most of the time). What happens when I do that is we both feel drained of energy, I often use it as an opportunity to blame her and if we make any progress at all it comes at the sake of both of our sanity.
Let’s compare that to processing stressful emotions with a man I trust and feel safe with.
When I process with him, his energy goes up because he gets to be of service, I feel relieved that I have a resource outside my relationship, and I end up feeling better faster, thanks to the fact that what I’m going through has nothing to do with him, so he won’t take it personally.
When I say “bros before hoes”, I’m really saying ensure you have a solid foundation of friends that have your back that you can count on for emotional support, otherwise your romantic relationship will suffer.
So why are men so starved when it comes to deep friendships?
There seems to be two main reasons, and although this is equally as important for women, I’m focusing on men because women seem to innately understand the value of intimate friendships.
1. We don’t seek out real, vulnerable friendships outside of our romantic partner.
The sad reality for many men in relationships is we put all our intimacy eggs in one basket. Sure we have friends, but those friends are more like acquaintances, or people we see a lot.
Intimate friends are people who know your secrets, they see you at your worst because you let them. They are people you call when you need someone to talk to.
These relationships should include touch too, because we need that more than we realize. Homophobia has discouraged men from hugging, touching and cuddling with each other, and it’s depriving us of the need for physical intimacy, which subsequently leads us to source all our touch needs from our one romantic partner.
Men mostly bond with each other by accident. Circumstances, not choice, are the reasons men form strong bonds.
For example, when I was a student at the Naval Academy in Annapolis I formed close bonds with my friends there. Why? We suffered together. A lot. But does that mean we have to suffer together to have intimate friends? No. In fact, there is an easier way, and it brings me to reason #2 men don’t have deep friendships.
2. We Don’t Let People Into Our Lives
As men, we’ve been convinced by our culture that a real man handles his feelings and emotions on his own. A real man doesn’t need help. Well how’s that working out for us?
I’d say shitty.
Not only do we need help, but by not speaking up we miss the chance to let someone else be of service, we miss the chance to create closeness with our brothers, and we miss the chance to get the help that we know we need.
By not fostering our relationships with men, we become emotionally co-dependent with the women we partner with. Our women then become the only source of our emotional well-being and we become like needy children looking to their mother for safety.
Quite ironic when you think about it.
We Need Each Other
This shift is not just about repairing romantic relationships, it’s a larger conversation about the way we’ve lost a sense of community by insisting that our partner meet all our needs.
My wife and I love couple’s work, and learning to consciously communicate and work through issues with each other is important, yet sometimes I wonder if it’s all really necessary.
Maybe we struggle so much in relationships because we look to our partner for all our needs, and fixing a co-dependent relationship is like learning to ride a broken bicycle.