To hear many relationship “experts” tell it, men are still stuck in primitive, caveman mentality. These experts admonish women to be passive and play hard to get. Why? Because, in order for a woman to interest them, they claim that men need to be on the hunt. If men aren\’t made to feel the need to pursue and capture they won\’t feel sufficiently masculine and driven to conquer and protect the woman who excites these primitive urges.

But these experts never say how true love and real romance are created and kept alive once the marriage vows have been taken. What does a man do with pursuit and capture once the pursuit is over and the capture is complete? Instead these “experts” teach that the best a woman can expect from her man is a form of role playing and, at best, compromise.

TOUGH GUY NO LONGER

While this may still be the case for some men who were raised by brutish fathers and needy mothers, our experience over the past eighteen years suggests just the opposite. We\’ve spent a lot of time counseling couples of all ages, giving relationship workshops of all kinds, and running dozens of gender reconciliation seminars privately and for corporations. When given a safe environment to express themselves, men have voiced, over and over, their objection to being boxed into the old tough-guy stereotype. They express how burdened they feel by their wives and girlfriends who expect them to always be in charge.

And these men, from all walks of life, repeatedly ask that women take a more active and responsible role during dating and marriage. As one man said to a large group in Melbourne, Australia, “Women expect me to read their minds. But I can\’t. Yet I\’m made wrong if I ask for their input.” Many men in the audience laughed in recognition and applauded their compatriot\’s honesty, while numerous women giggled in guilty acknowledgment. In Detroit, a lighting technician for a television interview we did shared a recent experience he had had with his wife. “She\’s always saying she wants me to be more emotional. But then when I told her I was feeling anxious that I might lose my job, she told me she didn\’t want to hear about it, that I should just deal with it and not upset her.”

YES, MEN ARE FEARFUL OF WOMEN

The fact is that men are human too. They feel deeply, they care passionately, and they want to be respected, and loved. And, as so many men have shared with us, they become self-conscious and fearful of opening themselves and expressing their truth if they\’re not sure women will acknowledge and respect them for their full range and depth of human experience.

You see, men are eager to share themselves with women, but only when they can feel safe that their inner reality will be valued and treated with care. Otherwise, yes, men will retreat from the threat of women\’s contempt or rejection. But otherwise, men want very much to have adult-to-adult relationships with women rather than acting out the pretense of Knight in Shining Armor with the Damsel in Distress who needs to be rescued from danger in order to feel loved and made whole.

But the roles that men have been expected to play have been very limited. Only recently have men been allowed to participate in the births of their children. Only recently have men been able to make the choice to be house-husbands, staying home to care for the children while their more ambitious wives go to work-without becoming the butt of jokes and mocked by friends. And only recently have men begun to actively participate in planning their own weddings.

WHEN HE\’S ONLY AN ONLOOKER

Think about it. Women want active marriage partners, yet they\’ve traditionally left their fiancés in the dark while they went off with their mothers to plan every last detail of the wedding, reception, and often the honeymoon. What happened to the strong, brave knight? He\’s been reduced to an onlooker who\’s often cast out of the wedding planning entirely by the mother of his bride. So where would this husband-to-be learn that his input, his expertise, his participation is wanted and needed by the woman who says she loves and needs him?

No surprise then that so many men start off their marriages feeling like accessories, not nearly what their new wives had in mind. They learned their sideline role very well. So when they retreat to their computer, the newspaper, or Monday Night Football, they are only continuing to leave all the action and responsibility to their wives just as they learned during the wedding preparation process.

THE MAGIC OF OUR DIFFERENCES

We\’d all prefer, men and women alike, to be respected and valued for who we really are, free from the old limitations and role-playing. And that\’s happening more and more as men and women open themselves to bridge the age-old divide between them. We call it the magic of differences, made possible by genuine curiosity and sincere listening to know the human truth beyond the old clichés about “all any woman wants is . . .”, and “that\’s how men are”.

That\’s why we wrote our latest book, The Smart Couple\’s Guide to the Wedding of Your Dreams: Planning Together for Less Stress and More Joy. We see now that more men, upwards of 40% of new grooms, are bridging the gender gap by involving themselves in the entire wedding journey-from engagement through the honeymoon. However, while there are countless books for the bride, our book is the only one written to support the wedding couple.

As one groom told us, when we interviewed him for our book, “It\’s about time we men got a little press.” He was eager to tell us about his experience as a full partner with his fiancée in planning their wedding. He was aware that often no one listens to what men want, feel, and think about their weddings, their children, and their marriages. Then women are baffled by how men act, how men shut down and won\’t talk, how eager men can be to hang out with their guy friends. Well, why not if what men learn is that they\’re responsible for pursuit and capture but during the wedding journey their input and participation is considered a nuisance, not at all valuable..

It is only when we remember that men are human that we open the door to spiritual equality, relating as partners, making ourselves available for deeper emotional intimacy, more trustworthy and romantic love. Only then is the path available to create far more fulfilling relationships, the kind we all truly want.

********

~Husband-and-wife psychology team Judith Sherven, PhD and James Sniechowski, PhD, are the bestselling authors of five books. Be sure to listen to their free teleseminar, “Communication: Lousy or Loving?\’ just go to http://www.judithandjim.com/communication-lousy-or-loving.html For a free excerpt from their latest book, The Smart Couple\’s Guide to the Wedding of Your Dreams, go to http://www.smartweddingcouples.com

Married psychology team and best-selling authors, Drs. Judith Sherven and James Sniechowski have redefined the future of weddings. From now on brides AND grooms will be co-partners every step along the way. Be sure to read an excerpt from their new book - "The Smart Couple's Guide to the Wedding of Your Dreams." Just go to http://www.smartweddingcouples.com