The Changing Male Image
Attempts to describe behavior associated with male expectations often result in a series of negatives, such as men don’t cry, men don’t show their feelings, or men are never scared. Positive ways of describing masculine behavior have tra- ditionally focused on characteristics such as physical strength, aggressiveness, and independence. Cultural or ethnic expectations, socioeconomic success, indi- vidual achievement, and education level heavily inﬂuence the perception of male characteristics.
Men who are married tend to live longer than men who are single. Does this mean that marriage is the healthiest form of relationship for men? Not necessar- ily. But it does mean that a stable, long-term relationship includes features that positively affect many men’s emotional and physical health.
Role expectations for men in Western societies traditionally have emphasized protection and provision. In colonial times, physical strength was essential to survival. Along with these expectations was the premise that a man should hold a leadership position in the family and should be in charge of both household and community affairs. Many of these male role expectations remain today; many men see themselves as the primary provider for their families. This view is often reinforced by their partners.
However, cultural role expectations for men are changing. This has become a potential source of anxiety for both men and women. Some men may learn that providing ﬁnancial support is not enough to satisfy their partner, although their ability to provide may still be used as a measure of both their worth and their suitability as a partner.
Most women also expect to have emotional support, mutual respect, stability, and a satisfying sexual life as part of their relationship. Working women expect greater participation by their partner in household chores and child rearing. Ten- sion in marriage is often the result of different role expectations and unfulﬁlled needs. The role behaviors and values you learned during childhood may not work in your relationship today.
Men who remain well adjusted and healthy throughout life seem to have mas- tered the following values:
• intimacy—achieving an interdependent, mutually responsible, committed relationship
• satisfying work—engaging in work that is valued and rewarding
• parenting—accepting responsibility for the physical and emotional health and well-being of children
• leadership—taking responsibility for being a positive role model and inspira- tion to others
• integrity—following a code of moral values