She said to me that it might be good for me to join a men’s group. What does she know about that? She’s a woman. I value her opinion and all and we’re going through a rough time, but really, if it’s a men’s group how can she know what it’s like. And besides why would I want to join one, I’ve been around men plenty and I don’t see the point.
So have you ever wondered what it’s like to join a men’s group, what they talk about, what they do and what’s the point? I have, it was suggested to me a few times saying that you’ll enjoy it, it will help you, you’ll learn things and you’ll make friends. And every time I heard that topic – it set off alarm bells. So I definitely have thought about being in a men’s group and I know why not go near one.
Not only that I’ve spoken to other guys as well and I reckon there’s five main reason why not to join a men’s group. So here’s my take on what men think about when they’re approached with the idea of sitting around with a bunch of blokes and being part of a men’s group because it’s “good for you”.
I’m not religious although I do prescribe to certain beliefs around spirituality. Perhaps these groups are run by religious organisations and they’re using the group to brainwash me. Perhaps it’s a cult even. I’m mean I don’t want to sing chants and do funny rituals and spread the word of their prophet. Nah, I don’t want be converted.
I’ve never considered myself a blokey bloke, a man’s man as the saying goes. How is standing around and talking about sport and motor cars and how much iron they can pump going to help my struggling relationship anyway. Truth be told I feel totally out of place and intimidated in that environment. Try to fit in, give it a go, fake it a little … hell no, it’s just not me and they’ll soon learn how out of place I am.
I really wouldn’t go to a men’s group if they talk about all that touchy-feely stuff and getting all emotional like. People would probably think I’m weak. I’m a guy, I’m supposed to stand tall and be brave and handle anything that comes along. So talking about emotions and feelings is going to do what? They say it’s better to express your fears and insecurities, to share why my relationship isn’t working. Well that just feels uncomfortable, I think I’m better focussing on something else. Maybe I’ll go mow the lawn?
What do they do and talk about? Is it like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting? Those guys are broken, I’m not. Because if I have to spill my guts in front of a bunch of blokes – forget it! Is it like a business network meeting full of entrepreneurs and professionals? And all I have to do is listen to each of these guys boast about the big contract they landed, how much money they made, the next overseas trip, the bigger house they bought and success after success. Then it’s my turn???? – I can’t compete with that.
Or is it more like sharing political views and saving the environment and rescuing the homeless and changing the world. Nope – sure I care about those things but that doesn’t make it better with my partner?
They say no man is an island, that you need friends to lean on, that family stick by you. And that you can make lifelong friends from a men’s group. My dad taught me different. He taught me to be a man I have to deal with it, to toughen up and handle things myself. I guess I am alone and I don’t want my friends to see me as weak so I can’t call on them.
But being a little more curious than that I thought I should get a better idea of what actually happens. In fact a few years ago because of a rough patch in life I (gasp!) joined a men’s group. I joined because I was struggling and didn’t know where to turn or who to talk to…. you know just in case it was ok.
Boy was I wrong and totally off the mark, none of those reasons are true. They’re just common misconceptions based on perceptions and not facts. I attended the Common Ground program run by Mens Wellbeing and here’s what I discovered:
Religion. There are some religious organisations doing a good job with men’s group. However, Mens Wellbeing has no religious or political affiliations and is open to all men. It’s definitely not a cult but rather an organisation which has an ethos of “men supporting men” and in my opinion they do it well.
Real Men. Since my time of being in a men’s group I have learnt about myself, how to communicate better and how to hold space for others in a healthy way. I feel like a man now in a way I never have before – with authenticity and integrity and feeling better about myself.
Emotions. Much too my surprise I’ve learnt that being able to express my feelings in a safe environment where other men listen and respect what is important to me is valuable. Through this expression of emotions I have been able to understand myself and my partner better without having to hold so much inside.
Talking. In this area I completely misjudged men’s groups! The Common Ground program introduces conversations about meaningful topics and encourages men to share their experiences in a healthy way. When I talked men listened and I felt heard. I shared my difficulties and fears and stuff I wouldn’t normally talk about and the whole time I never felt judged or ridiculed. On the contrary I felt compassion and support.
Friends. Strangely because of attending a men’s group my existing friendships have improved and are more enjoyable. Also I have got to know some great men who have been real and authentic and now I call friends. Somehow by sitting with these guys I have a strong sense of connection and whilst they’re not solving my problems I don’t feel alone and my resilience to deal with life has been enhanced. For me I now appreciate being a part of the Mens Wellbeing community.
My experience of being in a men’s group has positively influenced my life, how I interact with others and providing an improved sense of being a man. My relationship is happier and healthier, and I have tools and support to cope with the challenges.
I now know that men’s groups aren’t full of super successful men who have their shit together, nor are they full of broken and defeated men. No, men’s groups are full of good men who come together as equals, putting aside their masks to connect and communicate and appreciate that we all have difficulties in life. Then learning that they can tackle those challenges and explore themselves
In fact I believe that the actual reason there are not more men in men’s groups are because they don’t know that they exist, they don’t know what they are really like, and they don’t know the benefits that can be received. It all boils down to not knowing and uncertainty.