Couples Therapy with a Brand New Man?

Couples Therapy with a Brand New Man?

Are We Seeing the Emergence of a Brand New Man?

Fascinating new research conducted by the University of British Columbia indicates that Millenial men tend to value selflessness, social engagement, and health over traditional male ideals like physical strength and autonomy.

Lead author John Oliffe, nursing professor and head of the men’s health program at UBC, released the new findings in a news release. The findings are startling and indicate a profound shift in male values.

“Young Canadian men seem to be holding masculine values that are distinctly different from those of previous generations. These values may run counter to long-standing claims that young men are typically hedonistic, hypercompetitive, and that they risk or neglect their health.”

  • Are Millennial men drifting away from stereotypical masculine values?
  • Did post-modern masculinity finally articulate itself? Are their brand new masculine virtues?
  • And how will science-based couples therapy respond?

New Masculine Values of the New Man:

  • 90% report that selflessness was their highest value.
  • 88% prized being open to new people, new experiences, and ideas.
  • 87% reported that a man should embody intellectual strength
  • 83% said emotional strength was most important.
  • 80% believe that “giving back” to the local community was important.
  • 78% believed that “autonomy” was a core masculine value.
  • Only an underwhelming 75% said physical strength was vital.

New Men-inspired to be Caring Strong and Open

“As a millennial myself, I can see these values reflected in the lives of men around me,” says study co-author Nick Black, managing partner at Intensions Consulting, a research firm that helped carry out the survey. “They want to be both caring and strong, both open to others and self-sufficient, and they see no contradiction in these values.”

Pietas…Dignitas… Gravitas

The researchers believe millennial men in Canada are overhauling their value structure and redefining what it truly means to be masculine.

However, these “new” masculine may be new branding of ancient Roman virtues of Dignitas, Gravitas, and Pietas.

“Gravitas was one of the Roman virtues, along with pietas, dignitas, and virtus. It may be translated variously as weight, seriousness and dignity, also importance, and connotes a certain substance or depth of personality.”  Wiki  

Modern millennial men are, perhaps, simply reviving ancient conceptions of masculinity.

Return of the Stoics

These new conceptions of manhood have as their origins ancient Greek and Roman Stoicism. A definition of a Stoic:

“A Stoic is someone who transforms fear into prudence, pain into transformation, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking.”- Nassim Taleb

Stoic ideas are becoming increasingly popular with millennial men. Interest in Stoic ideas among Millenials is described as being at a “pinnacle.”

And does this online stoic revival help to explain the value shift that is now pre-occupying the world?

Cosmopolitan Stoicism poses a robust challenge to the intellectual narcissism of our time.

A Stoicism-Informed Couples Therapy

new man and new relationships

What are The Stoic Virtues and How Will They Inform Couples Therapy in the Future?

For the Stoics, the practical path to eudaimonia (happiness) is grounded in a few essential beliefs:

  • The Stoic aspires to see themselves, their world, and their spouses objectively and accept who they are. This is the Observing Self. The New Man likes to watch objectively.
  • New Men wants the discipline to escape being controlled by fear of pain, or desire for pleasure. He’ll talk freely about his Porn issue or his inappropriate limerence. The New Men value a State of the Union Assessment and have no problem completing their Big Big Books online.
  • Perhaps most useful of all, Stoics always make a distinction between what is within our power to control or influence, and what is not. This is why our New Men will be calling for couples therapy. They may need our help in identifying and making these distinctions.

“To achieve freedom and happiness, you need to grasp this basic truth: some things in life are under your control, and others are not.

Within your control are your own opinions, aspirations, desires, and the things that repel you. We always have a choice about the contents and character of our inner lives.

Not within your control is literally everything else. You must remember these things are externals, and none of your concern.” -Epictetus

Memento Mori

“ Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day…The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time. “

The concept of Memento Mori, a reminder of their own mortality, is important for these New Men in couples therapy. It’s the ability, for troubled couples with children, to view the long game of eventually raising happy well-adjusted adults. Here’s a training course that addresses that aspiration:

Oikeiosis…Ancient Cognitive Empathy

The foundation of Stoicism is that all human beings have to be reasonable actors in society.

We are all members of the same human family. Stoics embrace the mindset of cosmopolitan oikeiosis.

This is an “appropriation” of the concerns of others …as if they were our own. A good human life improves society.

There are Many Cataloged Inter-Cultural Values…The Stoics Emphasize Mostly 4

 Stoics seek to acquire in themselves the discipline of the  Four Cardinal Stoic virtues;

  • Practical Wisdom. The New Men in couples therapy will most likely be highly motivated and will appreciate learning interventions and homework.
  • Courage. They will show up earlier and work harder.
  • Justice. The New Men are sensitive to discussions of privilege and exclusion.
  • Temperance. Stoics aspire to know the difference. They strive to live lives of regulation.

Can the New Men Get to Ataraxia?

The Stoic goal is Ataraxia…tranquility of mind…and tranquility of relationship logically follows.

Epictetus summed it up best.

“There are things which are within our power, and there are things which are beyond our power. Within our power are opinion, aim, desire, aversion, and, in one word, whatever affairs are our own. Beyond our power are body, property, reputation, office, and, in one word, whatever are not properly our own affairs.” Epictetus.

The Goal Isn’t Being “Good Enough”…the Goal is Tranquility

Gottman therapy differs from Stoic aspirations but doesn’t directly contradict them.

Don’t be surprised if the New Man winces at the notion of a “good enough relationship.”

It’s my hope and expectation that the New Men in couples therapy will actively work on their Friendship and Admiration System with their partner.

They will need to understand the difference between an authentic Friendship and Admiration System and a garden-variety Limerence to achieve long-term happiness.

New Men Rocked by New Times

Millennial men are different. And as they move through time, their values and sensibilities emerge in ever-higher relief. The New Men barely resemble their Baby Boomer forbears. Brand New Men are shaping a New World with remarkable speed.

And many of them are both steeped in Stoic thought, and comfortable working online. They may use Stoic points of reference. Or perhaps welcome tools from a science-based couples therapist. No matter, a richer discussion of Stoic ideas and deep intimacy may be a new beacon.

Will couples therapy be ready?

Research:

The study was published April 16, 2018 in the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity.

About the Author Daniel Dashnaw

Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He is the Blog Editor. He currently works online seeing couples from Massachusetts at Couples Therapy Inc. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.

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