Tag Archives: spousal addiction

Saying “Man Up” Hurts Men: Here’s Why


“Man up.” “Get over it.” “Grow up.” “Don’t cry.”

How often do we tell young and adult men to “man up” and that they shouldn’t be bothered by this or that? This has been our culture. And with so much debate in the media about what a man is supposed to be like (and what he is like, but isn’t supposed to be), this is a period of great ordeal for men.

We need to sustain balance between what has traditionally been considered a man’s role in our culture, while also being connected to others and finding ways to let our sensitive side shine through. All the while, we are also to live our lives and thrive and maintain our sanity. The real “man up” is when you show integrity to your soft and strong sides.

Telling a Man to “Man Up” Hurts Their Human Integrity

men affected by trauma have the sense of feeling to man up in situations that they feel powerless in.Every society has its own, often implicit, set of rules of how people should behave in different situations. It also has a set of very specific rules for what a man ought to be like to meet the standards set by others. While women are also expected to be a certain way, the requirements put in front of men are much more rigid and, often, much more noxious. In our Western society, a man is still expected to be reliable, completely self-sufficient, never weak, and never visibly emotional (the only exception to this rule is a public display of anger).

These norms are so entrenched into our worldview they may seem completely natural. Evolutionary science suggests that men were once brave hunters of mammoths, and a modern man is, implicitly, expected to behave as if he were chasing a prehistoric mammal for food. Yet, this isn’t the case anymore, and modern men do get to be different today than they were when they had to struggle to survive each day.

What Is Masculine Gender Role Stress (MGRS)

What’s so harmful about these demands put on men is the fact that the image of a sturdy, composed, unemotional and tough man defies our natural response to stress. Men are told that their natural response to stress is a sign of weakness. But stress is a reality for all humans. And still, men are told to “man up” and take it, suppressing all our natural reactions apart from wrath.

Men also experience another type of stress related to gender. The stress that comes with wanting to comply with the requirements of rigid masculinity is called masculine gender role stress (MGRS), and it presents an increasingly pressing issue for modern men. Research shows that suffering from MGRS is associated with a range of physical and psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and outbursts of anger. Sometimes it can even contribute to the severity of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And what makes things even more problematic is the fact that MGRS usually stops us from seeking professional help when we need it.

How Masculine Gender Role Stress Prevents Us From Seeking Help

Adding to the above problems, MGRS seriously jeopardizes a man’s coping skills. Due to fear of failing society’s expectations on how we should behave, what suffers the most is our willingness to seek help. Whether it’s reaching out to people close to us or contacting a professional to assist us with accumulated stress and other issues we’re dealing with, if we’re prone to MGRS, we probably won’t do it.

This is because men are expected to be emotionally strong and maintain composure under all circumstances. So asking for any sort of help is really admitting we’re not capable of dealing with our own emotions. We’re not in control. Expressing anxiety in front of others is unimaginable to some men. Even admitting it to ourselves, when we strongly incorporated the society’s expectations into our self-image, is hard. This is why we will avoid seeking professional help for as long as possible.

Instead, as research shows, we begin to get worse and worse at coping. MGRS both causes stress and dysfunction when dealing with it. Instead of getting help and learning the healthy ways of tackling this problem, we rest on a range of maladaptive reactions. We become even more emotionally inexpressive, we start to rely on aggression, power, and control to get us through, and we become obsessed with achievement and success. All of which is only a contributor to further stress and ordeal.

How a Psychotherapist Can Help

First of all, a man needs to know that approaching a psychotherapist doesn’t mean he’s weak. On the contrary, it means he knows how to utilize all the means available to him to be the best version of himself. When you have a toothache, you don’t go about and fix your own tooth. And it doesn’t make you less of a man to seek help from a dentist. See, it’s just a matter of perspective. And it truly is a sign of being aware of the age we’re living in and not allowing rigid misperceptions to run our life.

Furthermore, you don’t have to be afraid of the psychotherapist making you spill your soul and break into tears. Not at all. A skillful psychotherapist will use a range of techniques and skills to help you work through your issues without disrespecting your barriers to being emotional. For example, if you find it difficult or feel embarrassed to talk about your emotions, you will use metaphors with your psychotherapist to address everything that’s bothering you without causing further distress. Once you get a hold on this, you may eventually start to approach all of your emotions with ease and learn to cope with them.

Men are under a lot of pressure, and it can be detrimental for their health, physical and psychological. It can hinder our success and self-development. It can affect every aspect of our lives. But if we just liberate ourselves from the conviction that we would be considered weak and incompetent if we were to seek professional help, we would be able to unlock all our potential to limitless expansion of our abilities. With the right psychotherapist, the success is around the corner.

by Stephen Rodgers, LCSW

Counseling for Young & Adult Men

About the Author

My practice focuses exclusively on men’s mental health and uses Dialectical Behavior Therapy (think: zen therapy) and EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing therapy) to help men cope with trauma, anxiety, grief, depression, perceived failure, work stress, relationships, men’s health issues and the many other challenges that affect men uniquely. I always tell men, if they just open the door and give counseling a try, they are almost always going to find it a good experience and a healthy complement to their fitness or coaching plans if they are seeking overall health.

Drug Addiction and Marriage

There are few things that can harm a marriage as thoroughly as a drug addiction. Certainly, many people who struggle with substance use manage to save their relationships and sometimes even grow stronger through their recovery. But many marriages do not survive the damage addiction inflicts. Consider a few ways that an untreated drug addiction cuts away at the very heart of a solid marriage.

Drug Addiction Destroys Trust

Woman contemplating divorceWhen you constantly say one thing and then do another, trust can disappear quickly. Trust is the foundation of a marriage. Without it, a relationship will eventually fail. When a person can’t count on their spouse anymore, they start to withdraw from the relationship and go into self-protection mode. Obviously, this doesn’t do good things for a marriage.

Drug addiction does a lot to sabotage trust in a relationship. Intoxication can lead to many poor decisions including extra-marital affairs, mismanagement of money, and risky behaviors such as driving under the influence. Intoxication makes effective communication impossible. Continued damage occurs when an addicted person chooses drug-related activities over family obligations.

Trust is much harder to keep once it’s been damaged like this. However, treatment can make a difference and possibly save relationships that have been devastated by substance use.

Drug Use and Drug Abuse Make Marriage Imbalanced

Addiction causes a person to become very self-focused and self-serving. Everything is about them getting their drug fix or drink while avoiding reality. Marriage is supposed to be about two people supporting and leaning on each other. When one gets down, the other lifts them up. They go through the ups and downs together with each other in mind.

This is not the case when someone has an active drug addiction. The non-addicted spouse often feels neglected in the marriage. If there are children in the family, the sober spouse may also feel like they are a single parent. Nothing is balanced as the addicted spousepursues self-serving behavior. Unless something changes, all the promises to do better become lip-service. A spouse can really feel abandoned because of this.

Both Partners Can Be Hurt

As you might expect, someone with a drug addiction can really hurt their spouse’s feelings and sense of respect. Words can absolutely hurt, especially when they come from someone you’ve pledged your life to.

The other risk is real physical harm coming to one or both people in the marriage. A person who is abusing drugs can become violent.Violence and violent tendencies may vary due to the addicted spouse’s drug of choice,his or her personality, and his or her intoxication levels. If the substance-using spouse blacks out and becomes aggressive, abuse or injury may occur to the spouse or family. The risk of harm increases if children are in the home. The unpredictable nature of a drug addict puts everyone at risk.

Drug Rehab Can Help Families

Not every marriage that has been impacted by substance use can be saved. However, many relationships can improve when the addicted spouse goes through drug rehab and sticks with sobriety. Even if a marriage ends, drug rehab can help both parents cooperate better for the sake of their children. Drug rehab can also help make the future brighter for each spouse, whether the relationship survives or not. Wellness and recovery simply offer a way for people to experience better outcomes in general.

Drug rehab programs can connect spouses with support groups. Many rehab centers also encourage spouse participation during family treatment sessions. Marriage is a two-way street and addiction does a lot to block the whole road. With a good drug rehab program, recovery and marriage can move forward together.

Family Violence And Addiction

Addiction hurts families and for as many as 60 percent of families it also brings violence.[1] When an addict turns against his family with physical violence and verbal accusations, it brings suffering that lasts generations. Plus, violence indicates an addict suffers from a more severe addiction and mental health problems that need immediate treatment to ensure everyone’s safety.

Violence Easily Dismissed By The Drug User

Family violence is a damaging and dangerous result of drug addiction for some people.

Man's fist threatening womanSubstance users already deflect personal responsibility because of the way addiction affects their thinking and judgment. Such addiction thinking creates an alternate reality in their mind. Nearly anything they do in the name of their addiction is justified or easily excused. Money troubles, flaking out on promises, taking dangerous risks – it’s all under control and nobody else’s business.[2]

The same rules apply when a drug addict or alcoholic becomes violent. He lashes out, puts someone in her place, makes his position of control very clear or shows his dislike for something in a powerful destructive way. Because addictive thinking excuses his actions, nothing seems wrong with his behavior.

Someone who is violent, or becomes more violent, while using drugs or alcohol often has a more serious addiction and suffers with mental health disorders.[3]

People who suffer with addiction for many years and/or use multiple substances have severe addictions. They also experience more negative consequences from drug use, such as trouble maintaining relationships, problems with finances and maintaining employment and more encounters with the legal system.[4]

Studies also associate serious addictions with higher rates of violence among addicted women. Despite the stereotype of men committing intimate partner violence against women, newer studies show a greater number of addicted women being violent against partners compared to men. Women also are more susceptible to developing a serious addiction because it takes lower amounts of a substance to get them high and they metabolize substances at a slower rate.

While addicted women commit domestic violence, women in general are more likely to be the victim of violence. United States Bureau of Justice Statistics shows 85 percent of domestic violence victims are female. Substances are involved in an estimated 40 percent to 60 percent of domestic violence incidents.

Everyone In Family Affected By Violent Addict or Alcoholic

Scared girl in shadow of alcoholic fatherChildren, spouses, partners, even adult siblings or parents face the brunt of an addict’s violent nature. The addict desperately needs a sense of being in control or feeling powerful. While the need for control is normal and there are healthy ways to express it, addicts have impaired thinking. An addict’s mind is tuned into her emotions and skewed addiction logic, so violence is the natural outcome of overpowered emotions and low self-control.

In essence, violent behavior from an addict is an attempt to correct the imbalance. Since the addict is poorly equipped to deal with daily life and others, his attempts to make things better often make things worse. He strikes out against people he needs in his life as a way to feel better about how little control he has over his own behavior.

Violence Often Passed Through Generations

In many cases, family violence is displayed from generation to generation. This happens with or without an addiction, but addictions add another level of complexity and distance from personal responsibility.

The addict may be heavily under the influence of substances when committing violent acts, having few recollections of what he did. This makes it hard for him to adequately apologize or right the wrongs he committed. For example, someone may strongly minimize marital arguments, thinking he only yelled at his spouse a few times. Children who grow up in an abusive family learn unhealthy ways to cope, especially if it’s not made clear that physical and emotional violence is wrong.[5]

Family Violence Dangerous For All

Family violence is a serious consequence of drug and alcohol addiction. Family members may feel it’s easier to ignore the situation because they fear calling attention to it will make things worse. If you are a family member of a violent drug addict or alcoholic, do everything you can to keep yourself safe. Hopefully, your loved one will realize that drug treatment is the only way to get their family life back.

[1] Soper, Richard G. (2014). Intimate Partner Violence and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse/Addiction. American Society of Addiction Medicine magazine. Retrieved Apr. 21, 2017 from http://www.asam.org/magazine/read/article/2014/10/06/intimate-partner-violence-and-co-occurring-substance-abuse-addiction.

[2] Mercer, Delinda. (2000). Description of an Addiction Counseling Approach. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved Apr. 21, 2017 from https://archives.drugabuse.gov/.

[3] Arteaga, Alfonso; López-Goñi, José J.; & Fernández-Montalvo, Javier. (2015). Differential profiles of drug-addicted patients according to gender and the perpetration of intimate partner violence. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Retrieved Apr. 21, 2017 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0376871615003890.

[4] NIDA (2016). The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction: The Basics. Media Guide. Retrieved Apr. 23, 2017, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide

[5] Dayton, Tian. (2012). Growing Up With Toxic Stress or Addiction and Its Long-Term Impact. The Huffington Post. Retrieved Apr. 21, 2017 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-tian-dayton/toxic-stress_b_2109402.html.