E-Books Mark Smith, LCSW

A Punch In The Mouth From a Friend: Bracing Manly Truths For And About Men

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy. -Proverbs 27:6

In football, when an offensive lineman says, “We’ve got to come out and punch ‘em in the mouth,” he means his team aspires to aggressively control the line of scrimmage. (They’d be kicked out of the game if they actually did punch someone in the mouth.) In fact, I just saw Richard Seymour of the Raiders hit Ben Roethlisberger in the mouth, and the ref said that Seymour “ejected himself with his behavior.”

I’m not talking about disrespecting anyone with inappropriate violence. I hope that the title of this book isn’t misunderstood or seen as offensive. I certainly don’t mean to encourage an actual physical punch in the mouth. What I mean is a firm, caring, verbal punch of hard-to-swallow truth shared out of love and concern. I’m talking about an intervention launched on destructive, stubbornly defended blind spots. Most men respond quite well to a cutting, abrasive, firm, nonreactive punch in the mouth from someone they know has their best interest at heart. I’ve heard, “Thanks, I needed that, when shall we meet next?” a million times as the guy wipes the proverbial blood off his mouth.

Few men hear half-hearted weak feedback from people they don’t respect. As I say if I occasionally get lucky and block a shot, “Don’t bring no weak stuff.” Men are generally positive that they’re right, and they like to feel in control; there’s no need to stop and ask for directions. They’re convinced that they know exactly where they’re going, even if they’re as lost as a goose flying north for the winter.

In working with the wives of such fellows, the first order of business is a lengthy training camp with the goal of building assertive muscle and getting tougher in preparation for intense battle. (Do you hear the Rocky theme, “Eye of the Tiger” playing in the background?) It isn’t that their husbands can’t hear criticism—it’s that they can’t hear it from their powerless, tentative, confused, and beaten-down wives. Respect doesn’t necessarily come with the package of every marriage. It is commanded and, if need be, demanded.

Effective marriage counseling doesn’t make things more peaceful at home initially. In most cases, it greatly intensifies the civil war that has just broken out. Effective counseling is about truth, and the truth about a man can be downright brutal and hard to swallow at times. If therapy is going full steam, at the six-month mark, the big fella is softening, feeling his feelings, listening for a change, and becoming a deeper human being while girlfriend has “Braveheart” war paint on her face as she gains momentum in the process of prying power from his cold dead fingers.

If a woman mounts enough energy to get past her husband’s hardened defenses, there are usually some ugly, reactive booby traps waiting for her—such as oversensitivity to criticism (we call it shame)–as well as some very intimidating rage. A quiet, controlled, smug, know-it-all, patronizing fellow can then turn into a defensive, loud, dramatic, tantrum-throwing little boy. He might withdraw and pout for several days after that. It takes energy and fire in the belly to generate a strong voice.

Getting back to football… I loved how an angry, longhaired Tom Brady went off on his teammates after a failed third-down attempt last week. He showed amazing strength and leadership. His strong voice inspired his team to work harder and play better and ultimately beat the Steelers on the road. His guys didn’t get defensive. They heard him because they respect him. His punching them in the mouth was a positive thing for his team. They took it as a well- deserved message of accountability. A couple who has this type of mutual accountability will make an incredible team in a marriage. I’ll be coaching women who read this book on how to become powerful enough to “move the line of scrimmage” with their own particular powerful and resistant “

 

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