We protector types are tough because it's a tough world out there. There are threats in every moment and around every corner—at least that's how it seems sometimes. To protect what we love, we have to guard ourselves against succumbing to emotion or showing too much weakness to those around us—weak men, after all, allow for despair and suffering to creep in like a toxic smog. In the process, though, has our "toughness" become a smoke screen? Have we unintentionally conditioned ourselves into becoming the enemy of our relationships?
Just in case you think I’m talking from a place of moral superiority, let me reassure you. Right after writing this and producing the video, I got in a fight with my wife because I’m an idiot and was an immediate hypocrite. So this is a warning for you and a warning for me both that we’re in danger of ruining the things we care about most.
I’m impassioned about this problem because I’ve seen it happen far too many times—especially during my military years. Eager young soldiers and brothers getting married, smitten with their young brides, and then watch as their marriages folded, failing within just a few short years.
This is obviously not isolated to the tough guys in the armed forces either. I’ve been in a tough guy/gun circles for a long time, and there seems to be a common thread for people like us.
So what’s this all about? And how can we avoid falling prey to threatening what we care about most in this world—the relationships with the people we want to protect?
Relationship Destroyer #1: Emotional Distance
We're so busy being tough guys that we forget that a major part of being a man is wooing the wife and showing affection to the kids.
The military/defender mindset of “suck it up buttercup” goes a long way of helping you persevere in the heat of battle. Self-pity and emotional frailty can get you and your friends killed if they get in the way of performing the mission but maintaining that façade with your family can cause some serious issues.
Yes. Our families need us to be strong defenders, but we run a greater chance of sabotaging our relationships than we do of having 100 ninjas all of a sudden invade our homes. Yes, our wives married a warrior, but not a warrior robot, and it’s not good for us or for them to keep the robot thing going. Eventually there’ll be some broken parts that leave everyone emotionally crippled.
We need to be strong, but we also need to love our families with real affection. Too much warrior and not enough poet, can make you look like a solid oak as you become lifeless, and that’s no good.
Eventually, our emotional distance is going to wither away the affections of the bride of our youth. And our kids, who may appreciate our strength and grow to respect us in some way, may always secretly resent us and not understand how to really love us. This is an area we really can’t afford to fail in.
Relationship Destroyer #2: Conquering the World as Our World Crumbles
It’s possible to be so busy taking over the world—on the battlefield, at work, or even with our all-important tough guy hobbies—that we can't see anything else. You and I are more than how many attackers we’re able to kill in 2.4 seconds, what we’ve amassed in our arsenals and ammo caches, or even how quickly we ascend the corporate ladder.
Our identity isn't wrapped up in all of that. The reason we care about those things is ultimately because we care about protecting and providing for the people in our lives.
We absolutely have to quit being so busy taking over the world that we don’t see our families and how fleeting our time with them is on this earth. notice that your family.
For me, my family is part of where I get my will to fight.
I love my family, and I'm committed to whatever it takes to serve them and protect them, evening trading my life for theirs. But being prepared to do what it takes should not lead me to neglect those I’m supposed to protect.
Ultimately my will to fight is fed by my love and affection for people, for God and for country. If I’m preparing and fighting just for the sake of fighting, there are deeper issues to address.
Relationship Destroyer #3: Being Too Busy Being Right All the Time
This is one of my big problems—thinking I’m right and defending that position at all cost. At some point it could cost us our relationships if we go around like a moron thinking we’re the logical ones and everyone else is crazy.
I bet if you took all of the fights that married couples get in and you sat down and analyzed them, about 95 percent of those arguments are actually just pointless power struggles. Just husbands and wives pecking at each other.
I think it’s our job as tough guy defender providers to either admit when we’re wrong or just simply admit that it doesn’t matter enough to fight about. And in all honesty, we’re probably just fighting about stupid things in order to avoid addressing the issues that really matter. Unfortunately these fights can escalate into becoming relationship killers.
I think that in many of the relationships that fail, we’ll look back and say "You know what? I wish I hadn't just tried to make a point all the time."
So maybe it’s time to just show some sensitivity, to back off, smile, and say, "I'm sorry." Maybe that will allow you to take some steps back and give you a healthier perspective for those very rare occasions when you really do need to address some real problems—hopefully attacking the problem and not each other.
Just some food for thought.
Here’s Some Homework
Here's our homework, tough guys. Romance your wives, kiss your children, and tell them that you adore them. And if this is a struggle, let's not pretend that it's because we're too tough or because that's just not who we are.
Instead we need to address it for what it is—this inability to show love is a weakness that we need to address. Being a man requires that interesting balance of vulnerability, strength, understanding and battling our weaknesses.
Train Hard. Train Smart. Love Your Family.