Why Men Feel Trapped

Every day, providers (husbands) can feel a strange tension between wanting to be depended on and feeling trapped by that responsibility. The vast majority of men who put in long hours do so not just because they want to get ahead, but because they believe, “there is no other option.” And they get frustrated when we don’t understand that—particularly when they feel we are the source of some of the pressure.

One very direct survey response made me wince. This man wished he could tell his wife, “I feel confused. You want me home more, yet you want a new house, nice things, substantial income, etc. Please understand the catch-22 I am in. I feel like I am pushing two big rocks up a hill.” So how do wives respond?

Reconsider existing areas of conflict:

We must face the fact that our mate feels caught, with few options, on provider issues. And he probably also feels deeply misunderstood by us. Some women might suddenly realize the pressure they have inadvertently been putting on their husbands by coming home with shopping bags every day, while others may grasp just how painful it is for their husbands to earn less than they do. Others may understand “the stress of feeling that you are asking him to choose between one huge need (to provide financial security) and another (to show you he really does care about family time).”

Help relieve the pressure:

Many of us have faced difficult financial seasons, and obviously that’s hard for us as women too. It is easy to get nervous and blame our husband or pressure him to “do something.” But most men don’t need more pressure. Instead, they need our steadfast belief that they will solve this problem and our steadfast offer to help them do what it takes to stay afloat. That may mean showing our willingness to bring in more income ourselves or expressing excitement about staying at the beach in the off-season instead of going on that romantic Caribbean vacation. (I say excitement rather than willingness because a man will internalize your disappointment as a personal failure to provide.)

Several men have told me that, most of all, the best thing their mate can do is to show that she realizes how tight things are by refusing to spend money unnecessarily. That, combined with our emotional support, does wonders for the man’s feeling that “we can get through this.”

Encourage and appreciate him:

One man gave a great summation of what a man needs most, whether a couple is “in plenty or in want.” “Thank him regularly for providing. He forgets quickly.”


Tell us! What do you think men need most?

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