Venutians Have Issues!

Thursday, February 12, 2009
Male Mind Week continues! First up: Kiran Belur's answer to whether dads want daddy groups.

Kiran Belur is a 35 year old husband and father. He lives in Emeryville, California with his wife, Shirin, and his son Dhilan. He is a member of the hip hop group, Karmacy (new album, Wooden Bling, available now on iTunes), and cant wait to coach little league. In his spare time, he is an Intellectual Property Attorney.

I have to admit that when Deepa asked me to “guest-host” Devis With Babies, I was both intrigued and a bit intimidated. Intrigued because I really enjoy reading some of the posts (I say some, because I don’t get much out of the make-up and women’s fashion tip posts – those send me right back over to ESPN), and have enjoyed a number of lively debates as a result. Intimidated because (a) let’s be honest, Deepa is a tough act to follow, and (b) since I tend to be somewhat of a purveyor of unpopular opinions generally, unleashing my particular dialect of Martian in this forum could get ugly. Alas, I decided to give it a shot...what the hell, I’ll probably never run for office anyway.

I thought a lot about various topics, as the only direction I was given was to provide a male’s perspective. After some deliberation, I decided to write a response to Deepa’s November 25, 2008 post (“What A Boy Wants, What A Boy Needs”) and try to provide a “male’s-eye view” on the major question raised in that post: Do men want or need a forum similar to mommy’s groups?

Let me start by offering a suggestion with which to read this piece: Throw political correctness out the window. It’s just going to get in the way. Obviously, every person and every couple are different. However, sometimes blanket statements are accurate, and more importantly, necessary, if we are going to shed light on certain issues – particularly gender-based issues relating to marriage and parenthood. And frankly, since this is a blog post, and not a doctoral dissertation, we don’t have the cyber time or space to acknowledge all of the exceptions to every stereotype.

All right, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it….

Do Men Want or Need a Forum Similar to Mommy's Groups?

Or, to put it more precisely, do married men with babies want or need such an outlet? Well, to be perfectly honest, the answer is “yes with a but.” Yes, men need an outlet to discuss what’s going on in their lives and blow off steam. Between work, family, and whatever else each of us is juggling, we all relish the opportunity to get together with our peers to share, vent, etc. The “but” is that it’s not going to happen in the way that women might expect, and this may be part of the problem. Married men have actually been fighting for these groups for years, but I don’t think it’s ever been explained properly. Perhaps it’s never been presented in the context of what my wife refers to as a “teachable moment.” Well, not to fear, you asked for the guy’s perspective and I’m here to give it to you.

So here’s the drill. You may not like it, but here it is, ladies: If you’re serious about wanting this for your husbands, you need to encourage your husbands to spend more time with “the boys.” Yes, that’s right. And it gets worse! By “boys,” I don’t mean your friends’ husbands. I’m talking about your husband’s homies. His college buddies…the ones who you tried to become real tight with back in the day to get your husband to like you...YEAH, them. This is the only way your husband is truly going to be able to have open dialog about what’s going on with him.

You see, the reality is, a bunch of married guys are not going to have weekly get-togethers with the idea of talking about their feelings, even on an informal basis (and even if they are “mimosa-sodden”). This is not to say that men aren’t capable of these types of friendships, as Deepa suggested may be the case. Quite the contrary. I’ve had plenty of great friendships with my male friends, during which we’ve managed to balance our discussions about sports, women, and video games, with discussions about our goals, fears, and yes, the minutia of our lives. I’m pretty sure most guys out there have had similar experiences with their closest friends.

So, you may ask, why don’t you see your husbands interacting with their friends like this, now? Well, the difference is that it takes guys a long time to get to this point with each other….like, a LONG time. And, even once you get there, it’s very hard to keep the relationship at the point where you can just jump into the more personal topics. See, feelings are not our go-to topic of discussion. Before we can even broach the subject of how we’re feeling about things, we have to get past the “snarkiness,” the sports debates, clowning on each other like there’s no tomorrow, and myriad other topics (which you might think are pointless, but that we really look forward to). This is why pretty much all of the closest relationships I’ve had with my male friends were prior to getting married. And for the most part, I’m not as close with most of those guys now. I’ve heard the exact same sentiment from virtually all of my male friends.

This is not in any way meant as an indictment on marriage. I’m just trying to explain that getting married changes the dynamic of how guys interact with each other, by mere virtue of the fact that there is less time for guys to spend together. The most common manifestation of this is when guys say that now that they’re married, the only other guys they get to hang out with regularly are the ones married to, or dating, their wives’ friends. And while that can be cool, it’s just not the same thing.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that your husband isn’t close to his boys anymore, it’s just that they’re probably not close enough anymore that they already know each others “stuff.” So, when they see each other at a monthly poker night, they’re not at the point where they can just launch into the minutia. And frankly, they’re probably just so happy to see each other that that’s not what they want to talk about anyway. The idea is for your husbands to see their friends often enough that they can get past that. More on how to practically achieve this in the midst of a marriage and new baby later…but first, let me address:

How your husband can ever have a meaningful conversation with his friends about anything real, when all his boys want to do is go to clubs, play poker or watch sports.

Excellent question. You know, the thing about guys is that we just can. I remember one night when my wife was pregnant and a friend was having a birthday party at a club. I really wanted to go, because I hadn’t seen some of my friends in quite a while, but she wasn’t feeling up to it. So I went for a few hours. We all celebrated…the single guys hitting on women (or at least trying to), and the married guys drinking in the corner and talking shit about the single guys who couldn’t get any numbers. Pretty typical night.

In retrospect, however, the thing I remember most about that night is a half hour conversation I had with my buddy, in the middle of the club, about how he and his wife were potty training his daughter. He told me about the difficulties they had had and how great it felt when things went well. He also shared some of the funnier stories (it turns out potty training is fodder for good comedy). Now, normally, this conversation would have been kind of weird, especially at a club. But, since I had a kid on the way, I was totally intrigued by everything he had to say. Moreover, these types of conversations have become more and more common since more of my friends are becoming fathers. When we’re together, whether at the gym, sports bar, lounge, etc., a portion of the conversation is always dedicated to what’s going on in each other’s lives, with each other’s kids, and how each of us, and our wives, are coping with sleep issues, eating, nannys, etc. I suspect the same is true in your husbands' circles. You just may not see it because it’s couched in some form of debauchery.

So, how do you wrap your brain around the idea of your husbands spending more time with their friends, when you now need them to be at home, and accountable, more than ever? Here’s my advice:

1. Embrace the idea of a regular guys’ night. Don’t just tolerate it, but encourage it. This is important. Be excited for your husbands beforehand. And most importantly, when they come home, even if you’ve had a rough night with the kid(s), show them that you’re happy that they went. Don’t be passive aggressive and take your frustrations out on them. Here’s a little secret…guys start worrying on their way home, because they don’t know what kind of mood you’re going to be in. It can be a complete buzz-kill. (Obviously, this has to go both ways, and you should have your girls’ nights, as well).

2. Make a concerted effort to incorporate your husband’s friends into your lives. This is HUGE for both of you. Essentially, it kills two birds with one stone. Your husband gets to spend time with his friends and you get to have your husband with you and your child. Plus, the more time that your husband gets to spend with his buddies outside of a guy’s night environment, the easier it is for them to get back to that point where they’re apt to discuss family, etc. I can’t express enough, how important I think this is.

3. Be patient. This is not going to be an overnight process. The first few times your husbands go out, they may just get drunk. Again, the idea here is not about “allowing” them to have more fun while you stay at home. Rather, it’s about a change in both their and your attitudes that will allow them to feel more comfortable getting back into the comfort zone with their friends so they can have an outlet.

4. Communicate. This one is pretty generic, but it’s important. For any of this to work, you and your husband have to be able to tell each other what’s going on in your mind and how you’re feeling about things. My wife and I have been together for 13 years; and it’s only because we’ve both been willing to put our egos aside and listen to each other, that we’ve been able to work our way through issues like this one.

This is not, by any means, an exhaustive list. I just thought about some of the couples that I admire and who I feel are very happy, and tried to articulate things that they do which seem to work. One disclaimer: The above will not work with every single guy. However, if you married a guy who is incapable of this type of expression, you really should have known that before you married him and set your expectations accordingly.

In conclusion, I really want to thank Deepa for bringing this topic to the forefront. Reading her post, and all of the subsequent comments, really made me think. I know that this may seem more like a guy’s wish list, but that’s truly not the intention. I also applaud the women on this board who said that they wished their husbands had this kind of an outlet. I hope that this piece has shed some light on this topic from the male perspective.

Happy husband, happy life?

lal said...

it's interesting to hear the "yes but" answer. From everything written this week I want to take your words to heart, give my husband what he needs, and of course afford him the opportunity to bond with other dads. But it's hard to wrap around the idea that this means being happy when he goes to a strip club or whatnot you know??

Anonymous said...

In your approximation of the daddy equivalent of mommy groups, are you talking about your daughters while you're out at the club? Isn't that ironic?

dani said...

propsition: next guys night you all go out fir a nice dinner, and for next girls night your wife and her friends go to a club, get drunk etc. Would be interesting to compare and contrast no??

sari said...

ouch. You totally pegged me in one respect; I don't understand why my fiancé won't make my friends spouses his circle of friends. I get mad about it to be honest because it seems like he doesn't make an effort. And btw his "real friends" (his words) make Harold and kumar look like rocket scientists.

s.j. said...

If this is true . Big if. If this is true and not just a clever way to get I'd to condone inapprppriate behavior on the name of "understanding how men work"--then how come you can't tell us as much post-boys-night. When I ask my husband how such nights were I just get hung ober grunts and one word answers...

usha said...

One of the problems I find in this is that it's not like women have all this unlimited time but they still manage to keep in regular touch with their closest friends. In part perhaps because mommy groups (formal or informal) often involve getting together...WITH the children! Maybe you and your boys should have a dads playdate with your kids--might be a quick way to shift the tone and content and breadth of what y'all talk about...

Anonymous said...

Much of what you say holds true for men and women: It is difficult to have the sort of connection that fosters the ability to discuss "real stuff" when you are relegated to one night a month with friends. Something about our culture makes it so that there is never enough time.

Anonymous said...

LOL: "Before we can even broach the subject of how we’re feeling about things, we have to get past the “snarkiness,” the sports debates, clowning on each other like there’s no tomorrow, and myriad other topics (which you might think are pointless, but that we really look forward to)"

Haha, I always wonder about how you guys do this--the sort of primitive, peeing in a circle, testing each other out, ripping each other to shreds male bonding dance!

Anonymous said...

"I’m just trying to explain that getting married changes the dynamic of how guys interact with each other, by mere virtue of the fact that there is less time for guys to spend together."

How is this different for women??

T.P. said...

Funny, for me, the opposite has been true: I have had to become friends with the wives/girlfriends of my husband's friends. I guess it's different for different couples. But I have really come to enjoy these women, so it's not a bad thing.

bhavani said...

Thanks for writing, along with everyone else this week--I have really enjoyed reading. And I am willing to give this a shot. When I think about it, I do worry that my husband seems to be " losing" so many of his friends, or at least the closeness he once shared with them. I can only imagine how important those relationships will prove to be 5, 10, 20 years down the road.

Anonymous said...

Number one is key. My husband has told me that the way I act sometimes after I "let" him go out with the guys makes him never want to do it again. I don't want to be a shrewd wife but sometimes something in me just goes bezerk when he saunters in all drunk and doe eyed after those nights. And sometimes--I have to admit--I an annoyed that he looks so happy after a night without me.

novel concept said...

Am I the only one who finds this "boys night" and "girls night" stuff to be sort of juevenile? Why can't we go out together? Why can't we discuss as people, parents, friends, couples the "stuff" and the "minutia" of our lives? Segregating by sex perhaps exacerbates the issues that have come to light in many of the comments to this weeks posts.

KB said...

Hey Ladies,
Thank so much for taking the time to read the post. I know it was long. I really think it’s great that you are all so open-minded and willing to listen to suggestions about how to make your husband’s happier. I will admit that on a general level, men are lazier about “working on their relationships.” So again, kudos to you all for taking the time. That being said, I think some of you may need to shift your expectations a bit, in order to be happy.
Throughout the day, I’ll try to respond to as many posts as possible. Here’s the first pass:
LAL: I feel you on the strip club thing. I can understand why women are uncomfortable with that. I don’t know how often your husband goes to strip clubs. If it’s just for bachelor parties, I wouldn’t trip. If it’s all he does…I don’t know what to tell you, except that I wouldn’t consider that an average guys night.
Dani: Look, if you ladies want to go to clubs, go. I don’t understand what the big deal is. Why does what men do have any bearing on what women do at all? If you want to go to clubs with your girls, what’s stopping you? I hate clubs. You’re actually not missing anything.
S.J.: Define inappropriate behavior? Do you trust your husband? If not, you shouldn’t have married him. If so, don’t worry about not knowing. There are a number of reasons he may not want to talk about it. Also, how often does he go out?
Usha: Great point. I don’t know why that doesn’t happen more. For me, when I have the opportunity to hang out with my son, I tend to prefer to just hang out with him. But, seriously, you make a great point.
Anonymous who said “How is this different for women.”: I don’t know whether it is or not. I’m only giving the male perspective. Deepa mentioned in her post, that motherhood has seemed to provide a glue for women to get closer…so there seems to be some difference. Maybe Deepa can comment…
Bhavani: Great point. I hadn’t even thought about the LONG term effects of this, but its totally true.

jaya said...

Kiran: what benefits do you think will follow from wives embracing your concept of what boys night should be like? Will you be happier? Better dads? Better husbands? I am asking sincerely, I know what women "get" from time with their friends but I an curious about what men "get" and whether it's similar.

Anonymous said...

What would your idea week look like? Seeing friends every day? Every other day? Once a week? Just, logistically, how does it work in our busy lives to make friends a constant--and which friends get to be those constants??

Anonymous said...

Here's my beef: When we had our daughter, I became happy seeing the world as the three of us, a family. I was okay to let certain relationships fall away, and to have less time for other things in life. But apparently my husband was not. I crave the little free time we have to be for US, to grow and nurture our family. In my heart of hearts I know that I would be okay with just my husband and my kids. Friends come and go.

workaholic's wife said...

Sorry - but I have a beef too.

I understand putting out these wish lists that men would like fulfilled before they can be "better understanding" husbands.

But - and the but was coming, I disagree - I think this is just an excuse to justify their "not being there for their wife". I am very tempted to call a lot of these lists cop outs. I would have loved to hear the man's perspective - in a case when they actually acknowledge their follies, instead of putting out wish lists justifying them.

I know so many husbands who excel at their work, are workaholics, never forget a single detail at work, no projects slip, who take time out for their bosses/employees, etc etc and yet these same well qualified husbands forget to check the milk left at home!

How come the work areas get the best of the men, while we as wives have to fulfill all these wish lists before they get the best of the husband.

The wives never get this chance - how many times do wives say that " hey i did not take care of the kid/house/school/cooking/work/bills today because I did not get my "old-buddy" time last month! "

KB said...

Jaya: I find that I'm happier generally, knowing that I can expect a good balance of work, family, friends, etc. to look forward to. Obviously, happiness will lead to better quality of life overall, for me, my wife and my son. It's when I have been stressed out at work for two weeks, with no sight of an outlet to blow off steam, that I start getting a little cranky.

Anonymous 1: That's a great question! I know finding the right balance is the toughest thing. Gun to my head, I would say that I would love to have some sort of interaction with friends once during the week and at least once during the weekend (and it can be mixed company, i.e. dinner with another couple). Obviously, sometimes it's not feasible, and responsibilities have to come first, but generally, it seems to work for us.

Anonymous 2: That's not beef, it's just a fundamental difference in philosophy. I really enjoy my friends and would never give them up. I think my wife would say the same. I dont know that it's fair to expect your husband to do so, either, unless you set those expectations beforehand. If you say, that you want to take a few months and just bond with the family after the baby is born, that's one thing; but to ask him to stop seeing his friends for the rest of his life is unreasonable...even if you're willing to do it.

KB said...

Workaholic's Wife: Wow. I'm going to have to go back and re-read my post. I'm not sure where you're comment is coming from. I dont think I drew any correlation between spending time with friends and being responsible at home. I certainly didn't intend to imply that being responsible at home hinged on whether we were able to have more "guy time."

Deepa had posed a question about whether men want these groups and I was simply trying to respond. Let me ask you this? Are women "not being there for their husbands when they have mommy's groups, and brunches?" Are those cop out's too?

Anonymous said...

@ Workaholic's wife: I feel your pain. In fact the original post was about that too--how it seems ironic that as women are taking a step back in their careers or whatnot men's careers are taking precedence. Not sure if it has much to do with boys night but it definitely is an issue.

Also out of curiousity: Why do people hate boys night so much? WHen my husband does the occasional "boys night" im not really worried about him hitting on girls or whatnot.

typing one-handed said...

here's a stunner...i actually kind of agree with kiran (and yes i am a wife and mother and have friends and a job and a life). in the interest of full disclosure, i have known kb for most of my life and can vouch for his daddy skills. also i can vouch for my husband's...and i feel strongly that he needs his outlet...yes it usually involves vodka but mine usually involves wine. so we're even. that's what its about, right? feeling as equal as we can about how we each contribute and then let off steam (for me its bolly night with girlfriends, for him it's out with the guys). what's wrong with that if i know and he knows that we are both being honest about it? i am the first to admit that all my fun doesn't happen solely with my husband and child.

Anonymous said...

i would wager to bet that the wives who are happy in their marriages and who feel like their husbands support them, their kids, their household have no problem at all with boys nights or a husband's need to "let off steam". it is the other wives--who are upset, rightfully so, somewhat rightfully so, not at all rightfully so--for whom this is going to be impossible. because when you are upset you are taking tally, and as you yourself said, this can't be about "letting you" do stuff, it has to be about wanting you to have this outelt. so i think we need to get to the root of all the discord, dissatisfaction (if there is all that--maybe the comments this week are making a mountain out of a molehill?) before we can give each other this space.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous post talking about getting to the underlying discord - I totally agree.

I may be in a similar situation as you describe.

I have a good husband, who to the outside world is the son you always want, the star employee you want, and when we got married the husband one would always want.

But these things changed when the kids came along. He decided to single handedly and without any discussion change this assumption.

For the wife he also did all that stuff being talked about (career related, co parenting related etc). Every time I tried to "communicate" to him and tell him what was on my mind and why it upsets me, all I got was "I understand - but I cannot do much more, I am earning more than you, and there is nothing more I can do to get to equal sharing".

I have tried to explain that having us both work and get double up our salary is a better solution, than him wanting me to quit while he needs to work harder. Why is this math so hard for the husband. 2 bread earners with equal parenting, and a happy satisfied life is better than a situation in which the husband alone works - slogs, wife stay home, is unhappy, career dreams crushed, and all in all no one is happy.

Why do the men not get it? I think that is the big resentment question. Are their wives not worth a little adjustment from their side?

It is not a math question anymore. It always just sound like that the men do not want to give up anything and yet expect so much from their wives, even though a small adjustment from them, would bring in better results. To top it off then they complain about #7! :)

Ravi said...

DUDE THANK YOU for number 1. The drive of fear back home after any night not involving my wife is going to send me to an early grave! If you ladies really want us to "talk about things" and have our friends etc. etc. please don't punish us for 24 hours after every attempt we make.

Big ups for this, Kiran, I agree with almost everything you say. Will just add that it takes alot of guts to put yourself out there and write on a "mommy blog" so I respect that alot too. Don't know if I could subject myself to it!

Anonymous said...

a whole host of comments from a bunch of insecure women...annoying...

listen, what Kiran said is reality...stop focusing on the detail of the story...guys-night-out for many is sitting at a boy's crib, grubbin' & playin' video games...clubbing for most married men is non-existent...he was giving you an EXAMPLE, relax...

focus on the reality here ladies, what Kiran is saying is men do want to open up, they want support, from their FRIENDS...not from strangers...many times i've been to couple gatherings as a bunch of female friends from birth gather in joy with their toddlers as the men awkwardly stand around and talk about nothing important...all Kiran is saying is let your man have that quality time with his REAL boys...that will give him the opportunity to open it going out, having dinner, hitting a club (which rarely any of us like to do past 30), weekend get-away, etc...

jeez, i mean i knew women were insecure, but this is ridiculous...kudos Kiran, too bad the women chose not to READ it for what it is...

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