By Jason Samatas, MenLiving Facilitator
I’ve recently started a new relationship with a woman I met about a month ago. A few weeks ago, she invited me to her brother’s wedding in Las Vegas – I mean, Vegas, right?! So, of course, I accepted the invitation, not just because the wedding was in Vegas, but because I genuinely liked this woman and was interested in getting to know her better.
Well, without going into too much detail, the weekend was a great success. The wedding was fun, the weather was fantastic, and I didn’t deplete my kids’ college investment accounts. But perhaps the best part of the weekend was engaging in some deeper conversations with my new semi-girlfriend. The relationship is quite new; we only met in mid-August and had a few dates before deciding to do the Vegas weekend. In other words, there was still so much more to learn about her, and I was excited about that (okay, as well as spending a weekend in Vegas!). During one of our many conversations, she revealed that she almost ended our budding relationship a few weeks in when she found out I was part of a men’s group. Um… what?? I thought being in a men’s group was a good thing! Did this woman have any idea how much MY men’s group has positively impacted my life?? Apparently not, but she was about to find out.
As we talked, she revealed more. Her ex-boyfriend, toward the end of their relationship, had joined a “men’s group.” He explained to her that his new men’s group was a bunch of men talking about all the ways in which women are emasculating men; that many of men’s problems could be directly traced back to women. In one of their final conversations as a couple, my girlfriend’s ex explained that the strained relationship was solely a result of her behavior, her inadequacies, and her attempts to blame him for everything wrong. In other words, he took zero accountability for the deterioration of the relationship and blamed it all on her. Apparently, he learned not to take any accountability for his actions through conversations with the men in his new group, and they supported his total lack of responsibility. So naturally, when she heard I was in a men’s group, she thought it was déjà vu. She thought, “this guy is going to do the same thing my ex did and eventually blame me for everything. I’m out!” Fortunately for me, my girlfriend discussed this with one of her friends, who convinced her not to end our relationship solely because I’m in a men’s group. Big thanks to the girlfriend’s friend!
My response to hearing all of this was that clearly, not all men’s groups are created equal. Personally, I am highly supportive of men getting together in almost any capacity. My opinion, particularly as we age, is that men do not interact enough with one another as we focus more on our romantic relationships, careers, and parenting responsibilities, among other things. Friendships take a back seat, and the camaraderie we experienced in our younger years tends to drift away. However, there is a dark side to men’s work and men’s groups. It all depends on the leadership, the composition, and the nature of the group. Just because a group of men gets together doesn’t necessarily mean it is productive and healthy. Now, I’m in no position to judge my girlfriend’s ex’s men’s group because I don’t have a lot of other information to provide a thorough assessment. But what this episode demonstrated for me is my deep pride and appreciation for the leadership and the wonderful members of MenLiving. There are plenty of men’s groups out there, and I’m sure many of them are wonderful groups consisting of good men. But I’m a MenLiving guy. My MenLiving group is supportive, loving, insightful, and forward-thinking. This group has supported me during some of my most vulnerable moments and held me accountable when I’ve failed in my commitments. In short, there is nothing more I could ask for, and having 100+ wonderful men to lean on in my moments of triumph and failure is something I deeply cherish and appreciate. Hearing about my girlfriend’s experiences with the darker side of some men’s groups really drove home how valuable MenLiving is in my life.
I didn’t like hearing about my girlfriend’s ex’s men’s group experience. At first, I got defensive about men’s work and, in particular, my men’s group. I was ready to defend our honor! After further thought, however, I realized just how fortunate I am to be a part of THIS group with THESE men. It is my honor, gentlemen, to be a part of MenLiving, and thankfully, being a part of this group didn’t have to force the end of my new relationship. 😊
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A long-time Chicagoan, Jason now lives in a part of the country he’s always dreamed of living: near the mountains. Just outside of Boulder, CO, Jason now enjoys all that living in the West provides, although he will always have Chicago in his blood.
Jason is a part of MenLiving because of how much it has been a part of his personal development over the past number of years. Having gone through a difficult divorce and a number of family and career challenges, Jason reevaluated aspects of his life that were no longer serving him with the love and support of MenLiving members behind him. As he went through the process (and still is!), he realized how many men were there to support his journey. Now, in any way he can, he tries to give back that same support which was so critical to his own well-being.
What inspires Jason most is seeing men open up, be vulnerable, and take chances. Jason took the “safe path” in so many ways for much of his life, and now gets pumped to see men take the “edgier path” in any aspect of one’s circumstances. He’s eternally grateful to all that have supported him in his journey and seeks to reciprocate that same support to other men as they embark on their own journeys.