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by Jim Herbert

Jim is passionate about life and he explores his individual hero’s journey with curiosity and zeal. Jim is a father, husband, yogi, mystic, storyteller, author, coach, teacher and student who sees himself as a spiritual being having an amazing human experience.

I’ve always loved Bob Newhart. In fact I love him so much that I really wanted to title this piece “Lessons in Love with Dr. Robert Hartley” to see who got the reference to the character that Newhart played in The Bob Newhart Show which ran on CBS from 1972 until 1978.

Ultimately, I realized that those who had no idea what I was talking about in relation to Dr. Robert Hartley might think that this piece was an existential study on the history of love with some nerdy psychiatrist from Johns Hopkins. Visions of plummeting blog open rates danced in my head, so I nixed the title for something more generic that might tap into people’s curiosity about the topic of love on this Valentine’s Day, and with that, here we are. Happy Valentine’s Day! I’ve held your interest for two paragraphs already, so if I get to something juicy pretty fast, I might be able to get you to click on “Read More” in order to nudge you to follow me all the way to the end.

Since this post is specifically written for the MenLiving weekly newsletter, I am going to assume that the majority of the readers identify as male. In my mind, it’s a great piece for all genders, but allow me to get to that juicy thing that I am going to say with the hope that I will hold your interest and urge you to continue to read on. I just want to say:

I Love You!

Now that I have used the “L” word, what I would like to know next is, “How did that make you feel?”

As a general rule, I find that many men struggle with using the word love in almost every context, especially when it comes to telling another man that they love him. In fact I have learned that a lot of men even have trouble telling theirown mothers that they love them, and it is with that piece of information that I take us back to Bob Newhart.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to buy season one of The Bob Newhart Show on Amazon Prime for $9.99 so my wife and I could relax and enjoy an episode or two before bedtime. My wife is a number of years younger than me so she is less familiar with the old shows from the 1970s, but expressed that she was interested and curious about The Bob Newhart Show in particular. I on the other hand grew up listening to my dad’s old vinyl recordings of early Bob Newhart comedy sketches long before The Bob Newhart Show ever even hit the airwaves. I must have listened to BobNewhart’s Button Down Mind collection hundreds of times on the old turntable in my room as a boy, so revisiting Newhart’s work is like a warm, comforting hug for me in many ways.

In the second episode of season one of The Bob Newhart Show which we watched just the other night, Bob takesnote of the fact that he can only recall one time he ever told his mother that he loved her and even then, it was by accident. Bob goes on to say that he was actually talking to his pet dog when he said, “I love you” and his mom overheard him and said in reply, “My sweet boy, I love you too.”

The rest of the episode takes the viewers on a series of chaotic missteps as Bob tries to find the perfect time and place to say “I love you” to his mother. In the end, he only manages to mumble out the words, “Love ya” as his mom is in thedoorway of their apartment one night while leaving after dinner. Watching that episode just the other night sent me intoa deep reflection about why it is that so many men are challenged to use the phrase “I love you” with their own partner, their parents and in particular, with other men.

I have been ruminating about this for a week now. I even loosely used it as a topic in a MenLiving full house just last night with 15 other men. It’s not exactly a comprehensive study from the psychology department at JohnsHopkins, but I have come up with what I think are five primary reasons some men are challenged to say “I love you” to another man. Regardless of your own comfort level with these three words, I hope you’ll enjoy reading my thoughts.


#1 – Lack of awareness of the many types of love

For the majority of my life, when I heard the word love all I thought about was romance. I have been a serial monogamist since I first kissed Lisa Sabbe at age 14 in the basement of my friend Dave’s basement during a pool party. I have moved from one romantic relationship to the next for 45 years now with hardly even a day or two in between partners. I even managed to transition from a 23 year marriage to my current marriage with an overlap between the two, which is not something I would necessarily recommend, but it does speak volumes about my need to feel loved and connected.

Over the last decade as I have poured more of my energy into studying human relationships, I have learnedthat the ancient Greeks actually had four different words for love that covered a gamut of different human experiences.

Eros the romantic love that I discovered at age 14.

Storge – the type of instantaneous love that exists between a parent and a child.

Philia – love without romantic attraction like that which occurs between friends or other family members

Agape – The highest form of love which is sometimes referred to as Divine love, Universal love or Unconditional love.

Perhaps if more men looked at love through the multiple lens in which it can be seen, there would be more universal comfort with saying “I love you” to each other.


#2 – Lack of modeling of mature love in early childhood

If I have learned one thing in my adventures to understand the human psyche, it is this: Our entire life experience is an extension of the behavior that we had modeled for us in early childhood. I could write an entire dissertation on that one sentence alone, but for the sake of brevity as it relates to this topic, the fact is that most men have not seen other mendemonstrate mature, unconditional love towards each other.

Even men who have been blessed enough to have healthy loving relationships with male elders in their own lives, have been influenced by a societal energy that subtly shames them for being “too loving.” This connects in part with the idea I will share next, which is the lack of comfort that many men have as it relates to the softer parts of themselves which can sometimes be referred to as their feminine sides.


#3 – Discomfort with the softer, more feminine aspects of self

 Regardless of which gender we identify as, we all have aspects of self that are more masculine and aspects that are more feminine. The balance between these two sets of aspects in our inner realms is the key to finding balance in our outer world and in our human experience as spiritual beings. Painting with a broad brush, words that are typically associated with healthy masculine energy are words like confidence, stability, protection and discipline. Feminine energy in the healthiest and highest forms is connected to words like allowing, creative, kind, sensitive and nurturing.

Wherever there are healthy aspects of a particular energy field though, there is also a shadow side. The shadow side of the wounded masculine reveals a frequency of abuse, aggression, confrontation, avoidance and control. Theshadow side of the wounded feminine often shows up as victimhood, over sensitivity, neediness, codependency and emotional instability.

I have typically thought of myself as someone who was “very in touch with my feminine side,” but more recently I have come to realize that I have not necessarily been in touch with exclusively the healthy aspects of my feminine side. I have always been very nurturing, but I have also at times been needy, codependent on others approval and attached tomy victimhood. I am much more in alignment with my higher self when I can be more allowing and surrendering while at the same time, disciplined and stable. It can be a tightrope walk to say the least, but when a man is at peace with his softer parts, he can also feel much more comfortable with showing his love and saying “I love you” to people of all genders.


#4 – Magnitude of responsibility

In the Monday MenLiving Full House this week, I opened the call by asking men to share what thoughts, feelings or emotions came up for them when they heard the word love. The answers came from a wide spectrum, but one of the common underlying themes was that many men were called to think about the level of responsibility they had as it related to the word love itself. Some men went straight to what it means to be a parent and the sense of obligation they have to the souls that they brought into this human experience. One man pointed to the idea that the word love called the mind the word action, which to me taps directly into the warrior and king energies that are part of four male archetypes. A man’s intrinsic need to watch over,protect and care for those who he loves can at times feel like an unbearable burden. I have struggled with that pressure mightily as an older father of a 6 year old daughter.

For years my strategy to deal with the high pressure moments in life was to work harder and move faster. As my circle of love has continued to grow in general, and as I have become a parent in particular, there is no level of harder andfaster that is sustainable. In fact I have found that quite the opposite is true. It is only when I allow, receive and and sit in stillness (all very feminine energies) that I can make sense of the chaos of my life these days.

For many men, the easiest way to reduce the magnitude of responsibility they feel is to either consciously or subconsciously avoid acknowledging how much love they have to give and to refrain from telling and or openly sharing those feelings with others.


#5 – Fear of intimacy

For many years, I confused intimacy with sexuality. As I got into my thirties and I started to form adult friendships with women other than my wife, often in the yoga and martial arts world, I at times got confused as to how to proceed inthose friendships. As I got closer with other women, I often felt guilt or shame that I was attracted to the energy of a person of the opposite gender and at times confused that attraction as sexual chemistry. All of that confusion was perfectly reasonable and I have since learned to unshame the confusion, but let’s just say that in the process, I learned a lot about how to grow intimate friendships without that intimacy including physical relations. A more mature version of myself eventually learned that Philia style love can be every bit as fulfilling as Eros style love, and in some cases even more fulfilling.

My opinion is that our society is quite often toxically homophobic. If one were to ask a sample of 100 random men who identify as heterosexual to speak about their intimate relationships with other men, my guess is that the vast majority of men would be uncomfortable with the conversation topic. Some men would probably even shut down completely. Aswe learn the truth that we all need to cultivate healthy intimate relationships both with our primary partners and with other members of our inner circle of support, we can get more comfortable with expressing our love for people of all genders, regardless of what gender we identify as or what our current sexual orientation happens to be.

Over the last decade I have made it a point to regularly use the phrase “I love you” with other men who I feel deeply connected to, even if I think that it might be a little uncomfortable at first. I have found that more and more, other men are not only increasingly more comfortable with saying, “I love you too,” but in many ways they crave the opportunity to do so.

People sometimes ask me what it means to do men’s work. Some people even ruffle at the phrase men’s work because of the energy and frequency that it can create for others. To me, it really is more just a case of doing the work. It just so happens that this particular branch on the tree of the work is with people who identify as male who are invested in doing more to understand themselves and how identifying as a male presents its unique sets of challenges and opportunities.

So on this Valentine’s Day, I invite you to think of people of all genders who touch your heart and are important to you. I encourage you to confidently tell them that you love them and see what happens in return. The good news aboutlove is that you were born with an infinite supply in your heart, you can never run out, and the more you give it, the more of it you will receive in return.

Wishing you the best for a beautiful week ahead, and please know that I love you for taking the time to read this and reflect on how it can apply to your own life’s journey. Many blessings,



  • Todd Adams says:

    I love this blog and I love you Jim Herbert ❤

  • Anonymous says:

    Love your brothers!

  • Glenn says:

    Great article. Bob Newhart was a must-see in my house when I was a kid (not that there many choices back then). As MenLiving is a group focused on emotional wellness, I feel compelled to point out that the depiction of Bob’s therapy patients, although funny, would probably not be considered too PC now.

    • Jim Herbert says:

      Thanks Glenn. I agree. Many of the contexts in which therapy was depicted back in the 70s have become less PC. Thanks for reading.

  • Joel says:

    Very well thought out article.
    I feel comfortable saying I love you to other men. However I find myself being very discerning to whom I say it. If I sense that the other man
    may be uncomfortable in such a situation, then I just may not go there. It’s sort of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s making both
    of us more vulnerable, and on the other hand, we risk losing the opportunity for a deeper and more open friendship.
    Sometimes it’s more acceptable to say “Love ya Buddy” rather than “I love you”!

    • Jim Herbert says:

      Thanks so much for sharing your thought Joel. I always appreciate your support for my writing and I love the fact that you acknowledge the needs of others in the process as well. There is indeed a time and place to encourage men to get outside their comfort zones, but it needs to be in the optimal setting and at an time where it can feel safe. Hope to see you soon my friend!

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