New book by “Bachelor Pad” winner and “Bachelorette” fan favorite David Good provides new insight for women struggling to understand men.
Editor’s Note: In the following chapter selected from David Good’s new book, “The Man Code,” he defines what constitutes a Man Code man and lists the stumbling blocks they most often experience on the road to love. He also details why he feels the Man Code is a precious set of values increasingly absent from our society. “Manliness,” he writes, “is at a crossroads in our culture.” In the end, he says, “The Man Code” is about pride, chivalry, respect and finding true happiness with a guy who’s a man amongst men.
WHAT IS A MAN CODE MAN? (AND WHY ARE WE SO DIFFICULT?)
Much of what’s to follow in this book suggests that having a Man Code Man in your life is actually desirable, and then I outline what it is we’re looking for in a partner.So it’s imperative that I make this blanket statement: we Man Code men can be an absolute pain in the rear. While I think our adherence to a time-honored code keeps us grounded and ultimately makes us valuable, we are not without our head-slapping moments.
I’ll use this analogy a couple times in the book: Love with a Man Code man is like a cat that brings a dead bird to its owner’s doorstep to show its affection. That ain’t pretty on the surface, but the underlying meaning is something very nice. We all have to learn to accept love as it’s offered, not how we want it to be offered. We want happiness and partnership as much as women do; we just often go after it like a blunt instrument.
We often do not know how to show what it is we’re feeling. We grow up sharpening our characters against other men, so the language of love might as well be ancient Greek to us. Even though we know it’s best to just let go, it’s hard to really do so and allow ourselves to be in a vulnerable position. All of our preceding life education runs completely counter to this. For being tough guys, we’re a little scared.
We may never give you the quantity of affection you desire, but we’ll make up for it in quality. Once we think you understand this, the ruffian surface will come crumbling down. This understanding — or lack thereof — has been the pivot point in a lot of relationships. A little of this understanding might have gone a long way for my own parents, and I suppose I want for others the happiness they couldn’t have. To me, understanding equals happiness. Though I’m not married, I have had meaningful relationships of nine and four years. I’ve also had very middling relationships and others that were over before they started. I haven’t found the perfect person, but I think that at this point — especially given the accelerated track the past two years have put me on — I understand what success and failure look like when it comes to love.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Man Code ends up being something very different from what you think. It is not the rules for an exclusive guy’s guy club. It is not a rulebook that gives me a reason to push out someone who doesn’t intuitively think what I do.
The Man Code is inclusive. It’s about respect, integrity, accountability and pride. It’s about the dirt under your fingernails and on the road beneath your feet, both literally and metaphorically. Anyone can be Man Code, whether blue collar, white collar, straight, gay, single or married. A Man Code man can exist anywhere, anytime. It’s about having a basis for what you do, day in and day out. If you’re a guy who gets it, no explanation is necessary. If not, no explanation is possible.
Most of it is learned and not taught. It’s about subtle things, like sleeping on the side of the bed closest to the door, which is a rule I was never told but I saw in practice and felt. My dad’s side of the bed was always nearest the door. It made his wife feel safe. That discrete sign of protection let all of us know that if something came through the door, he’d be standing in it to block the way. A Man Code man knows that his kids won’t remember a lot of what he taught them, but they will remember how we loved their mother. (This is at the root of why many components of the Code are being lost, as dads are often not in the home anymore. More on that in the following chapter.)
Not all Man Code men like cars, watch football or watch “Old School” weekly. We’re as different in our interests as women are. But Man Code men all have passion, they all know the world doesn’t exist to make them happy, and they all would rather laugh than sulk.
While we might rebel against the establishment, we enjoy the order of codes. This is true of government, society and manhood. The Man Code cannot be broken, and if it is forsaken, it takes us a long time to recover our faith. Codes exist for a reason. They give us stability and order. There is the law of gravity, the rule of thumb and the code of silence, all of which are respected even if they’re not understood. Be it in the boardroom, barroom or bedroom, the Code has to be obeyed at all times. It’s not flexible.
As the Man Code is passed down from generation to generation, you’ll find (see end of article) the things I’d tell my son if he asked me how he could go about living up to the Man Code.
Now, just because we’re simple doesn’t mean we’re easy. Why are we so damn tough to live with?
First and foremost, our method of socializing is totally the inverse of women’s. We get our validation through groups. We’re pack animals. But despite living our lives in public, we are astonishingly private. Women spend time in smaller groups and make their inner-worlds far better known. When these worlds collide, women have the advantage because they have a lot of experience with one-on-one. But Man Code men are baffled. When very little is personal or private, you don’t really know how good that can be. It has to take us by surprise sometimes. Beyond birth and death, the most significant things in life are experienced with your partner. But nothing in our prior lives has readied us for that. To this point, everything we’ve done is based on conservation of emotion.
Our whole ethic is based on doing. Our whole value lies in what we do, what we produce. We are about forward motion. Women simply require our presence, and this is also very perplexing.
We are stubborn not just with you, but with other men, as well. The only difference is that when we clash with other guys, we meet force with force. Women are left to deal with the aftermath of this. Every day, at the end of every negotiation or confrontation, we’re left with the feeling of having won or lost. We bring home a lot of baggage.
The best compliment we can give women — who are so nurturing — is to let you help us. But it wounds our pride to ask not just for your help, but anyone’s.
Finally, the thing about being in a committed relationship or marriage is that it doesn’t negotiate. You have to give up being the king a little bit. Things are taken out of your hands. Before we become husbands or fathers, we can be a little self-obsessed. Eventually we learn that’s what it’s all about: the delight of being a servant. Laurence Olivier said that the greatest thing you could aspire to in life is to be a good servant. This sounds ridiculous until you’ve lived it. I’m not sure the true joy of being a servant to someone else really reveals itself to us until later in life, when you look at your kids and realize you wouldn’t have had it any other way. Women spend their whole lives getting ready for that moment. They yearn for it. Men have to come to the realization they want it.
Fortunately, Man Code men tend to be as specific in our weaknesses as in our strengths. And like women, those things that are our strengths can also be our weaknesses. It’s like the Greek concept of hamartia: your greatest flaw is often your greatest strength. By understanding Man Code, my hope is this will give you insight into our flaws and strengths, all at once.
Posted with the permission of Imagine Media Trade Paperback Edition. Copyright © 2010 by David Good. All rights reserved.