7 important life lessons most men learn too late, according to psychology

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As someone who has a lot of male friends, I’d say I understand the male psyche quite well.

And if there’s one common theme among most of the men I know, it’s that they learn many crucial lessons too late in life.

Okay, that’s a bit of a lie. I’m a firm believer that it’s never too late to change your ways and grow as a person.

However, many men do tend to progress quite slowly, which unfortunately means that they make unnecessary mistakes, lose some important relationships, and keep repeating the same patterns for years.

So, what are the 7 important life lessons most men learn a bit too late? Let’s go!

1) Relationships are the bedrock of happiness

According to one of the longest studies on human happiness, it is primarily the quality of our closest relationships that determines our happiness levels.

Most women probably don’t find this all that surprising. After all, we thrive when we exist in rich communities, hang out with our female friends, and have interesting conversations until late at night.

One of my friends once said, “Women are interested in people. Men are interested in things.”

In other words, women like to discuss social interactions while men love to talk about hobbies or delve into specific topics, be it the history of the Roman Empire or the latest football match.

Of course, things are never as stereotypical as this, but I think it highlights one important theme I’ve noticed among the men I know: most men do not assign as much value to their relationships as they should.

They might prioritize their career over a meaningful romantic relationship and then end up rich yet lonely.

They might build superficial friendships that are based on banter and playing video games but do not have any real depth, and so when they truly need someone to count on, their friends are suddenly all busy.

They might get so engulfed in work that they don’t spend nearly enough time with their children, and before they know it, their kids are all grown up and only visit twice a year for a polite visit.

These are all real-life examples I’ve witnessed, and they point to an important lesson that most men learn too late: relationships are what ultimately fulfils us.

And relationships need to be continually nurtured.

2) Love is a verb, not a noun

And that brings us to the next point.

“Many people believe love is a powerful emotional state that is involuntary, that dominates our thoughts, and fills us with passion. But that particular state rarely endures long-term,” writes Nevada Foundation Professor at the Department of Psychology, Steven C. Hayes, Ph.D.

He continues, “While we often think of love as a warm feeling, it’s more helpful to think of love as something that you do that is connected to what we choose to hold dear.”

“Something that you do” is the key phrase here.

When I was around seventeen and read Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving, I realized that loving someone was not a state of mind but rather a continuous set of actions. Years later, it boggles me that many men who are much older than me still haven’t internalized this concept.

Love is not a feeling. It is the choice to show up for the people closest to you in the best way you know how and to keep showing up for as long as you can.

Relationships aren’t like mountains, firm and stable and present. They are like flowers, fragile and in constant need of attention.

If you don’t water them, they eventually wither.

3) Actions speak louder than words

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my past relationships with men, it’s that many of them love to talk. Whether they stick to their words is another story entirely.

The issue is that true life doesn’t take place within the confines of language.

It is out there in the real world where actions put things in motion, where people can truly make a difference, and where our words are only valuable if they are followed by real behavior.

Promises mean very little if they are nothing but words. Do not make them unless you’re certain you can act on them.

4) It’s okay to be wrong

Another important lesson plenty of men learn very late is that humility isn’t a weakness. It’s actually a very powerful trait to have.

How so?

Well, think of it this way. Humility isn’t just about turning the other cheek. More than anything, it’s about self-awareness and inner confidence.

As psychiatrist Dimitrios Tsatiris M.D. writes, “Humility has a positive effect on self-awareness and it strengthens social bonds.”

He also says that “inviting feedback and learning from others are ways to cultivate the virtue of humility,” and I couldn’t agree more.

While some men think that to admit a lack of knowledge is to admit a weakness, it is often the other way around.

When you have the courage to be your authentic self, hold up your hands and say you don’t know something or you’re sorry for having made a mistake, it shows you are confident enough to face the consequences of your actions, self-reflect, and change your behavior in the future.

It shows your ego is strong enough to withstand confrontation.

5) Life isn’t a competition

Society teaches us that success is defined by money, material possessions, career status, and the kind of neighbourhood we live in.

And many men fall for that trap, thinking that if they dare divert from the norm, they’re not going to be “successful” in a way that counts.

What follows is a feeling of desperation and overwhelm, a constant need to compare oneself to others, and a subsequent battle with an inferiority complex.

You know what, though?

A man who knows what truly fulfills him and goes after it is a man worth admiring. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if your goal is to have a thriving garden, build a company, or volunteer at a local dog shelter.

What matters is that you know who you are and what you stand for. What matters is that you focus on your own journey instead of constantly peeking over the fence to have a look at the state of other people’s lives.

You get to choose what “success” looks like.

6) Vulnerability is strength

Sadly, plenty of men in our society learn very early on that the only acceptable emotion they can display is anger.

They bottle their grief, frustration, and sadness, struggle to open up to their partners, and then blow up because they can’t keep it all inside any longer.

Since it’s still very difficult to be a sensitive and emotionally open man, it’s no wonder that many men learn this skill quite late in life, robbing themselves of some very valuable conversations and relationships in their early adulthood.

If you also struggle to be vulnerable with your partner or close friends, keep in mind what the motivational speaker Brene Brown once said: “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

It is brave to lay yourself bare. Don’t ever forget that.

7) Self-love is selfless

Some people think of self-love as selfishness or narcissism. They believe that liking oneself too much is vain; that it gets into our head; that it makes us insufferable to be around.

The truth is that self-love is actually one of the most selfless things you could ever do.

Life coach and positive psychology practitioner Susanna Newsonen explains:

“In truth, narcissism and arrogance are both signs of a deep lack of self-confidence, self-acceptance, and self-love. Self-love isn’t about you ignoring everyone else’s needs, becoming super obsessed with yourself and everything you do, or behaving like you’re the queen or king of the world.

“Instead, it’s about having a more positive relationship with yourself in which you take care of yourself, support yourself and believe in yourself. It makes you more resilient against challenges and keeps you motivated in working towards your dreams because you believe in them and in your abilities.”

And why is this selfless, I hear you ask?

Because when you become your best friend and fill your own cup first, you can give more of yourself to others.

Too many men forget to look after themselves, give themselves a break, and show themselves some compassion.

Remember: you deserve to be loved and to love.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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