Why Men May Be Good At Their Job, But Not In Their Relationships?

I’ve been doing a lot of research for my new book (which all I can say at this point is about men). And as I have been doing research I came across this phrase that has really stuck with me:

“they live within the boundaries of their competence.”
The Silence of Adam by Larry Crabb, pp. 54

All of us have a sphere of which we operate in because we have confidence in our skills and tools in that endeavor. But to step out of that sphere can be a risk, creating all kinds of fear and anxiety.

We ask ourselves:

What if I fail?

Will they be disappointed in me?

Will I feel stupid?

Et cetera

So in order to not experience failure or become uncomfortable, we avoid many areas of life that we are not as competent in, but are nonetheless, as important for us and others.

In this book on men, Crabb says this:

“Men often report feeling most like men when they can say ‘I may not know what to do about THIS, but I know what to do about THAT. I know I can do it, I’m doing it, and it’s working.’ These men may be successful businessmen but distant fathers. Because they live within the boundaries of their competence, they are usually not aware of any struggle with their sense of manhood. They face only those problems that they are pretty sure they can handle…..Men who, for their sense of well-being, depend on facing tasks they can handle are not usually effective in their close relationships…..Competent men neither listen well nor share openly.”

The danger for anyone, but particularly men in this case, is that in order to avoid feeling like a failure in our marriages, friendships, and other vital relationships — such as with God — we stay within the boundaries that we are most comfortable. This may be work, it may be a hobby, and it just might be watching and commenting on sports.

My thought for you is this:

If there is an area of your life that you feel least competent in, that may be the area that you most need to attend to.

How is your marriage?

How is your relationship with your kids?

What’s your relationship like with God?


  1. by Andy Kaehr on August 23, 2012  3:35 pm Reply

    Rhett, as a fellow MFT and one who is incredibly interested in the emotional health/well-being/expression of men, I thank you for addressing this topic. In September, I'll be a part of a weekend focused around this very issue through a fabulous organization dedicated to men called "The Mankind Project" (http://mankindproject.org/). Definitely worth checking out if you are not familiar with their work.

  2. by Arleen on August 24, 2012  9:10 am Reply

    This is profound, Rhett, even for a woman! Thanks for sharing it.

  3. by Julie on October 3, 2012  9:15 am Reply

    I just listened to you on Midday Connection and I have severe anxiety. I couldn't wait to listen and I hope to get your book soon. I came to this link and was brought to tears because I believe my anxiety has been handed down to my son. I am a mother of a 15 year old boy who is scared to death to disappoint me and feels so much anxiety in my presence. Last night while we were on our way to the mall, he was driving with his permit, he almost hit a motorcyclist and the man screamed at him while I was asking him to stop. Stop! The look on his face and the tremble in his body and 200 feet down the road, he did it again only to pull out in front of several turning cars, they had the right of way. He blamed me for feeling so insecure around me. Thank you for this article. It has reduced me to tears to purrsue a huge apology to my son for expecting such perfection out of him to ease my anxieties. God Bless your work and thank you for blessing my day.

    Julie, a recovering anxious mom on her way to healing and restoration.

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