Amusement parks have always been a favorite getaway for me. I was a lucky kid because my parents were happy to oblige when they could. Looking back I'm even more impressed with their sacrifice on those vacations. It must have been so exhausting.
I was all about the rides. So focused on getting in as many spins, drops, and loops I couldn't sit still. Stopping for a meal or to shop for souvenirs was almost impossible. My poor family was pulled nonstop like they were trying to walk a sled dog on a leash.
There's a bit of regret there, because as I've gotten older I find how much there is to enjoy in the little things along the way, how each part of a day away can have something memorable to offer. That's how I started to notice how much love and artistry and effort has been put into so many things I rushed by as a kid, when I was so focused on just getting to the thrill.
Slowing down and learning to enjoy the journey has been a big improvement in life.
What's Important About the Journey
In a broader sense, this is sort of a default setting a lot of men have in life--and it's particularly problematic in romantic relationships. In his Psychology Today article, "The Biggest Thing Men Get Wrong About Love", Cody Kommers talks about how some men's focus on the destination can inhibit their ability to be present.
"...as a rule, women tend to appreciate the journey, whereas men are all about the destination...
The problem is that love isn’t a goal-directed process. There is no way to win. There is no finish line, no highest number of points scored. And this is simply something that most men have trouble fitting into their standard conceptual frameworks for understanding the world. The point of love is that it is." (emphasis added)
In my work counseling men, I've come across a common tendency for us to zero in on end results. When we're in crisis, we just want to be "fixed"; give me the solution, the right answer, the correct thing to say that will make everything okay.
Even when we're connecting and pursuing the good things in life, we can find ourselves so set on the payoff, the big moment, that we lose sight of what's in front of us.
The concept of just being present with what is--for us, and for our partner--throws a lot of us for a loop.
What if the one I love is in pain or feels anxious? When they want to share uncomfortable feelings that solution-driven mindset can make us fail to see when they just want someone to be there with them. Then not only is it not 'fixed', but they're even more frustrated than before.
For those of us carrying an old narrative that sounds like "you don't measure up/it's never good enough", this can open up wounds of inadequacy, increasing the likelihood we will keep pushing for that shut down.
But the unfinished nature of such a moment is an opportunity to come closer, to lean into being present with love and mutual acceptance.
In romance, a lot of men struggle to know when connection is happening. We're often not encouraged unless we cross that finish line. Then even when we do, we've gone most of the way there on autopilot, with tunnel vision, instead of savoring the winding road that love is.
Sound hard? Well, it is. It means confronting the narratives that are holding us back, and learning to be present even when they've been stirred up.
But when you begin to consider that it's possible, you've taken a huge step toward making it your new normal.
Mike Ensley, MA, LPCC, is a nationally board-certified professional counselor in Loveland, CO.