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Real Talk: Do Men Need Relationship Advice?

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African American Couple
I've spent the last month on book tour, bouncing from city to city hosting cocktail parties, reading from my book and taking questions from the audience about men, dating, relationships, and perhaps more important, how to "find, and honor, your you." (Loosely, what would make you happier, and how do you go about getting it.) I've been taking note of the questions that come up, and without fail, I'm always asked, "When is someone going to write a relationship/dating advice guide for men? Cause these men out here...Honey!"

With good cause, women have become fed up with being preached to about how to lower their expectations, contort themselves into a male ideal, and treat sex like it's an act only men enjoy, or benefit from. I totally get the frustration. It's never made sense to me why with all the concern about Black relationships, the “help” only addresses one-half of the people, and not the other. Even if every woman fixes everything men express concern about, won't we end up with an army of on-point women and men who are just a'ight? I'm sure the guys would be real happy, but us? Not so much.

There are a couple reasons that we, ladies, bear the brunt of the burden, the most obvious being money. We actually buy self-help books and men, en masse, don't. “It is a long held truism that men don't buy relationship books,” says Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of the rare relationship self-help guide for guys, "The Secrets of Happily Married Men" (Jossey-Bass) “Even when an author pens words of advice for men, most editors politely decline the invitation to publish. Men's magazines, with few exceptions, avoid the vexing reality of relationships, reveling instead in the search for the perfect set of abs. Tightening our musculature, we are counseled, will ensure that nubile women will lust after us."

Men also have a different (um... more stringent?) criteria as to who they take advice from. For better or worse, women will seemingly listen to anyone who sounds like a father figure, and the more the advice suggests we go to extremes, the more enlightened we seem to think the advisor is. I asked a group of men who they would take relationship advice from and the most consistent answers varied from "my pastor" to "my father" (if he was happily married), elders/relatives/coaches who had been married for decades, and a few public figured they respected such as President Obama (most often named), Colin Powell, former President Clinton (he cheated and his wife didn't leave) and Jay-Z (he was able to pull, and keep, Bey.)

By and large, the men agreed that they would not take dating/relationship advice from a woman. “How’s a woman going to tell me how to be a better man?” went the common refrain. The fear was that listening to women they’d be turned into passive, emasculated pushovers. “Women don’t know how to be men,” “women don’t know how we think or what he go through,” and ”there are some things only a man can tell another man,” went the common refrains. Made sense. It also made me wonder why we listen to so many men about how to be better women.

Discuss.

Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: Your Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter: @abelleinbk
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