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London - Cynics will tell you that men are only interested in one thing.
And, according to the counsellors at Relate, the cynics are right – even when a man’s relationship is on the rocks.
While women seek help to talk about the couple’s problems, men’s “driving force” is often how to get more sex.
The report, based on interviews with the organisation’s counsellors, also found that men tend to be unaware their relationship is in trouble, despite obvious warning signs.
As a result, they are unlikely to seek help until “the ship is sinking”, with some seeing counselling as a form of “weakness”.
When they do make it to counselling, men approach it very differently.
While women are looking for a “greater level of communication and understanding” and use the sessions as a chance to review the health of their partnership, men have a more practical approach. They are more likely to see the session as an opportunity to “problem-solve” and seek a checklist of things they need to do to get their relationship back on track.
David Wilkins, policy officer at Men’s Health Forum, carried out the research by interviewing counsellors in Brighton and Bournemouth.
One said: “Sometimes the driving force for men is [if I agree to go to Relate] we will have better communication and then I will have more sex. I think if you want to get more men through the door, you just have to say ‘come to counselling and you’ll have more sex!’”
Another commented: “Men only tend to ask for help when the ship is sinking.
“I don’t think they take much action when it is rocky. They are happy to blank that out in the hope it will go away.
“Women will go and seek [help] before something disastrous happens whereas men tend to need to find a trigger.”
Another counsellor explained: “Generally, when you’ve got a couple, the men are saying ‘Right, that’s it, let’s look at the solutions and let’s move on from it’.
“The women generally want to get underneath and find out ‘OK, why did that happen? What was going on for that to happen?’ before they can [move on].”
By contrast, they said, a man’s approach tends to be: “What are we going to do about it? I need a list. Tell me what to do.”
According to Relate, in the aftermath of a split men are less likely to have the support of a group of friends and are at greater risk of suicide.
The organisation is calling on health and social workers to tailor relationship support in a “male-friendly” manner.
Wilkins said: “I hope we have moved past the ‘men are from Mars and women are from Venus’ debate but we can’t ignore the evidence that some men don’t look after their health and wellbeing as well as they could.
“It’s a particular problem that men may be more likely to delay seeking help. Support services need to meet men halfway.”
Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of Relate, said: “We have been aware for some time that men don’t like to trouble their doctors or can’t find time to access health services but this is the first time we have really found the same pattern when it comes to getting help for, or even talking about, relationship difficulties.
“It is clear that some men need help that is more practical and solution-focused and the sector must find ways of adapting our services.” - Daily Mail