Self Development in Career
The 30s and the 40s are the major years of career consolidation, as has been shown in a long-term study of university graduates. Striving for competitive success and establishing their career is a central focus for men in this era of life. It is a time of conflict between the demands of family life and the demands of work. Where work has become a man’s “extramarital lover” or has become his major commitment in life, a marriage may well flounder.
‘Workaholism’- the so-called addiction to work – may be a haven of escape from a bad marriage. It may reflect severe security anxieties, whether of financial worries or issues of pride and self-esteem. It may reflect greed and the need to acquire more and more wealth, power, prestige, and influence. This pattern, whatever its roots, may threaten not only the family but also the man’s health.
Some men experience considerable tension between their lives at work and their lives at home. A man who is aggressive and competent in the outside world, for example, may be a passive and dependent helpmate, who waits for his wife to anticipate and take care of his every need. Conversely, a man who is meek and subservient at work may be a domestic tyrant.
Healthy Working Relationships
Self-esteem in mid-adulthood may depend heavily on career and work achievement, which is often measured in financial terms. So much self-approval may rest on the career that severe depressions may be precipitated by business setbacks and failures. Conflicts over success may lead to self-defeating behavior; a man may ironically “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” and bring about failure through unconscious but deliberate self-sabotage. Issues involving passivity may also determine success or failure, excellence or mediocrity.
A significant number of men envy the passive role society frequently assigns women and wish they were exempt from society’s expectations of success. Despite research equation of masculinity with activity and femininity with passivity, many men struggle with passivity, which may contribute to career problems.
Because of competitiveness and unfortunate mutual distrust, many men become isolated from one another in their 30s and 40s. They may have associates at work, but the close friendships of adolescence and young adulthood often are things of the past. This isolation promotes a tendency to depression and places a heavier than usual burden on the marriage for support. Men would do well to attend to their friendships, for male bonding and mutual support furnish an important protection to a man’s mental health.