The Design of Masculine Love

This posting on masculine love is part of my Masculine Design series of articles dedicated to exploring the distinct characteristics men have been endowed with that make us masculine. The purpose of this series is not just to impart knowledge but to motivate men to action.

Below are links to the previous articles in this series to catch you up:
Masculine Men Are By Design
Masculine Strength
Master Builders

Disclaimer: This posting on masculine love is going to be an uncomfortable one for some men to read…which is exactly why it needs to be read.

Most men today don’t understand how to love in a way that is masculine. This is just one of the many pitfalls men must contend with while living in a hyper-feminized culture. We falsely equate what it means to love as a man with the way women have been designed to love.

It should come as no surprise that men aren’t equipped to give and receive love in the same ways women are. We love in ways that are distinctly masculine.

Men rightly recognize the disconnect between the way love is commonly depicted in the culture today and the way we instinctively convey it.

Our confusion surrounding what it means to share love as a man notwithstanding, the deep yearning we have within to share and express love doesn’t disappear. It’s part of who we are as men. It’s human nature. The need to give and receive love is woven into the very fabric of our being.

Unsure of how to share it with the world, the bottled up power of love residing within us goes stagnant and unused. Our burden to love wastes away under the heavy blanket of our repressed masculinity while those around us are in desperate need of it.

What is Masculine Love?

Articulating what it means for a man to exhibit masculine love in English is arduous. Love is a complex, multifaceted concept, yet the english language distills all of its varying intricacies into a single word.

The Greek language is more sophisticated. It contains several distinct words for love and, therefore, proves to be particularly useful for the purpose of expounding upon the unique ways men experience love. Each of the Greek words for love depicts a unique manner in which masculine love manifests itself:

Agápe – The unconditional love a father has for his children and that God has for man. It’s a self-sacrificing and charitable love that puts the wellbeing of others over one’s self.

Éros – Intimate, passionate, sexual love. Éros encompasses the physical desiring of a woman and also being enamored with her feminine beauty.

Platonic – An offshoot of Éros. Its name is reflective of Plato, the philosopher who is credited with first using it to describe the non-sexual brotherly love a man feels toward another man. It’s a love that involves a deep appreciation for another man’s character and spirit.

Philia – A dispassionate love that flows from a sense of loyalty to another man. The love a soldier has for his king or that a man has for a personal mentor are examples of Philia love.

Storge – An affectionate love that lacks a sexual component. Storge describes the love a father and his children have for one another. It could also be used to describe the love a man feels toward close friends and family members.

As you can see, I wasn’t exaggerating when I said the Greek language provides a superior lexicon for describing the diverse facets of love.

In order to experience the full breadth of what it means to give and receive love as a man we must become adept at expressing each of its masculine forms. We’re certainly free to hold our love inside – and many men do – but a critical aspect of our masculinity will lie dormant as a result.

Let’s take a deeper look at each of these “masculine love languages” to give us a deeper appreciation for the profundity of each in a man’s life.

Masculine Love is Self Sacrificing (Agápe)

Men love by sacrificing for the benefit of those they love.

We’re the defenders of tribes and nations. We boldly stand on the front lines of the battlefield to fight for the safety and security of the people and principles we hold dear. We sacrifice ourselves to the point of death if that’s what’s required of us.

Christ exemplified this kind of love when he was crucified as a means of procuring the salvation of all of mankind through his sacrifice. His words recorded in the Gospel of John make clear that this sort of love – the self sacrificial variety – is the greatest of all forms of love: There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Christ showed his love for humanity through personal sacrifice, because men show love through personal sacrifice. The greater the sacrifice, the more love is poured out in the process.

Sacrificial love is so ingrained in us that we often share it without even noticing it. It’s less dramatic than the giving of our final breath, but we constantly give ourselves away for the benefit of others to lesser degrees during our day-to-day grinds.

We sit in a depressing cubicle 5 days or more week after week. We endure commutes of gridlock to and from work. And we do it so that our families will have food on the table and a roof over their heads. We also do it to afford our kids opportunities in life we didn’t have. We sacrifice our time and energy for the needs of our family and the futures of our children.

We sacrificially love by endlessly working to increase our value as men. We then use that enhanced value to invest in our kids’ hobbies and provide our families with memorable vacations, spacious homes, and quality education.

It’s easy for me as a father and husband to connect with the self-sacrificing element of masculine love. It comes by default for most men once a wife and children enter the picture. However, we mustn’t limit our self-sacrificial love to our wives and children.

We were designed with the capacity to share love through personal sacrifice so that we might share it with all of humanity. Love provides no value unless it’s uncorked from the vessel of our soul so its power can radiate outward and be absorbed by the souls of others. Love is completely devoid of power and meaning until it’s shared.

Help an elderly neighbor with their yard work. Provide financial assistance to a loved one in need. Donate to charities that provide for the basic needs of the poor or handicapped. Offer to use the talents you have to fix cars, develop spreadsheets, paint homes, manage budgets, create diet plans, whatever. It doesn’t matter what it is. Find things that you can do to help and offer your hand.

A man that is not sacrificing part of himself for the benefit of others is failing to actualize a part of his masculinity that would otherwise invigorate him with a sense of purpose and satisfaction. Few things are more satisfying to us as men than knowing we’ve sacrificed a portion of our livelihood to enhance the lives of those in need.

Men show love by sacrificing for the benefit of others.

Masculine Love is Romantic and Sexual (Éros)

Masculine Love is Romantic

Men are more romantic than women and regularly crave the expression of that romantic love through sexual intercourse.

It’s been claimed that women have the same romantic desire and drive for sex that men have. This is false. While women can certainly desire sex to the degree a man can, her sexual experience is not the same.

Our culture sexualizes women to a degree that men can hardly go five minutes without being exposed to a picture or video of sexually suggestive imagery. It’s no wonder the average man thinks about sex at twice the frequency of the average woman.1

In addition to having fewer sexual thoughts, women aren’t affected by sex (or the absence of it) to the order of magnitude that men are.

The passionate release of sexual energy is such a force in a man’s life that his entire state of mind is altered when the woman he loves fails to be a conductor for its transfer. This is why it’s of utmost importance that us married men do our part to maintain a masculine frame in our marriage. We won’t be able to preserve the sexual attention of our wives for long without it.

I have sex on a daily basis (and sometimes more than once in a given day). This is what a healthy married sex life looks like. It should be the norm, not the exception.

I’ve listened on as my friends’ wives tell them they’re lucky to “get it” twice a week. Lucky?

There’s nothing lucky about a man sexually expressing the love he has for his wife barely more than one out of every four days. Wives that think like this are extremely fortunate if their husbands don’t end up cheating on them.

To be clear, I’m not advocating cheating or justifying it as an acceptable response to a sexually repressed wife. What I’m saying is that a wife plays with fire when she fails to be the conduit for her husband’s hardwired need to express love sexually (more on this in minute).

While my sex life is generally healthy, there have been spells throughout my 10+ years of marriage when, due to various circumstances, my wife and I wouldn’t get down for a few days. I noticed the dry spell, but it wasn’t something that consumed my thoughts throughout the day. I continued on pursuing my life’s ambitions, because that’s what men on a mission do.

It didn’t consume me, but it did affect me. I became more emotionally distant from my wife, my mood wasn’t quite as upbeat, and I was more easily irritated by situations I would normally pay no mind to. The sexual expression of masculine love impacts us men – and our relationships – in more ways than just getting to experience the physical pleasures of sex.

The value a man derives from the relationship he has with his wife is directly proportional to the frequency and intensity with which she displays her sexual desire for him. We’re psychologically impacted by the sex (or lack of sex) we have with the women we love.

I don’t care how alpha a husband thinks he is. His life experience takes a hit when he isn’t having sex with his wife with high frequency. Indeed, this can be be quite destructive for him and his family.

A man doesn’t typically cheat on his wife because she gets fat and stops telling him she loves him. He cheats because she stops having sex with him as often as he needs to have his outlet for romantic love satisfied. Not being loved sexually by his wife is the same as not being loved at all.

Again, this is not to condone cheating. When a man takes an oath to commit his life to a wife in marriage it is his obligation to uphold that oath unless she breaks it through infidelity or divorce papers. The point I’m making is that the temptation for a man to cheat on his wife is exponentially increased when his ability to share sexual love with her is inhibited.

The powerful temptation to express sexual love outside of a committed relationship is especially insidious for today’s men. Succumbing to this temptation has resulted in countless men becoming bound to a woman for the remainder of their lives after conceiving a child in a single act of indiscretion.

Marriage provides a proverbial safety net for men by mitigating the risk that we will conceive a child with a woman other than the one we’ve specifically chosen to mother our kids. The legal safety net is not nearly as strong for men today as it has been in generations past. Its ropes are dry and frayed, but it’s still the most viable option for significantly reducing the risk of impregnating a random chick that passes the boner test.

We have been designed to express love sexually. But, unlike the other ways a man has been wired to love, this one carries the potential for extensive consequences when it is expressed outside of a commitment to marriage. You do so at your own risk.

Once married, it needs to be expressed. And it needs to be expressed often..

Do not deprive one another of sex, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:5)

Masculine Love is Platonic

Masculine Love is Platonic

Having of a band of brothers committed to supporting, encouraging and holding each other accountable is an area in which men are deficient today. The building of deep relationships with our fellow men has been replaced with shallow connections on social media.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve made some incredible connections on Twitter and continue to do so on a daily basis.

That said, the most impactful relationships I’ve made have been the ones that didn’t stop at the comments and likes on social media. They’re the ones in which I made it a point to take the next step and deepen our connection by talking over the phone or in person.

One of my long-term visions for this site is to one day be able to lead a community of men that interact online and in person with the purpose of challenging each other, holding each other accountable, and building lifelong masculine relationships with one another.

Men need other men in their lives. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Nothing unlocks our potential as men more effectively than having other men we respect to motivate us, have our backs, and hold us accountable.

As it stands, I see a massive disconnect between men and their need to have deep, effectual relationships with other men.

Platonic love is not just having men as acquaintances. It’s viewing their pain, pleasures, failures and successes as our own – and having them reciprocate. It is personally investing ourselves in helping our brothers succeed with the same intensity with which we would pursue our own success.

This kind of platonic brotherly love must be developed intentionally. It doesn’t happen by accident. We don’t simply stumble upon it. We develop these kinds of meaningful relationships with other men by going out of our way to provide value to them.

No man is going to invest the time and energy to build a relationship with you if you offer nothing of value in return. That’s how relationships work. They are a continuous transaction of value.

Give value to others and they will give value in return. Become a drain on their resources while offering nothing in return and the relationship will quickly disintegrate.

You must also be a man of integrity. Value is the currency of relationships, but integrity is the gold that backs it up.

A man of integrity is a man other men can count on. They can trust that he’ll do what he says he’ll do. He can be trusted.

When we tell a brother we’ll have his back through thick and thin, we make good on that promise, no matter how costly or inconvenient fulfilling that promise becomes. Our words must mean something. To violate the trust of one brother is to violate the trust of every brother, because it shows a critical character flaw.

A man lacking integrity can’t be trusted. He’s a liability to any individual or group. Men instinctively recognize this. We’re proficient at sniffing out any snakes in our camps and eliminating the threat they pose. Don’t be a snake. It’s impossible to develop strong, lasting relationships with other men of integrity if you aren’t a man of integrity yourself.

Find men worthy of investing in. Provide value to them and their mission. Don’t violate their trust. Love them by treating their successes and failures as though they are your own. Continue investing yourself in those that reciprocate and respectfully part ways with those that don’t.

Men are designed to share masculine (heterosexual) love with other men. Finding like-minded men with which to share and receive this love has never been easier than it is today. But it still takes effort.

Nothing will inhibit you from actualizing your potential as a man more than a refusal to build platonic relationships with other men. We need other men in our lives, and other men need us, as well.

Masculine Love is Loyal (Philia)

Men are slow to commit in relationships (just ask any woman). We vet, we waver, we question, we evaluate. It’s how we mitigate relational risk.

Again, this is why it’s so important for us to prove to other men by the value we display that developing a brotherhood with us is worthy of their personal investment.

Once a man determines that another person is worthy of his loyalty he will remain loyal to them come hell or high water for as long as his trust isn’t violated. Philia love is the love that is displayed by this loyal commitment.

An unnerving subset of men today have become duplicitous in their commitments. Their word means little to them and they are loyal only to that which serves their constantly shifting interests.

These men preclude any possibility of developing strong relationships with other men by their lack of integrity. They become lonely and afflicted by an unsettled conscience as a result. They trust no one, and no one trusts them.

Every man needs to have at least one other man in his life who is worthy of his undivided loyalty. It should go without saying that this isn’t something we ought to give out simply for the sake of having someone to be loyal to. It should be reserved only for those that have earned it by displaying that they’re worthy of our trust.

In today’s terms, this can be described as every man having a mentor and being a mentor to others. We have to be learning from those that possess the masculine skills and experiences we need in our pursuit of greatness. And we also should be teaching other men that stand to benefit from our own.

When we find a mentor worthy of our loyalty we must commit ourselves to doing all that they advise and teach. It’s not enough to listen to their words. We must also act on them. We take what they teach to heart, internalize their teaching, take action on it, and teach what we learn to others.

It is our action that displays our loyalty; it is our loyalty that displays our love.

Masculine Love is Affectionate (Storge)

Affectionate Masculine Love

We all have those in our lives that we have a natural affection for. I’m talking about the people that you have a relationship with, but it’s not by choice.

Parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents can all be placed in the category of those we love from a natural affection. We typically spend considerable time with them, they often sacrifice of their time and resources for our benefit, we get to know them well, and we share a relational bond with them.

Some of these relationships naturally grow apart. Others turn sour as we grow and mature. I certainly have a few relatives I looked up to growing up, only to realize as a man that they had dangerous character flaws that made them a toxic liability.

After arriving at this realization it became necessary for me to limit my time spent with them. There’s nothing unloving about recognizing the perilous path another is on, urging them to go another direction, and not joining them on a path of destruction if they refuse to depart from it.

Even so, I still retain the affectionate love for these individuals that has been developed over the years. It’s this affectionate love that drives me to continue motivating them to make positive lifestyle changes. Moreover, when they decide to do so, it is my affection for them that will incite my willingness to do everything in my power to ensure their success.

Our capacity for natural affectionate love includes the love we have for our children. Every psychologically healthy parent loves their children. This is even true of parents with children that give them much trouble and heartache. Even when they’re at their most “unlovable” our affectionate love for them remains.

Paternal love is a love we don’t choose. Sharing it is our high calling as masculine fathers.

The masculine affectionate love we have for our children is instinctual. It’s natural. It’s independent of their traits, behaviors or performance. We love them and strive to raise them to be exceptional because they’re a part of us, our own flesh and blood. We love them because they’re a reflection of us and they bear our family name.

Whether it’s a wayward child or a reckless relative, we often learn the most about the power of love by sharing it with those considered to be least worthy of it. Doing so teaches us that love can and should be shared regardless of the merits of others.

Nothing negative results when we love others. Even if they don’t reciprocate or respond as we would hope, releasing the energy of love on the world makes it a better place, and it makes us better men. When we share love we feel its energy reverberating deep within our soul. This energy is particularly evident when we invest it in those that didn’t love us first and have nothing to offer in return.

The affectionate natural love I’ve been describing here is a love that every man possesses – and he possesses it with the explicit purpose of sharing it with his fellow man.

I believe Christ’s command to love our enemies in Luke chapter 6 is based on the affectionate love we ought to share with others based on nothing more than our common humanity. We’re not truly loving if we’re only sharing it with those we’ve determined to be worthy of our love. We’re simply choosing to be kind to those that have been kind to us.

There are men that will read this and laugh it off. They’ll dismiss me as a weak-minded cuck for suggesting that we should love those that don’t show us love in return. To them I say this: There is no stronger man than the one who is able to control his mind and emotions to such a degree that he is able to share genuine love with those that seek his demise.

The man that refuses to love others is the man whose soul will reek from the stench of emptiness. Paradoxically, the more love we share with those that have done nothing to deserve it, the more satisfaction and value we ultimately derive from it.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Masculine Love Requires Truth

One of the most prominent ways men share affectionate love with others is by imparting truth. We share with others what we’ve learned to be true through experience.

We are compelled to persuade those we care about with words that will necessarily convict them of poor life choices. Men give tough love.

As men, we must dole out hard to deliver truths at times. Therefore, we must prepare ourselves not to give in to the temptation to remain silent, but to be ready to engage in inconvenient and confrontational conversations with those we love when necessary. It’s never an act of love to ignore or encourage self-destructive behaviors out of fear that feelings might get hurt.

While today’s incoherent politically correct culture falsely conflates the concepts of love and acceptance, love is not acceptance, nor does it require acceptance. The two concepts are mutually exclusive.

In fact, acceptance is often the worst thing we can give to a friend or loved one that’s suffering. They don’t need another person to accept them. They need someone who cares about them to impart truth to them so they will be challenged to change.

Would we consider it loving to accept the behavior of a wife beater? Is it loving to give a recovering alcoholic a bottle of his favorite whiskey? Do we show love to an obese friend by doing nothing to help them curb their reckless eating?

We refuse to accept disastrous behaviors in the lives of those we love precisely because we love them. To complacently witness their preventable ruin isn’t love. It’s cowardice.

You may be resented for delivering harsh but necessary truths to those you care about. So what? Love isn’t always a two-way street.

Our responsibility is simply to share it with others when given the opportunity and allow it do its work in their lives.

Men that share love are often viewed by less secure men as being weak. The truth is, there’s nothing more powerful than the love a man shares with those whom he chooses to share it with.

The sooner more men figure this out, the better off we’ll all be.

– Craig James

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  1. Rob on November 28, 2017

    Being a “man of integrity” was the cornerstone teaching of the Promisekeepers movement in the 1990s, under the direction of Coach Bill McCartney. Much of what you describe about masculine love was emphasized by the PK teachers and speakers at the regional stadium events. As we were often taught, the Greek lexicon is vastly richer when it comes to distinguishing the origin and meanings attributed to all expressions of love.

    I’ve been involved with men’s ministries at different times in my life. Men’s Bible studies in college. Men’s retreats at church. Promisekeepers events. Men’s Fraternity Quest for Manhood studies and a men’s Life Group in my middle age. I thoroughly agree that building a relationship with other men is critical to “recharging the battery”. A boy’s night out or a men’s softball league also build camaraderie. However, each of these were seasonal. Great experiences, but did not effectively build long-term relationships.

    Walking with God. Studying His Word. Asking for Divine Appointments in life. Being tested by fire. These all build a man’s character and that elusive masculine confidence or mystique that attracts others. This is how a man develops the capacity to love others more than himself.

    • Craig James Author on November 29, 2017

      Thank you for the well articulated comment, Rob. I’ve found your statement to ring true that being tested by fire is what forges a man’s character and confidence. Men can certainly experience this refining of character outside of a relationship with the Lord. However, I am convinced that it is through a commitment to living for Christ that the refining fires burn hottest in a man’s life and refines his character and confidence to the greatest possible magnitude.