What men can learn from Schitt’s Creek?

During lockdown, at the end of most evenings my wife and I would often watch an episode or two of Schitt’s Creek. We arrived late to the Schitt’s Creek world and wouldn’t normally watch sitcoms. But it soon became like a familiar and safe friend to us during lockdown. In some way it seemed to resonate with lockdown restrictions as it told a story of a family who had to leave their wealthy luxurious lifestyle, finding themselves living in a motel in a small town called Schitt’s Creek.

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Schitt’s Creek is zany and crazy with wild outfits, wigs and jumpers. It is funny, beautiful, warm, compassionate and loving. My wife and I found ourselves drawn into the wonderfully created characters and observed the development of relationships. We watched this family learning to love and be loved. We observed them let go of the external trappings and discover what really mattered including acceptance, non-judgemental attitude, love, making time for others and compassion. I found myself laughing out loud and moved to tears during so many episodes. When we watched the final episode of the final series, we were left a little bereft.

One of the key relationships explored was between David (the adult son in the family) and his boyfriend Patrick. David had not been successful in relationships, he struggled to love and be loved and feared rejection and hurt. It was beautiful with numerous comedic moments to watch David open himself to love, receive love and express love. It was touching to see two men share tenderness, warmth, intimacy and most of all to verbally express their love. As I watched this, I felt myself moved to tears regularly. There was much to cry about during Schitt’s Creek. But I think my tears were to do witnessing men express themselves in loving and tender ways to other men. Yes, it was a gay relationship but, in the programme, it wasn’t about sex, it was about love, sensuality and intimacy. Men loving each other in this way, still appears to be quite rare in life and on film.

How can men become more tender, loving, compassionate and caring?

‘If we have not been guided on love’s path for most of our lives, we usually do not know how to begin loving, or what we should do and how we should act’ – bell hooks

 

Many men have not had love modelled to them or have experienced loving words said to them. These same men and boys have been told to be tough, be strong, be hard and be distant. This has led many men to live in emotional deserts. They can be emotionally dry, fragile, broken and distant. The life of caring and the beauty of loving has been reduced to keeping our guard up or showing love through sex.

 

Love as work

 

Many men enjoy their work and like to prove themselves through hard work, success and achievements. Building their business, gaining promotions, improving their status and increasing their wealth is often a real drive for men, nurturing their self-esteem through performance-based self-esteem. Work for many has often become a way of gaining acceptance, getting attention and proving their worth to their parents and others. This can often be the vehicle where they can safely feel loved.

 

Do these gains disguise losses? The losses I am thinking about include the loss of the ability to fully love themselves and the capacity to love and care for others. The loss of actively listening to the other, having empathy for the other and truly connecting with others in a deeper loving way.

How many men work hard for their relationship, put energy into developing intimacy, growing in emotional and relational fitness and become more engaged in the social, emotional and relational growth of their relationships and family? Often the above is seen as women’s work.

 

Tips for working at love

1. Become aware of the way that you show love to others including your friends, partner and children. How often do you express your love through words? How often do you express your love via action?

2. Make time for your relationships – Many of us are time poor, yet if we want to grow our relationship and move it from functionality to intimacy, it will require time and effort. Relationships don’t just magically happen, they need work. They will often need servicing and a real time commitment for them to change. Often Couples come to me for help to grow their relationship but often it is hard to make an appointment time. When they have had an appointment, it is then difficult for them to fit in loving practices for relational growth.

3. Work on yourself – Start to take courage in becoming aware, recognising and expressing your vulnerable emotions. Start to build emotional fitness, exercising a broad spectrum of emotions and building up flabby muscles. Try to stop buffering your loving and vulnerable emotions. Allow them to move and flow.

 

James Hawes

Psychotherapist and author of ‘The Secret Lives of Men’