What are the darkest secrets of women

"Men are not good at feeling how they are doing and cannot articulate internal processes"

Martin Bachmann, who has been a consultant at Mannebüro Zurich for twenty years, talks about whining thugs, overwhelmed husbands and the greatest threat to a man's life (yes, it has to do with sex).

The men entrust him with their darkest secrets. The women confess to her when they beat their children: A male counselor tells what he experiences every day in his job. And then he lets his colleague from the women's advisory service have a say.

NZZ am Sonntag: Mr. Bachmann, you have been a men's consultant for twenty years and you will be leaving at the end of the month. What is the most annoying thing about men?

Martin Bachmann: Eternal moaning can be annoying. Don't get me wrong, I totally understand that you have to empty your head and soul, but if you don't find your way out of the whining and get stuck, you will get annoying in the long run in deliberations.

What are the reasons a man comes to you?

Most of them are in major crises and suffer from enormous pressure; many have become violent or are afraid to use violence; they have sexual stress or are stuck in a hardcore breakup and feel passed out. It is interesting that each client has an individual story, and yet many men fail because of similar expectations and stereotyped role models.

Have the role models not weakened?

Yes, a lot has changed. For example, heterosexual relationships have become much more partner-like. And yet this stereotypical man's logic is still floating around in the back of the mind: Men have to be strong and know how to help each other. These clichés will continue to dominate in 2021. Men who slip into a crisis lack the practice to deal with it. Failure was not part of their plan. They are not good at sensing how they are doing and cannot articulate internal processes. And then it can happen that violence comes into play. Violence is a variant of how we men regulate excessive demands.

To person

Martin Bachmann, 52, was a consultant in the men's office in Zurich for 20 years. Now he is opening a practice in Lucerne for men, women and couples.

Why Are Men Bad at Introspection?

This has to do with socialization and the construct of masculinity that is still valid today. Men are still expected to function. Even boys are more likely to be told to bite their teeth; while giving girls who cry the space to tell what's going on inside them and what happened.

Girls get more attention, boys are neglected?

Before my time as a consultant at the Zurich Mannebüro, I worked as a teacher, so I could see that girls are given more space to express their emotions. Boys needed more guidance to acquire so-called feminine connotations.

Which male cliché is wrong?

It is always said that men cannot listen. I experience it differently.

For twenty years you have been sitting across from men who have become violent in their relationships, who, as you say, have trouble talking about their inner workings. In addition, one reads daily in the newspapers about new cases of sexual exploitation, misogyny and abuse of power. Do you never despair of men?

No. Because I can make a modest contribution with my advice to help men in crises. The vast majority of men who become violent do it out of a subjectively perceived victim logic. They are overwhelmed and sometimes under unbelievable pressure. I show them new possibilities and train them to act in new ways. I show them that change is possible and also let them understand that you can change your life. I don't mean to downplay violence by any means, it is not tolerable! And it starts with insults, puffing up, screaming, pushing, up to massive bodily harm. I've seen and heard everything - and it doesn't leave me cold. Every time I am shocked by us men when I see photos of the female victims and hear their stories. Holy shit. We men are capable of terrible things.

You don't tolerate the violence but you understand it?

I understand how my clients feel that they are overwhelmed. That's where I start the consultation. Violence rarely happens in the affect, even if it always means it. Most clients tell me that they had been carrying certain abusive phrases and acts of violence in their heads minutes beforehand. There is such a thing as an internal escalation that needs to be broken.

Who is the typical bat?

I've been asked this question for years. There are no rules, they all sit with me: pastors, doctors, gardeners, psychotherapists, across all levels of education. Even people with a migration background are not simply more violent, as some believe. At best, they are worse at seeking help and have fewer resources, which is why they end up with us in prescribed consultations more often. What one can say: The more traditional and pious the thinking, the more pronounced the stereotypes about how a man has to be, how a marriage has to be, the more likely it is to be violent.

Why?

Because life is different from what you think. It is more colorful and cannot be planned. I'm Lucerne, so I dare to say cheekily: A traditional Entlebucher who has the feeling that things have to go the way they always have, because religion wants it that way, has the same problem as a traditionally thinking Anatolian sheep farmer . If you really want one rule, it's this: the more pious, the more violence.

Who separates more often in marriages: the woman or the man?

Today women separate more often because they notice earlier that the relationship is no longer right. While men tend to sit out and wait for things to get better.

The so-called stronger sex is the more cowardly?

I wouldn't call it a coward at all. Jumping over one's shadow and doing things in which one is inexperienced is a great challenge for all of us, which is why many remain in their traditional roles. Women too. In all discussions about patriarchal structures, one forgets: Of course, we white men are always favored at first glance, professionally and financially. But men also suffer from disadvantages.

Namely?

We have a less strong social network and less reliable friendships. How often have I seen men here who are separated and need friends who can offer them a bed and three beers. But they don't have friends. It is paradoxical: the system in which we all live favors us men, but at the same time it also troubles us because we ultimately fail because of expectations.

Would you say that advice is good for any man?

Getting out of the machine of life and pausing is always good.

For five years now, the #MeToo movement has shown us how widespread the abuse of power by men is. Then there is the criticism of the "old white men", now the discussion about so-called femicides: It seems as if it has never been socially frowned upon to be a man.

I do not think so. I find all of these discussions commendable because they bring the facts to the table. Awareness of gender and violence issues is taking place, also thanks to the media. Much is in motion, a lot is being renegotiated. It is possible that some men will feel like they are being demonized. I don't feel it that way. I like to be a man. And I think it's a good time to be a man. Precisely because a lot is changing in society.

What do men suffer most from but don't talk about?

Under the pressure to always be able to have sex. Just this morning I had a client, 48 years old, who told me that his job was stressful and that he could not always be able to do so in the evening. Most men feel this is their end. You know, in theory, that erectile dysfunction becomes more common with age, but that doesn't help either. Many find it difficult to get older, they may then buy a more expensive car as compensation. When things stop working in bed, there is a shock: not functioning sexually is the greatest threat for many men because it is more intimate than everyone else.

How has the pandemic affected your deliberations?

Relationships between couples have been under stress since the pandemic. Anyone who had marital problems will usually not have lost them during the lockdown. Corona was also not exactly beneficial when it came to difficulties in sexuality. We are all much less outside and much more at the computer. The temptation to feed oneself with certain content and develop a dependency has increased. For a few years now I have had a number of young men here in counseling who have been harmed by hard pornography. They have difficulties in couple sexuality, want to father children and cannot do it.

Could you use your knowledge to work in a women's counseling service?

After twenty years of advising men, I understand very well why men tick the way they tick. Changing sides once and working at a women's victim counseling center would certainly be exciting and purely technical, i.e. conceivable as far as the craft of counseling is concerned. In our men's office, however, we don't employ women because violence is more of a man's thing. Sure, in the trivial area, when we talk about pushing or hair-cracking, the gender share is now balanced. But men are clearly overrepresented in the serious assaults. That's why I think we men should take care of our violence problem ourselves.

What can men do better than women?

Play soccer. But in the context of the deliberations? We accept things faster, check them off and move on.

The Mannebüro Zurich is a counseling and information center for men with a focus on domestic violence and male sexuality: mannebuero.ch

To the interview with women's advisor Bettina Steinbach