Love and Relationships

Boys will be boys? How men can become better partners

John Sitchon

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Boys will be boys? How men can become better partners

LOVE. Cebu-based licensed psychologist Anna Kathrina Oaminal-Watin told Rappler that it’s important that both partners should take the lead no matter the societal expectations for men in relationships.


Becoming a better partner for your loved one shouldn’t feel like rocket science, and men shouldn’t beat themselves up over it, especially as they strive to learn in the modern world

CEBU, Philippines – In 1770, the old proverb “boys will be boys” was used in a collection of letters curated by couple Richard and Elizabeth Griffith.

In Volume 6 of the couple’s A Series of Genuine Letters Between Henry and Frances, the letter reads, “heaven bless them both! – though Jack is under a Cloud with me at present – but Boys will be Boys – and I endeavor to make my philosophy like yours – severe only to itself.”

The Oxford English Dictionary attributes the letter as the earliest written usage of the proverb. However, historians have unearthed earlier iterations of the saying in ancient Roman history.

Anthropologist Matthew Gutmann, at a forum for his book, Are Men Animals, at Brown University in 2019, said that the proverb originated from the Latin phrase “sunt pueri pueri, pueri puerilia tractant,” which roughly translates to “children are children and do childish things.”

In the modern world, the phrase has evolved from an innocent caricature of boys displaying brash and impish behaviors to a catchphrase frequently used to excuse misogynistic behavior, particularly in relationships that have turned toxic or unfulfilling

According to Richard Loebl, a psychotherapist and founder of the Relationship Center of South Florida, most young men deal with shame and a lack of emotional and relational support, leading to emotional crippling and an incapacity to cope with failure.

“Shame is so painful and unacceptable that men use self-destructive coping mechanisms to deal with it (anger, rage, controlling and impulsive behavior),” Loebl said.

But the notion of “boys being boys” doesn’t necessarily apply to all men. That’s why Rappler spoke with Cebu-based psychologist Anna Kathrina Oaminal-Watin to explore how men can cultivate self-acceptance and improve their roles as partners in 2024.

Be vulnerable

For Oaminal-Watin, becoming a greater lover requires one to be in touch with personal feelings.

She explained that loving and the need to be loved is an innate sense for people no matter their gender or sexual orientation, and is grounded on psychology theories and models like Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which puts love and belonging at the center of the hierarchy.

She acknowledged that being vulnerable is a difficult process for most people to do, especially in situations where couples who are unable to convey how they feel resort to sending “mixed messages.”  

“For men, it is difficult to navigate (partner conversations) because of the fear of being vulnerable. In Cebuano, we have terms like ‘abi palang,’ like ‘abi palang I’m an easy boy (I might be mistaken to be an easy boy),’” Oaminal-Watin said.

Other times, the psychologist said, men are unsure of their feelings and are “testing the waters.”

In most cases, she added, men’s fear of vulnerability can stem from the need for control and childhood trauma

Oaminal-Watin believes that to overcome this, men must be willing to accept their flaws and learn how to cope with rejection.

“Men don’t want to be vulnerable because they don’t want to feel rejection or may not accept it but that’s what life is. If you don’t try and open your heart out, you’ll never know what good can happen to you,” she said.

Ask and listen

When it comes to learning love languages, Oaminal-Watin pointed out that the first step is to know the kind of lover that you are based on Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages.

Based on the book, there are five ways that people give and receive love, which include physical touch, acts of service, gift-giving, words of affirmation, and quality time.

Understanding the kind of lover one is, Oaminal-Watin said, can help determine how willing you are to provide for significant others. 

“It’s not just about money. It’s about how much energy, effort, attention, and emotions that one gives to their person because relationships come with a cost like can you afford it and how much you’re willing to give for that,” she said.

The psychologist encouraged men to ask their partners the following questions to improve their relationships: “Am I loving you the way you want to be loved?” and “How can I love you more?”


Oaminal-Watin rejected theories that intimacy and sex take priority in relationships. 

According to recent psychology studies, she said, successful relationships were found to have common denominators: kindness and generosity.

“It’s not about who takes the lead… it’s more of sharing responsibilities like when the other is tired and feeling down, the other can [help out],” she said.

According to American psychologist John Gottman, men can show kindness by “shelving their agenda,” wherein male partners temporarily hold onto feelings and intrusive thoughts to listen to their significant other’s problems and show immediate support.

Oaminal-Watin told Rappler that it’s important that both partners should take the lead no matter the societal expectations for men in relationships.

For Valentine’s Day 2024, she said, men also deserve the same acts of kindness and love that their partners receive from them. –

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