"T.S. Eliot once observed that humans cannot bear very much reality. This has been taken very much to heart by our mothers, but re-written somewhat to perpetuate a common message: Men need protection from the truth about themselves. Or more simply, men cannot bear reality.
...The hardest thing for a man to do is to cope with feelings -- his, yours, or anyone else's -- so heaven forbid that you might confront him with the news that he's hurt you. If he's been hurt, let him sulk, rage, drink, or pout. And if he abuses you, verbally or physically, "it's one of the sacrifices you have to make for having a man." Keep the family strong and the marriage whole, the message goes, and do what you can, sacrifice yourself, to ensure that he doesn't find out the truth. Suffocate him with kindness, spare him grief, and be sure he doesn't learn about himself, stop needing you -- and leave!
...It seems that protecting a man from himself, not "calling him on some of his problems," gives him what he wants: a sense that he's right, wise, emotionally stable, too involved in important matters like work to be bothered with incdental issues like relationships; and the exhilarating illusion that he's in control. Protecting a man from understanding who he is leads to disenchantment, insoluble dilemmas, and in the most extreme cases, the fracturing of a marriage. The worst thing that can be said about helping a man not to help himself is that the woman suffers. And nothing is more futile than spending a lifetime grieving over how "he won't change," and making excuses for him at the same time.
... Who asks that the message's dictum be carried out -- you, your husband, or both of you? Is the message stated or merely implied that you will be his emotional protector? What is the mechanism that moves you to protect a man, even though you claim it makes you unhappy to do so?
...Some of us admit to the truth though: we say we're protecting him, but we're really protecting ourselves. We can exercise a discernible amount of control over a man when we treat him as if he were a hopelessly frightened child. We get accustomed to his failing and cooperate in blunting his emotional growth and development.
What stops us? Frankly, many women... are hesitant to take the chance to help their husbands become full partners in marriage. Stopping a discussion that is crucial to married life because it might upset him, or pretending something doesn't exist to keep him at a distance from the facts, keeps a man in an emotionally childlike position forever. And should you believe that one wrong move would destroy the relationship -- that is, telling the truth or confronting him -- you're better off without it! Marriage should be a friendship. In a friendship there may be words exchanged that are hurtful, but that doesn't mean there is no love in the relationship. If you live in fear of not protecting your husband, you're only hurting yourself."
from Men are Just Desserts by Sonya Friedman