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Website shows men 'ready and willing' to talk about love

By Helyn Trickey, Special to CNN
Kenn Michael says he learned how to be "authentic" with help from his girlfriend Kamali.
Kenn Michael says he learned how to be "authentic" with help from his girlfriend Kamali.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • It's not always easy to get men to talk about love and relationships
  • Hundreds of men talk on camera for website The Man's Guide to Love
  • But psychologist says it's not really advice, but more sounding off on web
RELATED TOPICS
  • Relationships
  • Romance

(CNN) -- For the average man, the subject of love is something akin to choosing a wedding theme, making homemade Valentine's Day cards or enduring prostate exams. Most men would rather be stabbed in the eye with a fork than have to examine their feelings on the subject of amour, or so conventional wisdom holds.

But a new website -- The Man's Guide to Love -- turns the theory that men prefer staying mum on the subject on its head.

"I was surprised at how ready and willing the men were to talk about (love), and how little they'd been asked about it," says Mark Levin, who, with his wife, Jennifer Flackett, founded the site in 2010 that features hundreds of video segments of men from all over the nation giving advice about love.

"We think we're catching a cross section of American men," says Levin whose team has filmed thousands of segments in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, the Carolinas, New York City and many more areas.

At turns the video segments are entertaining, poignant, funny or thoughtful.

"We didn't understand that each man would have his own story," says Flackett of her expectations going into this project. "You get this picture of a man in 15 seconds to two minutes and there's a level of honesty that we're capturing."

For instance, the site features Tom, 26, who is freshly heartbroken and wonders on camera if maybe the best act of love is willingly leaving someone who loves you when the feeling isn't mutual.

And Jay, 65, advises other men to "stay the course," to hang on to love through the good and bad. He doles out this advice as his companion of 43 years smiles beside him.

"Be as big a goon and as big a geek and nerd as you are. Don't hide anything," says Rick, 28, who met his wife at a live action role playing game.

But some of the advice can be downright scary.

"Get her really mad. I mean really, really, really mad. I mean get her so mad that she screams and maybe throws things at you," says Victor, 40, who appears in his video in a sweatshirt that zips over his head and sports a skeleton design. "Then you'll know the type of person you're getting married (to). That is a good test,"

Dan, 44, enumerates the relationships he's had and sums up the core lesson: "If you can't change the person you're with, find someone you can change."

"The title of the site troubles me," says Stephen Simpson, a psychologist and author of the book, "What Women Wish You Knew about Dating: A Single Guy's Guide to Romantic Relationships."

"(The site) isn't really a guide. That implies that there's help to be found there."

Instead, Simpson says themansguidetolove.com is really a collection of thoughts about love in which some of the men revel in the conquest of finding love, while others offer tidbits of wisdom. "It's kind of geared toward how to get love, but how is it for a man in a committed relationship?"

Simpson applauds the site for getting men to open up to each other about love, making it more socially acceptable for them to talk about a subject that has long been the domain of women.

"I was hoping the site would talk more about what it's like to be male and in love," says Simpson. "The style (of the site) is interesting and fun, but it's not adding much to the discussion. It's another place on the Internet where people can spill."

Flackett and Levin say the site isn't meant to judge which advice will resonate with individual users. Instead, the creators contend the site "allows people to divine their own path from the mounds of advice," says Levin.

"Not all the advice is what I would tag as good, but it is compelling," says Levin, who says they hope to add "like and "not like" buttons to the video entries sometime this summer. And the founders have plans to solicit user submitted videos in the near future, too.

Kenn Michael, 33, is featured on the site, and he advises other men to be authentic in their relationships with women. "I thought I was being authentic," Michael says in his video. "I had to rip off all these fronts I'd put on, all these walls I'd put up, all these characters I'd made up for myself ... and when I took off all that stuff, she responded and it's been great ever since."

Michael and his longtime girlfriend Kamali were approached by the men's website's video crew in Los Angeles, and he was initially reluctant to be filmed. Once he understood that the crew wanted him to talk about love, however, he was all in.

"I think it was the way we were approached and the energy of the people behind the camera," he says. "Men have a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Just because we don't speak on certain topics doesn't mean we don't bottle it all up inside us. We need a safe arena to discuss this stuff," says Michael. "Safe is the key word. The last thing men want to be seen as is too sensitive or weak."

 
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