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Understanding Men's Passages: Discovering the New Map of Men's Lives Paperback – May 4, 1999


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Understanding Men's Passages: Discovering the New Map of Men's Lives + Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life + New Passages
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (May 4, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345406907
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345406903
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #203,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Gail Sheehy's taboo-breaking book about women's menopause, The Silent Passage, was named one of the most influential books of our time by the Library of Congress. Understanding Men's Passages is just as powerful and is certain to change the landscape of the psychology of men. Inspired by her husband's struggle with a midlife career crisis, Sheehy has compiled nearly 10 years worth of interviews and research into this book, revealing the fears and self-doubts of men over 40 who struggle with identity crises both at work and with their partners and children.

Sheehy also defines male menopause as a period in which hormones, including testosterone--and therefore potency and sex drive--drop, and men suffer from irritability and mood swings. She cites the statistics that claim more than 52 percent of men between the ages of 40 and 70 can expect some degree of impotence--which translates into at least 20 million men. "When ignored or denied, this sexual freeze extends more deeply into every aspect of a man's life than was previously thought," she writes. "It can be an underlying cause of depression, divorce, even suicide."

The men Sheehy interviewed were surprisingly candid about their situations and are glad that they've opened up a discourse. Says one man about the silence regarding sexual changes his father endured during his passage into male menopause: "The only sign of getting older probably was that earlier trip to the bathroom in the morning--which we call the six a.m. passage." In addition to covering male menopause and the latest treatments for impotence, Sheehy also includes chapters on how to handle empty-nest syndrome, job downsizing, and the strain on marriage that retirement brings about, but her main point rings clear throughout: "We need an expanded definition of manliness." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The years after 40 offer men a "second adulthood," declares Sheehy, a chance to reinvent themselves. But first they must shift from competing to connecting, from incessant striving for external rewards to a quest for inner fulfillment through meaningful pursuits, after determining what they really want of the second half of their lives. In a constructive, enlightening guide to self-discovery for men and their partners, the author of Passages and New Passages uses 100 male interviewees, case histories and medical and psychological research to probe men's feelings about death, spiritual hollowness, empty nest syndrome, separation anxieties, their envy of their empowered working wives, pre-retirement jitters and waning sexual potency. There are enough fresh angles in this searching exploration of male malaise to help men tailor their goals and dreams to real-life circumstances. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author


Gail Sheehy is the world-renowned author of seventeen books, most notably the New York Times best-seller Passages, named one of the ten most influential books by the Library of Congress and which has been translated into twenty-eight languages.

Her latest book, DARING: My Passages, is a memoir available now for preorder; September 2014 from HarperCollins.

As a literary journalist, Sheehy was one of the original contributors to New York magazine. A contributing editor to Vanity Fair since 1984, she won the Washington Journalism Review Award for Best Magazine Writer in America for her in-depth character portraits of national and international leaders.

Sheehy is a seven-time recipient of the New York Newswomen's Club Front Page Award for distinguished journalism. Among her other bestsellers are Sex and the Seasoned Woman; Hillary's Choice; New Passages; Understanding Men's Passages; and Passages in Caregiving.

A popular lecturer, she is represented by American Program Bureau (617-614-1607).

She currently resides in New York City.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By "johnwebwriter" on February 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
This isn't an awful or poorly written book, but it really seemed skin-deep to me (42yo male). The author skimmed the topics, even though she apparently interviewed a lot of men. It just isn't deep at all -- to me, it was like watching a television show. By comparison, "Iron John" by Robert Bly was very deep and thoughtful. Years after I read that book, I'm still thinking over some of what he said.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By NiceGuy1 on January 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
Gail Sheey's "Understanding Men's Passages" is a good book to read to grasp the basic developmental stages that men go through in life. Other books on men's issues sometime fail to recognize the importance of these sequential and natural passages of early, middle, and later male adulthood.
I enjoyed the book, but Sheey sometimes overuses examples from men who, quite frankly, do not quite fit the norm (rich, famous, and powerful). It appears that data supporting Sheey's book came from men in all walks of life. Why then, does she often use interview data from men who the average reader cannot identify with? When reading through this book, I sometimes wondered if Sheey met the elusive "every man" in each of us, but truly does not know the common personality characteristics that we, as men, exhibit. She also mentions virtually nothing about single men.
Strengths: The cover is eye-catching. And in general, Sheey is a gifted writer who draws the reader into her train of thought. She has also really done well in connecting with medical personnel who are familiar with men's health issues. Parts IV, V, and VI were perhaps my favorite parts of the book to read.
Years ago, I read Sheey's "Passages" for a class on adulthood and aging. She goes beyond that book in "Understanding Men's Passages," but not quite enough.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By JohnB on June 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
Gail Sheehy's book contains some wisdom that I found helpful, but I also found myself wanting to throw the book out the window more than once during the reading.
The good side is that she interviews men whose stories I could understand and whose words touched my pain. There are plenty of stories from men that have been where I'm going now at age 48. About 25 percent of the stories made sense to me and filled in more than a few puzzle pieces in my life.
The bad side is having a good writer like Gail Sheehy write a book about the male world is like Newt Gingrich writing a book about lesbian life. Eventhough the writer tries hard not to interject their innate opinion it comes through, and I as a man resented and felt hurt at the stereotyping the male species, the paragraphs that you just don't say to a guy that's down on his luck, and the "how great women are doing these days."
The book does contain some wisdom that I'm glad I found: older men talking about their lives. The downside is I had to read some passages that just ripped my guts out . . . almost like stepping on a landmine.
I'm glad, though, that I read it.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 24, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Ms. Sheehy has done it again: she has written a book both supported by research and as interesting a read as any novel. My only problem with this book is that most of the "case histories" are about men who have the financial advantage necessary to give them the freedom to take the time to dabble in this or that while they are trying to discover how they want to spend their Second Adulthood, as Sheehy calls the years after age 50. Most of the men in Sheehy's book are definitely NOT fast food restraunt managers, security guards, or factory shift workers, etc. Men at this lower end of the income scale simply cannot afford to take 18 months (a figure estimated in the book) off from any kind of gainful employment after becoming the laid-off victims of downsizing. Still, the book puts forth a lot of helpful information for both men and the women who interact with them.
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43 of 54 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
From Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary:
truth: the body of real things, events, and facts.
propaganda: ideas, facts, or allegations spread to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause.
I had heard some positive comments about Sheehy's book and being a 44 year-old man, was anxious to read it. While her chronicling of men's feelings are accurate, her "solutions" are lacking.
Whenever I read the book, I found myself depressed (even my wife noted that.) I finally realized that Sheehy's advice was really feminist, humanist ideology in a subtle disguise. In her view, the way for us men to successfully navigate our passages and transform ourselves is to accept the hard-core feminist agenda and to throw off the shackles of established religions. Of course she does not state that outright, but the images she paints in her book are of hapless men struggling in a society where women are gaining more prominence. If we don't accept the fact that men are losing power, we will not be transformed.
The real issue with which men are struggling is not about losing power, but losing respect. Men are criticized at every turn by women; discrimination against men is not only tolerated but is policy in many corporations; women make disparaging remarks about men in the workplace -- the type of remarks that would be offensive if they were made about women or a minority group.
I said that Sheehy's promotion of feminist ideology was subtle -- subtle until she launched her attack on Bill McCartney and the Promise Keepers. I attended two of the large rallies upon the invitation of a good friend and found the movement contrary to my Roman Catholic sensibilites.
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