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Why STRONG men are the future of healthy relationships.

Everybody is busy empowering women. The worry is, who is preparing men for these empowered women? –Lillian Orwah

I was scrolling through Instagram one day when I saw that quote by Lillian Orwah and it hit me like a ton of bricks. It so eloquently described what I had been feeling and seeing in my work as a Marriage and Family Therapist. In 2015, the American Sociological Association study revealed that women initiate nearly 70% of divorces. There is no study of women who initiate couples therapy vs. men, but I would be willing to bet that the percentages aren’t that far off.

Dating and relationships are tricky these days, especially for men! The dating landscape and interactions between men and women in relationships have shifted significantly in the past few decades. I often hear that men are unsure what the current rules are these days for dating and relationships. Many men are lonely, disconnected, and struggle in relationships, but often the message they get is “try harder” or “do better”. but there is no guide on what that actually means or what that looks like in practice!

Without a clear guide on how to “do better” I tend to see two types of responses: Some men are giving up and shutting down because the consequences of getting it wrong in the dating world are too high. While others, undiscouraged, are simply throwing themselves into dating, again and again, hoping that they will magically get lucky and find love. This seems, honestly, incredibly painful and inefficient. Two things I am not a fan of. There has got to be a better way!

So many men I saw in therapy were of the mindset “happy wife, happy life”; yet they seemed to be in this really confusing place in which the old ways of “making the wife happy” simply didn’t cut it anymore. More and more men-single, dating, partnered, and divorced-were coming into therapy asking, “what do women want?”

As one of my clients put it, “I’ve been working on not being a red flag to potential partners, but how do I show that I’m a green flag?”

In my experience as a clinician, a researcher, and as a woman, I know that many women still want strong, masculine men. However, we need to change and shift what it means to allow men to be men in a relationship. The qualities that make for a healthy relationship are simple. And lucky for me, they come in a conveniently masculine acronym: STRONG. You can still be strong in a relationship, but let’s refine those skills to be applicable to a modern relationship and attractive to the modern woman.

The STRONG model is your guide to being a big shining green flag in your relationships. No “magic memo” will give you all the answers to love’s struggles, but having a guide like the STRONG model can give you a head start in the dating game. And when you do find love, it can be a map for you and your partner to build a healthy, STRONG relationship together.


Kristal DeSantis, LMFT, CCTP is the author of STRONG: A Relationship Field Guide for the Modern Man (available for pre-order November 2022)

Follow my instagram @atxtherapist or on TikTok @atx_therapist or visit my website:

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