How to Break the Man Code

There is an unwritten rule that everyone with testicles must follow: the only safe subjects you can talk about when in the company of other men are sports, work and women.  If a guy steps out of that box and starts talking about anything else, like faith or emotions, he is automatically kicked out of the man-club.  I’m sure this rule is written somewhere on a chalkboard hanging above a urinal on a bathroom wall in a sports bar in Cincinnati.

There are a bunch of other man rules that us guys are supposed to follow.  All these unwritten rules make up the Man Code. Here’s some more I have discovered:


  • Never look from side to side when you’re using a urinal—look straight at the wall—(that’s what “Johnny Signs” are for—to keep you looking straight ahead).
  • Keep one urinal space open between you and the next guy.
  • Never talk negative about another guy’s mother.
  • Never call your best friend your boyfriend—he’s your buddy.
  • Make sure you know the final score of the Pistons game and who scored how many points.
  • And the big man rule us guys are supposed to follow even if we just had our head bashed in by a hundred pound gorilla: “Suck it up.”

I don’t know where these rules came from.  No one talks openly about them. It would violate the Man Code, and the Code’s conspiracy of silence.

My dad didn’t sit down and teach the man rules to me.  Did yours? Even my buddies don’t discuss them.  I think maybe us guys are just born with these rules. Instinct. Inscribed on our brains.  Kind of like how a bird knows when it’s time to fly south for the winter.  Survival.

These man rules frustrate me. They leave me feeling empty.  You can’t tell me that shallow, superficial friendships are the only relationships one guy can have with another guy.  And I’m tired of the funny looks I get from my friends when I try to talk about the stuff that really matters to me.  I wonder why I don’t get called to go to the bar to watch the Pistons’ game anymore.

The man rules might teach me how to survive, but they don’t teach me how to live.

I have to admit I’m getting angry.  It seems like we’re all guys with a story to share with each other, but the man code stops us, it divides us, it disconnects us from ourselves and from each other. It disconnects us from the real story of who we are behind the masks we’re forced to wear.

We should be able to walk shoulder to shoulder and help each other grow, don’t you think?  Like foxhole buddies back to back helping each other guard our lives.

Are you angry yet?  I’m hoping together we can take that anger and channel it into beginning a conversation about how we break the man code.  I’m hoping as we wrestle out loud with the questions about what it means to be a man in today’s world, we’ll live into the answers.

Beginning that conversation, I believe is a stepping stone on the path to deeper wholeness. And I’m learning it’s not a destination. It’s a lifelong conversation with ourselves, with each other.

So let’s get the conversation started. I’ll say it—I’m vulnerable. I don’t have it all figured out.  But, I am learning that when I connect with other guys at that deeper level, you connect with my story and I connect with your story and we gain wisdom and insight about how to ride this great adventure called life.

I think it would be awesome if we would join in that conversation.  It might shake us up in a good way, maybe change the world. The world we are going to hand off to the next generation.

And maybe after we’ve taken down that chalkboard at that sports bar in Cincinnati we can sit around, drink a beer and share our story about how we had the balls to break the man code.


Brian Plachta is an author, attorney, husband and father.  He has recently completed the book:  Pillars of Steel—How Real Men Draw Strength from Each Other-–available in May 2012 on  Feel free to contact Brian directly at: to continue the conversation or visit his website:

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