The Biggest Complaint Women have about Men
So many of the women who I work with complain that their partner does not lead them enough. They are furious and devastated that their man (or masculine-identified partner) doesn’t reach out to make plans for dates together, to help get the kid’s lunches ready, or know the directions to get to their planned dinner. But these same women have a nasty habit that so many women I know have, and that I myself have had to work hard (and continue to work hard) at undoing. This nasty habit is taking the lead.
So many women are deeply longing to surrender and be lead well.
But instead of letting our partner lead, we get frustrated and irritated that he isn’t doing it right or isn’t fast enough so we give in to that impatience and take over the reigns. We tell ourselves we need to do this in order to get our needs met. Our need for connection, for a clean home, for getting to appointments on time. But all the while we are resentful at our men because what we really want is for them to share in those responsibilities with us and we feel angry that we are “doing it all by ourselves.” But the reality is that we are castrating him before he even has the chance to try to meet us in these ways.
What we really want is for him to reach out to us and make plans for what needs to be done, but we don’t give him a chance to. We feel the pain of not having what we want and react by taking over then blame him for taking the back seat. Over the last two years in the Embodied Relationship Training with John Wineland and Kendra Cunov I have learned that this dynamic is created because the feminine and masculine in each person want to become polarized.
Each person has a feminine and a masculine within. The feminine is like a wild river: it’s our feelings, pleasure, movement. The masculine is like the banks of that river: it’s the structure, the containment, the silent loving presence that witnesses all.
When one of us takes the masculine in a partnership, the other person will automatically take on the feminine (and vice versa).
Because nature loves polarity, as opposites create a field of energy (think of the magnetic field created by the north and south poles of the Earth or the electricity created by the positive and negative ends of a battery). So when we as women take on the masculine by creating the structure of WHEN we will meet and HOW we will get there, our man drops into his feminine and simply receives the WHAT of what is happening. The feminine is in charge of the energy in an experience, the “what” of what is wanted or felt. The masculine is the master of time and space, figuring out the “how” it will happen.
So how do we switch this? How do we as women (or the feminine-identified partner in a given moment) create the dynamic we are really wanting, instead of just trying to get what we think we want and then becoming resentful? How do we support our partner in claiming their masculinity rather than psychologically castrating them?
As the feminine there are two things we can do that can begin to dramatically change this dynamic:
2-Reveal your heart's longing
What this means is
One of the greatest of all human needs is the need to connect and be with one another. We all need that emotional connection and security that comes with a relationship with another person. Without it, we are lost.
There is plenty of research showing that being isolated leads to mental and emotional decompensation. We begin to fall apart mentally and emotionally without each other. The research also shows conversely that being close to someone we love mitigates the effects of stress . This can be a romantic partnership, a dear friend, or any loved one.
It is a beautiful thing that we have the opportunity to try to connect in a meaningful way with another person. Relationships, as tough as they are, are the perfect venue to get this most basic of needs met. This means two things, however. It means that we need to be vulnerable with another person, and it means we need to allow another person to be vulnerable with us. This may make it sound easy, but since our most primary attachment needs are bound up with our romantic relationships, it is anything but easy.
Being vulnerable and letting another person see who we really are takes a great degree of trust. It means letting them see us, with all our flaws, and trusting they will still want to love us, be our partner and be our friend. And most of us did not have the experience of having our whole self loved and accepted as a child, so any slight from a partner that mirrors the ways we felt rejected, abandoned, or engulfed by our parents will trigger those primary injuries and the resulting reaction of either a hyper-vigilant or withdrawn nervous system.
For about a year now, since the popularization of the #metoo movement, the wail of pain from women hurt by men over the millennia has become loud enough for the entire world to hear and begin to look at. We still have so so far to go in terms of that cry being heard, seen, and healed by the masculine of the world. And I want to share with you an idea that has been percolating for some time in my mind.
The toxic masculine are those aspects typically (though not always) embodied by men that have been used in a corrupted way to gain power and control over the wild feminine, including Mother Earth. Women can also embody the toxic masculine, any time we deny our truth, our bodies, our changing desires and emotions, any time we drive forward unconsciously or push past our own limits to gain some power over others or to get validation for how we are perceived in the world.
The destructive power of the toxic masculine is coming to light, with a fevered pitch.
The collective psyche is reacting with disgust and rage at the ways men in power have abused their position to take advantage of women, grief and terror at the ways industrialization and apathy is altering and destroying our planet, a new dawning of how our own not listening to and being violent to our own bodies is causing disease and distress.
And men are stepping up.
Organizations like The Mankind Project are propagating the new definition of what it means to be a man, setting the standard with a mission statement that says:
“We believe that emotionally mature, powerful, compassionate, and purpose-driven men will help heal some of our society's deepest wounds. We support the powerful brilliance of men and we are willing to look at, and take full responsibility for, the pain we are also capable of creating - and suffering. We care deeply about men, our families, communities, and the planet.”
And yes, there are many, many men, including ones in high places of power who are not stepping up. As women, how do we take this as an opportunity to embody and lead from our own highest divine feminine, rather than getting caught in the blame and shame cycle, creating more toxicity?
Yes, we need men to hear and feel our pain.
And we also need to see, honor, and praise the fuck out of the men who are embodying the sacred masculine well!!
We need to meet them with our own sacred feminine, our queens, who can hold and heal the pain we also have inflicted on men, from our own unconsciousness.
We need to unashamedly take responsibility for how we also propagate the toxic masculine, and make a conscious choice to change ourselves to be the healing that the world needs right now. It’s time to ask ourselves “What corners of my own mind and heart have not yet been fully decolonized from the patriarchy?”, as one friend and colleague, Ania Ananda Wood writes in her post about why she didn’t report .
It’s time to rise up and speak our truths, do our inner work, and ruthlessly love ourselves and others well. And it’s time to humbly bow in our heartbreak and acknowledge when we lose our integrity in that intention, both with ourselves and with all the men and boys in our lives.
Life is busy.
That is quite possibly the biggest understatement of all time. We go around from work to home to family to friends to a second job to picking the kids up to dropping them off…. It is all so busy and we do not have time to slow down.
What this boils down to is disconnection. We get so caught up in the momentum of life that we lose track of ourselves, our families, and our place in the universe. In the process of working so very hard to try to keep everything going, we become disconnected from what truly matters, and we start to wither or arguably worse, become bitter.
I have an acquaintance that was working in an addiction treatment agency. During one time doing a group session outside, he was trying to just take the clients through some simple breathing exercises in order to just pay attention to their bodies. The purpose was just to help them reconnect with themselves and start to pay attention to what is actually going on around them. Unfortunately he was spending a lot of time in his head wondering if the group was getting anything out of this, or if he was doing the wrong thing.
His moment came when he was just staring at the ground breathing and he watched an ant crawl across his foot. The ant was going about its business and very focused on its task. The thought entered his head, “it’s not all about you.” The ant was connected to its colony, and he realized he needed to be connected with the group and not lost in his head. It was his moment to shine as he started asking them what it felt like breathing deep and slow. What did they hear. What thoughts did they find coming automatically in their minds. Slowly, the idea of reconnecting with everything around them became more obvious.
You can see that in this example he was so lost in his own head and worries that he was not paying attention to the people that were within feet of him. While we may not all be that lost, it can be very easy to get too focused on our routines and daily chores that we just forget what is within feet of us.
IT'S TIME FOR US TO RECONNECT.
Let’s all take a moment to reconnect with ourselves first. That’s all, just take a moment. One large inhale, then slowly let it out. In then out. Just pay attention on breathing. Feel your heart beat with each breath. Listen to your body as it talks to you with each breath. You don’t need a blank mind, just pay attention to what is actually going on. What thoughts and feelings are coming, even outside your conscious control. This is not even around you; this is what is going on inside you!
Take another moment, just one moment, and listen to the world outside your own mind. Listen and identify as many of the sounds that you can. Are there new sounds that surprised you? What do you feel on your skin? Is the air flowing in any particular way? Is there a taste on your tongue from the air? Slowly you are reconnecting with life. Not your life; with all life.
The universe, your higher power, and your spirit are talking to you with the breath you are taking and with the sensations you are having. With each emotion you feel, and sound you hear, you are beginning to reconnect with the divine. The spark of the divine is in the life all around us. And it is a joyful and glorious thing to remember.
We live in a beautiful area and when you have lived here long enough, the beauty becomes commonplace. You forget to pay attention to the majesty of nature when you see it every day. Today is a wonderful day to take just a couple moments and reconnect with that beauty and joy. Reconnect with life around you, and especially reconnect with your life, and the lives of your loved ones.
I was sitting with a child client this week and he sang me the above lyrics. We all have those special plans. It’s is so exciting to think about how life will be so much better after we graduate. It will be so much easier when we get the new car and we don’t have to take the bus anymore. Or when we are finally married and settle down. And probably every one of us has thought the same thing...
“When I finally do x I’ll be happy.”
And so, we are happy for a while, we feel we are in the “right neighborhood” and life is grand, but then unhappiness begins to seep in again. We had a sad day for no reason. We yelled at our spouse. Or the depression and anxiety started again. We aren’t happy anymore. And we begin to look around to find what needs to be fixed to get back to that happy state.
The unfortunate truth is: Happiness is not forever.
Learning this secret can be one of the most painful and freeing events in our lives. The good news is that sadness is not forever either. All emotions, and in fact everything we experience, is just a temporary event in a lifetime.
I was recently in a beautiful relationship. I had longed for a good partnership for years. I had done visioning and “Calling in the One” classes and ceremonies in other countries, match-makers and dozens of first dates, all to manifest this desire. Once I found this amazing man and was in that relationship, I was elated. He was perfect and I was happy to be creating life with him. But soon anxiety that we wouldn’t last started to creep in, and differences in what we wanted started to show. And suddenly my happiness had shifted. But what I am learning is that feeling sad doesn’t actually mean that anything is wrong. It just means the energy has shifted, an event has ended.
Acceptance of the temporary nature of everything does not mean that you let whatever bad feelings or bad events just happen. No, it means that you let yourself have that sadness or defeat in the face of change and not fight it, or yourself. Give yourself permission to feel this way, and move on from there.
Why am I talking about the acceptance of these feelings? One of the problems that often happens is we start kicking ourselves when we are down. We have the idea that we are supposed to be happy. We did it. We accomplished that amazing goal. We should be happy. But we still aren’t. And that just makes things get worse and worse. We are upset, and then we get frustrated because we are upset, which makes us more upset, and we get more angry at that, and then…
You see how it spirals out of control? Acceptance that we are feeling this way, and that it is normal for feelings and events to be temporary. As the famous quote from the Bible says, “This too shall pass.” This goes for our happiness, our sadness, our anger, and everything else in life. Acceptance that life keeps moving and changing will go a long way towards minimizing how painful and saddening some things may actually be.
I lost someone close to me a few years ago. When they died, for me the world stopped. I sat in my home and watched the world still moving around and around, not knowing how life could keep going when it felt like my world had just ended. That was part of the beauty and mystery of life. It keeps going no matter what. Eventually, I was able to rejoin the world, and then was slowly becoming myself again. I was happy, then I was sad again, and then regretful, then joyful. It kept moving, and I had the opportunity to flow with it all. The beauty of acceptance is that you get to move with the experience, and don’t waste your precious time and energy fighting it.
The other piece of this I want to point out is how acceptance does not mean we just sit back and let life happen to us. No. We have every right, and every responsibility, to take what control we can of our lives, ourselves, and our emotions.
If one part of our lives is not working for us any longer, and something we desire is causing us more frustration and regret than anything else, it is time to change it. Allowing ourselves to sit in misery, and let things that are obviously not helping us continue is not ok.
We are dynamic and tenacious beings. We have the capacity to accomplish so much, and yet we limit ourselves to thinking that if we do this one thing everything will be ok forever. That is delusional. Accepting that things, events, feelings, the high, are all only temporary, and we have the capacity to keep searching and finding new ways to bring ourselves joy is such a gift. We deserve to give that to ourselves. Although it has been said in other ways, pain is inescapable in life, but suffering is optional. Keeping on the journey and working towards goals, accomplishments and other things that bring us joy and fulfillment will lead us to happier places with enriched lives.
The other week a friend whose birthday it was had an unusual request. He asked us to design a ritual for him to ground into his intention of life for his upcoming year. Using pillows as props, everyone got together to give him the experience of pushing through the pillowy birth canal. Afterwards, aside from how sweet it was to see a grown man through the unconditionally loving eyes as one would see a new born, he shared an insight. He shared that he had to push pretty hard to get through our line of pillows. Being blindfolded, he had no idea when he would get to the end. “Being born is work”, he said. “If you want to get the other side, you really have to want it and to work for it.” Being alive is like that too.
It’s natural to want to skip through the hard parts of life and get to the other side....
For years I wrote letters of longing to my beloved. I would write him that I yearned for his touch, the feel of his breath on my neck, the warmth and safety I felt in his arms. I would write letters in which my heart ached to feel him. “I miss you. Where are you?” I would plead. “I want to laugh with you again.” At times it was excruciating to not know if I would feel his heart again. If I would live out the rest of my days alone, in the desolate void of his absence.
These letters were never written to a man. Although often I would think of a man my heart was yearning for as I wrote them, they were to “The Beloved” within and in all things. They were to my beloved somewhere out there in the flesh in male form, and also to the joy and bliss that lived inside me, lost to my awareness in that sad time.
In “Dear Lover” David Deida writes, “Deep heart yearning is not a problem to be solved, but a divine pull to open as devotional surrender...” He implores us women to “...trust open as love’s ache.”
I grew up in the middle class suburbs of Los Angeles raised half Roman Catholic and half Jewish. My family would go to church most Sunday's and the major holidays. I celebrated Shabbat and separated milk from meat when visiting my New York grandmother in Florida. I learned to play dreidel in preschool and went to Catechism each week in elementary school. As a preteen I decided it would be wrong to get Confirmed. I didn't believe there is this one and only God, I thought. So if I get confirmed then it would actually be a lie and if there is a God that would be wrong. I began rejecting the Judeo-Christian God I was taught. That God and those experiences only left me feeling hollow, confused, and like I could never be good enough. I remember fearfully reciting a prayer at night before bed..."Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake, I pray the lord my soul to take," hoping that the words themselves would not create the impending death and thievery of my soul that this hard-to-please and fickle God could snatch on a whim. Then during the day I'd go to school and eat KRAFT mac and cheese for dinner, watch sitcoms in the evening and get clothes from Kmart on the weekend. I felt alone and bored and empty. Even amidst a full family and doing well in school. Disconnection was setting in.....
The Intentional Dialogue is a transformational 15 minute practice that can help you and your partner to express hopes, fears, and disappointments more intimately and productively than ever before. It can save your relationship and increase intimacy immediately. I have taught this to many couples with success and even use it in my own partnership on a regular basis. I can honestly say that it protects our relationship from falling into unsaid resentments and helps us stay honest and open with one another.
When you notice that you have a store of hurt feelings or frustration with your partner, ask them if they would be open to doing an Intentional Dialogue with you. Or if you notice your partner is snipping at you unconsciously, you can invite your partner to share with you in a Dialogue. Usually they will feel intensely relieved there will finally be a safe place to clear emotions that have been under the surface and come back to connection.
Underneath every complaint is an unexpressed desire.
The Intentional Dialogue helps partners to clear the gunk that is in the way of expressing desires for connection, love, tenderness, and play by creating a safe structure to express those upset emotions.
Here is how to do an Intentional Dialogue:
Like many people, I have struggled with anxiety since college. I had panic attacks just thinking of saying hello to people. Over the last 17 years my anxiety has become almost a non-issue. Although since we all live with fear as a normal, natural phenomena I find that at times it rears it’s head. Sometimes unexpected.
The other day I had an experience of sitting with intense fear for many hours. I was in a meditation circle where a woman was having a very challenging physical experience and thought she might be dying for hours. It was completely terrifying. In the end she was fine and even reported that she felt she needed to have that experience, but hindsight makes everything so easy. It’s in the moments of uncertainty that we are gripped with an almost unbearable anxiety. In those moments when you truly don’t know if you are going to be okay or just how long the suffering is going to last, and the horrible ways your mind tells you it might end.
In this experience I had been working with the way I speak to myself, learning to listen to what I say to myself and to choose to be at cause for how I want that dialogue to go. To choose what I want to say to myself instead.
I found that the fear was so overwhelming that I could not simply tell myself “You are safe.” There is no way I would have believed it. And in fact, I shouldn’t. That part of me that is yelling, screaming at the top of her terrified lungs that it is not safe has in fact kept me safe and alive my whole life. Indeed it is exactly that part that has kept all of human society surviving. We are the stewards of our bodies and it is important to listen to when their vulnerable flesh might be at risk. So to dismiss it as a simple ego-voice that needs repatterning would be dishonoring and, I believe, impossible. However, what IS possible is to repattern the RELATIONSHIP I have to this fear voice.
Karen Wolfe, MFT offers depth therapy with practices to deepen your connection to your Self and to others for individuals and couples in the Bay Area and via video conference across California