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.
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.”
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:
Could that irritating behavior your partner does really be a bid for connection?
Research shows that healthy couples "turn towards" one anothers' bids (for attention, connection, play, etc!) 9 out of 10 times! Couples that divorced in this research only turned towards bids 3 out of 10 times. That means that out of 10 times your partner reaches out for some kind of connection, you should be turning towards him/her 9 out of those 10 times if you want a vital relationship that lasts.
I have a partner who loves to joke. His unending jokes, while funny and engaging, sometimes get on my nerves. But once I realized that this may actually be his way of making a bid I decided it's important that I turn towards him more times than I might like. Even if it's a joke in the middle of a binge watching of Game of Thrones (yes, I'm still only on season 5!). My relationships is more important than whatever John Snow is doing in that moment, so instead of getting irritated I can simply kiss his head and play for a moment, before asking for space to wind down. Both of us can get our needs met in a loving relationship!
Below is an article from the Gottman Institute on this idea of bids and why it's so important.
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