Tanya Younce, M.Ed., LPCC


Do You Feel Like the Man in Your Relationship?

Right now, I know more women – both friends and clients – who are better educated, have a more stable job, look like cougars, and have more girlfriends and high self-esteem than do their husbands. Why is this?  Women have a (not so) secret desire to have a strong man take charge of more things, be…well…masculine, and sweep them off their feet!  This is why so many of them have fallen in love with alpha male characters like Tony Soprano in The Sopranos; Don Draper in Mad Men; Edward, Bill, Eric, and Damon in the latest vampire shows/movies; and Christian Grey of 50 Shades of Grey, just to name a few.
Here’s the thing. Women seem to be developing more masculine traits in their relationships.  Increasingly, they are becoming the primary breadwinners and “doers,” while maintaining their traditional maternal/feminine roles of taking care of children and homemaking, all while staying attractive and sexy for their men.
Women developed bigger social muscles in the late 60’s and are continuing to climb ladders in the traditionally “Man’s World” with such positions as CEO’s of major corporations (i.e. WalMart, Costco, Ford, and Xerox), and the political ranks of congresswomen, judges, various cabinet members, prime ministers, and even presidents.
We asked for this, right?  We obtained new, traditionally masculine rights and then adapted by becoming super-moms, integrating them with our old duties so that no balls would drop from Life’s juggling act.
Well…I believe certain “balls” have dropped.  This intrusion into male territory has, in many cases, caused an imbalance of feminine and masculine energies in our marriages.
I’m not sure if it’s the chicken or the egg that came first here, but with more men suffering with Depression, being either unemployed or underemployed, not taking care of their health or appearance, and not having as wide of a social network, I wonder if women overcompensated because men’s depression happened first, OR…if women became so good at multitasking both the yin and the yang in their lives, that men no longer felt as useful or needed — thus falling into a learned helpless that has ultimately settled into a subconscious state of self-loathing.
Let’s consider the opposite scenario:
Given the understanding that most women would tell you that their primary feeling of feminine “worth” would be to have a child and/or be nurturing, let’s say medical science found a way for men to have babies.  Let’s pretend that they discovered that they could not only have a baby and be nurturing but, in some cases, could be better at it than certain women.  Let’s also include the fact that there were entire movements and several programs out there to provide attention and support, and expand this ability for men.  
Now….initially, I have no doubt that women would respond with “Hey, go for it – see how YOU like all those sleepless nights, stretch marks, puke on your shirts and sore nipples!  Woohoo – FREEDOM!!!”  But then…I think some women would start to feel less “special.”  Some may feel displaced and threatened.  Men would be managing things so well, now taking both the feminine and masculine energies on successfully, and women would be wondering what their real role or “worth” was in their families.  Would women see this downshift in power as something they were victimized by, or as an opportunity to find other roles and ways to define themselves?
In this dire economy, salt is being rubbed into the wounds of male egos.  Though their wives have been praised and supported as amazing super moms for many years, at least men felt like they had their careers and prestige in which to be amazing.  Now, so many are either unemployed or underemployed, not knowing where to find their sense of Self, so they’ve sort of shifted into Neutral.
According to Dave Dieda, in his book The Way of the Superior Man, when men don’t contribute to the relationship with their masculine energies – like being purposeful, confident, and directed,
“…the two of you will become depolarized by each other’s energy.  She’ll be in the masculine, you’ll be neutral, and there will be nobody in the feminine pole. It becomes chronic, and then the two of you will begin to feel like friends rather than lovers.  The attractive juiciness of polarity will be replaced by two buddies.  If you refuse to offer your masculine gifts [to the relationship], then she’ll have to learn to depend on her own masculine capacity, and trust it more than yours.  Then you will find that she trusts you less and less across the board.”
So how could a couple rebalance the masculine/feminine energies of their relationship?  What part of the responsibility would fall on the women, and what part on the men?  If you look at this like tennis, I think both have the responsibility to engage in the volley.  What I would suggest would be interventions women could initiate that grow progressively more confrontive, if change still doesn’t happen.
Level 1:  Address the imbalance out of concern for the relationship.
Saying something like “I’m worried one of us is going to end up having an affair,” or “I’m worried that we’re headed for divorce” to address your unhappiness in the status quo, may be enough of a wake-up call for your husband to make some changes and contribute more to the marriage.  If they’re being notified that their marriage is in danger, this could be the catalyst needed to address needs that aren’t being met.
Level 2:  Offering support and suggestions. 
  • If the wake-up call works, but your husband doesn’t know howto fix things, the second level of intervention would be to offer suggestions and support.  Like a tennis volley, you’d lob a ball over to his side of the court and see what they’ll pick up and lob back. 
  • If he suffers from low self-esteem, your “serve” could be such things as verbal affirmations, gratitude for the things he does contribute, or suggestions for how to look/feel better about themselves.  
  •  If he is under- or unemployed, offer to help fully assess his skills, interests, and values.  Read What Color Is Your Parachutetogether to get some ideas.  Help him redesign his resume to make it more clear and readable.  Put together a Vision Board, portfolio, or Power Point presentation of all the accomplishments he’s had in the past.  Brainstorm a list of contacts you have (or who might know other people) to get further along in the job search.  Hit whatever balls you can think of over into his court. 
  •  Make room for your spouse.  Resist the temptation to take care of things because it’s “just easier to do it myself.”  It cuts him out of the picture.  Let him take the reins on some things.
  • Give attention to your sex life and ask him to take the lead for a while.  You may have to be specific, but that’s okay.  It’s valuable information for him.  He needs to feel like he can please you, as a man.
 Level 3:  Individual and Couples Counseling
If no balls are being returned to your side of the court, and your spouse is still either clueless or appearing helpless, or if he is critical or has excuses for every ball you serve, then it’s time for some outside intervention.  In most cases, women at this point will feel like their husbands are choosing their own egos or fears over the relationship, which is hurtful.  Men will just feel like this is yet another thing in their lives where they are losers.  A therapist can help assess the situation and may suggest individual therapy as well as the couples’ counseling for you, to get the root of the problems.
Level 4:  Give the ultimatum.
If there still isn’t any change after counseling, and you’re still unhappy in the balance of yin and yang in the marriage, then it’s probably time to give your husband an ultimatum.  Either he takes the marriage seriously or you’re leaving.  You can try a temporary separation at first, then move toward divorce if this, too, doesn’t make a difference.
Yes, women are happy to be in more equal positions and sharing power with men, but not at the expense of their marriages suffering from an imbalance of power and energies.  I believe you owe it to your relationship and to yourselves to better understand the origins of how you got unbalanced, then take action to rectify it.  When you get right down to it, women still need the strength of a man and men still need the nurturing of a woman.  Life’s too short to stay stuck in victim roles and too short to live in miserable relationships.  Reclaim your vital energies and develop a new, more empowered marriage. 🙂

1 Comment to Do You Feel Like the Man in Your Relationship?

  1. Anonymous's Gravatar Anonymous
    July 18, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Awesome post, Tanya. I think I'll have to look into getting both books for my husband and me. Thanks for your insights. 🙂

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