In a recent discussion on the Weekly Call With The Publisher of The Good Men Project, a male participant felt masculine power and passion had to be suppressed so as not to scare people away. That revelation was hours ago and I’m still trying to process the enormity of that statement.
First, definitions so we are on the same page.
Power, by authority, right, license, privilege, manipulation, and/or knowledge, gives a person control over people, situations, actions, and/or activities. This is not a sex-based definition as the person in power might be either a male or female. In fact, in the world of achievement, power is a desired goal. It’s rewarded with prestige, money, and responsibility.
Passion is a strong and acknowledged emotion such as love, sex, hate, envy, etc. It can be expressed in many forms—the arts, athletics, hobbies, etc. A passion might also be for things, like collections, or for concepts, like order, timeliness, and cleanliness.
I find neither of these terms scary with respect to the outside world and making a living. They only take on ominous connotations when applied to relationships where individuals have to maintain several levels of identity: individual, couple, family, and extended family.
Today, if my partner were the powerful head of a multi-national corporation and stood in the middle of our living room and screamed at me, “Where’s my dinner,” I’d hand him the phone.
In relationships, there is a big difference between assigned, assumed, and personal power. An assigned power is, “Please take over the checkbook.” An assumed power is, “When I’m home, I’m in charge of the remote.” Personal power allows for consensus and respect, “Let’s figure out how we’re going to handle this situation.”
Personal power never has to be announced or enforced, marketed or advertised. It just is. And, people who have it often flock together. They recognize it in each other and know it is a respectful and safe space where everybody stands tall without having to make others feel small.
“Personal Power is based on strength, confidence, and competence that individuals gradually acquire in the course of their development. It is self-assertion, and a natural, healthy striving for love, satisfaction and meaning in one’s interpersonal world.”
My additional list of traits includes a sense of self, awareness, kindness, generosity, compassion, respect for self and others, a centered calm, sense of humor, ability to listen and hear, a philosophy of inclusion and positivity, honesty, thoughtfulness, ability to share, interests, intelligence, genuine, and passion plus the capacity to say, “I’m sorry,” “I don’t know,” and “I forgive.”
This is what’s present before emotion strikes. Anyone with personal power can also be mad, sad, glad, happy, joyous, fearful, and pissed. They can screw up a relationship as fast as the next person. They are as vulnerable as the next person.
Being a powerful person is not about perfection. It’s about self-knowledge, expression, and vision.
Power is scary in a relationship when it is used to control—“My way or the highway.” “This is how I want it.” “This is how you’ll do it.” “This is what I expect.” “This is what we’ll do.” “This is non-negotiable.” “This is not up for discussion.” “This is what is best.” “You must work around your issues to make sure my demands are met first.” There is an implied threat if edicts are not met.
The result of this overbearing behavior is that one-half of the relationship mutes the other half. The silenced half is not dormant. Pressure builds behind passive facades until it is released. The explosion scars everyone involved.
“Eight traits commonly associated with masculinity are: independent, non-emotional, aggressive, tough-skinned, competitive, strong, active, self-confident, and hard. A quick review of this list shows that most American men are not prepared to handle feminine women.”
What is a woman looking for in a partner? She wants a best friend and a compatible sexual partner. Someone who loves and respects her as she is (with or without make-up, naked or dressed). unconditionally, without reservation, and is committed to the relationship. Why? That’s what she wants to give back. The primary lasting attraction is mutual emotional support and security, followed by a plan for financial security.
Power and passion is only scary when it is wielded as sword, with the intent to subjugate, abuse, and dehumanize. No one I know is looking to spend quality time with a person who suppresses who they are and present a false front to the very people they want to connect with. It is much easier and far more rewarding to accept and be yourself—freed from societal norms. You may not attract the people you want, but you will attract the people you need in your life.
If you’ve read this far, a bonus: no one can or is expected to read minds. When your partner rejects a gift with the statement, “We’ve been together long enough for you have known what I want,” they are saying, “You don’t pay enough attention to me: what I do, what I care about, what I wear,” “You don’t see me,” and “You don’t know who I am.”
If any of those disappointed statements is true, the best way to avoid the scene is to ask before purchase or pick out the gift together. Trust me. I know. Been there. Done that. My husband had no clue.
Note: This generally doesn’t happen in the reverse because one person in the relationship does pay attention to their partner’s nuanced references and immediate needs. They always get the right present.
Photo: Getty Images