Owning your masculinity means being sensitive to your inner drives, including your femininity. Are you man enough to face this?
I have something to confess. I like my feminine side. There I’ve said it. It’s now out in the open. Does that make me less of a man? I think not.
In fact, it has made me a good lover of women. It has made me a good psychotherapist, it has made me sensitive to people in general, and it has made me aware of the complexity of relationships.
When I was acting in the theater, many of my friends were gay and being a bit of a mimic (I actually was a mime at one time) I picked up on their vocal and body mannerisms and explored this expanded sense of self and enhanced way of communicating.
These forays into more feminine ways of self-expression (or at least gay men’s interpretations of the feminine) were restricted to my friends in the acting community and long-time friends and lovers, many of whom were also artists of one type or another.
Out in the general public, I presented as a classic straight guy. At parties, with a bit of alcohol, I tended to allow myself unbridled freedom and playfulness to express these other qualities.
I am OK with this aspect of myself. Not everyone is – probably why I self-censor.
However, being an artist has taught me that my childlike qualities, my intuition, and my playfulness are indispensable for creativity. My feminine side is simply another aspect of self that I find intriguing, witty, and flamboyant. It is a boon to my creativity, not a bane.
Flamboyant is not a typically male attribute in North America in this day and age. It used to be in Europe before the reformation. Think of the clothes Henry Vlll used to wear. They had flamboyant male accouterments in those days. Then, men were the cock of the walk and proud of it.
Today in North America, most straight-white-men wear either blue, black or brown; green if you are going to be a little crazy. OK that is a slight exaggeration. Today, men are flouting their need for color through . . . ties. Yes, there are lots of colorful ties on news anchors and politicians. The message conveyed is that a bit of color does not mean you are less of a “man.” At least when worn by men in positions of power or authority.
However, color does not make the man. Though, people do judge appearances and that is why artist types tend to dress a little differently (think Johnny Depp or Prince,) to say in effect, I am different. Most of us, consciously or not, are trying to say, I am the same.
For most straight men in long-term committed relationships, the idea of masculinity is a subject that is hardly ever talked about between partners. I know I have rarely, if ever, talked about it with my partner.
In fact, the only time it has arisen, is when I act a little fay. My wife bristles when I act this way. Somehow, my acting less than the stereotypic male produces a strong reaction in her – and she is a feminist. You would think she might be understanding.
What’s a modern man to do? We are told to embrace our feminine side, but when we do, it is not supported. In general, I am the opposite of the traditional man. I am sensitive, emotional and nurturing. However, I know how to put on the power face, the voice, and the walk that gets immediate attention and respect. I do this in corporate meetings, at university, and in any formal negotiations. I know what that is and how it feels.
In the past, I also moved into that masculine energy when looking for a woman and, even to this day, access that energy when around women in general (but definitely not in the school setting with female students where casual flirting is a firing offense).
There are many forces that can attack a man’s sense of masculinity. One is lack of knowledge or experience. In Sandy Weiner’s interview of a man who had been brought up by a single mother, this man had no touchstones with which to measure masculinity. He was free-floating in a sea of femininity – yet he is a man. A man without a country, or should we say, without gender specific role models.
Another force men contend with is change. Society has changed regarding men, women, and relationships. What had been understood for generations as the way to look, act and be as a man and a woman has been undergoing a sea change. Many of my younger male clients have found this to be confusing in the extreme. They ask, how do I be a man? How am I supposed to act with a woman?
Societal change has also affected men who are in long-term relationships.
Changing societal expectations and opportunities for women have affected both men and women in relationship. And part of that change affecting men goes to the heart of this article, what is masculinity?
Masculinity goes beyond being a good man. Some comments I have been reading in The Good Men Project say that the dichotomy between masculine and feminine is a false argument. Masculinity should be about being a good person. Being a good person is great, but something is missing – sexuality.
Like it or not, testosterone, physiology, and genetics are part of masculinity and to ignore these forces makes no sense if we are going to understand masculinity within changing cultural norms and specifically, within intimate relationships.
But what is masculinity? How can we keep it in a relationship if we don’t know what it is? For me, masculinity is an energy. It is a feeling – I feel it in my body. There are two centers where I am aware of its existence, in my groin (sex organs) and my chest (heart). When I tap into this feeling my breathing deepens, my senses are heightened; I am alert, awake, and alive.
Furthermore, my sense of self extends out into the environment. I feel strong, focused, and goal-driven. It is this energy that often propels me to take action, even when fearful. When I feel in touch with my masculinity I feel powerful, confident, and sure of myself.
But what about keeping or maintaining your masculinity within a relationship? One of the most common jokes out there is how once in a relationship men become pussy whipped. They lose their sense of self and do what the woman in their lives tells them to do. Yes, some accommodations have to be made going from the single life to being married. However, that does not mean you have to lose your masculinity.
Indeed, that is the quickest way to lose self-respect and for your partner to see you as many things, but not her lover. In order to keep the dynamic interplay of the masculine and the feminine alive, it is imperative that a man stay in touch with his masculine energy.
Here are seven ways on to keep your masculinity alive while in a relationship:
1) Don’t be afraid of your feminine side.
The less threatened you are of this aspect the more rounded and rich is your personality, making for a more interesting interplay between you and your partner. The only caveat is not to let this aspect dominate unless you have a highly masculine partner thus balancing out your masculine and feminine traits.
2) Don’t be afraid of your masculinity.
Own it and don’t make excuses for it. Be strong within it which is not an excuse to act like an idiot. Know when your masculine energy can overpower and be confident within yourself to allow a gentle pulling back which fosters your partners feeling of safety and contribution. When you are truly confident this is an easy gift to offer for it costs you nothing and gains you much.
3) Hang out with the guys and do guy things, whatever that means to you.
It might mean going to the ball game, joining a men’s group, or helping your best friend build a cottage – whatever. Just be with men and feel what that is like.
4) Tell the truth.
For some reason almost all the men I know, including myself, have a hard time when it comes to sharing with their partner what they want in a constructive manner, if they share at all. We either don’t say our truth or we attack with it. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground of stating what is true without making the other person wrong. Admittedly, this is a higher order of discourse and when emotions are involved men (generally) feel challenged in this area.
5) Examine where you feel powerful in life and where you do not.
See if you can parse out the ingredients that make for an experience of fullness and power. Then see if you can consciously bring that feeling into your present experience.
6) Educate yourself.
Read books and articles like those in GMP, talk with men and women about masculinity, and take the time to experiment and discover who you are when in touch with your masculine energy. Finally,
7) When in doubt, bend over and look between your legs.
You should see some balls there. Act accordingly.
To sum up, in today’s world of shifting and omnipresent change, it is easy to become confused and question your masculinity. What is the “right” way to think and behave both in public and in private with your partner?
Being open to change yet not losing your primordial instincts is the challenge we face as men going forward into a new way of being and understanding about what it means to be masculine in relationship.