Ignorance of the masculine and feminine archetypal energies at play in our intimate relationships, whether straight or gay, can cost us everything.
There’s something about the masculine nature that is always seeking freedom.
It’s that magical force in us all, men and women, that compels us to push beyond any limitation imposed on us by the world around us, and within us. It’s that onward urge that makes us create airplanes and rockets to break the heavy bonds of gravity so we can travel freely throughout the heavens.
Political leaders always know to rile up their base with cries of freedom: “Give me freedom or give me death!” Even those insane people terrorizing Iraq are essentially seeking freedom to live out their ideas as they wish, regardless of the hypocrisy they practice by brutally denying that same freedom to others.
The world’s economic system is set up such that the more money we make, the more social freedom we have to go wherever and do whatever we want. Thus the widespread obsession with making money. No one wants stacks of thin green paper piled high around in their living room; we want the social freedom it provides in the system mostly masculine people have created.
Even sports are all about positioning ourselves within constraints (sidelined fields and courts, groomed fairways, etc.), setting a worthy adversary in front of us (a team, one person, ourselves), and then pushing at our limits until we break through to that one place that lives just beyond both adversary and constraint: the basket, goal, hole, end zone, finish line. If you’ve ever felt high after kicking a ball into a goal while 11 people tried to stop you – or just watched your favorite team do so – you know the ecstatic thrill of embodied freedom through sport.
Author David Deida writes, the essential “Masculine plea” is, “I want out of here!” That doesn’t mean a man (or a more masculine woman) always wants to run away, but rather that his masculine nature is going to have him constantly seeking ways to escape the constraints he experiences in the world around and within him. Sometimes that means staying put and fighting through difficulties or constraints.
Femininity – which also can express itself in men and women – isn’t so concerned with the search for freedom. She doesn’t insist, “I want out!” Rather, feminine energy carries our longing for the embodied experiences of love, radiance and beauty. She’s always saying in endless ways, “Show me the love!”
Standup comic, Patrice O’Neal, makes the face of a man in love: a scrunched-up dissatisfied look of exhausted resignation. We laugh at that cliche because it looms large in our collective experience. We know the masculine force in men (and women) longs for freedom. Then he makes the face of a woman in love: happy and carefree. “Yay!” he exclaims to more laughter, because again, reality is entertaining.
I want to be clear this isn’t strictly a man vs. woman thing. Both men and woman can express masculine and feminine energy. However, like author Marianne Williamson says, most people in their lives are majoring in either masculinity or femininity and minoring in the other. While it is typically men who major in masculinity, some women are majoring in it, too, just as some men major in femininity.
Here’s the point: awareness of the archetypal forces at play in our intimate relationships can make it easier to see why they are often so challenging.
Our ignorance sabotages us. Our high divorce rates aren’t falling, and might even be rising. Awareness can help us move through our challenges with more grace.
A few years ago I was in living with a feminine woman, my girlfriend. She loved to bring in little crystals and seashells from the beach to make our home pretty. She loved to wear glitter and sparkly jewelry and hear from me how beautiful I thought she was. She had an office job, and she was brilliant at it, but her passion was children. Her biggest dream was building a home on a small plot of land in Argentina that her parents owned, having a garden with a fish pond and raising a family with me. Deeply connected to the femininity flowing through her, she was never really concerned about freedom from anything, except having to work. She was obsessed with whether or not I really loved her.
But no one had taught me the differences between femininity and masculinity. My parents and everyone else seemed to be winging it through strings of failed relationships and strained marriages. I had no idea these primal forces were beginning to conspire in the shadows of my ignorance to destroy the most important relationship in my life.
The basic pattern of our downward doom spiral was this: Uncertainty caused her to demand evidence of my love that made sense to her. I resented her attempts to change my behavior. This made her feel more uncertain and make more demands. Which I resisted and resented. Wash, rinse and repeat for 5 years until you have no hair left and the love you once had is now buried under a putrid mountain of resentment, anger and pain.
Had I been aware that the the predominant feminine forces in her were yearning to experience the depths of my love, I could have shown up completely differently for her. Had she understood that the predominant masculine forces in me were only yearning for freedom to live on my own terms, she could have been more thoughtful about trying to force me into actions that pleased her.
We thought we were fighting about jealousy or who was making more sacrifices or who did the hurtful thing first. But we weren’t. We were only always fighting about her deepest desire to feel my love and my deepest desire to uphold my freedom.
Of course she had a masculine desire for freedom, too. She didn’t want me telling her what to do either. Just as I had a feminine desire to feel her love. But she mostly got angry when she saw me do things that suggested I didn’t love her enough. And I mostly got angry when I felt she would never let me be who I wanted to be.
Men are not defective versions of women. Women are not defective versions of men. There are primal archetypical energies at play in all of us, which iconic psychiatrist Carl Jung began mapping out 100 years ago.
In any intimate relationship, whether between a man and a woman, two women or two men, where that tingly electricity flows that we all so deeply crave, the archetypical energies of masculine and feminine are at play. Like the opposite poles of a powerful magnet, these forces can draw us inexorably, mysteriously, irresistibly, ecstatically towards each other. But if we don’t recognize the different melodies and rhythms inherent in each of their unique expressions, we will only experience a mad cacophony in their clashing that will eventually exhaust us and have us begging for silence.
I have been ignorant of those different rhythms for 25 years, and that ignorance has cost me every good woman I’ve ever had.
WHAT TO DO?
If you’re the more Feminine partner: Look for how your more masculine partner’s actions and complaints may point to their general search for freedom. Notice this and see if you can enthusiastically support their desire for freedom in creative ways that are still in alignment with your needs.
If you’re the more Masculine partner: If you’re the more masculine partner, notice whether your partner’s actions or complaints may point to uncertainty around your commitment to the relationship, or to them. Or, even if certain you’re offering it, they might simply not feel the full presence of your love. And you might not actually be giving it if you’re working too much, watching a lot of TV, etc. Try to see beneath their complaint and demonstrate your love in ways they will understand. They’ll be more at ease once they feel the full depth of your masculine presence and love, which just might make solving their complaint a whole lot easier!
There are surely a lot of subtleties to this exploration, as we all express both masculine and feminine energies. But this article is a good place to start. Even a little awareness of these dynamics can make a huge difference in your relationships.
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Photo Jesus Solana/Flickr