Men, are you looking to women to validate your masculinity, to give you permission to be a man or to accept you as a man?
How many of us are tangled in this role with the gender of our attraction? And if we are, how is it playing out or has it played out in our relationships? Can we have romantic relationships free of manipulation, addictive behavior patterns and abuse, when we believe we need permission or validation from our partner to become who we are?
I had the privilege of listening in on a conversation followed by a live Q and A, with Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics and Boysen Hodgson, Communications Director for the US Region of The ManKind Project. This conversation was the second of 16 sessions that is part of the program, Masculinity: A New Story; an online Learning Journey being offered by Charles Eisenstein.
In this session, the conversation moved from the old patriarchal view on masculinity, to the varied meanings, past and present, of what it is to be a Warrior; mastering one’s ability to hold steady in the face of insult or injury, while looking deeply into it, without contributing to the cycle of violence through aggression and retaliation. How this might look in action was demonstrated through a couple of shared stories in relationship to fathers and their children. It is not hard to imagine how beneficial this could be in all relationships for the person who reacts to insult or injury with anger and aggression or for the person who has spent their life avoiding conflict at all costs.
Although every topic invited me to go deeper into my inquiry of men and my relationship with them and self, there was one topic that cracked my heart open in places that had been locked down for a long time. It was this idea that for many men at some point in their boyhood, they decided based on programming and/or influence that they will not be the kind of man that hurts women, or are perceived as weak, or the list goes on, but the vow is the same, and it is “I will not be that kind of man.”
I too made a vow when I was a young girl. “I will not be that woman.” “I will not be the woman who gets hurt, the woman dependent on a man, the woman who is weak, the woman who abandons her children, the woman who doesn’t see.”
Unfortunately, the things we push against we attach ourselves to, in addition, “I will not be that kind of man” on some level becomes, I will not be a man. Of course, this is the same for women.
We yearn to be the gender we identify with. So if we have not given ourself permission to be that which we identify with, we begin to seek permission from others; and in most cases that is our romantic partner.
Every interaction with our partner or the entire gender of our attraction is subconsciously manipulated, spun just the right way, in an effort to gain the approval and permission we seek. This can play out as becoming the “nice guy”, avoiding conflict at all cost, promiscuity, and objectifying others.
In this behavior, one might become the pursuer in an attempt to conquer; objectifying those in his path. Or, perhaps he gains his approval by denying his needs and dosing out disingenuous gestures of generosity in hopes of getting approval by way of the good guy.
For women, the manipulation might look slightly different, she may behave like the damsel in distress, or the guarded one who’s convinced herself she doesn’t need anything from you and shows up with her bags already packed (metaphorically) because she knows it will only be a matter of time before who you are threatens to break her heart, for this woman her heart is already broken and once she learns to trust herself, only then will she be able to unpack that bag and become the woman she inherently craves to be.
It’s an endless, vicious and abusive cycle. In this behavior, he becomes the man who hurts women, and she becomes the woman dependent on a man for her sense of well-being, which in the end hurts men. In addition we hurt ourselves when we are in this cycle.
Trying to meet our need or soothe our pain with a person on occasion will temporarily appear to have met the need. However, the need for approval or permission from anyone other than ourselves is an insatiable one. So the pursuit becomes an addictive one. Getting to a place where we can either embrace our manhood or womanhood is an inside job that requires us to dig deep and explore our beliefs around masculinity and femininity.
I don’t presume to have it all figured out, the topic is vast, as well as the implications of holding the belief of needing others for approval and permission. I can’t help but wonder how much we mature emotionally if at all around our manhood and womanhood when we have never given ourselves permission to be in it fully. Or that on some level we view masculinity and femininity with shame that has been misplaced and was never ours to begin with. The fact that this behavior alone keeps us from the love and acceptance we all need to thrive is not lost on me and it is this awakening that cracked my heart open upon hearing this discussion.
I am viewing everything through a difference lens today. People, behavior, relationships, family, experiences; all of it and I do so with greater compassion and understanding, with a heart and mind more open than before and for today, without the need of permission or approval.
There are many gifts in the conversation that sparked this written piece. I am only scratching the surface where they delve deeper and examine more closely. If you are exploring masculinity and what it means to you, the integration of the masculine and feminine, and want to surround yourself with like-minded individuals in various stages of the same journey, check out Masculinity: A New Story (can we embed this link in the words Masculinity: A New Story https://thesacredmasculine.net ). I do not gain anything by you doing so; I simply enjoy sharing the things that inspire, encourage and enrich my life with others.
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