As the #MeToo movement continues, more and more men—particularly straight men—are struggling with their pasts and how they’ve treated women. There’s an abundance of guilt, defensiveness, self-righteousness, fear, and shame. So many men feel there’s nothing to “do” so they’re stuck.
Too many of us are reacting to the #MeToo movement in stereotypically masculine ways: try to fix it and avoid our feelings. However, there may not be a lot for us to “do” right now, and we need to get better at not “doing” because “doing” quickly becomes taking over.
This is a time for reflection. A time for us to look back over our lives and consider how we’ve interacted with women in all different spheres of life, not just dating.
Thinking back, did you treat the women you worked with differently than the men? Words of affection or “kidding around” that had a flirty bent to it where in hindsight you can see the inappropriateness of this? Do you recall times you spent “pushing the envelope” on dates which you hoped would lead to sex?
If you were to take stock of your behavior with the women in your life are you aware of times when you were less the man you want to be? Don’t avoid this—try to view much of it from her perspective. Does that change anything for you?
Sit With It
At this point, you may be feeling slightly—or more than slightly—uncomfortable. It’s at this point that you’ll be aware of the ways you manage discomfort.
Is your first response to get defensive, to explain why you’re a “good guy”? Is it to immediately blame yourself and think about how horrible you are? None of these are ultimately very helpful. However, you need to be aware of your defensive structure and to know that that is all it is: a defense.
It’s not the end of the story. As much as you’ll probably start feeling a need to get rid of this feeling by Action, I’m suggesting that you don’t take any actions. You just sit with it. Sit with the discomfort. The shame. The righteousness. The sadness. Whatever it is.
Allow yourself to experience how you did not live up to who you want to be in the world. That you may be someone that caused fear or discomfort in a woman—possibly a woman whom you liked a lot or considered a friend or a possible relationship partner.
The next step is to examine your intentions. Remember, intentions don’t mitigate the impact, of course. Instead, they can lead you to understand why you acted in the way you did. What messages were you following? Was there a part of you that questioned what you were doing at the time?
In moving forward, it’s important to note that you may be shifting some of the underlying ways of being that you’ve brought to relationships and interactions.
Are you open to doing that? Are you willing to let go of how you date and consider that what you’ve tried in the past may need to change? You may need to open yourself up to be more vulnerable earlier on. You may need to shift your assumptions. You may need to reconsider how and where you flirt.
You may have less sex.
However, you may open yourself up to a more equal relationship. You may feel more awkward. You may stumble and “miss opportunities.”
So if you want to “do” something, are you willing to do this?
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