My relationship with women – a man’s perspective
My relationship with women – a man’s perspective
Over the past century, women in western society have made huge inroads into the issue of gender equality. Whilst one could argue they still have quite a way to go before they are truly seen as equal, the rise of feminism has at least given women and society the opportunity to really explore who women are and what they bring to the world.
Men on the other hand, have not necessarily been forced to be as reflective, nor find reason to challenge their ways or their role in the world – at least not publicly in the same way women have had to – and this is much to their detriment. As women have claimed back for themselves many of the pillars that once defined masculinity, men who do take time to question who they are in a rapidly changing world find they have little foundation to truly draw upon. Andy S. spent his life rejecting the stereotypical image of a man most of us are sold, and with good reason. However, in time he realised that who he had become was not exactly embracing true manhood either, and got him thinking if there even is such a thing. This is his story…
Recently I have been uncovering something that feels very ingrained in our societies in the way that men and women relate. I have been discovering that for most of my life I have been holding back from expressing myself fully with women, out of reaction to the way I have witnessed men treating and behaving towards women.
I grew up with women who constantly blamed men for all the problems in the world. As a result I took on a belief that because I was born a man I was personally responsible for everything that was bad in the world and there was nothing I could do to change it or rectify it. Clearly there were a lot of men in the world acting atrociously and I began to feel incredibly guilty about it all. By reacting to and recoiling from the battleground of the sexes, I allowed myself to become some kind of apologist for men, caught in a trap of constantly justifying my gender and the behaviour of myself and my fellow men.
As a consequence of this, I constantly strove to be a ‘harmless man’ out of fear and guilt of harming or disrespecting women.
An unfortunate consequence of this ‘harmless man’ approach was that I also became ‘insignificant, invisible and indecisive' and generally almost asexual in that I fell for the belief that I was harmful or a danger to society simply because I was a man and that in order to be harmless I had to renounce my manhood along the way. This straitjacket that I applied to myself and my expression felt very controlling and managed and created a layer of protection and guard around myself that made it very difficult for anyone in my life to get close to me or find out who I really was.
I can remember when I was young also feeling the preciousness, sacredness, stillness, delicacy and beauty of women and how precious and amazing this was, and really knowing it was something to be treasured and honoured.
However I also became confused by the fact that all of the women I met did not honour or treasure these qualities in themselves or each other. I also could not understand why so many men (and women) disrespected or abused women in many ways.
In recent years I have encountered a group of women who are truly seeking to change this and are beginning to really value and treasure the qualities of being a true woman in the world; it has been very healing for me to witness women claiming back their true essence.
I have begun to realise that these beliefs I have had around manhood and women are simply not true. Firstly, it has become clear to me that the ‘harmless man’ is really not harmless. A man who controls his behaviour and renounces his manhood in this way is actually no better than the man who unashamedly feels entitled to disrespect or abuse women.
Secondly, if as men we do not develop and investigate and connect with what it means to be a true man and if we hide ourselves and our sexuality from the world, are we not equally harming women by inadvertently condoning the overt abuse that goes on? By not bringing or expressing the true essence of a man we allow other warped versions of being a man to dominate.
There is a general attitude or consciousness that prevails currently in the world that allows widespread abuse and mistreatment of women in many forms. If as men we do not actively participate or engage in the more obvious forms of abuse, but hold back from being the men we can be with women, are we not still contributing to this general attitude?
Many times in my life I have been accused by women of not being strong enough, decisive enough, confident enough or manly enough, all based on some ideal we get fed about what a confident sexy man is. Role models such as James Bond and others constantly feed us this narrative that a true sexy man is one who is confident, decisive, physically strong and able and always the one in control or in command of any situation or relationship.
Women too have played along with these images and stories about what a true man is. Some go for the alpha male ‘I’ll take care of everything as long as you don’t try to be my equal’ types and some go for the ‘pathetic yes men’ who allow the women to dominate and rule the relationship.
Both of these images or stereotypes of men are not who men truly are and so why do we try to squeeze ourselves into one of these ways of being? Can we become honest about how it really feels to find ourselves falling short of meeting the expectations that both of these models demand of us?
The women who have criticised me in the past all had a point though. What they could sense was my withdrawal – they were wanting to feel me and connect with me as a man and were wondering where the man in me had disappeared to and why.
I am now starting to realise and feel what true confidence is in a man and therefore bringing the true sexy man back into my life. I have discovered that there is a connection, consistency and presence I can hold in my body where I feel completely at ease in my body with no anxiety or fear. I am able to observe, read and understand situations fully and not hesitate in expressing my response without doubt, fear or justification, but with a claimed authority of what I feel is my truth at that moment. There is an assured and holding presence in my movements wherever I am.
This authority is not imposing or superior in any way but very holding, caring, loving and honouring of all others. There is a playfulness, tenderness and joy that also comes from this way of expressing. It is the essence of a true man.
This I am discovering and still exploring as well as understanding that this way of expressing can be present in all my relationships with both men and women. However it is particularly in my relationships with women that I have noticed a big shift and I can feel how supported women feel when I claim my true expression as a man. They also feel at ease and more free to express themselves as women without imposition or games being played.
So what I have learned from this is that when men choose to express who they are without the usual games or pretences or roles, and allow themselves to be truly seen, this empowers both sexes to live free of the cycle of abuse, mistrust and blame between the genders that has plagued us for thousands of years.