As I’ve been writing, there’s one common theme in the feedback. Both men and women have responded (mostly with kindness) with questions, agreement, encouragement. Many have shared how they have personally been encouraged or found a sense of commonality in these stories of mine. What’s also been interesting is another common thread of feedback.
The Man Problem.
I’ve heard a lot of comments about men not being bold enough, emotionally intelligent enough, chivalrous enough or too chivalrous. Men who are looking for perfect women and therefore won’t date less than a 10. Now, despite all this, I don’t believe that men are solely to blame for a lack of emotional intimacy. Or conversely, that it’s the men I’ve known who should have made me feel accepted and beautiful, or paid attention to all the reasons why I’m a great catch. (These are other people’s words, you know?)
Some of the most emotionally aware and grounded people I know are men. In fact, it’s a point of pride for my trainer, that I can share some of my deepest thoughts and feelings with him. They are teachers, artists, scientists, single, married, fathers, gay, straight. So it’s not ok for our culture to perpetuate the stereotype of the emotionally unengaged and purely sexually motivated man.
*This article is part of a series; I recommend reading Part One: A Modern Virgin, Part Two: What I Learned About Sex From An Older Man, Part Three: Trying To Lose My Virginity, Part Four: Real Intimacy, Behind The Wall and Part Five: Good Sex, The Virgin And The Church first. I’m welcoming feedback and contributions so please email me here.
I’m not going to bother with the disclaimers, exceptions and proof points on this one, ok? There are always times and places where any theory could be disproved for a moment, but for today we’re going ahead here – with what men actually deserve from women, regardless of romance or platonic, business or personal relationships, gay or straight.
What Men Deserve From Women.
This is bigger and deeper than who should pick up the bill for dinner, who should call first or who should woo who. It’s also not about men or women being perfect, we are all fairly complex creatures of our own right. This is about how to honour, build and sometimes restore identity and personhood.
- A chance to be themselves.
Emotionally charged, relationally wired, buttoned down or casual as a goose. As much as women have fought for the right to pursue any kind of identity they want (largely through feminism), men too, are entitled to this pursuit of identity and discovery. Feminism largely discounts that the male gender roles are stereotypes of their own, that men have been cast into for centuries. We are not the only ones who need time and space to get this sorted out.
- A little humility from women.
Another cultural stereotype is that women naturally excel at emotional intimacy. This is untrue. Each of our stories is so unique that we all learn and express emotions in our own way. Just because women can and will frequently talk about what we feel, it does not mean we are skilled at sharing why we feel that way nor growing through sharing those feelings. We do not have the market sewn up on this. This ties into a broader social idea that women are usually right. We joke about it, but often women have to be right, because we are more and more responsible for ourselves for longer periods of time. We don’t have to submit that self-control and responsibility any more, but we are rarely meant to live completely isolated from other supportive relationships either. We are not meant to always be right.
Respect of our differences. Respect for space, both mental and physical. Respect that we as women, are not always right. Respect for another person allows room for that. If no one else can ever be right, I’m not sure you really respect anyone. There is a difference between compassion for one another and negotiating between each other. Compassion enables one person to recognize and then serve the needs of another. Negotiation is usually compromise under duress. One is an act of love that seeks out benefit and goodness for another person. Hint: It’s compassion. It’s also important not to confuse compassion for pity, which is the most opposite perspective to respect.
- Patience while you learn each other’s language.
If sex (real sex with emotional intimacy and everything) is a language you have to learn, then patience is going to be required. It’s a generalisation but often it can take men longer to process and then communicate emotions, where they are coming from and what they want to do with them. Women need to be patient with men while they express themselves. Hint: Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to use that extra patience time to choose your own words and actions well.
- Love without sexual power and manipulation.
I don’t believe that sex and power should be traded inside or outside of the bedroom, but many wives (particularly in Church communities) have been raised with this as an acceptable negotiating technique. When society often tells men or expects them to be ruled by their sexual desire, it infers that their sexual desire is actually their weakness. Let me be clear, I’m not saying that control and submission bedroom games are off the table – what I’m saying is that using sex to control or dominate another person’s identity, personhood or sense of self is destructive and unhealthy. The other stuff is just sometimes fun, or so I’ve been told.
- A clean slate and an empty duffel bag.
This is generally good practice in any intimate relationship. Don’t fill up the duffel bag and carry around every mistake, grudge or argument you’ve ever had, just waiting for a chance to empty it out again. Whether you’re a mother and daughter or in a relationship, you have to give each other a chance to move on from the past and into new ways of being. If you hold on to every old thing, you’ll never have a change to start fresh. Women tend to hold on to emotional trauma just close enough to the surface to bring it out fresh each time. If this is a struggle, it’s honestly worth talking to a professional about as it will impact every part of your life eventually. Positive people don’t carry around negative baggage.
- A chance to be new.
In addition to not carrying around a duffel bag of history, you also need to give men a chance to be something different than the stereotype. Something new from what you’ve met before. Which relates closely to Number 8.
- A chance to be unique.
We live in a world full of complex, messy relationships and humans love to categorize. Think about it. Yes, we love to categorize. It makes all information easier for us to process. But categorization leads to stereotyping, which is the death of modern man (and woman). A stereotype depicts a certain way of being. A stereotype or ‘ideal’ man can create real crisis for someone who feels unable to live up to the ideal or the standard. Similarly, we can miss understanding and seeing the unique person beneath a stereotype or an idea of who they are based on assumptions and best guesses. A chance to be unique and to define your own relationship with a man is a precious gift to him and yourself.
What Do Women Deserve From Men?
Many of the same things I suspect. But seeing as I wrote this list based on what I wish women did, it’s hard to say the same from a man’s perspective. Maybe someone out there has an idea they want to contribute? Email it in or comment.
What I know, is that as we search for great sex and great relationships, there are core principles of how we treat one another, listen to one another and provide space for learning and encouraging one another that need paying attention to.
We’re getting close to the end for now, just some thoughts on managing your own sexuality, what a new social construct might look like.. and of course, the big question – to wait or not to wait? Subscribe to not miss out.