During the last one hundred years we have seen a dramatic reinvention of the role of both men and women. It is hard to believe, but in 1914 women still didn’t have the right to vote, because everybody (men and women) agreed that women didn’t have the intelligence to make political choices. No-one today, at least in the Western world, would ever make such a suggestion.
Today we live in a completely different world, where women have been able to claim their place as judges, politicians, police, doctors, and ministers. And beyond that, many women have also recognized that the ground rules for most of these fields were invented by men. Women today are able to take a fresh look, and to see what economics, or politics, or spiritual practice, might look like when approached from a more feminine perspective.
While the evolution of women’s role in society, and her liberation from old stereotypes, is clear, men have also changed. The evolution of masculinity is just as real, but not quite as obvious. There have been a variety of reactions in men to the liberation and empowerment of the feminine heart. One, of course, is digging deeper into the old and worn out macho identity. Some men go to war with feminism, and long to take things back to the way things were in the 1950’s and before. Another reaction in some men is to become overly feminine themselves. This is the man who becomes soft, caring and gentle. As a man, he then has little to offer a woman besides becoming another of her girlfriends. Yet another reaction is disorientation: a man deeply wants to respect woman’s new freedom and full self expression, but then awkwardly shuffles on the dance floor, no longer confident of the tempo and the steps of the dance.
Before we go any further, let’s acknowledge that this is a very touchy subject. There is perhaps nothing we become so identified with as our sense of gender identity. We don’t want it messed with. So it is very easy to take offense when anyone makes any suggestions for how to modify the dance. Please take all that follows with many large packages of salt, then take what helps and feel free to reject the rest.
In the last months I have been researching and writing a book about the celebration of the new masculinity, titled “Conscious Men,” with my friend John Gray, the world renowned author of the “Men Are Mars, Women Are From Venus” books. A Conscious Man is one who brings some awareness and creativity to his masculinity: it is no longer a knee-jerk automatic re-enactment of genetic conditioning, nor a reaction against it, but a humorous and conscious gift to himself, to women, and to the world. In our research the most common question women asked was “Where can I find myself a Conscious Man?”
While most women now have little attraction for the old macho stereotype, still there are gifts she longs for from the masculine, albeit in a most conscious and creative form. I am going to offer you here several tips for how to attract a more conscious man, and how to bring forth more conscious masculine qualities in a man if you are already are in a relationship.
These guidelines are primarily written for a heterosexual woman in an intimate relationship with a man, or wanting to be in one, because those were the most frequent questions that came to John and myself. But wether you are gay or straight, wether you are relating to your grandson or grandfather, or co-worker, or friend, or brother, they may come in handy anyway. Men and women have different bodies, and a different balance of hormones that neutralize stress and bring each back into balance. Whatever your age, sexual orientation or political persuasion, men and women react differently to the same stimuli.
#1 Support him to take space.
A man can more easily be fully present with a woman when he has adequate time to to recharge his batteries and go inward. Any man who has a daily practice of meditation, chi kung or any other discipline, or even a man who takes the time to regularly go fishing, will almost certainly have greater gifts to offer a woman. We have discovered that many men actually don’t know how to take space gracefully. They either stay connected longer than is comfortable, or they withdraw in a way that is hurtful. When you see that a man is starting to pull back and needing time for himself, celebrate it. It will later become a catalyst for your connection. A man who takes time to go inward will likely be a good mate.
#2 Applaud his sense of mission and purpose.
If you will indulge me to speak in sweeping stereotypes for a moment, the feminine aspect (in all of us) becomes more identified with beauty and radiance, while the masculine (also in all of us) is more identified with purpose and accomplishment. When a man achieves things, whether at work, fixing things around the house, making plans, or completing his taxes, celebrate him: recognize this is much more key to his sense of identity than it would be for a woman. In a relationship, if he stays late at work to get the job done, it is tempting to think that he has taken something away from you. It may well be that by fully giving his gifts to the world, he has much more to give to you. The more he is of service in a purposeful way, the more he can also be present with you.
#3 Be happy and sometimes yield when he takes leadership.
Let a man sweep you off your feet. The greatest challenge that most men face today, as gender roles have been reorganized, is how he can fully give to a woman. His old role as provider and protector has been eroded through changes in the work place, and he is left at a loss for how to show his love in a meaningful way. When a man takes initiative by planning a nice date, or making plans of any kind, see if you can, as a deliberate practice, allow yourself to yield and surrender. Let him pay the bill, let him open the car door; give him an opportunity to give to you through his doing. You will still be the boss or the kick-ass lawyer at work the next day.
# 4- Let him make you laugh.
When we surveyed thousands of women about what they most appreciated as the gifts of conscious masculinity, the quality that came at the top of the list was his sense of humor. (Of course the worst thing that you can do in an article like this is to offer a serious analysis about humor, but scr*w it, I’m going to do it any way.) Once again, if you will indulge me to speak in stereotypes for a moment, the feminine in all of us has a greater capacity to enter freely into feelings. The masculine in all of us on the other hand, has a greater capacity to expand beyond feelings and to see the bigger picture, and hence to see the absurdity in our small lives. If you find a man who can feel deeply with you, but also who can bring humor to expand beyond the story, that is a man worth keeping.
#5 – Let him love in his own way.
Often women want to encourage men to talk about their feelings, which honestly doesn’t come naturally to us. This then becomes a Catch 22. If he can’t talk about his feelings, a woman may see him as inadequate, and needing professional help. If he suddenly breaks through the barrier and begins to gush emotionally, she may easily feel that she has ended up with another girlfriend and lost male presence. Let him show his love for you through building something, through fixing something, through small actions and offerings, rather than through deep sharing over a box of tissues.
# 6 – Value his sense of presence.
We have all heard the old adage of the “Strong Silent Type.” It got to be a much quoted adage for a reason. A man who holds presence with you, looks you in your eyes without looking away, who can show up for your feelings without trying to fix them is a man you can trust. Take a moment to notice how it feels in your body to be with a man who is still and centered with you. In a relationship, if you notice a feeling of trust and security in your belly, make sure to tell him, in a simple statement like “I can really feel you right now,” or “I feel heard and that feels really good.” This will let him know that you can trust him when he is just being there. In the same way, whenever he keeps his words, does what he said he would do, make sure that you verbalize your feeling of trust and safety as much (or more than) you might verbalize your frustration when he is flaky.
Please have fun and play with this. There are no rules, you are the star and director and the screenwriter of your own Oscar winning movie. Live as feels graceful and intelligent to you. These tips would definitely be a big help if you were married to me, as a random run-of-the-mill kind of a guy. They might come in handy in your search for a fella worthy of your heart and hand, or with the man you are already sharing your life with.