Here in the wake of so many thoughts and feelings about Caitlyn Jenner when so many of us are having bold new thoughts about the way we feel or daring to feel new things about the way we think, I’d like to revisit some of my feelings and thoughts about Manthink and Womanthink. I’ve mentioned before the need for a Man’s Liberation Revolution, and if I could be the one to start it I think I would start with this: Let’s teach our men and boys to separate thoughts from feelings. Let’s stop dictating to our boys what and how they should feel and simply honor their authentic feelings. Let’s stop dragging their hearts around.
My daughter, home from her first year of college, asked me about a friend of her’s the same age who is already looking forward to marrying and settling down. Why would a guy want that so early?
The answer is that lots of men confuse a Wife with a Life. (And not all of them young men, either) Many men somehow grow up thinking that once they can claim someone as “My Wife” she will take charge, build and operate a life – that he can then look to with pride as his Own Life.
This tempting illusion is made worse by the fact that men have a sex drive that simply comes on like clockwork at regular intervals. They mistakenly assume that a woman’s sex drive simply goes “On” at regular intervals too. So, marriage to My Wife means that she will want to have sex with him regularly.
Anyone can see how enticing it would be for a man to lasso a gal into marriage. Once he has someone to call My Wife, he supposes she will build and maintain A Life that he can be part of without any additional effort. She will seek him out for sex without him having to work at seduction. He can put his feet up and coast from there on out! What a huge disappointment The Life with The Wife will turn out to be when he is rudely awakened from this mythological fantasy.
Men in Western society have had a nasty trick played on them since birth that teaches them that their feelings are not valid. Boys often get punished for expressing genuine feelings. Then they are told in clear, black and white terms what they SHOULD feel in given situations. When they go to school or join sports teams, their peers reinforce these unrealistic standards, punishing boys for showing honest feelings and rewarding them for faking other feelings. Its no wonder they should want to have this magical creature called a Wife who will simply take over all the sticky situations that call for negotiating feelings and just let them avoid feelings altogether.
But such a creature doesn’t exist. Men usually find this out the hard way. They think they have WON the game when they’ve made some lady The Wife. Then they wake up to find they only signed up for a new JOB. There is no magical sex at regular intervals, sex has to be earned daily. That ‘take charge attitude’ they thought would mean she could organize all the messy parts of life? Its now pointed at taking charge of him and everything he does. And that lovely construct they called My Life? Evaporates when The Wife files for divorce, leaves, and takes the whole Life with her.
The sad part of this myth is that if you do what ‘they’ say you must and feel what ‘they’ say you should to win? Everyone loses. Men don’t get what they’re after and neither do the women. But you know what’s even sadder? Real happiness is actually much, much easier. And everyone wins.
For example, when a woman says she wants her man to “take care of her” the Good Husband is trained to think he has to work himself to death making lots of money to fulfil her every whim. But what she really means is she wants him to stand up for her feelings and her support her dreams. That’s a lot more fun, too. Real women who really love YOU want to contribute equally as a team player. She doesn’t want to have to sell her soul to an awful boss to keep her children fed, but she does want to contribute. Acknowledging her skills and strengths and calculating a tangible value for what she does within the home as well as out is one step in that team oriented direction.
When she thinks, “take care of me” she doesn’t mean you starting a fight when someone insults or demeans her. It means you putting your arm around her on the spot and saying, “You don’t have to take this, let’s go!” It means you ASKING her about her dreams and goals, and making it your goal to help her realize them. Honestly, when women say “take care of me” they really want to be protected and cared for emotionally. Haven’t you seen all the movies where the man becomes “married to his job” and ends up alone? Money is only a small part of security, and it’s a part that can and should be open to negotiations.
Here’s another common misunderstanding. When a woman says she needs to be able to trust, men usually think that means sharing a Facebook page or email passwords. Such a recipe for misunderstanding and lack of privacy is a disaster waiting to happen. But when men hear “I can’t trust you” they think of sexual infidelity. They think trust is about who you’re having sex with. But what a real woman means is she needs to be able to depend on you saying what you mean and meaning what you say. If you are stretching the truth, or making promises you don’t back up with action, there can be no trust. If you are saying what you mean and backing it up, she can extrapolate the data for herself and KNOW whether you are emotionally and sexually her’s…or not.
I’ve known plenty of people who have ruined the best relationship of their life because they were determined to FEEL what some cultural conditioning said they SHOULD feel. It usually starts with something that goes, “I have a right to feel__________!” or “Anyone in my situation would feel ________.” Then you ask a dozen friends and strangers how they would feel “if…” Usually the individual goes on to ruin his relationship with feelings of jealousy, hurt, anger, rejection – or any number of publicly condoned feelings that spell a death sentence to REAL trust or REAL intimacy.
Real intimacy is built ONLY of real feelings. Real trust is only ever founded on real actions, backed up by real words and truths. If men get their real feelings beaten out of them and instead accept false feelings, they have absolutely no possibility of ever having real intimacy, or real marriage, or a real life. If women let it happen they will have absolutely no possibility of ever finding real trust, real love or a real man. Begin to be your authentic self. Begin to accept authenticity, and ONLY authenticity in others. (Including the children!) Your world will be a better place.
Here’s an exercise in personal authenticity:
Set aside all the things your parents, your peers, your culture, and your society says you “should” feel. What’s left? That is what you honestly feel. If there is nothing left? CHOOSE to feel what is most beneficial all round.
Example: Your partner has an affair. You “SHOULD” feel: anger, jealousy, eternal mistrust, pain. You might then spend the rest of your life seeking vengeance, holding a grudge or extracting a price, or nursing your wounds. This is what ‘they’ approve and condone. Let me know when that starts to sound like fun or happiness, k?
OR you could set all that aside and see what you really feel. You may find that your only authentic feelings are those of loneliness. Then you can take action to solve whatever lack of real intimacy led your partner to seek out someone else. This is what couples counseling is for. Or you may find you actually feel glad. Perhaps the lack of intimacy goes too deep and you actually want to find someone you can build real trust with. You may even be happy that your partner found someone else. Or maybe if you’re really honest you may find a 3-way marriage actually feels more fulfilling, who knows?
If you have felt what “they” said you “should” for so long that you cannot actually identify your true feelings? Don’t worry. Mastering the human emotional experience is THE major challenge of life. You can actually choose to feel what serves you best.
For example, after my divorce, my Ex would often come to my house to talk and vent about his day. Frequently, he would get around to blaming all his present problems on me. I knew “anyone” would feel resentment. I knew “they” would condone my anger. But I decided to ask myself one simple question, “What good will it do you to argue with this man, in front of his children?” I realized no good could come of it. So I chose to feel compassion and pity. Obviously, he had no one else to vent his day to (compassion) and lacked the sound reasoning ability to find the true cause of his problems (pity). I found that simply letting him vent without feedback from me meant he would leave sooner. That was the action that served me best, so that is what I chose to feel.
If Caitlyn Jenner had not been badgered into feeling a bunch of SHOULDS as a “He” she might have transitioned earlier. I wholeheartedly applaud Caitlyn Jenner and all her family, friends and loved ones. Most trans and non-binary people will never have the means to transform our physical form to match who we authentically are inside. But all of us can begin to feel our own authentic feelings and think our own unique thoughts. And we can stop pretending to feel and forcing others to feel, what we never really felt in the first place. Maybe we won’t even want to change our bodies if we can reclaim our hearts and our minds.