“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is. But neither arrest nor movement. Except for the point, the still point…There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.” T. S Eliot
I have found myself using the word “mansplain” a bit too often lately. Wikipedia defines it as: “(of a man) explain (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing”
But the Urban Dictionary definition is: “A sexist slur created by feminists to invalidate someone’s opinion based on their gender”.
Either way, men and women are missing each other in a big way, so I have decided not to use that word to splain anything. In fact, I am done splaining, and keep asking myself what I am doing to contribute to the breakdown, and what I can do to create bridges and portals to the field beyond right and wrong.
This is not the time for any of us to lose hope that the great chasm can be bridged—in another dimension—through the language of the heart.
Indeed, the positive change often begins when a woman claims her sovereignty in a relationship. The power of the feminine is unstoppable. Women must stop seeking from men what they can only give themselves, and most men don’t treat a woman like a Queen if she is acting like a martyr or a nag.
Simply getting her partner to understand her feelings is not enough. Instead, she needs to put her energy into becoming the woman who inspires him to show up as he man she longs for. If he doesn’t, she is clear that this is his issue, and she must come to terms with that reality in her own way.
I have seen a woman remain stuck in a totally unhealthy relationship trying to get her man to change, in part because she knows that she is not her best. When she becomes the Queen, she knows what to do. A Queen can both be benevolent, and say “off with your head,” as the situation requires.
That may sound like an undo burden on women. In truth, it is, but we are collectively in the process of uncovering and working through conflict and discovering new paths at this time. Most women don’t complain that they are the ones who must carry and birth babies, because just as we don’t usually complain about gravity, we tend not to complain about what we can do nothing about.
Research shows that men and women make an equivalent number of complaints, but that they used complaints for different reasons. Women were more likely than men to use complaints as an indirect request for action, while men were more likely to use complaints to excuse behavior or to make themselves seem superior (the mansplaining I have decided not to focus on!).
The truth is, women often tell men what they think, how they feel, and what they are capable of, and it is one of the most toxic traits a woman brings to the table—and is not the least bit relational.
I once offered an all-day event for couples, and began by having the women sit inside the “fish bowl” while the men silently observed. The women were simply to introduce themselves and share why they were at the event. Not much of great note happened with the women, but when the men were alone and the women could not interrupt, magic happened. The women were astounded that they were hearing things they had no idea their men were thinking or feeling. The men took more risks and went deeper.
I realize this is not a research study sample, but it taught me something significant about the fear men often have of being overpowered by women in the relationship department.
Men often feel deeply and express very little of that depth with their partners, when in truth, having the courage to do that is essential if men and women are to find their common ground. It requires more of the King energy in a man, and less of the Warrior, on both sides.
It is true that women have played a more relational role throughout history, and have developed that capacity, as men have developed other abilities that women have not. We must not forget the fact that Jesus, Buddha, Rumi, the Dalai Lama and many other good and heartfelt men have walked the face of this earth. The list is exhaustive. Some of them may not even have been relational, but they brought bright gifts to the planet. And the good news is that where we place our attention, we begin to manifest.
Men are perfectly capable of being highly relational beings, and there is a powerful movement of men leaning in that direction, while maintaining their masculinity. Relationality (defined as: living in relation to others in recognition of an interconnectedness with others. It means, in our interactions with others, being engaged, centered, grounded, clear, generous, humble and kind.) and masculinity are not mutually exclusive.
What are the choices men have? A man can cave in and give up his power, which I often observe as a man literally slouches, feeling defeated, not good enough. No woman can depend on him because he is too depressed. He is not strong. He blames her for everything and is convinced she is the reason he feels the way he does. In such a relationship, a woman cannot lean in and be her feminine self, and gets bitchier and bitchier if she does not hold onto herself and transcend the urge to be a nag.
Instead of caving, a man can resist, and such a man will fight his woman as if his life depended on it. He may become cold and punishing through withdrawal and pouting, or burst into a rage and become a bully. These men scare women. Some men do both, like Eddie, who said in the first session, when he was still playing out his minion role, “As soon as she starts telling me what to do, I put my balls in the closet and just go along.”
I asked him how long that lasted, and he smiled, “Not long. Then I rise up and let her know who’s boss.” The tirade of blame that follows is what Terrence Real calls “offending from the victim’s position.” When a man finds himself sulking grabbing or raging and also expects a woman to want him, he is quite delusional. It doesn’t work this way.
The trance-ending choice for a man is not to cave in or to resist, but to remain fully present, no matter how a woman is going about her attempt to reach him. He must show up as his best self, whether she is complaining or criticizing or not. And women do. They complain that men are not more attuned, more tender, more strong and grounded and dependable, more interesting, more passionate… the list goes on.
I have witnessed so often that a woman cannot really handle it when her man breaks down and cries, and reveals his tender underbelly, just as he thought she said she wanted. It is confusing for a man, who just wants to know exactly what to do so that his partner is happy, and it’s confusing for women, because he does not want to be told what to do. Women need to learn how to make strong requests, and men need to learn to respond from a sovereign and loving place.
We are in the midst of a sea change when it comes to men and women, and it is far from over. Women have been resisting the cultural norms for nearly a century, while many men are still in the trance of unconscious privilege of being male that has been part of humanity’s history.
I am not making excuses for men. What I do know is that almost every woman I know wants a man she can lean into, so that she can allow the softer part of her to come forth. Even when she is angry, she wants him to be like a tree, and not run away, but to plant his roots inside the ground of their relationship, until she can find her way back to him. She must be willing to so the same for him, and he must be willing to risk being that vulnerable. Each must be willing to center in their own still point, which is in the heart.
It is an exquisitely orchestrated dance, and the choreographer is love itself!