[Note: this article is also available as a pocast here]
“Men and women have searched for each other for generations and always missed one another” – Dieter Duhm
Preamble (July 2019)
This article is already 3 years old, having been previously published as a pamphlet. To be quite honest I am afraid of keeping it, as its reception has been very mixed. Some people have found it very interesting and even transformational, others have told me it is too adversarial and even pedantic (ouch). I have also had some heated debates about this with my ultra-feminist sister (who incidentally is quoted in the text as a case-study). So I want to give you a heads-up of what you are getting into here (perhaps you will hate me less for this, LOL).
To begin, if you haven’t read (or listened) to my article / podcast Online Dating and the Man/Woman Game: My Story (or else the even shorter I have a dream), I suggest you do this first. These articles are shorter and more personal. The “What Women Want” article below, by contrast, is a more complex article that summarizes my own ideas, my 20 years of research into sexual polarity and man/woman psychology. This research includes more romantic disasters than I care to admit, plus a 9-year marriage with Rebekah Beneteau, who is now my best friend and business partner (so perhaps I have learned a few things along the way).
Despite the controversial nature of this article, and some of the “heat” that I have taken personally about it, I stand by my ideas below, and I want to say why. The essence of the conversation that I had with my sister about this, was her idea that by accepting the reality of genetically-based gender differences and engaging in a conversation about it, we justify and defend men’s aggression, sexual and otherwise. And while I understand this, my argument is the opposite. I present it below and also in shorter form in the Online Dating and the Man/Woman Game article. We simply cannot solve this problem of the relations between the sexes, including the associated problem of patriarchy and all the evil that has derived from that and continues to this day, by blaming men and demanding that they change. We have tried that and it hasn’t worked. Feminism has done much good in educating men about women’s emotional and sexual reality under patriarchy, but what many women don’t realize, is that men suffer under patriarchy as much as women do. Patriarchy is essentially a pyramid where the top 10% of men, along with their female allies, benefit. The 90% of men who are NOT at the top, are now suffering not just from patriarchy, but from this cultural meme of men-bashing, and the tyrannical holding of the conversation. This is a very sad situation for everyone, because it precludes what I see as the only real and practical solution, which is emotional healing and reconciliation leading to a lot more good sexual loving.
Thus, I am letting this article stand, while fully acknowledging the radical nature of the solution that I am proposing, which is to end patriarchy through more good sexual loving. We need to begin this process, of course, by waking up to our essential nature, to the fact that Western culture has us majorly duped about the nature of our humanity and the cornerstones (or causes) of authentic happiness and real success. My thesis is that for most people, good sexual loving has more impact on happiness than any other single factor. Martin Seligman’s research on Positive Psychology, incidentally, confirms this by naming the three strongest predictors of happiness: “marriage” (or sexual partnership), community, and faith. I expand on this idea in my article I have a Dream: the social-political context of love and sex
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this, and that it challenges your ideas of what it takes to relate successfully to the opposite sex. Ultimately that is my goal. I am not interested in mere philosophy or evolutionary biology science. What I want is to see men and women getting along better.
This paper is an attempt to redefine the concepts as “masculine” and “feminine” not as gender roles, but as psychological archetypes that affect all human relationships whether we are aware of them or not. It extends David Deida’s ideas on sexual polarity into the realm of human loving: because if it is true, as per Deida, that people have a preferred sexual polarity; and if it is true, as per Jerry Jud, that “love is a response to need”, then masculine and feminine people have different needs and therefore must be loved differently.
Once the fundamental sexual polarity model is explained, the paper goes on to present actionable strategies for men and women to increase love and attraction with their partners. The ideas presented here are eminently practical and have the power to dramatically transform a person’s relationship to the opposite sex. These ideas also have the power to finally fulfill on the promises of feminism, but much faster and more pleasurably for everyone: that women should have the same respect and opportunities that men have; that women should not be subject to male violence; and that women should not be shamed for being sexual beings. The reason these ideas are so powerful is that they carry the potential, for maybe the first time in human history, for men and women to become full partners by truly understanding each other and connecting through their differences.
Note: this is the part of the article that may occur as overly polemic. If you have already accepted the idea that men and women are different, then you can probably fast-forward to the more actionable sections of this article, which immediately follow this. I think its important however to understand the cultural context of this conversation, so I am keeping this section.
The idea of personality or character attributes that are genetically linked to gender provokes all kinds of reactions in people. These reactions range from dismissal and denial (“We are beyond that now” or “young people don’t do that anymore”); to the notion that gender differences are not relevant to modern men and women; or that if they are, that they should not be, that we should try and get over it, and that the ongoing conversation perpetuates these stereotypes and the further victimization of women; to violent opposition. Many people don’t even want to hear about “masculine” and “feminine” traits, they feel that the terms have become meaningless and therefore should be avoided. Others admit that differences exist, but believe that they are entirely the result of social conditioning. Many people don’t want to be identified as either masculine or feminine, they feel these terms to be limiting, like a psychological prison. They want to live their lives beyond gender stereotypes.
“Good luck with that,” I say (living your life beyond masculine and feminine, as fundamental human psychological archetypes, as opposed to gender roles). And yet, of course this attitude is understandable given that for many centuries, purported gender differences were used as a tool for the oppression of women. Women were denied full participation in society, and their voices silenced, due to characteristics with which they were identified with at the time: weak, moody, overly emotional, irrational, hysterical, and sexually depraved. Gender stereotypes have led to great evil in the world. Naturally people are reluctant to engage in a conversation that seems, for many, a relic of a bygone time – and thank God for that, really, that at least the more outrageously oppressive aspects of this conversation are no longer happening.
At the same time, the belief which denies genetically-based personality or character differences between men and women has many unfortunate results. The first is that it is hardly believable. On any given day there will be more men watching football or playing competitive sports than women, and more women shopping or hanging out with their girlfriends then men. Of course, we cannot exclude the possibility that our cultural conditioning is so deep and pervasive that it predisposes men to enjoy watching football and women to enjoy hanging out with their girlfriends; but I would argue that the average person is aware of gender-based behavior and intuitively feels there is some reality to it that goes beyond social conditioning.
But even if it were true that many of our behaviors are culturally conditioned, the differences that are to be found in sexuality, in our sexual desires and relational needs, are even deeper. In fact, the sexual and relational variances are so apparent and so undeniable that commercial empires have been built attempting to teach men and women how to relate through these differences: John Gray and the “Mars and Venus” system, in particular. Quite a few Christian writers have also taken a crack at this (the Farrels among others). Some of this stuff is useful, and some of it might generate murderous thoughts in a feminist mind, or in any mind for that matter. There just does not seem to be any way of thinking and speaking about gender differences that does not provoke violent opposition from some quarter.
The easiest solution to this problem, let’s call it the path of least resistance, is simply to deny that anything of the sort exists, and to avoid the conversation altogether. We are fundamentally the same, this voice says. Let’s not rock the boat or upset anybody. We have more important problems to discuss.
I respectfully beg to disagree with the idea that the discussion of gender differences should be taken off the table. Because if it is true that we are actually different, and especially in our sexual and relational needs, this is a rather important conversation. Some people will avoid the topic by saying that what men and women have in common is really so much greater than what separates them. This may be so, but this idea mirrors, in a highly suspicious way, another aspect of our cultural oppression: “Sex is dirty – save it for someone you love” [Esther Perel]. Because this statement that what separates us is not that important, might be true, if sex were not important. In other words: saying that what we have in common is so much greater than what separates us, is not too different from saying that sex is either unimportant, or, at best, not really something that we, intelligent and evolved 21st century men and women, want to talk about in public. Meaning that: almost everyone is aware of significant gender differences around sexuality, differences in sexual response patterns and desires. It is very difficult in Western culture, as per Esther Perel, to have intelligent conversations about this. This may be in part why the “social-conditioning” theory is so prevalent. I personally, find it hardly believable that social conditioning can account for gender-based differences in our sexual desires and response patterns. This occurs to me as wishful thinking and extremely naïve.
But beyond all arguments and counter-arguments of the reality, importance and alleged causes of gender differences and sexual appetites, the general attitude appears to be, quite simply, this: that the world would be a much better place, the problem would be entirely solved, and men and women would get along just fine, first if women could be given the same respect, opportunities, and freedom that men have; and second, if men could become more like women, and particularly if men could gain more empathy. Let’s call this point of view, for the sake of argument, “feminism” – with the understanding that this is a ridiculous over-simplification of the vast body of feminist thought, and that feminists may differ among themselves. Nonetheless, it is a very common point of view, regardless of its source. I will spend a little time analyzing this belief, for a purpose that will become apparent very shortly.
No one can disagree that women should have the same respect, safety, and opportunities that men enjoy. But as for the second idea, that we would all be better off if men were more like women… let’s just say, that in theory, it sounds like an excellent idea. We would want the same things, and hence we would stop fighting! We would truly understand each other, finally, for the first time in human history! But we need to look at the actual results here.
Feminism has had many successes in giving women more respect, freedom and opportunity, although much work remains to be done. Feminism has, for the most part, failed to make men more like women, with some women blaming men for this as the cause of the slow and painful progress of women’s rights and real freedom. And feminism has spectacularly failed to make women happy in relationship. America – the country where feminism originated – has been declared to be “the loneliest country in the world” by Mother Teresa. A Kinsey Institute study, reported by Norm Schriever, shows that 52% of Americans are sexually dissatisfied and also that we have considerably less sex than many other countries. American women and American men’s anger towards each other is as high as it has ever been, and there has been a backlash from men which I, personally, find very unfortunate, as it simply compounds the problem and hardens the positions. None of this leads to love, let alone any good sexual loving.
So here is my proposal: let’s keep “feminism” – or whatever people imagine feminism to be – in the spheres where it works: business and politics, the workplace, the media and the law. But in terms of sexual relationships, let’s try something different — at least for those of us who are still angry, lonely or sexually frustrated, both men and women (which is 52% of us, at minimum). My proposal is conceptually simple and is best articulated by William Penn: “Let us see now what love can do”.
For this to happen, we would need to do the following:
- Reinvent the concepts of “masculine” and “feminine” as human psychological archetypes, sometimes described as “sexual polarity” – archetypes that have developed over millions of years and which are key to our genetic survival, which is one of our most primitive patterns – and then dissociate the concepts of masculine and feminine from the culturally-adopted gender traits that have resulted in the oppression of women in the past.
In other words: there is no such thing as a “going into the office” polarity. There is also no such thing as a “love” polarity, or an “empathy” polarity exactly. Love and empathy are cross-gender traits, but there are key differences which will be described in the next section. Masculine and Feminine are simply different styles of loving.
- Let’s imagine that sexual polarity is an individual preference, and to some degree fluid, as opposed to a prison sentence that is determined by your gender. Meaning that both men and women can occupy both polarities, and even alternate at different times throughout the day.
- And finally, let’s imagine that many people, and maybe most of them, have a preferred sexual polarity. A way of being in the world and with other people in which they will, in general, be happiest and most productive. And let’s further imagine that many (not all) women have a preferred feminine polarity and that many (not all) men have a preferred masculine polarity, terms which will be defined shortly. However, let’s accept that men are generally less fluid (more fixed) in their masculine polarity, than women are in their feminine polarity. This is a key distinction that carries enormous consequences for creating successful sexual relationships, which will be described shortly.
To anyone who would agree with these general tenets, I have some excellent news: The re-invention of masculine and feminine, the philosophical foundations of this new system, has already been done. Many people have participated in this re-invention, but foremost among them is American tantric master and sexual educator David Deida. I don’t believe everything that Deida says, I believe that he misses fundamental concepts, and I believe that applying his system rigorously is dangerous (which he would surely agree – there is no magic formula for men and women getting along). Nonetheless, his ideas on sexual polarity are both simple and brilliant, and have the potential to reframe and heal the entire conversation.
What we are envisioning here is an “include and transcend” of feminism, as per Ken Wilber’s ideas and Integral philosophy. These ideas actually have the power to finally complete the mission that feminism began (and which has been slow going and painful): that women should have equal respect and opportunity to men; that women should not be subject to male violence; and that women should not be shamed for being sexual beings. The reason these ideas are so powerful is that they have the potential, for perhaps the first time in human history, for men and women to become true partners. Women cannot by themselves end violence against women. They need men’s assistance: and not just any kind of assistance, but a deep and passionate and heartfelt assistance coming out of love and understanding. Women and men working together have the power to move mountains.
Indeed: ultimately these ideas have the power to end patriarchy – although that is likely many generations away. And finally, ending patriarchy will likely end all wars, as few women will agree to have their sons and daughters sent off to war, especially the mostly stupid and unnecessary wars of the last half of the 20th century.
This is a game worth playing. It may, indeed, be the most important game happening in the world today – as Dieter Duhm, among others, has pointed out: “Sexuality is the #1 super-power”.
And it can be a lot of fun, too. So let me describe this game.
Sexual Polarity according to David Deida
To recap, or set the context here: Deida’s fundamental idea is that masculine and feminine are psychological archetypes, which men and women both can occupy, but which can also shift throughout the day. I will describe the core characteristics of these archetypes now.
But before I do that, I want to mention Deida’s second, brilliant idea: that the deepest and most powerful sexual relationships – those relationships that are most loving and most transformative – tend to occur between two people who are consciously and maybe deliberately occupying opposite polarities. This is not a rule exactly – people have an infinite variety of sexual desires and appetites, even greater than the variability of human personality types, which is already enormous. However, it is my belief that to engage in a sexual relationship without understanding these concepts would be foolish, in the extreme – even if a couple decides ultimately to reject them. There are many extremely successful sexual relationships in which men and women intuitively act on these beliefs, even if they would not be able to articulate them as clearly as I am about to do.
To note as well, that these distinctions can be useful in both heterosexual and homosexual relationship. I would dare to say that in most homosexual relationships, some degree of sexual polarization occurs. It would be difficult to escape from this, as masculine and feminine are fundamental human archetypes and relationship styles. In essence, they represent different needs. Which is why it is (in my opinion) of extreme importance to understand these differences. Because if you believe that “love is a response to need” [Jerry Jud], then it is of critical importance in loving somebody, that you understand their needs, especially when they are different than yours.
So what are “feminine” and “masculine” according to Deida? There are innumerable complexities here, to which I cannot do full justice in a short article. For this, I suggest you read my first book, As Lovers Do: Sexual and Romantic Partnership as a Path of Transformation. The book is written for men, it is essentially a “love manual” for men (along with a sexual manual). However, it does provide a good summary of sexual polarity theory, and also an entire section of relationship practices that can be very powerful for both men and women, along with an extensive resources section. You can read Alison Armstrong’s Queen’s Code, which is better at describing the women’s game (or else attend one of her fabulous programs for women). You can, and should, attend a course on Authentic Relating or Circling (see www.CirclingGuide.com), on NVC (Non-Violent Communication), or read Marshall Rosenberg’s work, these will teach you the foundations of empathy. Empathy is the fundamental skill that people need to be successful in sexual relationships, or any relationship, regardless of their polarity. You can also look into the work of Michaela Boehm (who is carrying on Deida’s work, perhaps in a more heart-centered fashion); Esther Perel; Keith McGuiness; and many others whom, I dare to think, would be at least partially in alignment with the ideas which I am about to present.
And so with that caveat (that all this is a very complex topic), let’s get right into it. What I am about to tell you is actually very practical, immediately actionable, and proven to be effective in thousands of relationships. In the sections following this, I will provide details of strategies for both men and women to begin the process of becoming superlative partners and lovers.
The “feminine” archetype – how a person behaves while occupying a feminine polarity, be they man or woman – involves the magnification of love. Quite simply, a person in a feminine polarity seeks, above and beyond anything else, to attract love; but not for the purpose of selfishly enjoying the attention, but for the purpose of sending it back. A feminine person does this by trying to become attractive, in every possible way. She hopes that by doing this she will be loved. Often, a feminine person will also give love freely, regardless of the quality of love and attention that she is getting back, and certainly this is enjoyable for her, usually; but unless her masculine partner responds accordingly, by giving her his real presence and loving attention, she may get angry, or she might feel that she is too much or not enough for him, or feel unloved and unattractive, or generally own the problem in a way that might not be healthy or good for her self-esteem. And therein lies the problem: that many men don’t have the fundamental quality of presence, emotional self-awareness or free attention that will truly satisfy a woman in her feminine polarity. And many women don’t have the self-awareness or communication skills to attract the kind of attention that they deeply want, as per their polarity (and note here that “attention” is essentially the same as love, provided it be quality attention, attention that truly sees and empowers the love object). So what women do instead, since they are endlessly frustrated in getting from their masculine partners the quality of love and attention that they want, is that they get into a power struggle with them. More about this below. Let me just say for now, that the solution to women’s problem is fairly simple, although not “easy”. I will describe a solution to this fundamental problem of women below, in the section called Sexual Polarity for Women. Once again, this is very practical information.
(From this point on I will use “woman” as shorthand for “feminine person”, and “man” as shorthand for “masculine person”. With the understanding that “woman” or “man” is just shorthand notation for a person operating, maybe momentarily, in a feminine or masculine archetypal psychological role)
Deida says that the feminine goal is love, while the masculine goal is freedom, or power. This is a good short-hand notation for the fundamental problem that exists between people of opposite polarity who are trying to relate to each other, but as already mentioned, it is not precisely true. The deeper truth is that feminine and masculine people have different styles of loving. Both seek to love and be loved, they just express it differently. Because for feminine people, the fundamental currency of love is attention, empathy, real emotional presence. But for masculine people, the fundamental currency of love is practical service. Men want to solve problems, and they particularly want to solve women’s problems. This is the deepest desire of masculine people, to solve feminine problems, to support women and to “provide” for them in some way, to be useful and productive and to be valued as such; no less than the deepest desire of feminine people is to increase or magnify love. As such, it could be said that the masculine style of love is more “active”. It involves doing things, rather than listening and seeing and responding empathetically.
This is the root of the problem. An alternative formulation would say that masculine and feminine are different processing styles. People in masculine consciousness prefer a processing style called “single-pointed consciousness.” They are able to focus intensely on a single problem or goal, go deeply into that topic, find out everything there is to know about it, and then design and execute a strategy for success. Single-focus, also known as problem-solving, is the delight of masculine people, and one of their gifts. “Freedom”, as defined by Deida as the masculine goal, could be freedom from some constraint or from some pain, the resolution of which is the hoped-for outcome. It might also be the freedom of complete awakening or enlightenment. Masculine people, at their best and worst, also have an ability to ignore anything not immediately related to their current single-focus. Including, notably, their partner’s needs and emotional states.
Women (or people in feminine consciousness) cannot understand these kinds of limitations of masculine attention, because it is not how women’s brains works. You know the famous joke, the difference between men’s and women’s brains? Women’s brains are like spaghetti: everything touches everything else. Men’s brains are like little boxes, none of which touch each other. Women are generally better at multi-tasking, and can turn their attention on a dime. And so, a woman may attempt to access a certain box in a man’s brain – the empathy box in particular – but he won’t be able to do that, partly because his attention is currently focused on another box, and maybe also because a man’s empathy box may be very small, for reasons described below in the men’s section. And the woman will get angry, because she can’t understand how he could be like this. After all, it’s not how she operates.
And so it goes. Women endlessly seeking quality attention, also known as love, but not knowing how to articulate this need or the right strategies to elicit it, and so becoming frustrated and enraged. And men getting defensive and shutting down even more, in the face of what they feel to be this incomprehensible need and demand, which the women are not even able to articulate in a way that the men can understand. Women just feel it, this need for quality attention and emotional presence, but they are generally not very good at articulating it and even less good at eliciting it.
Because this is the other difference between men and women: men like things clearly articulated. Of course, all people like things clearly articulated, but women can get by when it doesn’t happen; most men, on the other hand, are completely lost in the face of non-articulated emotional needs. They can be, at times, beyond clueless – at least from the perspective of women.
Life would be so much better, some women think, if men were more like women. But the problem is that this attitude and this demand is antithetical to love: because men will never become like women. Most of us men can’t do it, even if we could be persuaded that it would be a good thing, which is unlikely because most of us enjoy being men, for better or for worse. That’s the bottom line. The demand that men become more like women is, fundamentally, a lack of empathy on the part of women. It’s what is called a “self-referential perspective” because, as already mentioned and will be further discussed down below in the men’s section, women in general have far greater capacity to move into a masculine polarity, than men are able to move into a feminine polarity. This attitude is the opposite of love. It is self-righteously demanding that someone become a certain way, in order to ease our own suffering – as opposed to figuring out the other person’s needs, and then filling those needs, until they want to reciprocate. And the further demand from some women that we men assume collective guilt for our grim history of rape and violence, some of which continues to this day, is equally ineffective. It’s not how human brains are wired, male or female.
And ultimately, this has made women even more angry. Women don’t want to be angry! They want the promises of feminism to be fulfilled (respect, equal opportunity, an end to violence, and an end to sexual shame); and they furthermore want to be loved and sexed by attentive, present, skillful and powerful men. Of course women want freedom and power too, but they will never be satisfied with only that. Women want it all. That is the essence of feminine consciousness. And this, incidentally, is the correct answer to the question of what women want, a question which men have been puzzling over for millennia and which Freud famously declared to be unanswerable: women want everything.
If women had any idea of how easy it is to transform their relationships with men, which may ultimately fulfill on the promises of feminism, and with far greater speed and enjoyment by all, they would kick themselves for the 50 years of their sexual and relational misery that has followed upon the American wholesale adoption of the idea that men should become more like women.
As such, the next two sections, which describe the “tried and true” solution to the problem of men and women loving each other – not the only solution, as there is no single solution to the problem of love, but the simplest real solution – the next two sections are the most important part of this paper. Once again, this is only bare-bones – you will need further education and practice – but it will get you started, whatever your polarity.
Sexual Polarity for Women
Let me recap some of the key concepts here, so there is no confusion, as per David Deida and my extensions to his work. Masculine and Feminine are styles of loving, which both genders will occupy at different times, although many people will have a preference of one over the other. “Love is a response to need” [Jerry Jud], and since human needs are infinite, there are an infinite number of styles of loving. Anything I say here will be simplistic and nothing I say here will apply to everybody. Nonetheless, in the next two sections I will present some truths, some general principles, which if fully understood can radically transform a person’s relationship to the opposite sex.
In particular, I am going to present one strategy for women to support their men into becoming overwhelmingly attentive and responsive, endearing, and fabulous lovers; which strategy, as already mentioned, may be one of the keys to the ultimate fulfillment of the promises of feminism (and from there, the transformation of the quality of life on this planet). The feminine game of love is extremely complex, of course; much of it involves the cultivation of joy, self-acceptance and other-acceptance, and radical forgiveness. I am only going to present one strategy here; but this strategy or mindset is so important that it practically encapsulates everything else.
Once again: this is not the only way to do a relationship with a masculine person. However, this is the tried-and-true method, and you would be extremely foolish to ignore it, or not to try it. Regardless of whether you are a woman, a man, a gender-queer person, or whatever: if you want to relate lovingly and effectively to a masculine person of any gender, and get one of things that you most deeply want as a feminine person (which is love), listen up.
The essence of the feminine game of love is to never engage your masculine partner in a power struggle. This is so important that I will repeat it: do not ever, if at all possible, engage your masculine partner in a power struggle.
So what do you do when he is behaving in incomprehensible ways, or even being an asshole? You provide empathy, while asserting yourself and your needs as lovingly as possible, and then watch him. Watch him calm down, and watch him become more receptive to you. Empathy is what he wants, it is what everybody wants. Model it for him, simply because you are probably better at it than him. You have the advantage of being female, it’s a both a genetic advantage and a cultural advantage, as you may have had more opportunities to practice. Have some compassion for him. (And if you are not any good with empathy, or if you yourself were never loved, that is sad, but you will need to get some training and some healing. Start with Authentic Relating).
Anyway: as you offer empathy, normally he will calm, become more receptive to you and more willing to do what you want him to do. It might take some work. Even if he doesn’t do what you want immediately, it might make you closer, which is actually more important to you than getting him to do what you want, in the long term.
If you start giving empathy and he doesn’t calm, or if he gets even angrier, you would try and increase the quality of your empathy. This may simply involve mirroring his condition back to him: “You seem to be getting even more angry. Is there something I am saying, a way that I am being, that is making you angrier right now? Please tell me, explain to me, because what I really want is to be in harmony with you, that we return to a field of love. Are you willing to do this for me? I am prepared to listen”. Remember that stating your needs with love and accurately articulating another person’s emotions are two of the greatest acts of love that you can do. This is the definition of empathy, and the most fundamental skill of loving.
If he doesn’t even respond to that, you have three options.
- First you can call a time-out: “I am sorry I am very upset right now and I need a time-out. Are you willing to do that? Can we resume this conversation later”? Or even stronger: “I need a time-out. I want to talk to you, I want to know what is going on for you, but I can’t take your attitude right now, how you are being with me. I am walking away, but I will be back”. Or else (this is very powerful): “I am sure there is a good reason that you are being the way you are, but I don’t like your attitude right now and I am walking. I would love to continue this conversation with you when you are able to be kind and civil, as I know you are capable of it”. And then do it – walk away. Let him come back to you, when he has calmed sufficiently. And when he does, welcome him back with a big smile, open arms, and some kind of acknowledgement of what he means to you and how important he is to you: which is nothing other than the truth.
- The second thing you can do is unilaterally decide that you are going to do what you wanted to do in the first place. Sometimes this will be necessary. However, you must do this very consciously since it will have repercussions and may not serve you in the end. Because what you really want is his love and devotion, and every time you act unilaterally in the relationship, you are disempowering him to truly serve you, to take care of you, and you are making withdrawals from the “emotional trust fund” of your relationship. When the trust fund goes down to zero, your life will be hell: much worse than it is now, because every incident will trigger him, on principle. So think seriously about the consequences of what you are doing, when you act unilaterally in the relationship, or against his wishes.
- And the third thing you can do is surrender. You can do what he wants, accept his point of view even though you think it is completely stupid. But here again, you must use extreme discernment. Because if you surrender, but in your heart cannot accept it, cannot forgive him for how he’s being and cannot gain any empathy for him, you are actually betraying both yourself and him. He does not want you to do this – even though he may not be aware of this or able to articulate it. He does not want you to do anything that you truly do not want to do, cannot accept, or are unwilling to do out of love for him. He would much rather you stand your ground, on a fundamental issue. And so, what you must do in this situation of a major difference, is to return to empathy, and continue until either the problem is resolved, or one of you is exhausted, can’t take it any more, or too angry to listen any more. In the latter case take a break, but be sure to resume the conversation later.
This is the essence of an effective strategy for a feminine person dealing with a masculine person in a power struggle. Again, this is only the bare highlight, the 30,000- foot view. You will need further training and you will need to practice.
Let me give an example. A fairly trivial one, as this incident only lasted two minutes, but it is prototypical and a great illustration of this process.
My sister and her boyfriend were making dinner. We had gone shopping together and she had bought really good tomatoes. As we started making dinner, he pulls out from his refrigerator a bit older tomatoes and says, “I would like to use these ones instead, and save yours for later”. She said: “no, sorry, I don’t like your tomatoes. I have bought these tomatoes for us and I want to use them”. And she proceeded making the dinner with her tomatoes. He got mad, of course. When I witnessed this interaction, I suggested she try a little empathy. I suggested she say to him: “Honey, I can see you are disappointed not to use your tomatoes, lest they go bad. But I bought these tomatoes with my own money, and I really want to use them. Do you really mind?”. He responded extremely positively to that statement. True empathy is very powerful. But he was still angry, first because my sister had engaged him in a power struggle from the get-go, and secondly because she was moving forward unilaterally in her decision, against his wishes (even though she had provided empathy, in the end, she was still being unilateral, proceeding without agreement). It was not a huge deal – he was fine in another few minutes – and yet what she did was to make a small withdrawal from the “emotional trust account” of her relationship. She had engaged him in a power struggle, and she had won; but she had paid a price. Truly, a much better thing for her to do would have been to probe him in terms of how important it really was for him to use his old tomatoes. If it turned out to be important to him, and not a deal-killer for her, her best bet would have been to surrender to that. A feminine person who wishes to be successful in relationship with a masculine person should, as much as possible and with the caveat mentioned above, let him make the final decision – she must yield – while, of course, exercising the extraordinary capacity that she has for empathy, learning to express her needs with love, and capitalizing on the deep desire of masculine people to serve women and make them happy, which I say more about below.
Of course this is hard work for feminine people. We all want our way, empathy is hard work, and surrender can be difficult. The good news here, is that as the emotional trust account gets replenished, as he begins to feel confident and secure that she trusts him and his judgment, and will respect his desires, and as the sex gets better, all of this gets a lot easier. Everybody wins here. Indeed, the sky is the limit. Some people, including David Deida and myself, believe that a sexual polarity game that is played well, and the deep sex that may result from it, is bringing us closer to the great mystery of love. You could become Shiva and Shakti, dancing together and creating the world. Miracles might start to happen all around you. This may be superstition, but I need to say it.
Some women may consider this too much work, they don’t want to do it, or else they would never consider surrendering, that this would make them feel weak or of less value than their men, and that from there the men will take advantage of them.
And to these women I will say: find another partner. Stop torturing him, and stop torturing yourself. If you are not willing to do the work of relationship, then do the next kindest thing: cut him loose. Let him find another woman that he might be more responsive to, and trigger her less than he triggers you. And same for you: do you really want to continue putting yourself through this? If you want to have love in your life, you will need to learn empathy, and you will need to learn surrender. These are the great skills of loving, for a person of any polarity (and I will be describing the masculine side of this shortly). If you want to be loved, you have to begin by acting lovingly. Towards everyone, even the idiots and the assholes of the world, such as your partner may occasionally be. So start with the man directly in front of you, and play the game as long as you can, or as long as it’s useful to you.
An important caveat: sometimes you will need to end the relationship. Ending a relationship can be a very difficult and painful thing to do, especially if you have children or property together, and have invested years in trying to make it work; however this is a better option than a constant power struggle. The important distinction here for women, is that you must only surrender within your “terms”, also known as your truth or your value system. If you surrender inauthentically, you will only make the matter worse. This is especially problematic for women, because women tend to be over-accommodating, meaning they tend to lose themselves in relationship. This is, once again, a very complex topic that I cannot get into in a review article. Just remember, as an over-arching frame, that a woman who loses contact with her true desire or her joy, is a woman who is lost; just as a man who loses touch with his real purpose is a man who is lost, as I will discuss in the men’s section immediately following this.
If you need to end a relationship, as a woman, my advice to you is to not make it about him. Simply make it about you, about what you want, need and desire. Articulate that to him as best you can, and keep in mind two things:
First, to quote my mentor, Victor Baranco: “the goal of relationship is not longevity“. The goal of relationship is aliveness, or transformation. If it’s not happening, you must move on, and it’s not his fault. He helped you along the way. The appropriate emotion here is gratitude: he prepared you for the next one.
And the second thing to remember, is that your next relationship will only be as good as the quality of love and of closure you have achieved in your previous relationship. If you cannot find closure, you will probably manifest another relationship either exactly the same, or else depressingly similar. Do your inner work here. As a woman, it is probable that your primary developmental work is to connect to your true desire and learn to articulate that with love. So start with the man in front of you, no matter how imperfect or inadequate he is (or you think he is), and play the game as long as you can.
To recap: you may find another relationship style with a masculine partner that works better for you. But you would be very foolish not to at least try this. It may be a lot easier than you think. My advice: start with this, what I am describing, and improvise from there. You may be shocked at the results.
Sexual Polarity for Men
The masculine game of love is equally challenging, but for different reasons.
The first and most fundamental reason why the masculine game is challenging is the same reason that feminism has generally failed to make men more like women. In general, men do not have either a genetic predisposition, or cultural training, in empathy, humility, and surrender. Those are the fundamental skills of loving. So we men are starting in this game of love with a fundamental and sometimes fatal handicap.
Related to this problem, is that women in general have a more balanced polarity. Typically, women can switch into a masculine polarity with greater ease than men can switch into feminine. The reasons for this are, once again, both genetic and cultural. We can trust that there are solid evolutionary genetic reasons why men, on average, score poorly in empathy, humility, and surrender: these traits are not good for hunting and winning wars. And in terms of cultural reasons, it has been possible until now for men to relegate the job of raising children and running their social lives to their wives. So they have been able to get by without empathy or other feminine virtues, more than women have been able to get by without the masculine virtues such as single-focus. Women have always had to solve problems; but men have not always had to learn the skills of loving.
Men have been able, until now, to play their game of freedom and power (the masculine goals, remember), breaking everything in their way, raping and pillaging to their heart’s content, in the process of creating so-called civilization. Obviously, men have done very good things too, from which women have benefited as well. But now, finally, the women are trying to put a stop to the raping and the pillaging. And thank God for that, regardless of whether we men approve of their methods and their style of communication. We really need to be grateful to the women, that they are calling us to something higher.
However, there is some very good news here for men: which is that men have as much capacity as women to excel in the fundamental skills of love. They just have to work at it. Which is fine, even perfect: men love to work, they love to get things done, to produce things.
To clarify: everybody likes to work, to contribute, this is a fundamental human need; it’s just that for masculine people, it is a higher priority need. Indeed, it is essential to a man’s happiness and self-esteem that he have a job to do, a game to play, or a challenge to overcome.
Tolstoy wrote: “For men, love is a game; for women it is all of life”. This is a sexist statement coming from an era where women had no access to the public sphere (and thus the game of love was the only game that they were allowed to play); and yet it is a fundamental truth as well; although to put in a modern-day context, I would substitute “masculine and feminine” (as defined above) for “men and women”. The essence of a person in masculine consciousness is that they need a game to play, a job, a mission, a challenge. For men, everything is a game, including the pursuit of women. This is why men like football. The importance of a man in relationship to a woman to have a mission, and the problems that can introduce in relationship, I say a bit more about below; but if you wish to understand some of the deeper distinctions, especially relating to what is called “Masculine Terms”, please read my book, As Lovers Do.
As an important caveat to all this, and the fundamental problem of men’s inherent lack of empathy, please note that there are plenty of women who score zero on empathy – and almost every woman will score zero on empathy, at some point, even the best of them. At times, this will be linked to their hormonal cycles, which gives them a much greater variability of mood than we typically have. This is a very difficult situation for a masculine person, because to get through it you will need to model empathy and surrender for her – as opposed to let her model it for you, so that you can learn it and repeat it, which is what would ideally happen in relationship to a feminine person.
This may be an extraordinary learning experience for you, or it may cause you to want to hang yourself, or both. Because the other thing that you will need to accept about feminine people, is that they will never respond in exactly the same way. And this ultimately is their gift, because they are endlessly entertaining, provided that you can look at “entertainment” in the larger sense, which is pushing our buttons so hard that it causes us to reframe everything we thought we knew: this being, of course, the beginning of humility. Women make us think, and we men like to think. To put the matter bluntly, they are causing us to think about and solve the problem of “woman”. The problem of “woman” is the problem of love, of how best we can serve. It is a fabulous problem to be thinking about, and hopefully solving.
An alternative formulation of this same idea, is to understand that men and women are perfectly designed to teach each other how to love, with the unfortunate addendum that they are also perfectly designed to torture each other. As such, when your woman is torturing you, your best assumption is that it’s for your own good: at minimum, it will teach you humility (since you will be powerless to stop the attack), and it ought to teach you empathy and surrender as well (that is, if you are smart, as you will find this to be the quickest way to the resolution of the problem).
This does not mean, of course, that you need to always accept what she’s doing, surrender, or take it like a trooper. You will need to assert with love, and sometimes you will need to walk away – just like her. Nonetheless, the idea that her torturing you is always for your own good, even if you need to walk away, is a deep spiritual truth in relationship to a feminine person. Deida, in particular, writes about this very eloquently. In my work, I call this “The Dark Feminine”, but once again there are distinctions there which I cannot go into in a review article.
But let’s move down now, from the 30,000- foot level, to ground level. What do we do? How do we win with our women? For most men, this requires a deep and fundamental attitude shift. Once you “get it”, however, and start to practice the attitude and the skills which I will describe now, you will likely be amazed at the results.
The first thing to realize is that a happy and sexually fulfilled woman is one of the most powerful creatures in the world. Many men – maybe most men – have absolutely no idea of what is available to them by giving even a little love, be it good attention or good sex, and the impact that this can have on a feminine person. Feminine people thrive on masculine attention and appreciation, to a degree that masculine people can barely comprehend. A happy and sexually gratified woman spreads joy, love and light all around her, in a way that even the most highly evolved masculine person can barely imagine aspiring to doing himself. And of course, if you are her partner, you will get a good dose of it. It will absolutely and irrevocably transform your life. Indeed, this act – of making your woman happy and sexually fulfilled, which you are truly the best person for, you are “the man on the spot” – is probably your most direct access to power, be it freedom, wealth, influence, or contribution – whatever turns you on. It may also be your most direct access to enlightenment in this lifetime, as Deida points out. In a way it is the masculine dream: because you will have freedom and power, and you will have love, and you will have plenty of sex. For a masculine person, life doesn’t get much better than that. Learn to make women happy, and your life will never be the same again.
One of the difficulties here is that the work of making your woman happy and sexually gratified, has to be done in parallel with your mission, which may or may not involve her. Obviously, feminine people need a mission too, a path to contribution that is separate and distinct from their primary goal of being love magnifiers. But for masculine people, their mission is key.
As a masculine person, you cannot make a woman truly happy unless you are also doing your mission. Because what she wants, maybe even more than she wants your love and attention, is for you to be happy and in your power, doing what you want to do with your life. Only you can solve this problem, maybe with the help of your male buddies. She will help, she can inspire, heal, soothe, energize; she can give you feedback whether you are on the right track or whether you are completely deluded; but she cannot do the work for you. She may not even understand the importance of this work for you. She may be conflicted in her support or ambivalent. But still, you must do it.
So it goes like this: if you are a masculine person (meaning that you prefer to inhabit a masculine polarity more often than not), you will have two things going on simultaneously: your mission in life, and supporting your feminine partner. Your mission in life needs to be your fundamental #1 priority. This mission could be to provide for your woman, to provide for all the women of the world (through works of service, art, technology or business leadership), and to “contribute to life” as best you can. You must choose to provide for the greater number possible, always, and to give your most important contribution, your greatest gift, regardless of whether your woman is happy with that choice.
But your #2 job is making your woman happy. Give her everything that she could possibly dream of, to whatever extent that does not compromise your mission or higher values. Do whatever she wants you to do, even things that seem completely crazy to you, provided you can do it with love. Let her desire, her unquenchable appetite for pleasure and for love and new forms of entertainment, be your “northern star”, your barometer, your muse. Surrender to her as much as you can, in every situation, provided your heart is in it and you can do it with integrity. Surrender is even more important for masculine people than for feminine people, because it is not considered a masculine virtue, and tends to go against our genetic makeup. Above all, give her your full undivided attention when you are with her, your best emotional presence. But do it with pleasure and do it with gratitude, never out of obligation. Because one of the things that she wants is for you to be happy and in your power. She may not even be aware of this, and this might be very difficult for you to understand, how deeply she desires this (for you to be happy and in your power), because for you, her happiness and power may not be the first thing on your mind. Don’t knock yourself over this fact, it’s just how you are wired. But you can learn. Let her teach you. Learn the three great skills of love – empathy, humility and surrender. Unlike her, you were not born or socially conditioned into these skills, which will make your triumph even more real and more magnificent, once you have finally acquired them.
That is the essence of the masculine game of love. It may be the most important game that you could ever master.
Other Books by Marc
As Lovers Do: Sexual and Romantic Partnership as a Path of Transformation
As Lovers Do is both a profound analysis of the issues that stop men and women from getting along, and a practical guide for creating deeper relationships and having better sex. Starting with the basic idea that men’s natural role and deepest desire is to support women, take care of them and attempt to make them happy – an idea that is frequently ridiculed and denied in our post-conventional society, which pretends that men and women are the same – we then review new models and distinctions on sexual relationships which carry the potential to dramatically improve the quality of our intimate relationships, and even to end patriarchy as we know it.
Some of the wise and powerful teachers whose ideas are reviewed are: Scott Peck and Jerry Jud on human loving; David Deida, Victor Baranco and Alison Armstrong on sexual polarity, sacred sexuality and female orgasm; Marshall Rosenberg, Dale Carnegie and Werner Erhard on emotional communication; Mark Manson and Steve Bodansky on sexual attraction and seduction; and Dieter Duhm on internalized oppression. Some of these great teachers are still alive, others have passed-on; all of them built significant learning communities; but As Lovers Do is the only summary and integration of these powerful ideas into a comprehensive system for understanding man/woman relationships. If you don’t know who these teachers are, and why their ideas are important, you are in for an eye-opening experience!
Sexual intimacy is one of the deepest human needs, and yet the one that is most frequently repressed and denied – doubly so as men and women often repeatedly act out self-destructive patterns in pursuit of their sexual and relational needs. We do this, mostly, out of ignorance, attempting to follow social norms that are broken and lead to poor results. In reality, relating powerfully to the opposite sex is a lot easier than most people imagine, once you get the basic ideas which are presented here.
Note: the book is written from a male perspective and therefore should be of particular interest to young men, who are often shockingly and tragically ignorant about women. However there is wisdom here for people of all ages and genders.
A few reviews:
“While the popular culture is still sending couples into “couples counselling” and using the medical model to pathologize one or both members of a couple who are struggling, there has been a plethora of new thought about how to actually SUCCEED at relationship. Mark has been a student of these new pioneers for at least 20 years, and has essentially written THE survey text book about this body of new thought.” – Max Rivers, Marriage Counselor & NVC Facilitator
“This book unites some of the best ideas that have been developed by modern day experts in the fields of sexuality and relationship. Marc has chosen the best information from each to enable the reader to evaluate and create a better relationship with a partner, the world and with one’s self. He gives you enough time with each master to get the main ideas that they have described, allowing us to delve further if we so wish by including many references. After reading this book I felt better, more aware, more in love and kinder to myself, my lover and to my friends. ” – Steve Bodansky, Sex Educator, Bestselling Author of “Extended Massive Orgasm” and 3 other books.
Relational Power: Win Friends, Influence Others, and End Loneliness Through the Practice of Authentic Relating
Relational power is currently in draft form and has been submitted to the global Authentic Relating community for crowd-sourcing. The intention is to complete Parts 1 and 2, get feedback, edit the book, and find a commercal publisher for it. My estimate is that this is probably 6 months out (as of January 2023).
If you would like to join this initiative, click here.
Broke, Single, Crazy and Old: The Redemption of a Sex and Love Addict
If you like sexual autobiographies in the style of Erica Jong and Henry Miller, then you will certainly enjoy this deeply vulnerable, real-life love story. The central part relates to two women the author was in love with between 1993 and 1999, one of them in his local community in Montreal and the other in Russia, and the ensuing love triangle, which nearly destroyed him. The story includes excerpts of the love- (and hate!) letters, which are beautifully written, and so you get to know the minds and hearts of the character’s lives in an almost voyeuristic way. You can read that part separately if you like, it’s in the section called “Epoch 4: Ellen and Sasha”.
More than the love story, however, the author shares his most honest reflections on his development from the ”’relational idiot” of little empathy that he was, into the wisdom of his later years, leading to his “’redemption”. Many men deserve the scorn thrown at them by women due to their selfishness and lack of empathy, which oftentimes comes from an honest struggle to relate. It’s wonderful to witness the growth and self-reflection that he goes through as someone challenged with mental health issues, addictions, and autism. This book will create understanding between men and women and document the lifelong development of a true seeker of love, connection, and community.
The book is part memoir, part cultural critique, and part self-help manual. The latter relates to some profound but little-known teachings on love, sexuality, and man/woman psychology, discovered through the author’s 20-year deep dive into the human potential movement. It is for anyone who wonders if their life has value, who struggles with relationships and mental health, and who agrees with David Deida that “sex is a short-cut to God”. Ultimately, it is a testament to the transformational power of telling one’s story. Because, aren’t we all just a little bit crazy?