Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Women, Men, Space and Power: Not Giving Up Me to Be Loved By You

When my colleague Margaret Paul wrote the book, Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved By You, with her now ex-husband, Jordan Paul, that title always struck a chord in me. As a woman, I was raised to "please my man," which meant being nurturing and submissive and putting his needs ahead of mine in the name of love. For many, many years, I tried hard to be a "good woman," a "good wife," and a "good partner," yet instead of being valued and appreciated for my goodness, I would find myself being taken for granted. One of my friends even gave me a book on "how to be a bitch," thinking it would help me get better results with the men in my life! Social expectations of making a loved one happy at one's own expense go both ways. Men seek to show their love by pleasing the woman they love, and in doing so, often give up some of their core masculine power, ending up feeling unappreciated and taken for granted in the same way I did as a "good, loving woman." Over time, what has become clearer and clearer is that the juice in relationships is most juicy when we stay true to ourselves and our core sense of power. Rather than just trying to please the other person, it is critical that we stay anchored in ourselves. A good man who wants to make a woman happy, might go over his own edge and cave in on who he is and what he needs, an important lesson for woman and men both from the work of Allison Armstrong. Like Allison, I have found now that I am safest when a man stands up to me and holds his ground. I do not want a man I love to cave in. If that happens, I feel like he has emasculated himself and I am left feeling effeminated (the female equivalent of emasculation, which I wrote about in last month's newsletter). Allison notes, "Sometimes we're our own worst enemies, and we most need our partners to protect us from ourselves." Allison also believes that "a confident, authentic woman, a woman who is true to herself, is the most attractive and inspiring to men....A woman's integrity can save a man in his most desperate moments." Sadly, as a woman becomes more attracted to a man, or as she surrenders into her feminine, and becomes more vulnerable and dependent, she is likely going to feel pulled to adapt to do what she thinks will please him the most. Allison reflects that women are peacekeepers and conflict avoiders, and will do whatever it takes to keep the peace, "even when it's contrary to her values and what she needs to maintain her sense of self." It is critical when we engage in love relationships that we preserve our own internal sense of space--the space to stay true to ourselves, our values and our passions, and not lose this space by "caving" in an effort to please the other person. We all need a certain amount of time and space to breathe, to be and to maintain of sense of self. "When we collapse our space, the person who is most loved and needed by our partners disappears." While it might feel like a relief to avoid an argument or conflict, short-term, in the end, the collapse of our own space and/or our partner's space leaves us "truly alone," as we and/or they disappear. To create truly empowered relationships, we need to make agreements with ourselves and our loved ones to hold our space. Conflict or disagreement can be a ground for learning and better understanding. And there can be juice is standing our power, with respect, even when we are not on the same page. Relationships best grow and thrive when we don't feel we need to give up "me" to be loved by "you." Coyright 2012 Linda Marks

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