Let’s start with women: Why is it that at a time when women are more educated and in more prominent positions of leadership in nearly every field of endeavor that their personal lives often do not reflect the same sense of privilege?
It would seem that gaining power in the professional world would carry over into personal relationships. Yet, this is not the case, and it’s a phenomenon that deserves to be examined because too many young women are dissatisfied with their social life and dating experiences, and I dare say too many young men are left in the dark as to what is expected of them when they encounter such dissatisfaction.
Whether the problem is related to a relatively new awakening in women, empowering them to give voice to their feelings, speak their truth and have their needs met without merely being “passive” or “obedient,” or because so many young women and young men are children of divorced or chronically ill parents and carry wounds and templates of behavior from childhood which never really healed, it’s difficult to say. I do know, though, that both seem to be prevalent these days and no one is winning in this race to find happiness.
Are many following the role models of their parents, feeling a sense of loyalty to one parent or another, or is theirs an unconscious attraction to unresolved family issues which get played out in their personal relationships?
Regarding men, in general, it has been my experience that it is the exceptional man who is sensitive to the needs of women and is eager and willing to learn how to please his mate. Mainly, though, both men and women seem to be in the dark as to how to communicate in ways that the other will hear and, as a result, show an unwillingness to be more accommodating.
I can’t say how often I’ve heard women state: “Can I really say that without frightening him away?” Or, “If I ask him to do that will he think I’m being too aggressive and not allowing him to be in charge?”
When I counter with: “What’s the worse thing that might happen if he does feel frightened or thinks you’re being too aggressive and threatening his manhood?” they often have no answer, but tell me that they’re not willing to take the risk of speaking up and then “being dumped.” Something, therefore, really has to shift! A new paradigm is definitely needed if this current generation of women and men in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s is to feel respected and loved by those who claim to respect and love them.
And while not everyone is in therapy or needs to be in therapy, it’s certainly worth noting that a good number of those who are seeking professional help are doing so because of relationships that aren’t working.
Perhaps the shift from the tradionally held beliefs about the roles of men and women in our society has changed too quickly for each to develop appropriate adjustments. Surely in the past when men were out “in the field working” and women were always at home, their roles were clearly defined. Yet, whatever the various factors are that have caused this break-down in communication, it has also resulted in damaged egos, people feeling taken for granted, misunderstood, and, in some cases, even leads to forms of abuse.
Too often women still feel they need to defer to men in financial matters at home. These otherwise accomplished women seem to need permission to purchase just about anything. Then, too, men often get to spend nights out – at card games, baseball and other sports events or just meeting guy friends for drinks — while women are left needing more fun time with their friends whether they have returned to work or are stay-at-home Moms. Why is that?
And why do so many men still feel entitled to do what they want to do when they want to do it and women still feel they need permission?
Perhaps it all goes back to the dating phase in many relationships.
For some reason, men seem very able to woo women, to show their very best qualities while they are trying to win a woman’s affection. For some reason women seem much more impressed with a rose and a nice dinner out than they should be.
Both men and women seem to assume that should they marry or live together whatever problems they may have while dating will somehow disappear. They’re then shocked when problems do not only “go away” but worsen. My guess is that it’s because too many assumptions were made and not enough was talked about or explored between the two people.
I have found that too few couples discuss how they feel about sharing responsibilities or know about how they relate to money; how they value or do not value the need for time alone; whether or not they want to have children; and even whether or not remaining close to their family of origin is important to them.
With many the physical attraction is so strong that they believe love will conquer all. With others, the physical nature of their relationship may be problematic but they, too, assume that love will lead the way to Nirvana.
In any case, expectations about what constitutes a happy union have most assuredly changed and perhaps that is because too many people feel too lonely, too desperate to be with someone and not be alone that they also use the word LOVE itself too easily. What is forgotten is the need to understand the essential ingredient that best ensures the success of any relationship and that is the responsibility “to relate” caringly and respectfully toward the other person.
Despite the fact that women may expect more today than they did in the past, I still find too many of them remaining second class citizens at home, just as I find men unable to be less rigid than their fathers were and just as unable to adjust to
21st century living.
Perhaps, as I stated earlier, it was easier for men and women when their roles were more clearly defined and there was less room for the give and take needed in any mature relationship. In years past, people were less verbal and more accepting of what didn’t make them happy.
What we do know today, though, is that many married people are unable to communicate effectively and single people are floundering, struggling to find people to meet in appropriate social settings. (Check out Facebook and/or any one of the on-line or off-line dating services for proof of this.)
As a result, some women have become too tough, while some men have remained too controlling, and all those in-between “nice” folks are left confused and frustrated either by a date, a spouse, or by the waffling standards set by society itself.
My suggestion: If you feel that you’re finding your voice and talking but are not being heard, then insist that you get help to salvage what may still be salvageable in your relationship. If your partner refuses either to change or to seek help to better understand his behavior and yours, then leave. Get out! If you stay, you’re more likely than not to repeat everything that you saw your parents do that you swore you’d never do. Unconscious patterns remain alive and well when fed the same unconscious foods!
And for all those who are managing their lives and maneuvering the ins and outs of work life and home life with equanimity, I suggest that you write a book or go on Oprah and talk about how you’re doing it. There’s an audience of both men and women who are eager to learn your secret. Too few seem to have the key or know the entrance code.
*Please feel free to contact me and address any questions or concerns you might have. I’ll do my best to respond or point you in the right direction.
Have a great week!
~ Linda (Psychotherapist/Addictions Counselor/Author)