If you are like most guys, you were taught a double message when it came to women. One the one hand, we’re told, be tough, be aloof, let her chase you, and don’t show any emotions or concern. Somewhere along the way, we got the other side of that: someone told us to “be with the woman,” listen to her, and repeat back what she is saying.
You may end up feeling like you are either some macho jerk, or a weak man, with no middle ground, because, as you discovered, neither work. Neither is natural. It’s in our genome to carry on conversations. Being inauthentic, and attempting to control an interaction with a woman will illicit the desired responses in some women, some of the time. What it won’t do is deepen the interaction or the intimacy.
I grew up very shy. I had a speech impediment, and my Asperger’s Syndrome and dyslexia long before they were recognized or diagnosed. When I got older, and I wanted to be with women, I really had to analyze how to interact successfully. I studied how to mitigate my risk and increase my success with women. I realized that, with my sensitivity, I could easily be a good passive listener. I actually read books on how to be more sensitive. And it worked. Women loved that I wasn’t a jerk. They loved that I listened and respected them. They would tell me how I was different than all those other guys. My little ego got big thinking how I was finally beating all the cool guys.
My perfection of sensitivity worked great until I wanted more. If I wanted great sex, I had to get more assertive. If I wanted a real relationship, I had to reveal myself.
In spite of my ability to “be there” for women, I had one woman have the gall to tell me she didn’t feel me. I was confused. I was so emotionally supportive, so empathetic, what the hell did she mean? Then I was pissed. I worked hard to listen and she dared to say I wasn’t being emotionally expressive?
Well, she was right.
I was hiding behind the mask a my nice, sensitive guy whom everyone should like. I knew she was right when I caught myself arguing with her about how I was emotional. Hearing myself debate emotionality stopped me in my tracks. At that point I’d had enough of what being sensitive got me or didn’t get me. At that point, I had enough courage to start to get real.
In that moment I made one of those quiet vows you make to yourself: from that point on I would be different. I said to myself, I will do whatever it will take to get what I really want and to be real with women.
I had no one guiding me, so it was trial and error. First I had to really feel and acknowledge what I felt. As a kid, I learned to shut down my feelings because they were painful. But now, as an adult, that made it hard to know what I actually felt. Also, after years of focusing on the woman, I had put very little attention on my feelings and wants.
I put my foot in my mouth on a daily basis. I would start a conversation with just being a witness, catch myself, and then start speaking. It must have felt like changing a TV channel right in the middle of a show. Even with the disruptions, though, women hung in with me. I now realize why: if only unconsciously, they felt my sincere effort to change. They also felt safer and a deeper connection to me because I was, for the first time, truly showing up.
I had thought that showing up meant just being there for a woman. It hadn’t dawned on me that showing up meant being vulnerable. I later learned the finer distinction between being vulnerable, where you just lose it and wait for someone else to pick you up, and being vulnerable where you get yourself back up. I learned Assertive Vulnerability.
Science tells you to converse
You don’t need to believe me. Believe the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, where they found that strangers who engaged in a back-and-forth conversation felt closer, liked each other more and felt they had more in common than when only one person did the talking. Stanislav Treger, a DePaul University doctoral student, reported in this study: “Participants who disclosed reciprocally reported greater liking, closeness, perceived similarity, and enjoyment of the interaction after the first interaction than participants who disclosed non-reciprocally.”
To carry on a conversation that goes deeper, you need to be aware of your own experience. Choosing to be aware and sharing that awareness proves to the other person that you and the interaction are safe. Women wait for men to make the first move, from asking them out on a date to deepening a conversation. Once we take that risk of vulnerability and assertiveness, a woman will often follow. If we show we trust her enough to be real, she knows she can trust us.
Because of our training as men, we have relegated our emotions to women for far too long. We wait for them to initiate and acknowledge. My sensitive model lulled me in believing I was being emotional. But I was just being a therapist. I wasn’t connecting or risking. So it was no surprise my relations died slow deaths – we both were bored.
Man up with your emotions
If you want more from women, you need to give more. Yes listen, but also speak in a way where you are revealing yourself. Don’t lecture, drill or belittle. Speak to her about what her words do to you. Allow your curiosity to come out and play.
When you get to an emotional place, choose to risk. There is a chance she may ridicule you. In spite of those concerns, I’ve never had a woman shame me. She may not get it, and you may need to explain it in a new way. She may be frightened by your honesty. Speak to her about how it’s risky for you to say it not from a place of wanting her to rescue you, but from a place of “this is what is happening for me.”
Learn Assertive Vulnerability. Learn to reveal and stand up, open-hearted. At the least you will heal some part of you that made you weak in the past. You will develop your Masculine Emotional Intelligence. You will step beyond how we all were trained to be emotional. Most women after they recover from your emotional power and courage will melt. They may tell you that being this way is what they have always been looking for in a man. Because they never saw it, they didn’t know they were looking for it.
You deserve good relationships with women. Speak to them beyond all our social expectations from a place of wanting to share your deeper parts.
Let me know how this works out.