Why women aren’t always the best teachers about women
I learned more about how to be with a woman from men than I learned from the amazing women I loved. The men of my men’s groups taught me the skills I needed to master to be with a woman.
The women in my life have taught me a tremendous amount about women. I first learned to open up with women. I learned that I could be sensitive.. I learned that a soft touch opens a woman.
It wasn’t until I had a safe setting to develop my Masculine Emotional Intelligence skills that I was able to relax into fully being with a woman. The dynamic tension that attracts us to the opposite sex can also be the tension that keeps us apart – until we discover how to surrender. This surrender is not a giving up; it comes from the deep knowing that regardless of what happens, you are OK. For a man, it’s also means having a backbone as he surrenders.
The last century or so of women stepping up to raise the family, because the men needed to be at work, created a climate where feminine emotional expression became the norm. Both sexes began to accept the premise that men and women are the same emotionally. With women being the default emotional experts, we put the burden on them to train us on how to be emotional as man.
Sure, a woman knows best what it is like to be a woman. She is also the expert on knowing how a woman receives a man, but a woman is not necessarily the best at educating a man on how to deliver what she wants. A woman will naturally tell you how to behave. Then we apply what she suggests. Often it works – at first. But it’s not sustainable. Some part of the woman is repelled by her man’s behavior because it isn’t really natural. He feels that, so he tries harder. The tension builds even though both people are doing what they are told is correct.
After I started my men’s group, women in my town came up to me to thank me for how their partner had changed. That’s when I knew we on to something. These men stopped doing everything out of the feminine playbook. They started learning how to express their love in a way that was a win for both them and their partners.
Before we left the tribe, men had hunting parties that allowed us to give and receive support from other men. These “men’s groups” were also a place for young men to get the modeling they needed from the masculine. Men understand other men. Once men feel the brotherhood, the judgments melt away. Their collective shared history and perspective allow for understanding and appreciation for each other.
There is less at risk for a man to be vulnerable with his brotherhood than to be vulnerable with his partner at home. If he does screw up with men, he feels he has more options for getting himself out of the mess. In an emotional confrontation with a woman, unless he dominates, a man is no match for a woman’s emotional expression abilities.
Most men will say in the “heat of the battle” with a woman, he feels like he is up against the latest hi-tech weaponry while all he has is his arrows. Yet, with another man, regardless of the upset, most men feel they have a fighting chance to get their perspective and emotions out. In addition, these men don’t live together, didn’t grow up in the same family, or all work together. The pressure of needing to succeed is less.
At training ground
As any hyperactive boy shows us, boys and men seek action. We flock to the action movies. Sitting at desk to learn frustrates us. If there isn’t something happening, our instinct is to create it. Be it shooting a spitball in the back of our friend’s head or standing up and walking around when our partner is upset.
Along with being wired for action, men are wired to understand and fix. As much as you try to understand a woman’s mind, you constantly fail. She accuses you of not understanding her. Much like a guy with Asperger’s Syndrome, you take her accusation literally. You commit to better understanding her.
In the middle of the interaction, feeling overwhelmed and outgunned, you hunker down in your mind’s analytical abilities to figure out what she is saying and what to do. This time you want to get it right. You promised her you would. Your honor is on the line. You hear a sentence that makes sense, so you stop her to tell her what you think. She responds as if you just threw gasoline on the fire.
It’s not her mind she wants you to understand; it’s her emotions she wants you to feel.
They gave us the wrong playbook. Told we were playing football, when it was actually soccer, we are lost. Suited up for football, the other team continues to score goals, while you continue to lose.
The only way to win is to play your game. This is the only game where she will win. You will never learn this game from women. Men have to teach you this game.
When we are young, we may win at a secondary game, a game of conquest. Men often compete against each other to score the largest and most frequent sexual wins with women. But they are hollow “victories.” Your ego may feel short-term wins; your heart deepens its longing for a deep connection. Winning through domination is not winning, it’s restraining.
After failing all the ways possible to fail, it’s time to find an arena where you can train in new ways so you may win with women. The way to win is actually simple: It’s a brotherhood, a group of men who meet with the intent to teach each other what no one was taught.
Your weekly emotional workout first shows you how to show up with other men, which is challenging for some men at first, yet always straightforward in its path to mastery. When you’re honored for your vulnerability, you have the foundations of Masculine Emotional Intelligence. Developing the ability to stay emotionally connected to yourself, in the face of emotional intensity, strengthens the emotional presence women are demanding.
I might be a slow learner, but I’m persistent. I realized that what I was taught and was practicing wasn’t working. Not only were women not connecting to me in the ways I wanted, I wasn’t happy. Studying somatic psychology, couples therapy, PTSD therapy, Ericksonian Hypnosis and more models of dissecting behavior gave me knowledge, but they didn’t give me the relationships I wanted with women.
When I learned to show up powerfully with men, I suddenly found myself having successful relationships with women. I quickly appreciated the irony. Men taught me what all the great women I’d been with, and all the bright teachers I’d had, couldn’t teach me. A group of men taught me to be a man, a man women appreciated.
Here’s what I spent 40 years of training and 20 years of men’s group learning: being authentic with men on a regular bases will give you the life you dream of having.
A short course of what men teach men will you about women
These skills are crucial to being your own man. They are crucial to developing a deep relationship with a woman.
The shortcut to connecting to yourself, other men and women, is to feel what is occurring in the moment. For most of us men, when someone asks us what we’re feeling, we go blank. After centuries of being told not to feel or express, we don’t know what to do.
You might not be aware of your own emotional responses. You will be aware of your body’s response, though. Feeling what is occurring in your body will lead you to experience what you are feeling emotionally. When we have a man who shows up at one of our trainings saying he doesn’t feel, before the day is done, he’s feeling. He’s ecstatic. It’s as if he found his best friend after years of looking.
When your mind and emotions freeze, go to your body. Where is the strongest sensation in your body? What does that sensation tell you to do? How do you want to stop that sensation? Keep deepening your experience of what your body is doing. When your body is ready, your emotions will show up.
Now that you have a feeling, speak it. Focus on getting it out. After decades of not speaking, your first few emotional expressions will not be eloquent. Like practicing a sport, you will get better from practice. You will begin to enjoy this new sport.
Avoid speaking what you think, your opinions, and your “solutions,” speak what you feel and want. It’s less about being heard and getting what you want; it’s more about getting out what is inside you.
In the past, you listened for understanding and how to best give advice. Listen now for how to connect through your emotions. Allow another’s words to affect you. When your partner speaks to you, slow down and relax. Let her words be the pebbles in the pond creating the ripples bumping up against you.
In the beginning, it may be useful to repeat back what you heard. This tells her you are truly listening. Then share the impact of what she said has on you.
Along with feeling comes presence—the ability to be in the present moment. That means not thinking about the past or future. Avoid coming up with counter arguments, stories to justify your position, reasons why, fantasies of what should be. When you find yourself drifting away from what happening in the room, come back to your own experience.
Without consciously knowing it, every time in the past you checked out, your partner would turn up the volume. As you prove to yourself and her you can stay present in the middle of emotional chaos, she will relax.
Taking a stand as a man does not mean becoming a rigid statue; it means allowing yourself to be affected by another, as you stay your course to your purpose. Women are our best allies in that they are our biggest trainer for developing our emotional intelligence.
Your group will teach you to stand up to adversity not with resistance, but with emotional courage. When you feel threatened, rather than a response of freezing, running, or fighting, you breathe through it. Your action is expression.
In spite of the distractions, you keep moving toward your deeper purpose. When knocked down, you get back up. You are willing to be wrong, you aren’t willing to settle with only what is given to you. You take a stand for something bigger, such as a better relationship.
Know that as a man, others will judge you by your ability to move forward in the face of adversity while maintaining an open heart. You partner will surrender to this paradoxical action.
As men, we are hardwired to act. For many of us it means react—that’s not the same as act. Along with using your body to connect to your emotions, move to connect with your emotions, I know a walk in nature has me feeling in ways I was unaware.
Slow down. Connected action is mindful action, meaning you are aware of what is occurring for yourself as you act. We often jump into mindless action to distract ourselves. Playing a video game for hours, so you don’t have to speak to your partner, is not taking your relationship deeper.
We like linear and logical interactions. A woman in her natural element is not that. We fall in love with how she is not us, how she brings that part out in us. But then that part confuses you, and you may grow to avoid that part.
If you want a successful relationship, learn to dance with emotional chaos.
The more you attempt to control her emotional chaos, the more she will get crazy. If you are a surfer, when seeking big waves you aren’t attempting to control the waves. You are surrendering to them, letting them teach you how to ride that power. Surrender to your partner by surrendering to your emotions. Then let it get wild, lose control. If getting mad is something you don’t do, allow yourself to get angry!
Walk away from the need to fix, appease, shame, or control. Step into the center of the chaos. You will survive. The experience of other men and me is that once in it, you have the opportunity to feel exhilaration unlike anything you ever felt. This act of courage often leads to deep intimacy and great sex.
As men, we like to wander off. Some cultures had hunting parties. Some cultures have walkabouts or journeys. But women need to feel connected to us. When we disconnect emotionally, they will crave more temporal connection. Then we feel trapped and seek more space.
For some men in our groups, it’s a real stretch for them to understand the impact of them not showing up emotionally or physically. These men trained themselves to survive childhood though leaving. When they feel how others enjoy and need them to show up, it connects them to a part that longed for connection.
Know that your partner wants your emotional presence. Find ways, such as a weekly time when it’s just the two of you, being together. A few hours a week with your partner and you kids can fill them up. The physical distance won’t feel so far. The nagging will be replaced with a longing for the next time together.
We can take things too literally. Doing an errand together with your partner may be less about the task and more about connecting and co-creating together. Allow those times to create more connections that are emotional. It might be a vacation, a home improvement project, or a discussion about your son’s school project.
Find ways to appreciate her prospective, ask for her impute.
Support is more than helping with a particular task. A deeper support is taking a stand for something bigger than what the person is or currently has. It might be helping your partner free herself of a challenge. It could be helping her win at a new venture. Being her biggest champion is an honor.
A good men’s group will teach you to stand up for a man even when he’s not standing up for himself. You hear what a man says he wants, and then you commit to assisting him in getting it.
Your love for the man and your words of support may put your relationship with that man at risk. But deep support goes beyond needing to be liked; it means stepping into taking a stand for a man in your group – or for your partner. In the face of chaos, you hold true to that support. Slowly he or she allows the chaos to wind down. Once the old fear spins off, the person sees you standing there having his or her back—they will know what deep support and love is, maybe for the first time in their life.
Your relationship is calling for this depth of support. The poet Robert Bly called the relationship the Third Body. This body also needs supporters and champions. When a woman experiences a man standing up for that Third Body, she melts. She feels safe.
There is no better place to learn that skill than in a men’s group. The group will inevitably test you. Can you stand up for the group when many of the men want to take it down? When you master that skill with your group, it will naturally transfer to your relationship.
Many of the previous traits are included in our MQ® (Masculine Quotient) trait of holding space—the ability to create an emotional space where people are safe and accepted. It’s a space where your partner feels safe to be herself.
Chaos may come, emotional overwhelm may come, loss may come… yet you are still there with your intent and actions saying you are safe, we are safe, and our relationship is safe. It’s the warrior defending the kingdom for his king and queen. It’s the parent loving his or children regardless of their behaviors.
Few of us grew up with someone emotionally holding a space of acceptance. We need a place to practice that skill. For men, that space is a men’s group.
Every successful relationship has at least someone at any point in time holding space.
As men, we are expected to hold the space of a relationship, with the support of our partner, which makes it safe for our partners. One way we do that is by taking emotional risks. We dive in with our vulnerability so she knows it’s safe for her to do the same. This simple act of courage transforms relationships.
We all want to give. If you were like me, where my survival meant conserving my resources, you learn to hoard. That meant giving was an act of courage. That sucked. The act of giving has the potential to open us up to a richer life.
One reason I created my men’s groups was to stretch my emotional giving quotient. Committing to give when I had no proof of any returns, then continuing to give even when it was painful, eventually cracked me open.
I’ve seen dozens of men in the group step up to give emotionally in the face of their fear. It might be months before they see the return on that investment. When they do, it quickly spreads to their relationship with their partner.
The men who have a difficult time keeping their commitments to the group have a difficult time keeping them to their partners. If they allow the group to support them, they will learn to give with their emotional action. In other words, they will express what they are feeling and back it up with their actions.
Giving is not necessarily giving a gift. It may be giving your presence to another. It might mean showing up to give when you don’t believe you can. We have a saying in our groups that the nights you don’t what to show up are the nights when you need to show up. Those are the nights you have a breakthrough waiting for you. It might come from admitting you didn’t want to come and what’s behind that avoidance.
When you give with your emotions, everything starts to open up. As men, we learned to lock down our emotions. When we set them free, amazing things happen.
Give your emotional gifts by speaking your truth. Up that game by committing to something bigger than you. It might be your deep purpose. It might be your relationship. We believe we can’t commit unless we know how we are to make it happen. Study successful men. You will see how none of them knew how they would manifest their intended creation. But they did know they needed to start by giving of themselves.
Men will rarely honor or show appreciation towards another man. A men’s group will teach you to share genuine appreciation… and how to receive it.
Once they join, men quickly start enjoying honoring other men for the work they do in a group. When a man takes a risk, it’s not that he failed or succeeded, but the point is that he took a risk. When another man acknowledges his courage, the whole group feels the power of that appreciation.
Once you start seeing behavior you appreciate and then speaking about it, doing it at home will be easy. Now when you come home and your partner fixed dinner, you see beyond the chore of it to the love of it. You let that love touch you. Then you share the impact her act has on you.
A few of those acts will reignite a cold relationship. Psychologist John Gottman, after 40 years of studying what makes marriage successful, teaches us that deliberately working on building a “culture of respect and appreciation” will generate love and passion. The more you express appreciation, the better your relationship.
The less you are in stress (survival) the easier it will be to show appreciation. Gottman also discovered that even if a person looks calm, if they’re truly stressed, they will sabotage the relationship, if only unconsciously. When your physiology believes you are in a survival situation, your partner is likely to be seen as a threat.
A core of the work we do in our groups is unwinding that survival response. Men first realize that they are having a fight-or-flight reaction, then they start feeling and sharing the emotions and desires behind that response. Slowly the unconscious reaction shifts to a wave of body and emotional responses releasing and expressing what is needed.
When you move past withdrawal, reaction, or freezing, and you step into expression and appreciation, it allows for a deepening of a relationship. Avoidance becomes attraction. The next time you find yourself having a reaction, remind yourself it is more than what is happening in the moment. Breathe. Find something that you genuinely appreciate, and speak it. As Gottman would say, change your focus and behavior, and you will transform your relationship.
We are taught to be a stoic man who doesn’t have feelings or needs. Let all the above skills stretch you; let them open your heart. Learn to love your imperfections, thereby loving others. Fail. Get back up and accept yourself as you would your son for trying, yet failing.
Love what isn’t created. Love that space of nothingness where no love currently exists. That space in the middle of an argument, where no one wants to go. Love the undetermined future. Love that space where your dreams have no basis. Love your shared dreams. With those dreams that you start with others, nurture them as you would a child.
How you can get what YOU want
If you want a better relationship or you want to create an amazing relationship, find a brotherhood of men. Let them teach you what men were never taught. Shorten your learning curve, and use this post to guide you.
Women love us. They want us to win. They want us.
They can’t lead us there. In spite of their amazing ability to give us feedback on how well we are doing, they aren’t always the best at directing us. Don’t make your partner your default emotional expert. Sure, consult with her, but don’t rely on her to be your mom or therapist. Those roles will deteriorate the best relationship.
You don’t necessarily need a therapist; that’s often an extension of the femine model of masculine emotionality. You do need other men like you, supporting each other in a masculine manner. In spite of what we were told, we are capable of growing without the sole support of women or professionals.
Understand that some of your tension in your relationship comes from how you have relied on her to be your sole emotional support. The more you relied solely on her and not others, the more you decreased your polarity and your attraction.
We aren’t met to do this relationship or emotional thing alone. Until recently, we had a tribe to support us. Expand your circle of influence to a brotherhood.
Actions to take
Start your own tribe by sharing this post with other. We created a nonprofit to help you start our own group: www.mencorps.org , which has a free download on how to start a group.
If you want more assistance, check out our site: www.freetowin.co. There you will find a Two Day Free to Win Experience that is a deep immersion into a men’s group. For some men this training is the seed for them starting their own group. We also offer a training guide for a man who wants to start a powerful group.
Please do something new. You and your partner deserve it.