Are Men the Bad Gender and Women the Good Gender?
Women have seen men as the lucky ones – making more money, being in control, etc. But men, in a more hidden way, are seen as the bad gender and women the good gender. This interferes with men and women being in relationship.
It goes like this: Women shame men. We often don’t know it because the culture says it is appropriate to put men down for some of their typical male ways of being. Men hate this, but believe they deserve it, so they don’t create boundaries for themselves. Worse, most men don’t even see that they are being shamed – they just know they feel badly. Then they make the woman pay, usually passive aggressively, usually without knowing why they do this.
Women don’t know they are harming men because the men are actually doing things that are not healthy. They are hurt by his passive aggressive behavior.
This creates a vicious circle – the circular arguments. She has legitimate complaints. She expresses these with shaming and criticism instead of as issues. He feels shame, and fights back.
I walk couples through this kind of interaction, showing both how they contribute to the unworkable relationship system. I help men see how they handle this culturally accepted shaming of men. And I help women see how they express their needs and feelings and observations in ways that get them the opposite of what they want.
As men see how they are abused by the culture, they can claim a kind of self respect that has been elusive. Where they no longer need to win, to be competitive, to control other’s thoughts and behaviors in order to feel worthy.
Having spent hundreds of hours leading men’s therapy groups, I have had the privilege of getting to see into the vulnerable experience of life that is often hidden behind the prescribed presentation. Instead of the guy looking at attractive women, I see the desire and need for love. Instead of the leader who wins in business or sports – or the “loser” who doesn’t win – I get to see the person who struggles with how to fit in and belong, how to feel acceptable to himself and those around him. I see how winners elevate their self esteem, but pay the price of being hated for it. Losers hate winners. Both the losers and winners suffer. Then both hide themselves – they hide their tender feelings, their need for love and acceptance, and for belonging.
Groups of men can make room for these tender feelings, along with the anger and distress for how men have been required to live in emotional isolation from each other.
A group of men in my office talked about how they shame each other with humor as a way to feel connected. They will put down someone’s haircut, or choice of clothes but with a tone that says I really like you and want to reach out. When I questioned the shaming words, as a group they turned to me to make it clear that this worked! They knew the shaming wasn’t real, it wasn’t personal. They knew it was the only way to express affection!
As this group evolved, the men could shift from the allowed ways of expression feeling to deeper, more cleansing forms. They could access more of the methods open to women. They became more visible to women. They could begin healing.
Read Chapter “Men, Women and Shame” in my book, Create New Love: How Men and Women Can Prepare for a Lasting Relationship to learn a lot more about this. I will tell you about how I got together a group of women to talk about how we shame men. They spent the two hours shaming men. Then I got together a group of men to talk about how women shame them. The spent two hours talking about their own shame.