THE REALITY CHECK
Traditionally and typically, women exhibit and express qualities such as sensitivity, receptivity, emotions and intuition. For this reason, these qualities have become the representation or characteristic of ‘female energy’.
Men have traditionally nurtured the ability to be assertive, strong, dominant, direct and unapologetic, which have become symbolic of ‘male energy’. Over time, due to societal expectations and implications, men began to deny their intuitive side and emotional freedom, just as women repressed their ability to be firm, assertive and powerful.
As I mentioned in a previous post on Toxic vs Healthy Relationships (link), the more strongly the man is rooted in his male energy and the woman in the female one, the greater the polarity and the deeper the attraction when they come together can be.
It also increases the chances of building and nurturing co-dependency, which is more often than not, not a conscious choice. We need to become aware of the fact that each man and woman has grown up as ‘half’ a person, acknowledging only one side of themselves (the female or male energy) and becoming dependent on another person to experience the other half. Men help women and women help men. Men and women exchange their energy in order to fill each other’s missing half. And as also stated in the previous post (link), this happens on a material, physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual level and it is the exchange that sustains the relationship.
At first glance, this appears to be a great system, if both halves are supporting each other to be whole, what is the issue? If one looks deeper, the issue that arises is that as an individual, I don’t feel whole and in this system or dynamic, my survival or ‘wholeness’ becomes totally dependent on another person. This can result in deep fears of losing our ‘other half’ or the belief that we cannot survive if we are alone. But life is an ebb and flow, and sometimes people leave. What happens then?
I clearly remember when my ex husband made a significant commitment in front of a couples counsellor in Dec 2010 and no more than two days later, requested a divorce. The trauma caused such a deep and subtly reaction that I spent the next 7 years neglecting myself and taking away all the strength and self-care I needed to survive the huge change occurring in my personal and professional life, which I felt I had no control over. In those years after the separation, I consciously or unconsciously, but certainly desperately, looking for another man who would be willing to offer or share that half of me that I was missing. I was not aware that I had denied or repressed this half whilst growing up. The reality is that we all do.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF CO-DEPENDENCE IN RELATIONSHIPS
Traditionally, our relationships have been based on dependency and the need to have and therefore control the other person in the couple. Inevitably, sooner or later, this dynamic leads to anger and frustration and deep fear. Often, layers of hidden resentment towards ourselves and our partner silently and dangerously grows within. It is important to be aware that repressing emotions leads to dullness and apathy – it unconsciously pushes us to hate life and build self-loathing without realizing it.
FINDING BALANCE: THE NEW FEMALE / THE NEW MALE
It’s only in recent years that women have really become in touch with their male energy. In the past, we rarely backed up our inherent feminine energy with the masculine side. However, when we have to do so, it is rarely in a balanced way.
Many of us, like myself for example, have developed a strong male energy. It manifests in the ‘old school’ stereotype of male energy, such as dominance, control, acting out to protect ourselves. I saw this model in my grandmother and my mother, and of course as is always the way, I repeated the cycle as into womanhood myself.
This is an example of when male and female roles reverse. Women find themselves running life with a predominantly masculine energy, men activate their more feminine and receptive energy.
In my marriage, I was very action and decision-oriented. I would carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, without even being asked to do so. I built up a tough shell around myself to protect my sensitive, vulnerable inner self. I was also giving a kind of ‘male love’ to my daughter because my love was more characteristic of ‘fatherly love’, which was beautifully described by Eric Fromm in his The Art of Loving when he wrote, “Its principal is a conditional love. Its principle is: I love you because you satisfy my aspirations, because you carry on your duty as you should, because you are like me.”
Paternal love is a love that guides, that shows authority and leads the child to know the world. As Bob Hoffman, creator of the Hoffman Process, has stated in his work, it is the bridge between the home and the outside world.
In the years I spent alone after my divorce, I’ve had to learn to make use of that powerful male energy. But I have been learning how to do so in a new way. In the past, my strongly developed male energy meant that I was mostly intellectual, active and I worked myself very hard, like my mother and grandmother did. Although I had a strongly developed feminine, intuitive energy, I rarely balanced it with the masculine. I ignored that energy most of the time, and protected myself with tough armor instead.
In solitude, I learnt to give attention, focus, understanding and support to my female side so that I could not only start feeling safe living out of that side but also see it fully emerge in its splendor and start to let go of my rusty armor.
Today I feel and have been told I am perceived to be much softer, receptive and vulnerable by those around me. When I look at myself, I feel much stronger than years ago when my marriage and family began its disintegration.
WHAT HAPPENS TO WOMEN TODAY?
Luckily, in recent years, the contrasting and definite nature of male and female roles have begun to shift. An increased number of women are expressing what once was only in the realms of man: the ability and freedom to take action in the world. Women are becoming more whole, more independent and more autonomous. Women are learning to have their own and each other’s backs and validate themselves, instead of abandoning their sense of value in hopes that a man can make them feel better about themselves. Women are developing the missing half of themselves which have until recently only been characteristic of men.
WHAT HAPPENS TO MEN TODAY?
And fortunately, a growing number of men have been looking within themselves and learning to open up to their emotions and sense their intuition, their repressed feminine half. For men, the principle is exactly the same. They have been disconnected from their female energy, from the source of live and love. They have felt powerful only in their performance, be it in work, sex, being the bread winner etc. Reality is that this had lead them to feel majorly alone, empty, helpless and ashamed when they cannot perform the way it is said they should. They pretend to be powerful and in control because of this shame.
Men have been seeking nurturing and connection in women, unaware that all these qualities they are looking for already exists in the half of them, the feminine half, that has been unrecognised for all this time.
Notably, in recent decades, many men have connected with their feminine side by abandoning and disconnecting from the male one altogether. They have rejected the old ‘macho’ stereotype and the position for balanced male role model as remained vacant. These men who have totally 180’ed may have done so because they are afraid or judge their assertive power, their own anger and drive and any male qualities that have negative connotations attached to them.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FINDING WHOLENESS WITHIN
In the same way that it is very important for all men and women to find their missing halves within them, I sincerely believe it is crucial for men or women who’ve abandoned their nature to find this other have to take a step back and embrace those feminine or masculine qualities. For men who’ve rejected their inner power, I recommend embracing the concept of the ‘new male image’, one who allows his spontaneous, assertive and strong male energy to emerge and safely flow in harmony with his feminine energy that provides nourishment, intuition, compassion and wisdom.
THE MALE AND FEMALE INSIDE
Each of us has male and female energy within and one of the most important challenges we face today is developing these polar energies fully so that they can interact harmoniously with each other, within us.
Unfortunately, we have not been taught how to allow our male and female energies to function naturally, in flow with each other. In our culture, men and women have seen and allowed the male energy to repress and control the female intuitive energy, instead of supporting and fully expressing it.
In order to live a creative, balanced, autonomous and whole life, we as men and women need to nurture, accept and integrate both our inner female and male energies. We have our innate energy, which needs to be given the driving seat, but also must embrace and invite the other energy within us.
FROM CO-DEPENDENCE TO INTERDEPENDENCE
From this knowledge, a new idea of relationships can emerge, based on each person being a whole within themselves. Internally, each person can be a balance of feminine and masculine energy with a wide range of expression from soft receptivity to strong action. Co-dependency is the old model, a reflection of our former disconnected selves.
The new model and the aim in relationships, be it friendships or romantic relationships, should become what Stephen Covey introduced in his popular book, The 7 Habits of Effective People, as interdependency. Interdependency is defined as each individual in a relationship being whole and autonomous, not needing to be taken care of or to be needed, but living as individuals that come together.
I fully believe that interdependence is the necessary paradigm shift in relationships which begins by no longer expecting our partners to complete us and fill us with love and happiness, but doing so for ourselves. It is a model which stimulates the development of both the female and masculine energies in each of us and invites a deep knowing and understanding of ourselves.
Header image by Andrew Ly
Read more from Elisabetta Franzoso on www.elisabettafranzoso.com/articles