Being Authentic in Relationships


The feminist movement has dramatically changed the lives of women in America.  Without getting into the history of it, I wanted to explore where it’s led us, and where we can go from here. 

Relationships between men and women have changed dramatically.  In striving for equality between the sexes, men were ousted from the positions they held for so long.  They are no longer the sole provider of the family, and they are expected to help around the house and be more nurturing with the children.  This only seems fair when women work outside the home as well, right?  And yet, how are these new duties negotiated?   

I often see a type of barter system in effect.  Tit for tat, you take out the trash and I’ll load the dishwasher.  The problem is that this barter system moves beyond basic household chores and moves into the realm of emotional and sexual needs.  It creates a transaction oriented relationship between two people.  It’s what David Deida, a well known expert in the field of sexual essence, calls a Stage Two relationship.  The vast majority of couples in relationship are in this stage. 

How can anyone experience real intimacy, how can you let down your guard and open your vulnerable heart, when you’re always keeping score?  The short answer is that it’s not possible.  This barter system is the ego’s way of keeping the heart protected. It’s also the natural outcome of the feminist movement from its inception.  What it fails to take into account is that men and women are inherently different.

There are characteristics that are masculine in nature, and those that are feminine in nature.  Each of us has a unique blend of both masculine and feminine traits.  We have to have both in order to be balanced. The degree of each quality determines our nature and personality.  Some people are evenly balanced between masculine and feminine, but most of us have a tipping point in one direction or the other.

The trouble comes when society tells us that our natural state isn’t appropriate. This happens when we’re small children, and continues to happen as we grow into young adults.  For example, when a small boy is told that “big boys don’t cry,” or when a young girl is told that it’s “not ladylike to run around and get dirty.”  Society molds us from birth, when girls are swaddled in pink and boys are swathed in blue. The battle between nature and nurture begins early.

How, then, can we discern our true nature when we’ve had decades of conditioning from parents and society? 

Step one is to follow your bliss.  Notice what makes you truly happy.  Is it serving others?  Collaborating on a project?  Making lists and getting things done?  Managing people?  How do you like to spend your free time?  Do you enjoy activity and adventure, or quiet contemplative activities?  Determining what makes you happy will help you reconnect with your true nature and will ultimately allow your masculine and feminine traits to flourish together.

Step two is to honor what’s true for you. Once you get to know who you really are, notice how often you honor that.  Are you quiet by nature but find yourself constantly surrounded by people?  Most people spend more time doing things to please others than to please themselves.  We’ve been conditioned (especially women) that to take care of yourself first is selfish… as if that’s a bad thing.  Start small; you’re likely to find a lot of resistance from your ego about taking care of yourself first. 

Step three is to ask for support.  If you’re in a romantic relationship, ask for support from your partner.  If not, confide in a close friend.  This will take some courage, so be gentle with yourself. Once you’ve navigated some of the resistance from your ego, you may anticipate resistance from your partner. Try not to assume they will resist the changes you want to make.  Sometimes when we want to make a change, we throw the baby out with the bathwater. We tend to make a wild pendulum swing in the opposite direction, for example going from always putting others first to becoming supremely selfish.  This is normal, and eventually we come into a new kind of balance.   

Once you align with your true nature, you will have the ability to move out of a barter relationship into a more authentic relationship that honors who you each are.  This is the basis of the third stage in relationships:  conscious or sacred relationships.  And it begins within.