Here’s everything you need to know about the ‘reality’ of relationships. It might be offensive to some people but it’s totally true (too much reality too soon can drive you mad so if this makes you angry or whatever it might be worth listening to some relaxing music as you read):
In any relationship one person will generally embody the ‘masculine’ role and one will play the ‘feminine’ at any given time.
Romantic relationships are fuelled by the Yin and Yang of ‘sexual polarity’ (as David Deida likes to call it), with one person embodying the ‘masculine’ energy or dynamic and the other person embodying the ‘feminine’. This applies regardless of whether or not the couple in question are heterosexual or homosexual (‘butch’ and ‘femme’ in lesbian relationships, for example). How these roles are made manifest is up to debate and you can define it however you want, but you probably have an intuitive understanding of what this means to you – for example, the ‘masculine’ may be synonymous with ‘dominant’ and the feminine ‘submissive’, or ‘leader’ and ‘follower’, ‘Apollonian’ and ‘Dionysian’, or ‘Orderly’ and ‘Chaotic. The words are less important than the energy embodied and this ‘masculine’/’feminine’ distinction exists in all cultures in one way or another (for all you ‘Everything is a social construction’ types).
If you find yourself in a ‘dead bedroom’ or in an otherwise passionless relationship it’s often because the sexual polarity has been neutralised because nobody is embodying polarised energy, instead focusing on ‘sameness’ or equilibrium.
If there is no ‘tension’, due to the interplay of the polarity between ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ energy, the relationship reaches an unhealthy state of stasis, due to the ideas that the people in the relationship carry in their heads about themselves and the world. The only way to kill this stasis is to get out of your head and into the heart of the action that you naturally, instinctually, and intuitively know you should be taking. In the terms that I use throughout Personal Revolutions, or if you’re unlucky enough to get in a philosophical or existential conversation with me, this is because our ideas are only ever fragments, whereas our actions are a part of the ‘Whole’. In other words, the concepts that we carry about ourselves and the world can unnecessarily prevent us from actually experiencing the world if we treat them as reality itself.
This distinction between our concept of reality and reality itself is an important one; though we can conceptualise and create just about any interpretation of what we think are and how we think the world works, living in accordance with these symbolic ideals, reality always boils beneath the surface and, on a long enough time line, the bubble that we have fought to build for ourselves will eventually burst (or, if you really like, you can continue to live in a continual state of friction as you fight to maintain an unrealistic concept of yourself and the world as reality continues to tell you otherwise – upholding our illusions requires energy though and eventually you’ll wear yourself out and/or become depressed).
No relationship is 50:50 in the long run (you may have glimpses if you can create the right conditions – but like any other perfectionistic control system it is an illusion).
A perfectly 50:50 relationship is a neurotic bubble that could burst at any time. A ‘real’ relationship is a fluid struggle for power where one person will be more dominant than the other at any given time (who has this power in a given moment can change). This power struggle is ‘healthy’ assuming people are embodying the masculine or feminine energy that they authentically embody, not which they ‘think’ they ought to embody because of social programming or other external conditioning.
Why is it healthy? Because it serves to provide the necessary friction that fuels the forward momentum and creates the back and forth that allows the people in the relationship to grow in authenticity and potential, both as individuals and collectively in intimacy. Without this friction, because those involved in the relationship have allowed the symbolic intellectual illusions of ‘perfection’, ‘equality’, ‘infallibility’, or whatever else to define the relationship, the relationship will fail to spark the necessary tension that it needs to keep going and it will ultimately either stagnate and mutate into a passive-aggressive quagmire, or one or the other partner will up and leave.
Most important point in this overview: In general, the ‘masculine’ craves respect and the ‘feminine’ yearns for love.
The ‘real’ relationship involves a ‘masculine’ person who loves a ‘feminine’ person who respects them. Due to the nature of relationships in reality never meeting the 50:50 ideal (because such an ideal can only exist in the illusory worlds of ego, intellect, or imagination), one person in the relationship will always love or ‘need’ the other more than they are needed. Usually, the one who loves is a masculine person who has been deemed worthy of respect by the object of his affections.
If a ‘masculine’ person loves somebody who doesn’t return this love it is often, though not always, because they haven’t reached a level where they are respectable in the eyes of their limerent object. This doesn’t mean that the ‘feminine’ can’t love, it just means that ‘respect’ is a prerequisite for this love (evolutionary psychology suggests this is true – the feminine either being attracted to the respect induced by a partners physical dominance or their status and ability to provide resources).
The ‘masculine’ can love but will never receive unconditional love once they have left the bubble of childhood and moved out of the nursery (because it doesn’t exist). The ‘feminine’ will not love something that it doesn’t respect and so to receive this ‘love’ the masculine has to meet the prerequisite conditions for being worthy of respect (and thus love). If we don’t realise this simple ‘Truth’ (whatever the hell that is) about human nature we will be more likely to repeat the same patterns over and over again, regardless of whether we embody a masculine or feminine polarity, as we attempt to chase the unconditional love of our childhood, only to be thwarted by reality as it reveals the gaps between itself and our illusions about it.
(This doesn’t mean that we can’t ‘glimpse’ Unconditional Love’ in this life; see #121: Unconditional Love / Conditional Love in Personal Revolutions: A Short Course in Realness, or wait for a future blog post (if I haven’t been lynched and mutilated after writing this one)).
Each human being can and does embody ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ energy but for the relationship to work it has to be turned on at the right time and place.
The ‘feminine’ (or ‘Weak Masculine’) part of the biological man craves the unconditional love that his mother did or didn’t give him in childhood. This manifests itself in attachment or co-dependency in ‘adulthood’ as he tries to repeat the same patterns of ‘winning’ this unconditional love in childhood. A classic example: the male narcissist who attempts to win ‘love’ through perfectionism and results-driven behaviour and thus grows into a ‘feminine’ man because he is more hungry for ‘love’ in the form of approval and validation than he is the respect of doing things on his own terms.
In contrast, a biological woman who gets too caught up in craving ‘respect’ ultimately begins to embody ‘masculine’ (‘Weak Feminine’) energy and thus attract ‘feminine’ men who crave an unconditional ‘mumsy’ love. Unfortunately for her, feminine men that crave this kind of love often become needy and ultimately turn her off. This means that, in general, the best way for a masculine person to keep their relationship alive is to work on earning respect more than adoration, validation, or ‘love’. It’s a tough world folks, but what we gonna do? It becomes a lot easier when we learn to accept it and remove a lot of unnecessary friction from our lives as we start responding to what’s actually in front of us, instead of ricocheting back and forth between one illusion and another.
What are the practical implications of this? As cynical as it might sound, if you’re a guy then you’re probably best off not caring too much about the approval of others or wanting to be ‘adored’ and instead focusing on your own purpose or mission in life. This will make you more ‘respectable’ in the eyes of other masculine people and to the feminine that you’re trying to attract or maintain a relationship with.
If you’re a terribly ‘feminine’ person, you obviously need to be with somebody who respects you, but more importantly you probably need somebody who loves you enough to remain present with you regardless of your emotional state from one moment to the next, realising that masculine and feminine are affected by their emotions in different ways and that the feminine, generally, fluctuates from one emotional state to another more frequently and quite often more vociferously and vehemently. Of course, as we have already said, whoever is giving you this love needs to be somebody that you also deem worthy of respect, otherwise their love will be experienced as neediness and desperation and you’ll wonder what the hell you’re doing with them.
You only need (and really receive) unconditional love in childhood; once you reach adulthood you’re better off with respect.
Men (‘Masculine’) who seek unconditional love are lost in the nursery and thus reach adulthood with attachment issues as they project their illusions onto the object of their ‘love’ in order to prevent themselves from having to face the ‘toxic shame’ that prevents them from facing themselves, their reality, and an understanding that ‘respect’ is the best that they can hope for.
Anybody, masculine or feminine, who seeks unhealthy unconditional love (actually ‘attachment’) more than respect will fail to establish the necessary boundaries to maintain the relationship and refuse to walk away when his/her partner is too intolerable or abusive. Without healthy boundaries being established on both sides, the relationship will eventually reach breaking point and/or fall into an extreme polarity where one person is constantly at the mercy of the other (aka an ‘abusive relationship’).
Much of what I talk about on Twitter or in my blogs or other stuff revolves around the basic premise that our expectations are the only thing that can really make us miserable and so the best approach is to strive to see ‘reality’ as clearly as we can so that we can build on the lasting foundation of whatever is real. ‘Realistic expectations’ about relationships are that, in the world as we know and experience it, everybody is broken and confused, nobody is perfect, and nobody will love you perfectly all the time. Accepting this isn’t something to worry about or to use as fuel for your next anxiety attack or existential crisis, but something that can help us to have better relationships by understanding that ‘One of the most human things that you can do is reach out for the stars knowing that you might not ever touch them; we are all perfectly imperfect, but to live knowing so is to be a fulfilled human being.’ (Plagiarising myself from Personal Revolutions: A Short Course in Realness).
When we take these realistic expectations on board, together with what we have been saying about the masculine-feminine polarity and the slightly different desires and expectations of each end of the spectrum, we are better equipped to build real relationships built on a solid foundation of who and what we actually are, not what we have brainwashed ourselves into thinking we are, so that we can sit around twiddling our thumbs on the couch, pretending everything is fine, but wondering where the hell the passion of the wild ride we were promised has gone. It didn’t go anywhere. Some of us just allowed it to be buried behind the concepts and philosophies that we carry at the expense of the reality we actually live in.
How to save a failing relationship: Option 1) The one who loves the other the least needs to find a reason to respect them.
Using what has been said, a relationship that is in the process of collapsing can be attributed to either the feminine not receiving enough love, the masculine not receiving enough respect, or both parties freaking out and neutralising the relationship by failing to embody either a masculine or feminine polarity or trying to act out a polarity that they’re not authentically comfortable with.
In general, the ‘feminine’ needs to respect the masculine for there to be any life in the relationship. If the ‘masculine’ is weak and loves the feminine it will be experienced as neediness and eventually repulsive; if the masculine is strong (following its own purpose outside of the relationship, remaining stable regardless of whether or not it receives ‘love’) then the love that it gives to the feminine will be received with greater trust and openness – it will be a purer love, untarnished by the broken child residing within the ‘weak’ masculine. This is because the ‘weak’ masculine is addicted to the love received as (s)he feels it completes them; the ‘strong’ masculine receives the love without it relying on it for self-definition – (s)he is already complete in the process of fulfilling their self-actualisation (the classic difference between ‘needing’ and ‘wanting’ something).
If the relationship is failing, it might be because the ‘feminine’ is unable to respect the masculine, either because it does not respect itself and has no purpose, or because its misguided quest for unconditional love (which (s)he used to get from mummy) has left him unstable and enweakened, projecting ideas of unconditional love onto something that is as incapable of giving it as s/he is. If the ‘feminine’ notices the ensuing collapse the best policy is to find something to respect something about the masculine, though of course this may be impossible in which case the relationship will end.
How to save a failing relationship: Option 2) The one who loves the most needs to make themselves more respectable to the one who loves the least.
The reality of relationships is that whoever embodies the feminine can only love somebody that they ‘respect’ (it’s also best for the ‘masculine’ to respect the object of his love for some reason, but look at how many narcissistic men fall for broken women that they can fix or make more respectable before they ‘love’ them’, whereas a ‘common’ pattern for the ‘feminine’ is to find an already respectable man, inadvertently break him through domestication, and then get fed up of him because he’s no longer ‘respectable’). If they don’t and they can’t find any reason to start respecting the ‘masculine’ then they will eventually find somebody else or walk away (or both).
This means that if a relationship is failing then the ‘masculine’ needs to work to become more respectable in the eyes of the ‘feminine’. Some people may find saying this to be distasteful but all it really means is that the masculine gets out of the mind-set where he expects ‘love’ to be given to him unconditionally (totally unrealistic in a world where we need to meet certain conditions to simply survive together) and moves into a position where he realises that he has to earn it – because what he is really earning is respect.
An important distinction here is that between fear and respect, the latter of which has to be earned, the first of which can be demanded by force or through coercion. This explains the behaviour of the ‘weak’ masculine who, failing to receive the respect that he needs to maintain a relationship with the feminine, resorts to creating an atmosphere of fear through threats, intimidation or physical violence. This is usually because a ‘masculine’ of this kind is either too lazy or too oblivious to the reality of the world to work on improving himself in some way and becoming a ‘better man’.
If a man works to improve himself in this way, becomes more worthy of respect by other men and women in general, but is with a ‘broken’ feminine that has no respect for anybody, the best approach is to move on and find a better feminine, or at least one more aligned with his skills, knowledge, and confidence in and about the world at large. The simple but brutal lesson here is that nobody will love you unconditionally just for ‘being yourself’ (as your mother did in childhood). They may value you inherently if you’re really, really good looking, get swept away and become enamoured by your beauty, but if you’re not a genetic freak in that regard you’re probably gonna have to work to make yourself instrumentally valuable in some way.
The ‘false self’ or ego is built as a reaction to shame and this sometimes confuses a ‘feminine’ person into thinking they’re ‘masculine’ and vice versa.
A major theme that runs throughout my work is the gap between the self-concept that we have constructed to protect ourselves from the ‘shame’ that we feel at our inadequacy or existential emptiness within the world, and the authentic self that remains hidden because of our identification with this (I know I keep pimping this out but only because it’s relevant; check out Personal Revolutions if you wanna read more about this). The short version of this is that our ‘authentic’ self is a reflection of our purest potential when we gain mastery of our own biology and clear away the cobwebs of social pressure and expectations that serve as ‘shoulds’ internalised from the external world around us.
If we live in a culture that shames us for having certain instinctual urges, desires, or attitudes towards the world, then, with enough pressure, we may construct a truncated version of ourselves that represses certain ‘natural’ things about us so that we can fit into the ‘nurturing’ of society. Let’s forget about the nature/nurture debate for now (send an email if you really want to argue about it or call me names) and simply state that just because something is ‘natural’ doesn’t mean that it is inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – these black and white interpretations only exist within our mind – reality or ‘nature’ in themselves are amoral and achromatic and so how we choose to act upon them is ultimately more important than these things themselves.
Instead of neurotically getting caught up in conceptual and symbolic ideas about how we ‘ought’ to be in the world, a ‘better’ approach, in terms of the fulfilment and alignment with reality they provide, is to work on learning to accept what arises within us (horniness, anger, whatever) and learning to gain mastery over these things so that we can create something wonderful in the world instead of using a mistaken concept of what the world is to tear us apart from the inside as the illusory concepts we place between ourselves and reality stop us from living real with ourselves.
The false self is built of fear in an attempt to protect ourselves from our own shame (carried over from childhood). The process of removing the mask and getting real may be painful in the short-term, and we may have to rebel against those around us who have become used to us wearing it, but once we’ve torn it off of our faces, we can eventually stand on something more secure within ourselves and allow others to do the same. You may not be able to live in a world without masks, but you can at least get to a stage where the mask that you choose to wear strengthens you instead of hiding you from yourself and everybody else.
When a man is hurt by a woman he becomes more feminine and when a woman is hurt by a man she becomes more masculine.
Another reason that we may create a ‘false self’ and trick ourselves into thinking that we are the polar opposite of what we actually are is that the ego takes on board whatever it perceives as the source of its attacker’s strength or because it convinces us that there is something that is ‘lacking’ or missing from our core that was manifest in whoever it was that hurt us. For this reason a ‘masculine’ person who is wounded will become emotional, needy, and erratic (overly chaotic) and a ‘feminine’ person who is wounded will become closed, controlling, and calculating (overly orderly) in their approach to the next relationship. Ironically, this will make them less ‘attractive’ to the polarity that stands opposite their actual ‘authentic’ selves that still reside beneath the defensive barriers of the ego.
But, as we have already said, we are not the ego: The ego is an illusion that we create to protect ourselves from the pain that we feel the world has in store for us. It is a conceptual creation that stands between reality and ourselves and which we can let go of at any time if we are willing to let go and fall back into alignment with the reality of the world and ourselves. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any authentically feminine men or masculine women, just that we should be wary of the distinction between our authentic and false self and ask ourselves once in a while to reflect on the difference between what we think we want and what we actually want. It’s better to have a broken heart than a closed one, because at least a broken heart still moves and flows with the vicissitudes of reality.
You probably won’t realise that you have a spiritual wound until you honestly try and share your ‘soul’ with another.
The whole point of being in a ‘relationship’ in the first place, besides the utilitarian necessities of biology and getting in each other’s genes, is that we’re given an opportunity to ‘grow’ together and to move towards what is most ‘whole’ about ourselves. We live in a relatively free world and how we go about this as individuals is really up to the individuals themselves, but the realisation I want to bring across in this article/essay/whatever is that the only way into wholeness is through ‘reality’.
The back and forth of sexual tension and the falling in and out of love that rips the masks off of our faces and helps us to move away from the fragmentation of the ego is the process of ridding ourselves of our illusions, seeing reality and ourselves with more clarity, and accepting all of these things with an awareness that can permeate the rest of our lives, allowing us to stand more real within both ourselves and the world.
If what you’ve read here so far (assuming you’ve made it this far – I didn’t realise I had so much to say about this stuff) has offended you or caused a visceral reaction of some kind, it might be worth looking at what has caused you to feel this way. Chances are you’re wounded and you haven’t faced this about yourself because the wound is hidden behind the Elastoplast of your ‘false self’. If you haven’t been in ‘love’ yet or if ‘love hurts’ it’s because the relationship is trying to pull the mask off your face but you keep resisting. Let it slip and see what happens – just be prepared to face the reality of yourself once it’s gone. If it’s been a while, then it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
Conclusion: Regardless of whether you’re ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ the best approach to relationships is loving yourself through cultivating self-acceptance (working on shame) and on respecting yourself by setting and maintaining boundaries.
Reality can be a pretty rough place but we can still learn to accept it and doing so makes our lives easier in the long run. The ‘reality’ of our relationships is that we are all ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ to some extent, but that generally one or other of these polarities will be flowing through us with more ferocity and so coming to terms with this will help us to have a better relationship with both ourselves and those around us.
Learning to love ourselves first and foremost by working to accept ourselves (without using ‘acceptance’ as an excuse to keep growing and flowing into ourselves and the world) means that we are less likely to seek consistent unconditional love from people that can never give it to us, instead providing it to ourselves as much as possible. Learning to respect ourselves and to seek respect in our relationships ensures that we establish the necessary boundaries to stand within ourselves and within the relationship on the best possible terms.
Short version: You gotta be real to love real.
If that was real enough for you, check out my book Personal Revolutions: A Short Course in Realness – 166 short, sharp bursts of reality with accompanying ‘Self-Guidance Questions’ for personal and philosophical insight!
This article is way longer than I thought it would be. Here’s some stuff that’s related but which I didn’t include:
-It’s easy to break the masculine ego; it’s easy to break the feminine heart. If you can buy this it’s because of what we have said here, the masculine is hungry for respect and the feminine love.
-The weak feminine confuses attention for love (hence ‘feminine’ people being obsessed with taking selfies, etc). This is because too far along feminine pole and lacks respect for self. This is why some weak feminine people give themselves away for a box of chocolates and some flowers.
-The weak masculine confuses fear for respect. We mentioned this somewhat but this is why some guys get all ‘macho’ about shit and ruin people’s lives.
-Weak love, where you crave somebody, is like an alcoholic craving a bottle of whiskey. ‘Strong’ or pure love is where you appreciate somebody like a non-alcoholic having a glass by the fire.
-Often those who are desperate for ‘love’ (actually attachment) will do things that cost them respect to get it. Sometimes they have no self-respect at all and become so desperate in their frenzied search for validation that they eventually become repulsive to the one who’s love they seek (because they are usually seeking it from the ‘feminine’ and the feminine has to be able to respect what it is attracted to).