A Mature Man…

The conversations continue…Daniel and I were discussing my expectations of my husband when I was a young wife and mother.

Me: When I was newly married, pregnant a year later and when my daughters were growing up, I needed a partner, a helpmate. What I got was the puer aeternus. I do commend my ex-husband for supporting our family economically. There are some men who don’t do that. However, every structure of safety and a healthy environment in which to rear children was torn down by his drunken disregard for the sacred task of rearing our children. Not to mention his disrespect of me.

****
Now, in my middle years, I no longer need that type of helpmate. My task of being the woman who can only love as mother is complete. Now I want a mature man who can meet me as an equal and love me wholly as a woman!

Daniel chuckled and asked wryly “Christine, would you know how to be towards a mature male?”

The question seemed to hover in the air between us. I wondered out loud.

Me: “I’d like to think that I’m capable of learning…that if a man were mature and self-aware, I’d like to think that I could up-level, to grow as a result of our relationship. In a healthy way. Rather than being brought down to a level of the immature male. I’ve been there and done that.”

Daniel, noting that it was only theoretical, applied the question to himself…would he know how to relate to a mature woman?

Aha!

****
Longer life spans have created different needs and/or new desires for what a woman seeks in a relationship with a man. It’s after we get tossed from the old paradigms, when they prove false, unreliable, like the betrayals that they were that change can begin to occur. When I was twenty-seven years old, I literally vomited up the false beliefs about my childhood. I had thought I had a good childhood. I had relied on what my father had said “Your parents are you best friends.” When I began to see that my childhood was based on a terrible fiction, I became depressed. I went into the underworld. I had to go there to unearth what was false and discover what was true.

Such an upheaval can occur at any time in one’s life. Daniel grew up in Wales. His reaction to his dysfunctional childhood was to detach from his parents at a very young age, ten years old. He physically left home and school when he was sixteen years old. He had seen what marriage looked like and decided that it wasn’t for him. However, he did marry, twice. Due to his background and lack of self-awareness, both marriages failed.

****
What I needed and desired in a man when I was young and planning a family had evolved. Once that sacred task of childrearing was completed, what was I looking for in a relationship with a mature male? What I desire now is different than what I needed then. I certainly don’t want to bring up an immature male at this time in my life.

Me: When a woman says “I want a mature man, are there any out there?” I wondered out loud to Daniel.

Daniel: Is that her intrinsic truth? Does she really want a mature man? Are there any out there? There are very few as you know…

Daniel noted that when a man marries young and has a family, by the time he’s in his forties, he’s looking around for a younger woman…He puts all of that aside and starts over again…doing the Peter Pan thing, trying to stay young because now he’s got “a young chick” by his side.

****
In the past, Daniel was drawn to women that he considered to be “mature women.” He was also often intimidated by who he thought that they were–that they were smarter than him. When he came to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter, he was attracted to these focused career women. He considered them both as objects of desire and sources of learning. They represented wisdom and maturity to him. Although he was intimidated by them, he stuck it out for a period of time because he knew (even back then) that it was about consciousness-changing. When the women lost their allure to him, when he realized that “they weren’t as smart as I thought they were,” he abused them over a period of time.

****
As a woman of many years now, if I choose to be in a relationship with a man again, I have to do my own work of becoming conscious, self-aware. A mature man, one who has done his deep work likely won’t appear on my radar screen unless or until I do what I need to do to grow in self-awareness. That’s as it should be.

One thing that was probably beneficial for Daniel and me as we held these weekly conversations is that we were both clear that we weren’t romantically interested in the other. If that had been the case, I think the conversations would have gone in a different direction and perhaps not have been possible.

Who’s Your Role Model?

Daniel came into our second conversation after listening to the first week’s recording with a question. We had shared intimately about our childhood years and young adulthood in the first conversation. Acknowledging that, he asked “How aware were you of the horror that was coming down while you were growing up? Did you have girlfriends and observe other ways of families relating?”

My immediate answer was that I was not consciously aware that we were different than any other family. Except that my best friend’s mother, my Girl Scout leader, was outgoing and involved in the community. She laughed a lot too–something that my mother never did. Regardless, I assumed, when I thought about it, that everyone’s family was like mine. However, there’s another component to this type of family system–the power over despotic system. Threats are in place. They are subliminal. You do not talk about the secrets that are within your family. It is a closed system. That’s it–period.

I was unaware of the degree of abuse and trauma held in my body until I was 27-years old. I vomited for two weeks straight after inwardly acknowledging that the image I held of my family as one big happy family was a lie. This was the beginning for me of the downfall of the old establishment. All of the things that I believed were true and real crumbled and it seemed like there was no foundation to my life. I couldn’t fathom what an alternative would be. Trauma from the past arose, PTSD, and I didn’t know exactly what to trace it to. What I believed was solid and wholesome was actually false. My body made me aware of the abuse and locked-away trauma.

****
Growing up as he did, Daniel viewed the marriage model as “pure hell.” He didn’t want any of that! Yet, he married twice, not having done any inner work. Each time he brought “the hell model” into his marriage with him unconsciously sabotaging both marriages. He felt that he lost his freedom and that marriage was an entrapment. He couldn’t “perform” and felt justified in looking outside the marriage to satisfy his sexual needs and desires. He had no conscience about this. He basically, as he put it, “crucified two marriages.” And, he also learned from this.

Whereas, I thought that this was the path, the only acceptable path, laid out for me. Marriage felt like my only choice. When I was 18-years old and working a full-time job, I wanted to move out and get my own apartment. My father said “You can’t leave until you are 21 or married. If you do, I won’t respect you.” There it was–the path–get married, honor your husband, have children, rear them and grow old together.

As I told Daniel, “The norm was harmful to me because I was agreeing, in a way, to being enslaved. My husband had total freedom while I was bound to a paradigm that wasn’t really supporting me.” I had to ask myself “What’s going on here?”

****
Without self-examination, we bring what we’ve seen modeled into our lives, into our personal relationships, into our partnerships or marriages. Again, Daniel emphasized the necessity for self-examination and self-awareness to evolve ourselves and how we are in relationship to another.

Towards the end of our second meeting, Daniel chuckled and said “This is turning into a therapy session, but it’s necessary background information.”

So we proceeded from there.

****
Have you looked at your own role models? Have you learned, grown and found your own truth and path?

Having Her Own Thoughts

The conversations between Daniel and myself were happening simultaneously to a great deal of drama around my parents who were in their final years. Family disruption, conflict, guilt, sorrow, continued abuse of my mom, breakdowns of my dad, struggles with siblings. This all entered into my conversations with Daniel in some way. I confided some of the ongoing story to him.

When a woman is in a relationship where she is being dominated, where she is fearful, where she can’t speak truthfully, she disconnects from her soul self, her true self. She lives outside of herself in other words.

I confided in Daniel that we brought my mother to safety, away from my father who was starving her. We put her in a safe place, a care home with eight other residents. She was there for six months while he wrangled with the administrators and social services, trying to get her back home. My mother was an invalid in a wheelchair at this time and totally dependent. My sister and I visited her regularly. She was always glad to see us as she adapted to this whole new world away from my father. My mother’s eyes lit up when one or both of us entered the room. When we asked my mother a question, we noted how she had to really stop and consider for awhile before she answered. She wasn’t accustomed to speaking for herself. My father typically answered for her or she looked to him for a nod of approval before she spoke. Now, here she was after sixty something years of marriage, called upon to find her own answers. It was fascinating, really, to wait patiently for her to decide what it was she wanted or felt or needed. My sister and I, over a six month period, noticed a certain newfound empowerment arising in her.

In a way, as my mother was remembering herself, my sister and I were discovering her for the first time. My father was able to talk to her on the phone and he tried to influence her through this connection. However, he wasn’t right there in the room. He couldn’t use his icy stare or body language to subdue her. For the first time in many years, she had a sense of safety. And perhaps, a feeling of freedom.

Two other sisters had power of attorney over my parents and, after six months, they decided to reunite our parents in another care home. I was opposed to this as I knew that the same patterns of the cycle of abuse would return. And they did. Old patterns die hard.

****
For my mother to have her own thoughts and to finally have a small opening in which to speak them was also true for me to a different degree in the conversations with Daniel. My childhood had been one of being voiceless and invisible and not feeling safe. This carried over into my marriage. Now, with Daniel, I had an opportunity to speak to a man who had once-upon-a-time been an abusive male. A man who was consciously deepening his own self-awareness. I wasn’t going to hold back. I was going to be truthful, authentic and to have my voice heard!

I noticed that during the conversations , Daniel was sometimes so eager to speak that he would interrupt me to interject his thoughts. He is quick and when you’re that quick there is a tendency not to really settle in and listen to the other person. He was so ready with his own thoughts that he didn’t allow me to complete what I was saying frequently. It made me wonder if I was really received and heard. Perhaps not. He admitted this…he was excited about the topic and he was eager to express his thoughts and insights. There was a lack of patience on his part for the conversation to unfold at a pace that felt respectful to me and my point of view.

For someone like me with a history of an abusive father and spouse, that isn’t the best way to have a dialogue. It could shut me down. It could cause me to waiver from my own train of thought. I might fade out of the conversation. I might disappear and become voiceless and invisible once again. However, recording the conversations and making a cd for both of us to review, enabled Daniel to recognize this for himself. Between our meetings, listening to the cd, he observed that he talked too much or interrupted or was overbearing. He vowed to be more conscious of that. Even with the best of intentions, Daniel mostly was true to form and carried on in the same way throughout.

Having the cd served me also in that before the next meeting, I listened and wrote down my questions and observations and was able to interject my thoughts and insights with great presence and persistence the following week. In retrospect, I viewed this less as an opposition and more of an opportunity for both of us. I also considered that Daniel and I would take away from these conversations what we each needed.

Grow Up!

“What is a woman’s role in regards to the immature males in her life, grown men who refuse to grow up and take responsibility?”

When I asked Daniel this question, he paused in deep thought before he answered. He reverted to the teachings of Vitvan. In this spiritual philosophy, woman is a representative of The World Mother. The World Mother has been defined as “the creator of all life, of the earth, there is no being greater than she, and her powers appear to be limitless. She is known as Mother to her children, of which there are more than there are numbers, but she is neither male nor female.”

If a woman is a representative of The World Mother, then her task, according to Daniel, is to step into the dignity of that role. Her task is to value herself, to elevate herself, to love herself. According to Daniel, the more that a woman can live from this place of self-valuing, healthy self-esteem, the less tolerance she is going to have towards the immature male. It is not her job to support his immature ways. The more that women across the planet can step into their true dignity and power, the more men will be forced to GROW UP!

That’s in a Utopian world, of course. Easier said than done. Change doesn’t occur overnight and we’ve got a long ways to go. Yet, change is imperative now. Climate change is demanding that humans become self-aware and understand how we are woven into the web of life.

****
Whether or not I believe in Vitvan’s spiritual philosophy, I recognize the need for a woman to grow into esteeming and loving herself. This self-esteem and love of self is often hard won, as we are embedded in systems and creation stories that don’t favor women. Being that across the world patriarchal systems rule, our experiences from birth are steeped in that dysfunctional male paradigm. Women often see themselves through the eyes of the men in their lives. We dress and behave in ways to win his approval. We measure ourselves according to how well we follow the precepts of the male-crafted religions. We see ourselves according to how we fit into the established society or culture. We are conscious of how successfully we have adhered to what we learned from our parents. And, we also might see ourselves in reaction to what our parents taught by their words and/or through their example. Regardless, we are always in relation to this overriding male-created paradigm.

****
I asked Daniel, if a woman can only love as mother, are men looking for a mother in a woman, their wife, partner, friend? With a slight hesitation, Daniel said “Yes, I think so…unconsciously. After all, that’s his first female experience…this is his initial introduction to life. [Ultimately], he has to break away. I feel that many men don’t because it’s an evolutionary step and they remain sons…it’s compounded by the fact, as Vitvan would say, that woman can only love as mother and then you have the ungrown child…”

My ex-husband was tied to his mother’s apron strings. There is the saying “your son is your son until he takes him a wife.” For her son to grow into a responsible husband and father, my mother-in-law needed to let him go. She never did. “My poor son, my dear son” was her refrain. He was always her son, her boy, and he never partnered equally with me, his wife. His mother hampered his growth into manhood. And I was groomed to let the man run the show allowing him to “have his cake and eat it too.” There were times I tried to put my foot down, but he had the power in the relationship until I grew in my own self-awareness.

****
My sisters and I sometimes discuss male privilege. I asked Daniel “If the world is working for the man, what’s his incentive to change himself or the way that things are?”

What are your thoughts on that as a woman or as a man? Your comments are welcome.

Let’s Talk–between a man and a woman

Last week, when the smoke in the mountains of northern California cleared sufficiently, I sat outside in the backyard with a male friend. I mentioned that I had recently watched the film, The Princess Bride. One of the antagonists was boasting that he had a brain that could outwit Socrates and Aristotle. My friend wondered how it would be to engage in a conversation with Socrates and Aristotle. If they were there with us today, in my backyard in conversation, what would that be like? I said “First of all, being a woman, I wouldn’t be included in the conversation.” It isn’t big news that in Greek society, women had a place; it was in the home and their occupation was within that domain. To this friend’s credit, he said that I’d be included in the conversation if he had anything to say about it!
****

Let’s back up to 2009. For several years, I’d been considering the possibility of conversations with a man. I didn’t have a particular man in mind. One day, at the local health food store, a man who actually had done some yard maintenance for me, stood behind me in the checkout line. I turned to him, his name is Daniel, and I nearly blurted out “Would you be interested in having some poetic conversations with me about the way that men and women relate?” Without hesitation he replied, “Christine, I’m your man.” For twelve weeks, we met once a week for an hour. Many more questions arose.  I recorded our conversations, made a cd for both of us so that in between meetings, we could review what was said and witness how we listened, how we spoke, and any other observations.

Premise for conversations:  Having survived a highly abusive childhood within a dysfunctional patriarchal family paradigm, I married young.  I stayed in this abusive relationship for nearly thirty years.  I was a battered wife.  Out in the dating world, I encountered some very immature men.  I had questions about men; about how men and women relate, about expectations in a relationship, about why men think that they have permission to behave in an abusive way towards women, to dominate them.  These are questions that every woman should be asking, if not for herself and her daughters, then for her nieces, her sisters, for the women across the earth that are disrespected by men in a patriarchal culture that disfavors women.

Highlights of Conversation One: 

As pointed out by great thinkers and authors, it is unlikely that Mars and Venus, through all of their grand efforts over time, are ever going to achieve a perfect unity.  In the film, Jerry Maguire, the male character played by Tom Cruise, gives his “I need you” speech.  One phrase that has been repeated over the years is his line “You complete me.”  It’s weird because I seem to remember her saying the line.  Regardless, I do remember cringing when he said it and thinking “DON’T FALL FOR IT.”  Had I become a cynical middle-aged woman who had seen too much of things gone wrong?

When, in our first conversation, Daniel said that he was an incurable romantic and that line, that thought that someone else completes him, enraptured him.  As a woman who had been beaten down by immature men, I was all for my own sovereignty.  Screw that.  I complete myself!  And, if a man brings something to the equation that doesn’t smack of co-dependency, then I might let him get a foot in the door.  Otherwise, no thank you.  My sovereignty had been hard won. 

Back to the thought that on this earth plane, according to some spiritual teachers and philosophers, men and women can never truly unite.  Isn’t that good?  When, I wonder, are we each going to find the value in what the other brings to the table and appreciate what we can create together.  Why create an opposition when there can be a cooperative? Women do not need to try to define themselves using masculine terminology.  Women don’t have to aspire to excel in left brain logic…leave that to the men.  Bring in our right brain wisdom to balance the logic.  Bring in the intuitive. Bring in the imaginative, the mythic.
****

Ten years after these conversations, I asked myself what prompted me to want to engage this dialogue with a man (and a man I hardly knew)!  Where did I find the courage to initiate these conversations after the history I’d had with abusive men?  Where did my silenced voice emerge from and why then?  And, discovering that in his earlier life, this man had been verbally abusive to women and had no conscience about his behavior, made this all the more daring on my part.  As he began to “wake up” and do his own inner work, he became more approachable.
****

In these times, the women of Afghanistan are facing the degradation and removal of their rights as human beings. Their rights to safely walk the streets, their rights to education, their rights to be represented at the bargaining tables and more. Where does this hatred of women stem from? Complex, right? Yet, there it is insinuated throughout known history and across cultures.

What can you trace in your family system that reeks of misogyny? When do we outgrow this crap!?