As I review the recordings of the conversations between Daniel and myself, I note that he felt compelled to be the teacher. That he came into our first session with sheets of photocopied paper to explain, according to his spiritual teacher, how a woman can only love as mother, demonstrated this. In every following session, I had a sense that he wanted to be the teacher. How well can a teacher shift into the role of being the student? How open then was Daniel to learning from me as a woman? Did this immediately set up a way of relating that wasn’t conducive to an open dialogue where both participants felt seen and heard?
Having stated the above, both of us must have felt safe in sharing. In the first session, we quickly moved from being hypothetical to discussing our childhoods and early relationships with the opposite sex. I found my ground and although he often seemed to dominate the conversation, I said what I wanted to say. And, our time together became very interactive and conversational.
My initial question, before Daniel stated his premise, was to discuss the Peter Pan Syndrome, the Puer Aeternus male and how the modern woman responds to him. When I look at our government, for instance, I can find so many examples of out-of-control egos governing the world. I have noticed that often, the women who are married to these men appear to support the immature male–often by their silence.
We did touch on this topic. Daniel admitted to not stepping into his adult male persona until he was in his sixties. Before that, he didn’t have a conscience about being verbally and psychologically abusive to women…and men. If he perceived that someone was intellectually inferior to him, he immediately judged them as less than him.
Both Daniel and I had highly abusive childhoods. We had male and female models that were stunted in their growth. Anger was the man’s go-to when he was triggered. Submission was the woman’s response to a man, especially when he exhibited anger. This was true in both of our families of origin. Daniel grew up not respecting his mother. He considered her cowardly for not standing up to his father. “A doormat,” he said.
I could match him for that as my father was highly abusive and got away with the unthinkable. My mother had no power in the relationship…it seemed to be this way right from the start of their marriage. We can say it was the times…the fifties’…when woman was to play that subservient role in relation to her husband. However, it’s been a theme throughout known history…that woman is secondary, less than. A theme that was exacerbated when man instigated religions that elevated men and virtually erased women from the pantheon of newly reigning gods.
Men could get away with all sorts of things within the constructs of family. It was structured within Christianity that a woman “be subject to him.” That is what I learned so well from my mother. I went off into the world, modeling my mother, subjugating myself to a man who didn’t see or appreciate me. A man who blamed me because all he wanted to do was be a boy. He did a man’s job, a firefighter, and then he wanted to play, play, play and drink, drink, drink. He would have occasional sentimental bouts where he’d try to do something thoughtful. These rare instances of sentiment couldn’t counteract his ongoing behaviors and violations, his disrespect towards me.
Daniel went off into the world at an early age, full of arrogance and rage and without a conscience, as he said. Although he felt shame around and anger towards his mother, he intuitively felt that women would be his teachers. He sought out women like himself–attractive, whip-smart intellectuals, able to hold that attraction or otherwise, dismissible. Whereas, I sought approval from a man. Was I pretty enough? Was I bright enough? Was I sexy enough to hold a man’s fidelity and his love? I always felt, that I had to try harder and do more to “win him.” I thought I had to earn his love and affection. It wasn’t alright to be me exactly as I was.
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? That was one of my questions to Daniel…and now to you.