I recently watched a movie with Robert De Niro and about a 70 year old man who accepts an intern job at an e-commerce company start up. At one point in the movie the owner of the company played by Anne Hathaway asked what I thought was a powerful and important question: ‘When did men stop being men?’ To answer this question, many have pointed to changes in the social definition of a "good man" that occurred during the feminist movement in the 1970's and 80's which focused on "power dynamics" in relationships between couples and throughout society.
While adjustments to post-war male-female interaction dynamics were needed, there were virtues lost in the change. The old system attempted to force women into roles that were strict even by Biblical standards (see Proverbs 31) after they had experienced expanded roles during WWII. Terms like "sexist" and "male chauvinist pig" were used to discourage those that would discount women simply because they were women.
Unfortunately these terms began to be used to de-value general masculine traits in men. Acts of respect and deference like opening doors for women were viewed as degrading. Replacement behaviors for "how to" respect women were not available except for a ‘general stipulation’ to treat women as "equals."
In recent posts I have outlined ways in which men and women will use the same language to communicate very different concepts. The statement "treat women as equals" is one example: to a woman the statement will likely mean "treat a women as a women with equal opportunities and equal pay;” whereas to a man this statements likely means "treat women like men." While there are similarities in the results of these two efforts, they are quite different, with different results.
Consider the old system’s extreme dynamics of the man telling the woman "I will tell you what to do so we can be happy" as compared with the new system dynamics of the man telling the woman "Just tell me what you want me to do so we can be happy." The first relational dynamic is similar to a Father/Daughter interaction while the second dynamic is similar to a Mother/Son interaction. Both social narratives have similar goals and outcomes: to please and not upset the other spouse, resulting in one or both feeling controlled and unsatisfied. So, what’s the alternative?
Path to Freedom
One alternative is to have both follow a third member in the relationship – God. When both spouses are attuned to what God wants them to do in order for them to be happy, the dynamic between husband and wife is one of equals in service to a Superior. The answer to the question “which one of us is in charge” becomes “God.”
Oddly I have had many clients tell me “what makes a good man is one who follows God.” Meaning a man who will be willing to make his wife mad in order to make God (not himself) happy, rather than risk making God mad in order to make his wife happy.
The qualifier to both Husbands and Wives in this dynamic is to beware of asking for selfish gain while using “God said” in order to get it – God has a history of not liking when people use His name in vain. Husbands, if you doubt this – ask your wife!
If you don’t know how, let us help!
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