During any given year, I engage with hundreds of men, in private life coaching, in our workshops, and in men’s work. And one thing I consistently find is this:
Men lose their power with women!
Margaret Paul, PhD, makes a great distinction about power (here…)
She says, “Our society often confuses personal power — ‘power within’ — with ‘power over,’ which is about controlling others.”
She continues: “Personal power comes from an inner sense of security, from knowing who you are in your soul, from having defined your own intrinsic worth.”
It is in this respect I see men lose their power with their women partners. (On a side-note, most conscious men today have no desire to have “power over” their partners, but they definitely DO have a strong desire to keep their “power within” in their relationships.)
I used to think that “losing my power” was exclusively about backing down, not following through on commitments, or taking orders from anyone (i.e. my partner); basically not looking like, and acting as, an ever-confident, invincible, man-hero!
But it’s a lot more nuanced and complicated than that. Losing power takes place along the entire spectrum of states a man can find himself in; from weak to strong, fearful to heroic. Losing your power is just as much about not standing up for yourself as it is about not daring to share your softest, weakest spots.
This may show up in different ways …
1. When your wife/girlfriend/partner gets upset and emotional. Especially when it’s about you or something you did. Because you feel uncomfortable in the face of the intense emotion, you want to get out of there or make it stop. Further, when she gets emotional, you might feel it’s a statement that you’re somehow lacking.
2. You don’t dare share your vulnerability, your fears and insecurities. So you have to “pretend” you don’t feel those things. When you don’t express the full range of how you feel, you are out of integrity with yourself, because your insides and outsides are not out of sync.
3. You say Yes when you mean No, or No when you really wanted to say Yes. In other words, you “bend” too much away from your own knowing of what is right and true. You either accommodate too much, or don’t go for everything you want. In either case, you shortchange your own desires to take care of hers, and you can only do that so many times before you get resentful.
4. You avoid engaging with her about emotional or triggering stuff. Instead, you keep quiet, you check out, you find reasons to be elsewhere, you stay busy with work or projects. This a favorite strategy of men (mine too, sometimes!), and whereas it might give the immediate “benefit” of avoiding trouble, it always comes back to bite you. Either because you feel shitty about yourself, or because she will make it unbearable to keep doing.
5. You don’t speak your truth. You feel you can’t say what’s REALLY on your mind. You don’t want to hurt her and cause another stir, so you keep it to yourself. Which ends up robbing both of you of your contribution. A man I worked with, who used to keep his thoughts to himself a lot, said it like this: “Before, I just didn’t think I had anything to contribute to the relationship … I didn’t have the tools to communicate to her what my needs were”
6. You’re afraid of her anger … or your own. Anger, hers or yours, is tricky in most relationships. Most men are – rightfully so – keen on NOT being like their angry dad or like the violent, dominant males they see in the world. So they try to keep their own anger contained and under seal. On the other hand, they are pretty sure their partner’s anger means they themselves screwed up somehow, and given how much self-criticism most of us men leverage on ourselves, we just don’t want anymore piled on top of it from her. I coached a man who said, “I’ll stand and face a gang of thugs any day, but when my wife, who’s 5-foot-1, gets angry at me, I get scared and I just want to run.”
I believe Margaret Paul has it right when she says, “All of us would love to have personal power — the power to manifest our dreams, the power to remain calm and loving in the face of fear, the power to stay centered in ourselves in the face of attack.”
And it is exactly this personal power that men often lose with their female partners.
When that man is you, there’s a very real cost to you. First and foremost, you don’t get to feel good about yourself. Every time you have an interaction where you don’t stay connected to your power, you feed the little voices in your head that says you’re no good, you don’t measure up, you’ll never make it, and you’re not good enough.
Secondly, by not being in your personal power, you inadvertently contribute to the breakdown and demise of your marriage or relationship. A healthy, loving, passionate, empowering relationship takes two people who not only stay connected to their power, but knows how to express it, in times of passion and love as well as in times of anger or conflict. When you don’t, the results are the “usual suspects” of less sex, less connection, more arguments, more distance, and so on. In plain language, it sucks! And it hurts.
A question for you …
Does any of this sound familiar? Do you recognize yourself in what I’m sharing?
I’d love to hear from you. Please send me an email and tell me where this hits home for you (or if it doesn’t).
Also, check out the private retreat I’m offering for a small group of men, which is all about your power as a man. Click here for more ….