No one escapes childhood without passing through a gauntlet of messages about what is expected from them.
And while no one gets through unscathed, the messages that men and women receive tend to differ in some fairly consistent ways.
Today, I’m going to dig into three of the most common differences.
Why? Because compassion is vital when it comes to human relating.
Yes, you were handed a raw deal. But so was everyone else.
So kick back, open your heart, and let the following wash over you.
1. No anger for women / No sadness for men
When it comes to emotional expression, our conditioning dictates that men and women are each banned from different points on the spectrum.
From a young age, women are primarily discouraged from expressing anger.
Don’t be a bitch, don’t be bossy, boys don’t like it if you’re too assertive.
But they are allowed sadness. And so, many women, when they’re actually feeling anger, are often prone to bypassing anger and falling straight into sadness. Opting for tears over clear expressions of boundaries. Which makes sense. When one pathway of expression is blocked, then the emotional energy has to go somewhere… and so sadness/despondence feels like the next most appropriate place to go.
Whereas the conditioning that men receive around emotional expression differs quite widely.
Men, overall, are encouraged to express as a limited a range of emotions as possible. Ideally, a man never veers too far away from any emotion that isn’t anger, or quiet, stoic contentment. Even being seen to express joy too freely could have men experience pushback from their peers.
But the main emotion that men are discouraged from, by a landslide, is sadness.
Boy’s don’t cry. Don’t be a pussy. What a little bitch. Suck it up. Walk it off.
And so, without a healthy relationship to their sadness, men will often overcompensate and bypass their sadness by expressing anger. Because at least anger borders on aggression, and displaying anger means that you look tough and dangerous, and not like a weak little boy.
With this healthy pathway blocked off for men, there’s no wonder that the male suicide rate is 3-4x higher than that of women’s in the vast majority of developed nations around the world.
Men are like sealed champagne bottles… being shaken by the every day stressors of life… with no release valve available to them. And so no wonder they turn into abusers, rapists, and mass shooters. They were taught that their emotions aren’t allowed.
Tell men that they can cry… that they are allowed to feel their feelings fully with others… and watch the world transform within a generation.
2. Your worth is your appearance / Your worth is your money
Women are raised with the (very loud, very constant) belief that their primary worth is in their looks.
Billions of dollars in advertising revenue are spent every year to remind women that if they’re fat, or oily, or have acne, or are wearing the wrong thing, or their hair isn’t shiny enough, that they will be unlovable and no one will ever want to be with them.
As a result, eating disorders, elective surgeries, and spending thousands of dollars a year on beauty products is increasingly the norm, instead of the exception.
For men, the message that they receive about their primary value is in their resource accumulation. In other words, if women are sex objects, then men are success objects.
You are a provider. You are a wallet. If you can’t afford to pay for both of you for your first three dates, then you don’t deserve to date yet. Be a millionaire by 30 or you’ll most likely be a loser forever, and your punishment will be a cold, lonely bed until the day you die.
As a result, where women develop eating disorders, men become workaholics. They take more dangerous jobs because they pay better. They abandon their hearts true calling of what they’d really want to do because they’d rather get the six figure salary doing the work that crushes their soul.
Their rationalizing goes, “My wife and kids need food and a roof over their head more than they need a happy, present, engaged father. So fuck it. This is my duty in life, and I will fulfill on it.”
And where does this lead them? Lying in bed at night, 10 years into a career they hate, and silently calculating whether or not the insurance would pay out well enough to protect their family if they killed themselves.
Sound dramatic? I have heard these exact words out of the mouths of dozens of my male clients.
Again, this is not an exception. This is a natural byproduct of living in a society that tells you as a man… “Be tough, make money, provide for your family, and how dare you think about doing something with your life that would bring you fulfillment, you selfish fuck. Get back to work.”
3. Practice saying no to sex / You aren’t allowed to say no to sex
In young women’s sexual education, an emphasis is placed on the sense of permission that they have to say ‘No’ to a man’s sexual advances.
Both because you don’t want to be too easy/a slut, and also because men ‘only want one thing’ and they’re horny all the time, so watch out! Because a whole bunch of unwanted dick is coming your way, and you need to be armed with your ‘No’ shield at all times.
What this doesn’t take into account is that women don’t receive comparable conditioning around being practiced at saying yes to sex, and their own pleasure, when they do want it.
This leads many women (and understandably so) to either 1) see sex as a tool to use that they should dole out sparingly to their partners so as to not spoil them… or 2) over-functioning and giving in to having sex with their partner even when they don’t want to, because ‘if men want sex all the time, then I shouldn’t deny him because I might lose his love and then he’ll want to get it somewhere else’.
What an absolute mind fuck of a no-win situation.
In monitoring their sexual energy like a hot commodity that someone else is constantly trying to take from them, how could we possibly expect women to have a sense of safety and security in their relationship to their bodies and their pleasure?
And for men…
Men also receive the messages of ‘men only want one thing’, and millions of messages, from media and peers, that a real man is virile, sex-crazed, and always ready to go at the drop of a hat.
This leads many men to a performance-based relationship to their sexuality, and an overarching sense of ‘If she wants to, I have to find a way to force my body rise to the occasion.’
I couldn’t possibly count the number of times that I’ve had adult, male clients admit to me that they have never said no to their partner’s sexual advances (even when they themselves didn’t want to engage sexually at all), because they would feel unmanly and wrong to do so.
So, news flash, for men and women…
Sexual energy ebbs and flows. For men, for women… in relationships… in seasons… in different parts of the day for different people. You are allowed to feel sexual in some moments, and not feel sexual in other moments. Regardless of your gender.
Your yes is valid. Your no is valid. And neither your yes or your no mean anything about you, other than the fact that you are a normal, sexual, human being, who has an ever-shifting body.
Don’t Compare – Just Have Compassion
Now, at this point in the article, there could be a part of your mind that wants to compare.
“Men/women get the worse end of this deal! Ours is way worse. Yours is nothing!”
The point isn’t to compare pain. Nobody wins in the suffering Olympics. And it is only our egos that want to make our pain special and have our suffering be more significant than others.
The point is to have compassion. To have a greater sense of understanding. To look at our fellow humans and go, “Hmm… I’ve never thought about your side of the equation that much. That does sound really hard. I’m sorry that you’ve had to navigate life in that way.”
Compassion and understanding are the gateways to true intimacy and connection. And when we have a greater sense of awareness of the context that the people around us are operating within, it’s that much easier to have a greater sense of love for them.
In fact, a few months ago, I sent out an email to my more than 50% female email list and asked them why they followed my work, when I have historically primarily written towards men. The #1 most common response was simply, “to understand the minds and experiences of men better.” And so I set out to package everything I had learned about the deepest secrets of men in my last 10+ years of working with men 1-on-1 and in groups to create something truly special.
It’s called Inside The Male Mind, and it’s a ten module video program that walks you through everything you need to know to understand men more deeply, and to have infinitely greater relationships with them.
You can check it out by clicking here.
Dedicated to your success,
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