June 28, 2017

Love is Not a Power Play: a New “Constitution” for Conscious Relationships.

I realised in my late teens that attempting to blame and shame white people into giving me a break by regularly reminding them of more than 400 years of slavery was counterproductive.

When, eventually, I let go of my anger and embraced forgiveness, I noticed that people (for the most part) started to treat me not as a black man, but simply as a human being.

Similarly, reminding men in every discussion on gender parity of hundreds of years of patriarchy, not only to justify the drive for equality but also preferential treatment and sometimes abusive behaviour, is also counterproductive. I am not suggesting we forget the injustices of history but I am suggesting we lay them to rest and forgive the sins of our fathers in order to progress together.

Recently, I wrote an article on the commonly-asked question, “Where have all the good men gone?”  It generated a lot of heat, as well as plenty of constructive discussion.

We have come a long way since the suffrage movement of the 19th century, but clearly there is still some way further to go to achieve genuine gender equality.

The challenge we now face is to realise that equality for women without simultaneously tearing down men to achieve it.

In our work and all our endeavours together, as conscious men and women, we must stand up for equality together, knowing that one day we will be equal, not only by the laws of the land but also in our hearts and minds.

Presently, we seem to be caught in a destructive dynamic of battling sexes, but I believe we can find healthier and more constructive ways to achieve gender parity.

Our challenge is to adopt more balanced policies of cooperation, rather than the competitive and adversarial tribalism so apparent in many of our current institutions, socio-political systems, and modes of thought-behaviour, rooted so firmly in outdated paradigms of “us against them.”

I believe our society can evolve beyond these adversarial paradigms—evolve consciously and purposefully in our core humanity and genuinely embrace equality, not just in the letter of our laws but also embrace the spirit and ideals of equality where no laws are present.

We appear to live in a society where the system is geared to please some of the people some of the time. No single system known can please all of the people all of the time. However, I believe we can and will create a more humanitarian and tolerant society that pleases most of the people most of the time.

I believe we can form more harmonious unions, cultivate domestic and occupational peace, encourage the common defence of justice, promote general welfare, and secure the blessings of equality in our pursuit of happiness, through an evolved “constitution of conscious men and women.”

Dating dynamics:

Perhaps the two most destructive elements in many modern relationships between men and women are the “power struggle” and the “jealousy game.” These two modes of behaviour are often intertwined and their definitions blur each into the other as a consequence. But what is clear is that once these insidious games are initiated, a relationship is usually on a countdown to self-destruction.

The power struggle is essentially the game couples play to determine who is the protagonist in the relationship. This inevitably creates a dynamic where the potential protagonist is both actively and passively being opposed, rivalled, and competed with by the antagonist. In essence, the lead and supporting actors are trying to steal every scene from each other. What makes the power struggle so complex is that, in any given situation, the roles of protagonist and antagonist can be and often are reversed.

The power struggle involves controlling the activities of a partner, where they go, what they do and who they do it with. It involves the habitual criticism, shaming, and ridiculing of what a partner says, does, and how they say and do it.

These power plays are designed to achieve one thing: to undermine the self-esteem and confidence of a partner, and, conversely, to make the perpetrator feel empowered. But empowerment obtained from the debasement of another is not true power, it is merely a temporary tyranny.

One of the most destructive tactics used within the power struggle is the jealousy game. Indeed, a game within a game only adds to its virulent nature.

The jealousy game involves flirting with members of the opposite sex, and being sure our significant other knows about it. It involves letting our partner know just how attracted we are to celebrities and stars, implying our partner’s comparative success is inadequate. It involves habitually bringing ex-partners into conversations to provoke the green-eyed monster. This tedious tit-for-tat game rarely, if ever, has a happy ending.

Increasingly, the 21st century extension of the jealousy game is to use an electronic device of some kind—a computer, a tablet, but especially a smartphone—as a way of denying organic attention to a partner. These devices are an essential part of modern life, no doubt, but in the context of the Power Struggle they also serve as a way to detach from and passively dominate partners.

When the Power Struggle inevitably spirals out of control, tempers flare into heated arguments, often leading to verbal and or physical violence. But we should note that, by the time conflict has reached this boiling-point, it has usually been preceded by protracted mental and emotional violence in the form of the simmering Power Struggle.

This raises the phenomenon of “toxic debate.” Toxic debate is characterised by discussion that is no longer based in calm, logical, or rational argument, but rather in high emotions, degrading language, and name-calling. It involves attempted character assassination, blaming and shaming, raised voices and, sadly, raised hands.

The solution? Awareness of the game itself allows us to consciously choose not to play by its rules. If you find yourself caught in the power struggle and calm, rational, non-blaming discussions do not change the relationship dynamics then walk away from the partnership before the real damage is done.

Refuse even to participate in toxic debate. Love is not a power play; it is a stage where we can be strong or vulnerable and feel entirely trusted, trusting, and safe. Conscious men and women understand this and, increasingly, are making far better choices regarding who they date.

The less conscious among us are so conditioned by the rules of the power struggle that they are either unwilling or unable to engage in a different and healthier way of being in a relationship. This kind of person, often unconsciously, sees compromise and fair-mindedness in their significant other merely as an opportunity to exert control over their partner. Date them at your peril.

Marriage and family:

Because of the emotional and financial risks attached to modern marriage, it is reasonable to understand the unwillingness of some to invest and trust in the institution. If we find ourselves in a relationship where only one partner wants to be married, then the prudent attitude for this partner is to accept the choice of the other partner, hard as it may be to do.

Pressuring someone into marriage is not a fair indication of love or commitment, from either party.

Hopefully, by the time a couple decides to get married, all the power plays would have been rejected in favour of trust, equality, and love. Sadly, there is on average a 50 percent chance modern marriages will fail, usually because the Power Struggle either continues from the preceding dating days, or it has been lying dormant and manifests once the knot is tied.

A marriage between a conscious man and woman is an equal partnership, there is no protagonist or antagonist, no lead and supporting actors—rather, it is an ensemble piece. Cooperation is preferable above and beyond competition. Flexible interdependence is preferable above and beyond strong independence. Conscious caring is preferable above and beyond cloying codependents.

The conscious husband and wife have clear and defined roles. That is not to suggest roles are fixed and rigid, but rather that all the responsibilities of marriage are known and shared, so that both parties feel equally valued and of value.

These shared responsibilities and values cannot and should not be prescribed here, rather they are the prerogative of each couple to establish for themselves with open, honest, and fair-minded conversations. Often the guidance of an impartial arbitrator is helpful, in the form of a qualified counsellor or perhaps parents from both sides of the family.

Regarding divorce:

Now is an appropriate time to pull aside the romanticised veil of marriage and see it, not only with the rose-tinted sentiments of love, but also with the clear-lensed practicalities of a business. There is no doubt that love is the most beautiful business when it goes right, but when it goes wrong it can be the most terrible and brutal.

Prenuptial agreements can avoid long and costly disputes in divorce. Prenuptial agreements can be shaped and tailored to the specific requirements of each marriage: to protect assets, to define the distribution of property upon divorce, to protect one party from assuming the debts of the other, conditions of alimony, and much more besides.

Generally, the issues of child support and child custody cannot be included in a prenuptial agreement, but rather the courts usually determine for themselves what is in the best interest of the children on a case by case basis.

As the parameters and legality of prenuptial agreements differ from state to state and country to country, it would be advisable to consult an appropriate solicitor to clarify the laws and conditions applicable to prenuptial agreements relevant to each region.

Increasingly, the conscious man and woman seldom enter into marriage relying solely on faith and good fortune to see them through. They also employ the prudence of the law to insure their rights. We routinely insure everything from our pets to our vacations–it makes perfect sense then to insure, to some degree at least, our marriages also.

War in the workplace:

Next to our homes, the workplace is probably the fiercest battleground in the war of the sexes. There are so many issues to attend: equal opportunity, equal pay, sexual harassment…too many topics to fully cover here. So, I will take a broad stroke instead.

One of the less obvious perpetuations of the gender war in the workplace, but not exclusive to it, are the mindlessly repeated slogans of our social conditioning, “men can’t multi-task,” “women are too emotionally unstable for positions of authority,” “men have better spatial awareness than women,” “women mature quicker than men,” and on and on it goes ad nauseam.

These kinds of prejudicial attitudes are often sugar-coated with a dose of worn-out humour to help us swallow the bitter pill, or worse, still supported by some spurious scientific study to reinforce stereotypes that belong firmly in the past.

A word of caution, though: These kinds of wayward attitudes do not require zealous politically correct thought-police to name, shame, and punish the guilty, but rather civil conversations between colleagues, many no doubt previously unaware of the damage this kind of insipid social conditioning does, and how its prejudices creep up on us slowly and become normalised.

Take “women can’t read maps” or “women are more intuitive than men,” for example. These kinds of socially engineered viruses are often received from some gossipy glossy magazine or tatty television segment, backed up by a suitably bespectacled doctor, professor or scientist, then endlessly recycled via social-media. Before we realise it, they have become universal truisms, but fortunately for the conscious men and women among us, they do not become the universal truth.

Since the birth of science, human beings have used its discoveries to attack each other. We should not use the perceived legitimacy of science, in all its forms, to legitimise beating each other over the head, metaphorically or literally. The authority of a white laboratory coat, so to speak, should only go so far before we stop to think for ourselves, otherwise science becomes little more than an unquestioned religion.

When we stop throwing these neuro-sexism slogans at one another the workplace will become a much friendlier environment to spend half of our lives. When conscious men and women are friends, the possibilities in life are endless. We can work with each other as equals, rather than continually competing against one other.

Studies and statistics are but a beginning, not an end to issues of equality:

Through research, I have found studies and statistics that either reinforce, refute, or re-evaluate the many gender issues in discussion here. For example, research on the wage-gap will provide pertinent information outlining its reality and how to redress it, and other credible research claiming laws currently in place guaranteeing men and women equal pay for equal work have all but eliminated the pay-gap.

So, it seems that we are waging a war of the sexes, not only in the bedroom and the boardroom, but also in the sciences and study groups funded both by governments and private organisations. The findings of these studies are then used to legitimise one political agenda or another. But, as the phrase made popular by Mark Twain goes, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

We must then also give trust to the day to day experiences that we share with the men and women in our own lives. How are we treating and being treated as fellow human beings?

We are in the midst of the so-called information age, but it is possible to rely too much on the information we are being fed through the media and social-media and not enough on our personal experiences, which may give us a more complete and real-world picture regarding what is actually happening with issues of equality and social justice in general.

In the process of gaining and maintaining equality, conscious men and women must guard diligently against falling foul to the same misdemeanours of those clinging to the old adversarial patterns and power struggles. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for equality by drinking from the bitter cup of anger.

We must always conduct our struggle from the platform of patience and compassion. We must never allow our protests, passionate though they are, to degenerate into verbal or physical violence. And if such violences are perpetrated against us, as is so often the current trend, we must rise above them, meeting aggression with fearless and peaceful determination.

Now is the time for armistice, now is the time for conscious men and women to walk away from the brutal battlefield of the warring sexes and to lift up our fatigued faces to the sunlight of gender equality and social justice.

There will always be those unwilling or unable to change. However, conscious men and women are not gender evangelists, we do not seek to change sour wine into sweet, but respectfully agree to disagree and peacefully allow the naysayers to go their own way.

In the course of our progress, it becomes necessary to dissolve certain modes of being belonging to previous times and to assume, instead, the equality to which the laws of humanity and nature entitle us.

In the wake of that progress, we shall enjoy new freedoms, expressed in the true equality of men and women, by men and women, for men and women, so that we will no longer judge or be judged by the character of our gender but rather by the content of our character.

This truth is self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, and indeed that some are not more equal than others. I believe we are all inherently blessed by the laws of nature with certain undeniable rights, among them: equality, freedom, and the unimpeded pursuit of happiness.


Relephant read:

I’ll Tell you Where all the Good Men have Gone.


Author: Arun Eden-Lewis
Image: Marcelo Matarazzo on Unsplash
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell
Social Editor: Catherine Monkman

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