Dear men. Dear women. Dear hearts.
Are we ready to listen?
Recently I shared a meme on my Facebook wall that invited men to leave their relationship advice for women in the comments.
The most repeated comment by men was: is this a trap?
This says to me that men don’t feel safe sharing with us.
It took multiple comments from me encouraging them to participate: yes! I genuinely want to know how to feed you and love you better.
When they finally did begin to share, they had some beautiful things to say.
From over 200 comments in this thread, these are my top five favorite responses:
1. “When you’re afraid about previous trauma affecting your relationship (or things that happened with your parents), real men are happy to listen.”
2. “Men are not lumps of clay for their partners to form into what they want or demand. Love us for who we are and walk along our side so we can both grow and transform together and individually.”
3. “Call us out on our bullsh*t. Lean back more. Become more curious instead of putting your stories upon us. Space is a good thing. In the end, giving us space will give you intimacy and closeness. Put on a nice dress and sassy heels and flirt with us. Lead us to the underlying sadness when we become snappy, angry, or aggressive. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s there. We are happy to listen to your feelings, past relationship trauma, and pain—as long as you invite us first. Sometimes we need a loving touch to become really present again.”
4. “Space isn’t a threat in healthy relationships and intimacy. It is a regulator. It is deeply freeing when a man feels his woman respects their need for space and sense of autonomy. If the man is healthy, they’ll reciprocate with closeness, proximity, and intimacy (speaking as an avoidant who leans into proximity and who’s significant other respects my space and supports it).”
5. “It’s totally fine for you to have your friend group and space, and me to have my friend group and space. And for us both to have mutual interests and friends who we both feel comfortable around. I trust you to have your own life, and I don’t need to share in every aspect of it. I don’t own you; you’re my partner and my queen, not my captive. But I will happily sit and listen to you tell me everything about them while staring at you and thinking how absolutely perfect you are.”
Reading these heartfelt words from caring men, I can’t help but think: if men were encouraged into their sensitivities, rather than to overcome them, they would be more gentle with themselves, each other, and women.
Systemically, we are all conditioned to become fodder for the toxic beast that is capitalism, but men are permitted an even narrower range of expression than is afforded to us women.
They are conditioned to be the patriarch; it is the highest achievement for most men, and the values ascribed to this position are anything but what we tend to think of as the divine masculine. When they begin to extract themselves from this paradigm, they are not only going against this insidious form of oppression, they are challenging the root of what has been programmed into their identity.
If we want men beside us, we need to begin to listen and feel with them. That can be hard because for so long, we have all been hurting each other. I know the anger, the indignation, and it is justified. I know the suspicion and need for protection.
I would rather be vulnerable in my hopes for partnership than cling to the walls I once built around my wounds. I would rather claim my need for another and with it my fear of not being met than to stifle the sweet cry of my tender heart.
It hurts to feel disappointment, but it’s worse not to tend to it; then we continue to project it onto everyone we meet. It hurts to feel anger, and under that sadness. For so many of us—men and women—no one has ever loved us well.
We are hungry for love, in need of support, and craving connection. The absence of it hurts.
We, women, rightfully complain about our bodies being objectified but do we ever stop to think about the toll that objectification has on men? And do we ever even pause to consider how we contribute?
Men come to us—hurting, bleeding, cut off from their hearts, and looking for a place to rest. They have been broken down by the weight of their own and society’s expectations.
We expect men to perform the hardest jobs: labor and construction. They break their bodies to build our world. We send them off to war, where their tender flesh gets used for target practice. And we target them here, too. We tell them they are not enough—not manly enough, not wealthy enough, not smart enough, and not sensitive enough.
I wonder, dear reader, what happens to you when you are habitually told you are not enough? I know for me—I shut down. I may lash out, or I may go into shame. What I do not do is open myself up to whoever is levying that criticism at me and listen.
We all want to be seen, heard, held, and loved.
So if we want equality, harmony, and intimacy—let’s extend a little graciousness toward our men.
I’m not suggesting women should act as rehabilitation centers for wounded men, but a little compassion might go a long way to soothe us all.
Men, like women, need spaces where they can shed their armor—where they can be real.
I, myself, am a wild woman—a feral female. I want a wild man—a caring man, a man of soul and substance. Most of all, I want men to know they are safe.
I have become a safe space for men. How have I done this? I have dove into the depths of my own wounds. I have held the frightened child who did not get what she needed from her father. I have listened to my inner banshees’ wail. And I have grieved.
I know who I am and why I am here: to speak, to write, to communicate, and most importantly…to love. I am a lover to my core, and I want an equally wild and wholehearted partner.
There is sweetness in my yearning to be met, but I will not have a man sacrifice who he is to make me happy.
My happiness is my job. But, gawd, I’d love someone to share it with.
I am not afraid to say no, nor am I afraid to hear it. But what I really want to say is, yes!