*Warning: f–bombs ahead!
“The biggest assumption you make about me is that I don’t hurt,” he said.
*screeeeeech* went the sound of my mind, cluttered with a million thoughts fighting to spill from my mouth—suddenly coming to an abrupt halt and being swallowed back down.
It was a moment of silent awareness. And then my favorite word resounding in my head: fuck.
Have I been treating this man as if he doesn’t feel anything?
The short answer is “yes”—typed with a twinge of shame. And that’s the end of the article.
Kidding. Ignorance is bliss, but we don’t grow there.
I try and stay away from the narrative of “he” versus “she” because it’s fraught with perilous opinions and everyone wants to shove theirs down your throat. Choke on truth, they cry!
But as much as I want to promote the human aspect of us all, the commonalities, the things that connect us in this experience, there are some pretty fundamental differences between men and women.
And really, difference isn’t necessarily divide; it’s just difference.
“It is what it is” immediately springs to my mind.
Statistically speaking, there are significant variations in physical averages like body fat percentage, height, voice pitch, upper body strength, and psychological variations in average levels of empathy, aggression, vulnerability to depression, and risk-taking. To wrap it all up in a neat little bow.
It’s almost taboo in today’s modern world to even slightly suggest that men and women have inherent differences and that biology doesn’t play a role in our behaviors. I believe both nature and nurture play massive roles in how people express themselves and shape their worlds.
If we can recognize those differences, try to understand them a little better, and be curious, I truly believe that we create huge breakthroughs in how we interact with each other.
I—for one—would stop my conditioning that men don’t hurt the same way I do—that they can enter into relationships with little to no feeling and leave unscathed.
It’s a dangerous assumption on my part and something I remember being told as a child by a strong-willed woman, “He doesn’t even care about all this; he’s heartless!” she cried, and I heard that about more than one man, repeatedly.
Cue dysfunctional nurturing when a seed was planted in me that men didn’t feel as deeply as I did or anything for that matter. I carried that into the majority of my relationships and never got fully curious about it until now.
I am a perpetuator of the stories women tell themselves about men.
1. It’s difficult for men to overcome social conditioning.
Men are fundamentally taught to be strong. The rock, the shelter, the provider. Where the fuck does that leave space for vulnerability?
The nature of repression is that it happens automatically and oftentimes far below conscious awareness. It’s something the mind and body have worked hard to achieve, and it’s difficult to break out of because of the fear of ridicule or being ostracized.
I once watched a man tell another man that he was a “pussy” because he was sharing his feelings. It was in a much younger setting, but I know that that man carried that word with him well into his 20s, shrouded by shame, and trying desperately to prove he wasn’t a “pussy.”
A small happy ending is that he realized he was carrying it, he realized he was in touch with his emotions and how fucking okay that was, and he got his happily ever after—with a conscious woman. They commit to growing together, and it’s fucking wonderful to see.
Men often appear aloof, a bit numb, shut down, or avoidant, but this may be their coping mechanism for pain. So often, they’ll close off more than open, and we take it as a rejection instead of a lack of proper expression.
Men can also slip into a more active aggression, such as defensiveness or rudeness as a means of self-protection.
As women, I believe we need to be more conscious of this; we need to understand the man and the way he deals with vulnerability in order to not take things so personally but to see it for what it is: unhealthy coping habits.
We need to be the safe space when this happens.
2. Men and their conditioned pressure to perform sexually.
Men’s default sense of manhood is hugely tied to their sexual performance with women. Call it evolution or social conditioning—it’s a truth.
Men are often obsessed with approval and validation between the sheets. They learn early on that they need to “be the best she’s ever had,” and this is a disconnected way of defining real manhood. It’s most likely the most fragile part of his ego, and it will drive him to perform.
Finishing too quickly, the size of his penis, the number of orgasms he gives a woman are all core to his functioning. Talk about fucking pressure.
Women have to find the delicate balance of not making a man feel inadequate by triggering his conditioning but by building his confidence in what he does well. As much as we women don’t want to be body-shamed because we believe that men will reject us because of our stretch marks or imperfections, we need to show the same kindness and understanding to his performance.
I’ve never been with a man who has been repulsed by any of my flaws or gone out of his way to make me feel uncomfortable—I do that all on my own—and I am not negating that there are men out there who do that, but again, understanding is key.
3. Men fear relationships because they value freedom above all else.
It takes a fuck ton of work to master a long-term relationship. And I believe it is particularly difficult for men because they inherently do have a deep and inner longing for freedom and independence.
I think it’s natural for women to want a bit more connection and quality time compared to their man. The feminine prioritizes love and connection. I hesitate to type that for fear of backlash, but it is my truth—it is what I have come to understand.
In the beginning stages of relationships, women tend to be 50 steps ahead, building the white picket fence in their minds and not letting something progress naturally, and it’s probably linked to our internal clocks—again, biology plays a part.
But it stifles connection and creates fear with men. This could hold him back and make him feel constricted.
A man will commit when he’s ready, and that isn’t linked to a woman’s lovability. In some cases, it’s a lack of chemistry, but in most cases, it’s just a sign that he isn’t ready, and that’s okay because we all shouldn’t jump when we aren’t ready, regardless of gender.
Independence should be a want from both partners; there needs to be space for individuality or you land up in a codependent fuckshow, and often, people (both men and women) who dive into relationships are running from themselves.
4. Only a man in his full power will be able to meet you in yours.
Feminine energy can be all-consuming to a man who isn’t grounded in his masculine energy. (Just as masculine energy can starve feminine energy when we aren’t grounded in it.)
If a man isn’t fully in his power, he will project his fears and shadows onto you. The mindfuck is that this is probably a commonality for both genders.
To be with a powerful, fully-expressed woman, a man needs to be her equal. He needs to be in touch with his fluctuating needs, he needs to be strong in his values and how he honours them, and he needs to know his purpose is supported by his partner.
Sometimes, self-expression leads to conflict with men and women, and he has to be able to handle the temporary discomfort of communicating through those moments to reach a resolution (and yes, vice versa).
The conclusion is that today, the average man is less in his masculine power. I keep seeing some of my favorite men writers adding their voices to the narrative of change, speaking up when they have been told to “suck it up,” but it needs to be a stronger movement—there needs to be balance from both sides of the genders.
I’ll say it again because it’s important: difference isn’t divide. Divide lacks understanding—difference embraces it.