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  • feedwordpress 19:00:24 on 2017/06/30 Permalink
    Tags: aggression, aggressive, androgynous, assertive, , , , feminine, , , , , modern man, roles   

    A Man’s Dilemma: Assertiveness vs. Aggression 

    “How do I assert myself as a man without coming across as too forceful?” – Carl, Washington DC

    In evolutionary terms, men had to be decisive and fearless because they were hunters. Aggression was key to masculinity. Men were expected to protect themselves from others who attempted to put them down or push them around. However, in our western urbanized lives, masculinity is being redefined.

    Breaking down Carl’s question, I think what he is asking is: how can I be assertive without being aggressive?

    Asserting yourself without aggression is particularly key in a relationship. Frequently men worry about how to listen to the smart, accomplished women in their life without feeling like they’re being walked over or they’re not holding their ground.

    I would like to tell you, Carl, that the ground is moving constantly when it comes to modern masculinity. The good news is that you have opportunities to be a man in ways that are more expansive than your father and grandfather. You have the opportunity for self expression, emotional openness and self reflection that would have been considered “weak” and “feminine” in the past.

    Of course, weakness has long been seen as the repudiation of the masculine. Manhood has traditionally been predicated on a sense of autonomy, on self reliance and not depending on others. But to negotiate with another person, without defaulting to an aggressive stance, you have to be willing to NOT know the answer.

    So instead of using aggression to get what he wants, how does Carl assert himself? How can Carl express confidence that isn’t arrogance? Firstly, let’s define our terms.

    What is Assertiveness?

    Assertiveness is confidence. It is knowing what you want. But it is also a dialogue that allows for input from the other person. Assertiveness is power.

    What is Aggression?

    Aggression is power in order to protect myself. It creates an unyielding barrier between myself and the other person. It is a battle, which must be won.

    So… What Now?

    The answer is not either/or. I encourage Carl to allow himself to be influenced while maintaining groundedness, connected to others without losing himself. In psychological speak, we call this a healthy sense of differentiation.

    Also, rid yourself of the burden that you have to know everything to be a leader. Asserting yourself with confidence will come from being open to others.

    Carl, engage in a conversation. A conversation that allows for negotiation and doesn’t need to end with winning. Battle is about dominance. Make a decision where two people are heard and recognized. You’d be surprised how much power dialogue allows.

    How have you found ways to assert yourself as a man and allow for other’s input? I would love to hear your thoughts. 

    The post A Man’s Dilemma: Assertiveness vs. Aggression appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:32 on 2017/06/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , family, , , , , modern man, Relationship dynamics,   

    What Does it Mean to be a Man? 

    “I had to quit my job because of a health issue, and now I’m home taking care of our kids. My wife has become the breadwinner. I know I should be happy that we could make it all work, but I feel like a loser.” – Zach, San Francisco, California

    Zach’s dilemma is the dichotomy of the modern male; emotionally evolved and willing able to care give, but pulled toward gender norms ingrained in us all.

    The construction of gender identity for men is more fragile than for women. In many cultures, one is born a woman — and one becomes a man. Chip Brown explores wide-ranging rites of passage into manhood from around the world in this National Geographic article.

    Often, masculinity is defined as the disavowal of the feminine inside of us. This is complicated for both women and men as we redefine modern gender roles.

    Zach, I have worked with many men in your position — lead dads shunned by moms on the playground. Men who feel inadequate because they’re not financially providing for their family (even though they are raising children). For some, pent up frustration even causes angry lash-outs at their children.

    While you cannot control what happened to your health, you can control the outcome. To paraphrase Viktor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning, you cannot always control the conditions you find yourself in, but you have the freedom to choose your reaction to them.

    You need to feel worthy, useful and socially connected. Seek out other men who are parenting. Look into the possibility of part-time work. Speak to your partner about how you’re feeling, so you can help one another find a balance. When you’re in the eye of the storm, it seems impossible to find a way out. But know that you are not the first to encounter the shifting sands of gender. As you wrestle with this new world, know that you are not alone.

    How do gender roles play out in your household? Let me know in the comments below.

    The post What Does it Mean to be a Man? appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • feedwordpress 17:48:30 on 2017/06/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , lack of desire, , , , modern man, performance, performance anxiety,   

    A Man’s Secret: Performance Anxiety 

    “When I’m not interested in sex, it makes me feel like I’m not a man. In fact, my wife wants it more than me so I came up with the excuse of chronic back pain. I think it’s easier for her to accept. What’s wrong with me?” – David, Clifton, New Jersey

    As we talk about the modern man this month, David’s question strikes me as particularly apropos given the pressures on the man. Let’s start by debunking some of our most dear assumptions about men.

    Men are under pressure in life, and in the bedroom, to be untiring, masterful and dominant. It’s assumed men are always up for sex and women’s interest is much less, and subjective. It’s time we stop this oversimplification of men.

    For many men, identity and self-esteem are bound up with sexuality. This explains why David is more likely to feel ashamed when he has no desire.

    Throughout the month we will talk about the stereotypes surrounding masculinity and the shifting roles of men. But to start, here are some tips that that I hope will help David and many men out there.

    Bring your Partner into the Conversation

    David, your wife might buy your story about back pain but underneath she is wondering about her lack of desirability. It’s time to talk with your wife. Maybe you are exhausted at the end of each day and find it hard to shift gears. Or you have worries about your performance. Perhaps you are afraid you don’t turn her on. Something is turning you off.

    Whatever it is, open the conversation, without blame or defensiveness and reveal how you feel and start talking about what turns you on and what blocks you. My post on Role Play and Fantasy can help to open up conversations about sex.

    Check your Mood

    Here is a radical revelation: men and women feel the same way about sex. If a person is anxious, depressed, distracted or feels unattractive, regardless of their gender, they are less likely to be turned on. So check your mood. David may find the answer lies there. And as I often say, sex in a long-relationship is something you have to plan for. This may help to shift the pressure of you alone and help you find playful ways to alter your mood.

    Stop Thinking about Sex

    I would advise David to put himself more into his body and do less ruminating, which takes us out of the experience of pleasure. Forget about “the act” and think about simple starting points to give the other person pleasure, like a shoulder rub. Stop worrying about whether you’re turned on in the moment. And find ways (dancing, exercise, and other physical hobbies that fulfill you) that let you fully inhabit your body.

    What pressures do you feel as a man to perform? Let me know in the comments below. And look out for next week’s post on Masculinity and Assertiveness vs. Aggression.

    The post A Man’s Secret: Performance Anxiety appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
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