There’s a form of gender stereotyping that’s messing up our dating lives and relationships! What are the new rules around gender? I’ll share some ideas and research that might change your thinking about this subject forever.
It’s 2019, how are we supposed to be thinking about gender roles and gender stereotypes? What’s a man supposed to act like? What’s a woman supposed to act like? Where does the LGBTQA community fit in? Should women try to honor their innate femininity and men, their innate masculinity? Or are those just old sexist concepts in modern packaging? Stay tuned to the Deeper Dating Show to hear some ideas and some research that might change your way of thinking about gender forever.
Hello, I’m Ken Page and welcome to the Deeper Dating Podcast. Every week, I’m going to be giving you access to the greatest insights and the most powerful practices and the most essential findings I know for everybody who wants to find beautiful, healthy love and keep it flourishing, and heal their lives in the process. Because the skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of intimacy, and the skills of intimacy are the greatest skills of all.
A point of view to consider
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I also want to say, last piece of housekeeping before we begin this exciting, important and controversial podcast, that everything I share in this podcast is educational in nature. It’s to support you in your intimacy journey. And it’s not medical or psychiatric advice or treatment for any emotional, physical, or psychological condition. It’s all just a point of view for you to consider.
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How Modern Brand of Stealth Sexism Cripples Relationships
So, what we’re going to talk about in today’s episode is how gender role confusion and gender stereotypes are crippling modern love. You know, I think that countless people’s dating lives and relationships are being crippled now by a modern brand of stealth sexism. And the result is a generation, a number of generations, trapped in this quicksand of crazy making advice, like women be strong and be independent, but for God’s sake, don’t scare men away.
And men, you can be sensitive, but if you’re not an Alpha male, you’re always going to be the second choice. And LGBTQA people, you better come back tomorrow because we are confused enough as it is.
You know, in love, just like in every area of our lives we’re faced with about a million variants of the same existential choice. Are we going to be us or are we going to be a kind of prepackaged, safe, socially acceptable persona?
That’s not an easy choice because we’re herd animals and it’s scary to be different. And tragically, strong women and gentle men and just about everybody else are still being taught to forsake their authenticity again and again when it comes to dating and romance and love. It’s like old sexism in a new age pop psychology bottle. And for me, as a therapist and a coach and a teacher, it breaks my heart to see.
A Sample Story
Let me give you an example of this. Let’s just create a story here. Let’s think about a successful woman who’s leaving a really high powered job and she’s going out on a date. And successful women are told things like, leave your fake balls at the office. They’re really told that, or risk a failed connection with real men. I know this sounds so 1950s but I cannot tell you how many successful women, powerful, accomplished women I know are haunted by that fear, and how often it’s validated by dating coaches and experts and friends and family.
So, okay, let’s imagine Susan, she’s an executive, very successful and she’s headed out now to her second date with Jim. And she really is excited about this guy. But okay, she has just closed the biggest deal of her career and she’s walking on air, she’s bursting with excitement and she cannot wait to share her success with this guy Jim, who she really likes. But then, she remembers the dating advice that she’s heard again and again.
If you’re not in touch with your femininity gals, you will not be able to attract guys. If you’re too powerful, you’ll turn them off. So soften up or risk failure in love. Because otherwise, if you’re too much, too powerful, you’re not going to let the man be the man. So, Susan is torn between two worlds here.
What would she really love to do? She would love to have like a fist pumping celebration of her coo with Jim. She’s feeling really powerful and really proud and kind of fierce. But fierce and powerful don’t sound like feminine.
Date Over: What went wrong?
And she likes Jim a lot. So Susan decides that she’s going to kind of play it both ways. She tells Jim about her co, her success, but she kind of downplays it and she substitutes fierce and powerful with fun, charming, and kind of un-intimidating.
So, not surprisingly, the date falls flat. Awkwardness takes over. And awkwardness is like this clay footed compromise between who you are and an inhibition against that. And that awkwardness takes over. And neither Jim or Susan find that easy connection that they were so excited about feeling in the past. Date over. Susan leaves and she feels kinda hollow and disappointed.
So, let’s look at this. Let’s look at what went wrong here. First, Susan was bursting with joy and ambition and a sense of personal power. She had to own that, risk that sense of empowerment or she was going to risk disappearing. But that ran contrary to a slew of dating advice that she had read and heard and been taught. So, in order for her to really be her, she would have had to cross what I call an electrified trip wire of gender stereotypes, and it just felt too risky.
Dating Advice You Were Told
Next, there’s this advice, there’s wisdom in this advice of getting out of work mode before a date. But the thing is, the way that advice is portrayed is women get out of work mode. Because otherwise, you’ll be out of touch with your femininity.
Excuse me folks, isn’t it everyone’s job to get out of work mode, not just the woman’s? Is emotional availability, and receptivity, and vulnerability really, really, really just the woman’s responsibility? It’s like women are still being told to hold themselves back for fear of injuring a man’s ego. If you strip it down, it’s the same disheartening message that women have been taught for millennia.
Next, there’s a toxic message here, and the message is this. It is fine to step out of your traditional gender stereotypes for a little period of time, but you better return to it or you’re not going to find love. And that gender conformity pressure has shaped our lives in countless toxic ways, but we really rarely see it for what it is. Hiding our authentic self is an act of quiet violence. It holds us back from our ability to love authentically. And, if we’re single, it keeps us choosing the wrong partners. Whenever we …
Stepping over the trip wires in your relationship
We’re herd animals, as I mentioned. And whenever we kind of like feel like we’re stepping too far away from the herd with our uniqueness and individuality, we get a little bit afraid.
You know, John Gottman, one of the most brilliant relationship theorists around, has actually said that LGBT people are about 50 years ahead of the general population in this arena because they’re less afraid of crossing those electrified trip wires of gender stereotypes. It doesn’t freak them out as much. And we’re going to see a little bit later what that means when you can step over those trip wires in your relationship, what happens in your relationship and in your inner life.
Okay. Next. There is this assumption that strength and empowerment and passion and drive are these predominantly male attributes. And receptivity and expressiveness and kindness and gentleness, those are the domain of the female. It’s the gender binary folks. It’s like a simple dusty on off light switch. It’s on or it’s off, as opposed to a beautiful lighting console that has endless variants of lighting possibilities, which really, really, really our gender expression can and should be like. We are fluid beings. I’m going to share a story here.
Feel Your Grief
The story is that way back, in the 90s when people were dying of AIDS, my best, best friend Michael was dying of AIDS and I felt frozen. I couldn’t grieve. I just, I … Well, not that I couldn’t grieve, but I couldn’t really grieve like I knew I needed to grieve for the closest friend had ever had in my life. And so I went into therapy. So brilliant therapist, his name was Harold Gouden. And he said to me, “Can you feel the part of you inside that’s allowed to grieve?” And I guess I kind of felt it. And I said yes. And he said, “What’s an image of what that person looks like?”
Well, the image that came up was a very kind of wide hipped, very feminine, very emotionally connected woman, which freaked me out a little bit. And I told him about it. And he said, it’s really okay Ken. That can be a part of you.
When I accessed that part of me, the tears came, the tears poured out. I needed to touch that part of me to be able to feel my grief. So that’s just an example that … And I guess in a way it’s a kind of gender binary example because it was a woman that was able to do it.
There Is Someone For Everyone
But hey, it was my inner life in my inner world and that was what came up. The point being though is that we have endless variance of self inside us and a lot of them break gender rules. So anyway, going back to this concept of gender stereotypes and terms, a lot of researchers are using terms that are not based on Genitalia. Okay.
So they’re saying instrumental traits include assertiveness, decisiveness, independence, dominance and ambition. And then, there’s expressive traits, which includes sensitivity to the needs of other people, altruism, warmth, and cooperativeness.
Come on folks. We all know both of those are really rich aspects of all of our beings. And there are countless women with predominantly instrumental natures and countless men with predominantly expressive natures. And there’s someone for everyone, folks.
I promise you that whatever your self expression is in this arena, there are people who are looking for somebody just like you.
And it’s just really true that healthy, wonderful people of all genders are attracted to all of those types. There really is someone for everyone. And the bottom line is that if we’re not us, who the hell are we going to be? So, keeping all this in mind, let’s re-imagine Susan’s state with Jim in two different scenarios. Okay?
Go for authenticity even when it’s scary
So scenario one, Susan decides that she’s going to let herself share all of her excitement with Jim. She’s just going to be her. This is who I am and it’s who I want to be and I’m really proud. And if that makes him uncomfortable, then I am dating the wrong guy.
So she does this, she’s herself and Jim is kind of awkward. You know, he congratulates her. And she could tell though he feels intimidated or maybe not even interested. And she leaves the date feeling kind of disappointed, but clear on who she is and what she’s looking for.
So, scenario two. Susan decides once again that she’s going to be her full self and she’s going to let herself share all her excitement with Jim. And he is thrilled. He’s thrilled for her. He’s really proud of her. He is thrilled and she could tell that he really likes her for the story that she told. And they celebrate together even kind of loudly sometimes. And she feels seen and appreciated while in her power, and they both feel closer. And best of all, she feels like Jim gets her.
Susan, in scenario one and two, has learned one of the greatest lessons of modern dating and healthy love.
When you’re faced with a choice between gender conformity and authentic expression, try to go for authenticity even when it’s scary.
We’re In Such A Weird Place Culturally
Now, we’re in such a weird place culturally because the toothpaste is partly out of the tube and it can’t go back in, but it’s not all the way out and we’re all kind of confused. Women who are very empowered say and feel, “You know, I like it when a guy offers to pay for the first meal. And I think that’s a really nice thing.”
So, you know, we have to honor where we are in the process and be authentic even in those ways too. The thing that breaks my heart, and I’ve seen it again and again, is when women feel like if they’re really themselves, they’re going to scare men away.
And I remember a man saying to me once, a really wonderful, competent, attractive person who was in one of my groups, who said, “You know Ken, I know I’m an Alpha Guy and I’ll always be last in line, middle inline, never first in line.” And I looked at him and I knew that he was so wrong, that there were countless women out there who would have been interested in someone just like him.
So, when it comes to gender roles, we have been taught terribly, horribly wrong. For example, we’re taught that opposites attract and yes they do, but there can be all different kinds of opposites. They don’t have to be gender typical opposites.
There is no one size fits all
And there can be opposites in different areas. Like someone can be wildly creative and someone else could be very kind of like planted in the ground, and that could turn the hell on about each other. It doesn’t have to be gender opposites, stereotypical gender opposites, that attract each other. But similarities also can attract each other.
Two predominantly expressive people of any gender can totally fall deeply in love, and so can two predominantly instrumental people. In fact, there’s fabulous research showing that spouses with similarity in gender roles are actually more happily married. Why does nobody tells us this? How are we still believing these same crazy myths?
So, masculine qualities and feminine qualities exist in every one of us. There is no one size that fits all and we cannot assume that all women are essentially feminine or all men are essentially masculine, or that all men are attracted to women and women to men.
The choice of personal expression is fluid and it’s limitless.
And the goal is freedom from any kind of hardwired fear of expressing who we really are. And research backs this up. For example, really masculine husbands and really feminine wives actually feel less understanding typically, and less love and less contentment in their marriages. And couples with non traditional gender roles are shown to have more satisfying sex lives.
You know, again and again, I have watched clients cross those electrified trip wires of gender taboo and discover that the parts of themselves that they were frightened to embrace actually held a key to their finding happiness in love.
Take A Drop of Risk
So, now we’re going to do what we always do is kind of bring this to you and your journey. And I’m going to ask you some questions here. In your relationships, in your creative pursuits, in your sex life for that matter, have you ever felt timid to express something because it crosses some subtle or not so subtle gender taboo roles, lines? I’m raising my hand. That’s for sure. What I suggest is that you take just a drop of risk in breaking or bending those gender rules, and just watch what happens, what power emerges, what depths of self.
It’s really true folks. Those qualities that we feel timid to reveal because we feel too masculine or feminine, when we don’t reveal them, we’re on that wobbly ladder, cause we’re not us. And when we reveal them, I promise you there are folks who are going to love you for just that. When we reveal them, and we decide we only want people who are going to love us for just that, our worlds change. And when we find those people, that’s happiness.
You will be happy once you meet that person who loves what they see
So, when you meet that person who loves what they see, when you do that … or let’s say you’re in a relationship already and you like to stretch a little bit in these areas. And you find that your partner likes it. Oh, you will be so happy. You really will.
So thankfully, thankfully, thankfully there are more and more psychotherapists and teachers and experts and coaches who value authenticity over traditional gender roles, and who embrace and welcome the LGBTQA community, and who encourage their clients and patients and readers and students to cross the lines of gender taboo in their own journeys of discovery.
We’ll be talking about all of this a lot more. And in future episodes I’m going to be talking about how women and men can experience breakthroughs in their intimacy lives by breaking free of outdated gender roles, and what psychotherapists and coaches and dating experts can do to help their clients do that.
It’s a wide, wide world and we’re held back around gender taboos in ways that really hold us back in more ways than we even realize.
There is a liberation when we embody the taboo, expressive and instrumental part of ourselves in our relationship. And here’s another thing, it’s really sexy to do that. Because it’s scary. And a little bit of scary is really sexy in the right kind of context. You will feel a sense of thrill as you do this.
The missing link toward a level of fullness
I remember being in a workshop once. And the most macho guys in the workshop, I was not one of them, had to wear dresses. They were told to put on dresses and go out into the street. These were like some really tough guys. And they did it, and they said later that it was one of the absolute most liberating experiences of their lives.
I’m not telling you to do that. What I’m saying is those orphaned parts of you that are a little more expressive than you feel comfortable with, and a little more instrumental than you feel comfortable with, are actually the missing link toward a level of fullness and intimacy and eros and joy and meaning that may have previously alluded you.
It’s a rich world out there. So thank you once again for listening to the deeper dating podcast. I will see you next week. And meanwhile, please leave reviews. Please leave comments. And please feel free to share this podcast episode. Thank you all for being part of my listening community.