We often hear that boys will be boys and girls will be girls. When it comes to the psychology of relationships, what we’re talking about is something called gender balance. Gender balance doesn’t necessarily mirror the actual gender of each partner. It’s more the way each partner’s personal integration of masculine and feminine characteristics show up in the relationship. The psychological direction we tend to go in as individuals, whether masculine or feminine, also tends to inform the role we take on in our relationships.
That said, one of the lessons people who fall on the masculine side of things often fail to recognize is that best way to a partner’s heart—and, by association, their bed—is not through their heart. It’s through their head. On the other hand, people who fall on the feminine side of things often fail to see that the way to their partner’s affections is less about the emotional and more about that physical—and, to make matters more complicated, that doesn’t mean sexual.
Men (the masculine) are, by and large, physical, first and emotional, second. From an evolutionary psychology perspective, this is likely a holdover from the instinctual territoriality of our primal ancestors. For men in the post-modern era, this displays itself as something of a proximity effect. In other words, “if you are close to me (read: within my boundaries) and if you have sex with me, then you love me and I am more likely to love you back”.
Women (the feminine), on the other hand, are largely emotional, first and physical, second. Again, from an evolutionary psychology perspective, this is likely a holdover of our female ancestors bent toward community building. For women in the post-modern era, this displays itself as something of an investment effect. In other words, “if I have sense of your emotional connection (read: commitment to community building), then I am going to respond to you socially and, by association, sexually.”
Clearly, this is not an absolute. Like most social constructs, it lies on a continuum, which circles back to the whole notion of gender roles. There’s a bit of masculine in the feminine, and a bit of feminine in the masculine. When it comes to relationships, that’s where things start to get interesting, and even a bit complicated.
One of our other primal holdovers is a strong survival instinct, which leads us to be instinctively self-serving. As a result, our personal perspective is typically our primal point of reference and we tend to see things from our own point of view, first. If we look at that from the masculine side of things within the context of relationship, we typically label that kind of thing ‘selfishness’ or ‘emotional unavailability’. Notice, we’re not talking about men here, but the masculine—again, circling back to the notion of gender role.
What this often means for those who land on the masculine side of things is overlooking one of the most obvious and influential aspects of creating and cultivating a strong emotional relationship; investing yourself in your partner’s emotional life. How do you do that? Simple—just pay attention because, ultimately, the grand gesture doesn’t get it—it’s the little things that are important.
Remembering that she takes her tea with two sugars and no milk gets a bit more traction than the trip to the Belize; bringing her that tea while she’s getting ready for work is even better (that’s the foreplay thing). Listening without trying to “fix it” goes a lot farther than, well, trying to “fix it”. Taking the time to understand the rules of his favorite sport or knowing her favorite flower and actually giving it to her for no other reason than you can. Understanding his job, and being interested in what he does. Remembering the names of her friends’ kids, or better yet, remembering the names of her friends. It’s not the house, or the ring, or the car or the boat…it’s the really simple stuff.
Loving our partner in the way he or she wants to be loved is easy—we’re the ones who make it hard. We do that by not paying attention and, consequently, not showing up. That’s not us doing something wrong; it’s us playing out our side of the gender balance.
The feminine aspect lives much more in our head. Appreciating this is one of the keys to fostering and maintaining a solid, enduring and fulfilling conscious relationship. Putting that understanding into action is essential to engendering the kind of responsiveness that we typically call ‘good communication’. Communication is not about words, it’s about connection. The ‘lack of communication’ we so often hear about isn’t a lack of talking—it’s a lack of connecting, and connecting is a subtle, nuanced thing.
Some of the confusion around all this likely comes out of the ideas of the ‘proximity’ and ‘investment’ effects. From the masculine side of the gender balance, being around our partner promotes a sense of connection, while from the feminine side, there needs to be more. That more is the subtle stuff that greases the wheel defining the circle and balance of relationship.
From this perspective, if we return to our original premise—masculine, physical/emotional and feminine, emotional/physical—relationship is, indeed, a circle. Keeping that circle intact—and its momentum going—is very much, and very often, simply a matter of paying attention and showing up.
Oh, and making sure that you do the laundry ‘her way’ really helps, too.
Are difference in gender roles and the way they play out in your relationship creating conflict or causing concern. With the proper coaching you can learn to develop a container of cooperative conversation, enhancing intimacy and deepen in your connection. Contact me today for a FREE 15-minute discovery session where we can explore how we might work together to help you reach your relationship goals.