How to Have the Relationship We All Want
By Leo Ryan
This is being written to put forward an understanding of relationships that can enable us to have the relationship we all want. It is also being written after having worked as a counsellor for over twenty years and dealing with numerous relationships during that time. I believe I have arrived at an understanding that can make all the difference.
With the many hundreds of people I have seen from all over the world, from every continent, I realized there is a pattern in their relationships that is similar to them all. So much so that I came to refer to it as 'the same old story.'
I know many will react negatively. Others will be very defensive. Many will be closed minded and simply reject out of hand what I have to say. I know this from my experience. I also know, on the other hand, there will be a very positive response, almost a sigh of relief, from many others - men and women. It will be met with an agreement that it is so obvious and fits with their experience.
The former response will result from my contention that "we males" are the primary problem in relationships. Of course this brings a reaction. I am not saying there are not other issues, however, I am saying males are primarily responsible for why relationships generally are not working.
What is it I am referring to that is being plaid out in relationships? I think we have to look very broadly at this. The spectrum ranges from major physical and sexual abuse to mental and psychological abuse, to ideas about gender specific roles which leads to imbalance in responsibilities. I am focusing on situations where women are not taken seriously, where they are not listened to. How often does one hear a woman say "he never listens to me"? How often are women undermined, put down and dismissed?
Traditionally, domestic and parental responsibilities are primarily the domain of women. Any divergence from this is tokenism and this is being portrayed as change. Most of the time this is usually spoken of as "helping" which suggests it is the man helping the woman. After all it is really her job. Whenever a woman does these things it is never seen as helping, or referred to as such.
There are a lot of relationships where the man is described as getting angry or having a bad temper. Others are referred to as being moody. In each case the atmosphere of the home is affected, so that one needs to be on one's guard. Many excuses are made but mostly it is accepted as being just the way he is and one must make allowances.
So what are we talking about here? What is the problem? It is now over twenty years since I first started to ask these sort of questions. My questioning first arose as a response to a growing number of women I was seeing as clients who were experiencing horrific treatment from their male partners. This lead me down a path where I went through a range of ways of trying to make sense of all this.
It was when I read a book by Kate Millett called Sexual Politics that I got an understanding that made sense to me. This one sentence I felt said it all: "Those awarded higher status, tend to adopt roles of mastery, largely because they are first encouraged to develop temperaments of dominance."
So what is happening in so many relationships is that the man is dominating in a broad range of ways. As this generally occurs behind closed doors it is hidden from the outside world and the man can often be seen as exemplary to those beyond the family.
This means of course that there is an imbalance in the relationship. There is a two tier system in place where there is no room for connection. Therefore the key to this is - are you ready for it, as what I am about to say has far reaching consequences? - we are all the same! It is as simple as that. We are all as worthy. No one is essentially any better than, or superior to, anyone else. It almost seems like an anti-climax, as if it has to be something much more profound or complicated.
There are many outcomes to this realization. Firstly, it means it is possible to have a relationship that the majority of the population has no idea is possible. It means there is mutual respect. No one is the boss, couples operate as equal partners. There is no room for the notion of roles, as if certain activities are the prerogative of one sex or the other. Everything is performed on equal terms. There is no need for scoring points or feeling one is owed. There is no room for helping, it is all about sharing. On this basis, relationships can be real and satisfying for both parties. Real intimacy is possible.