Many couples in male-female relationships encounter similar patterns. Fascination at the beginning of the relationship often changes to a difficult pattern. How to deal with this?
This pattern may be a sign of a cultural pattern that is still widespread, even though relationships became more equal in the latter decades.
This pattern can be characterized by men being unavailable, unwilling to talk, focused on spending time away from home, or closed off in their activities. Women can have a greater need for conversation or they can be more committed to a partnership. That is why they often become miserable in such partnerships, so their needs are fulfilled in different places.
This pattern can still often be seen in relationships around us. Its source can be traced in the patriarchal upbringing that is still strong in some parts of today’s societies. Not to be confused, this upbringing pattern affects both women and men equally, since both are exposed to it in a similar manner, although the position of males in this system is such that women might pay the higher price.
In such an upbringing women are expected to be “decent” and polite. Women’s expression of the initiative is often perceived as a threat. Women learn that it is wrong to show initiative. They are often expected to put other people’s needs ahead of their own and to take care of others first, often at the expense of their own needs and feelings. Later in life, this pattern might be enforced further by the role of the mother. When it comes to feelings, women are seen as the main caretakers in this area, and communication as something that comes “naturally” to them. It can be hard for them to allow themselves more agency or different kinds of behavior that are further away from the role of the caretaker.
On the other side of this constellation, men are asked to mutilate emotional parts of themselves. Openly showing their emotions is often mocked or punished until it is learned that one has to be strong and cannot show vulnerability. Satisfying one’s own needs without caring about the needs of others can be seen as a norm or it can be expected that others satisfy their needs. On the other hand, active playing or sports are still more encouraged. Emotions are something that might not be talked about but can be asked to be channeled through activities or sports. It can be hard for men to let emotions flow freely or to allow oneself to be vulnerable.
Later in relationships, these dynamics can be manifested by a man closing in when a misunderstanding occurs, while a woman can insist on talking. This can cause further frustration on the part of the man and further own world, while a woman may feel unhappy or desperate. These patterns can be devastating for the feelings of love.
Since this kind of pervasive cultural pattern is tied to social roles, it has been handed on intergenerationally for many centuries. It is the reason why they are still widespread. Democratization of personal relationships, including bringing to awareness how social roles have shaped our personal relationships, is something that has been happening for the last century only. On the line of history on which these patterns have been intergenerationally transmitted for thousands of years, this is still a very short period of time. It is precisely the fact that these patterns are so deeply ingrained in the cultural unconscious that requires us to become aware of them.
In order to better grapple with these patterns, it may be helpful to understand our own “triggers”. What “trigger” is activated when our partner doesn’t want to talk about feelings? What can we do in these situations? How to communicate this effectively?
For those of opposite patterns of avoidance, the question is which “trigger” is activated when our partner insists and we have a strong urge to be alone. What can we do then? How to communicate this effectively?
Is there a possibility to take a step in the direction of the other while simultaneously honoring our need that was caused by the trigger?
Shedding these layers is not an easy task nor a fast one. This is a strong cultural pattern and it takes time to bring it to awareness. It also takes time to be able to deal with it effectively.
It also has to be mentioned that although this is a culturally predominant pattern shaped by patriarchal social conditioning, it can also be reversed. A woman can also have a need to close off, while a man can be the one to force communication.
In any case, it is important to try understanding oneself, but also the position of the other. Understanding ourselves opens a road towards the space that allows us to take a step further or to hold still for a moment where we would otherwise force something. This can simultaneously be a step towards healing these patterns.