October 30, 2012

How well can you train a man?

By Anthony Buono *

Dear Anthony,

I’m frustrated. I have dated several women now that I really hit it off with and then they end up wanting the upper hand in the relationship. I’m all for making a woman happy, but I don’t like feeling like I’m expected to know my place, if you know what I mean. Is there any hope of meeting a woman who doesn’t feel they have to train me?

First, I want to applaud you for being bold enough to reach out and ask a question like this. There are so many men who feel the way you do, but are either too scared to bring it up or prefer to quietly deal with it and just pull away from the woman. What’s even worse are those who accept that this is the way it should be and allow themselves to be trained.

To the credit of women, they typically don’t know they’re doing this. Many modern women have been raised to be strong and independent. There are many positive and attractive things about a strong and independent woman. Too many men find such a woman intimidating and believe that’s not the kind of woman they want. That’s unfortunate.

The strong, independent woman can take life by storm and be in control of her destiny in many ways. Unfortunately, often they try to control people as well, especially the man in their life. The fight they develop tends to be hard to turn off when it comes to their dating relationships.

But it’s not just this type of woman who has a need for control. Many not-so-strong and not-so-independent types also have the desire to control a man. All men and women have manipulation capabilities. Some people have no idea they are this way. Others are aware of this ability and make a conscious effort to work on it or use it for good (yes, there are many good uses of manipulation).

What we are talking about here is a disturbing amount of women who consciously and strategically talk about “training” a man. It’s a tactic that stems from the assumption that the man will want to do anything for her because of this love for her. She does not realize that she is using the man as an object in order to get what she wants.

That sounds very calculating and cruel. Some women, sad to say, are that calculating. But I believe most don’t realize there is any harm in it. Women light-heartedly talk about training their man, and it’s all kind of tongue in cheek that gets those who hear it to laugh in a way that says “I know exactly what you mean.” But they’re dead serious about it. Again, not because it’s wrong, but because they believe it’s normal.

It’s a very fine line between being encouraging and being controlling. There is a subtly of women to “train” a man to be what she wants him to be. What’s primarily underlying the joke is a woman’s fundamental, and understandable, need to protect herself. Protect herself from what? Well, from being hurt by a man.

What’s implicit in this need to protect herself is that men are likely to hurt a woman; emotionally, psychologically, financially, etc. They want intimacy with a man, but are petrified to get too close and take such a huge risk. Yet, women need men, so what’s a girl to do?

Sadly, one of the first things many women do is compromise their femininity. If she is too dainty, meek, quiet, weak, incapable of taking care of herself, and all the other attributes that are considered (falsely, I might add) traditional regarding the helpless woman who needs a man to take care of her persona, then a man will take advantage of her. She can’t let that happen, so a little alteration of her femininity will go a long way to better defend herself from the beastly men who would seek to dominate her.

With every compromise of femininity, a masculine trait is permitted to surface which actually diminishes her, and compromises her personhood as well as womanhood. She might now be able to stand up to the man-beast, that’s true, but she has put her womanly defenses down, exposing the man to a side of her he is not likely to respond favorably to.

Men typically take the path of least resistance. A man will retreat inside himself rather than fight back. He will adjust to his hostile surroundings rather than be a sitting duck for more punishment if he resists. The truth is, most men really want to make a woman happy. But when they sense they are not making her happy, and that maybe that he’s actually the cause of her unhappiness, he is deflated and pulls back.

The biggest problem with this situation is that neither camp considers this destructive possibility before it’s too late. There are too many other things that could be causing it, and men and women tend to focus on those things. So the root problem tends to pass unnoticed.

The result is many men have been trained to accept that if you cross a woman, you’ll be sorry. Men don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want their woman upset at them. They want peace, even at all costs.

And women have been conditioned to believe that to love a man, she must show him how she is to be loved, not by being who he is, but by being what she needs him to be.

The problem with this position is that her needs change. Therefore, how he needs to be must change with it. The result is often a confused man who would believes that his love for her is closely tied to how he accepts what she needs him to be and do; that her happiness is closely tied to his ability to follow her lead.

Role reversals are in place. The woman is less feminine, and the man emasculated. He is successfully domesticated, therefore no longer a threat to hurt her. So she thinks.

But in fact, women are hurting themselves, while men are becoming less what she really needs him to be. As she works to avoid the original fear, another hurtful situation arises in it’s place.

Whenever femininity is surrendered, there is a diminishing of the woman and a distortion created to the male/female relationship. Controlling a person is not love.

Perhaps I’m making too much of this. But maybe not. I believe we have a hard time believing such notions as I present here because we get conditioned to see it differently, not as it is. We’re used to it, so it must be natural.

Men don’t need to be “trained” any more than women need to be dominated. They don’t need to be treated like a child. They need to be trusted to be mature and confident in that leadership role and make her feel safe and protected. He needs to be the unique, wonderful person you were attracted to in the first place, and supported in his natural role as a man in the male/female love relationship. As she takes that away from him, she loses respect for him. Quite the paradox.

As women are feminine and men are masculine, love between them can be that of mutual respect, friendship, and devotion that seeks to accept each other for who they are and build up each other in a shared life together. The alternative is distorted and confused persons losing the capability to love and be loved.

I know you feel like women are trying to train you. Perhaps they are. But maybe it’s better if you try to talk to them about it in a respectable way, and with good humor, rather than build defenses and eventually end the relationship. If they are purposely like this, then you’re right to turn and run. But working through it through good communication could result in an incredible find and tremendous mutual love.

Anthony Buono is the founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice.  Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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