In my work as a passion coach I have the privilege of hearing people speak about their experiences of love. In recent months one conversation has recurred – with clients, friends and even random acquaintances. Young men (in their late 20’s to early 30’s) have been saying the same thing: they want to be in a committed relationship. These men have a number of things in common: they are gorgeous, intelligent, successful in their careers and are clearly able to express their emotions. I point out these things because on the few occasions I’ve mentioned this to other people a common response has been a disbelieving laugh followed by a muttered question, ‘What’s wrong with them?’. But more on that later.
These young men have further revealed that their concerns centred on: not wanting to fail at relationship; wanting to be an adequate provider; and not wanting to get hurt (again). I have been struck repeatedly by the tenderness in their voices and their eyes as they speak. I especially remember one of the random acquaintances – the conversation took place about 15 minutes after we met at a party. He told me a little about his relationship history – a fairly standard one, said that he was currently single, then looked wistfully into the middle distance and remarked, ‘But if I don’t sort this out in the next couple of years I might be getting old on my own.’ I was standing there thinking, ‘Mate, you’re drop dead gorgeous and 31!! Chill out!’ Of course, I didn’t say that. I looked him straight in the eye and said quietly, ‘You are drop dead gorgeous and 31. Enjoy. Now, tell me about your ideal woman.’ And he did – openly, and tenderly.
This stream of conversations got me thinking about dominant notions of straight masculinity in our society. Perhaps the main one is that men run from commitment. Hence the disbelieving and diminishing responses from other people. But these young men are telling me something different: they want commitment. How to explain this discrepancy? Is simply that stereotypes are caricatures and hide a more layered truth. Well, thats true but I think there’s more going on here. The real problem with stereotypes is that they become a perceived benchmark of reality that people feel the need to conform to, whether or not it resembles what they actually want. It then becomes difficult – even unacceptable – to speak a different desire. So we don’t usually hear this part of the story – straight-up and tender.
This is not to say that these men have no ‘fear of commitment’ (whatever that might mean to them). It may be that such fear plays a healthy role in their story. And its not to say that all men have the same desire for relationship. Perhaps the more fruitful question for someone – man or woman – wanting to create romantic relationship would be, ‘What does commitment look like for me?’ But that’s another topic for another day.
The point here is that these conversations reveal a very different aspect of straight masculinity. Far from running from commitment these men want to commit. But there is rarely space for this desire to be heard. I’m wondering just how many of these men are out there and don’t get the chance to say what they really want.
A final note about the masculinity that I’ve been witnessing in these conversations. Its tenderness pack a powerful punch. It reminded me of an idea in Tantric thought on maleness. It goes something like this: a man’s place of hardness/ power is also his place of softness/ tenderness. The physiological reference is obvious but the Tantric view of the human being equates physique with psyche. I think we would do well to pay attention to this as the body holds much wisdom – wisdom that the prurience of modern society ignores. The idea is that male strength and tenderness are each other’s complements. And believe me, the strength I witnessed in these conversations was phenomenal. Gentlemen, you are more powerful in your tenderness than you realise.
I’m sure that this conversation will continue – if you’d like to join in, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.