When I was 21, I proposed actual marriage to an actual human man, a guy I had been dating for a year and a half and loved enthusiastically.
Two and a half years later, several months before the wedding, I left. Here’s why.
First, because we weren’t right for each other.
Second, because I was young and didn’t understand that he was different than me in more than just the pants region.
It was a powerful learning experience that caused me to re-evaluate everything I thought I knew about men.
Attitudes that were frankly adversarial, which I had unknowingly internalized, melted away, and I realized that men are amazing, and relationships with them can be joyful and transformative.
Now that I know these things, I’m able to sustain a happy relationship long-term. So learn from my mistakes, reader! I ended an engagement so you don’t have to.
What I learned about men after breaking off my engagement:
1. Men need to adore their partners.
Literally. Adore. You.
By ‘adore’, I mean that the man in your life needs (not just wants, but needs) to be your hero, provide for you, give you everything you want, and more, to fill your life with joy.
This is absolutely transformative and elevating for everyone involved.
When you’re able to be receptive to this, you’ll discover firsthand that you deserve profound love and appreciation. And it will allow your man to be vulnerable and acknowledge that he has many worthwhile things to give… even if he’s believed otherwise.
He needs to adore you, just like you need to adore him.
If you don’t feel adored, chances are it isn’t the right relationship to commit to. Not necessarily because he ‘” just isn’t that into you.”
Sometimes, we love people very much who need things we simply can’t provide, and/or who provide things that aren’t quite what we need.
Any relationship involves both parties asking if they have what the other needs and vice versa.
2. Men crave our femininity.
I’m not just talking about subjective, arbitrary traits that our culture has saddled the female gender with: I’m talking about the living archetype of feminine, Yin energy. Every person has it.
But some of us hide it. I thought that femininity was a weakness. I acted like ‘one of the guys’ and dressed in a masculine way and didn’t let myself be receptive and vulnerable.
I never let myself admit that I needed him.
Men need to see the femininity of their partners, however, that manifests in that particular person, man or woman.
They need us to receive whatever gifts they are giving, to allow them to be the men they are (regardless of whether they fit society’s arbitrary definitions of ‘masculinity’), and they need us to trust them with our gentleness.
Meanwhile, with men I dated, often they would provide all sorts of stuff I wasn’t open to receiving.
Often, they wanted to be strong for me… and I wouldn’t ever let my guard down enough for them to give me that beautiful gift. Being receptive and vulnerable is very challenging and scary.
And men need their partners to do it.
This is about far more than gender roles: there are some women who aren’t trying to hide part of themselves when they dress in a masculine way or hang out with the guys.
That’s who they are, and in their case, that is what their femininity means to them. Vulnerability and receptivity know no gender. Yin energy knows no gender.
Still, in our culture, Yin energy is devalued, and many people are taught to hide it behind a tough Yang exterior.
3. Men are incredibly vulnerable in love.
I know, who isn’t? The thing is, our culture has this image of men as being less invested in romance.
That’s just not true. When a man lets himself love, he grants a huge amount of power to his beloved.
We can make or break them. Our power over the men who love us is incomprehensible.
Our support can give this man the confidence to take on the world.
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When we’re receptive to him as he is, when we see him as a Hero because he’s being a hero for us… he starts to see himself that way, a little bit at a time.
And a lack of support, derision, complaining, lack of acceptance… all of these have an absolutely devastating impact on men.
4. Men don’t want sex all the time.
Oh, the shame and anguish and rejection and fear and sadness and bone-crushing horniness and heart-breaking loneliness that could have been avoided if I’d known this from the start! Oh, lamentations!
Sure, I knew that I wanted sex as much as guys do.
I knew it in my heart headbut I didn’t know it in me heart. So when men I dated didn’t want sex every day, or even every week… I thought there must be something wrong with me. I wasn’t sexy enough, I was doing something wrong, and our relationship was failing.
Lots of people end up in this situation.
We live in a culture that values male virility: according to dubious sex experts and the wisdom of rom coms, men are ‘supposed’ to want it now, all the time, three times tomorrow, etc.
Guess what? They don’t always! And that’s normal! It has nothing to do with you!
5. Men often believe their value to a partner is dependent on their net worth.
Obviously, not all men believe this awful myth. But a lot of them do.
My dad told me that his father once said “Any man working less than 60 hours per week isn’t much of a man.”
This is why he worked himself half to death: not for the money, but to be the man he believed his wife and family needed. It was a beautiful act of devotion, sacrifice, and service.
Many men do the same; they work their a**ses off, scrimp and save, and go for the harder, more stressful job because it pays better.
Lots of men have a deep-seated shame, a little monster inside that tells them they aren’t good enough as they are, that the people they love will never be happy with what they have to provide, and so they have to provide material things for those they love instead.
Meanwhile, lots of people see their man working through another weekend, blowing off another date, and feel terribly rejected.
This ties back to love languages; and unfortunately, in this case, there’s much lost in translation.
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According to Alison Armstrong, men go through different phases in their lives that consist of different focuses; there’s a phase when he just works all the time, period.
Whether that’s too gender essentialist to be fully accurate or not, the truth is that most men will go through phases in which they are working their asses off and don’t have much head space left for their partner.
That’s not because he doesn’t love you.
It’s because he’s trying to build something, usually with the intention of sharing it with the person he loves most.
6. Men are incredible.
Thanks to PUA aka the Pick-up Artist community, and other bullshit convincing guys they would have no chance attracting a partner on their own, many men believe that who they are as a person isn’t enough and that they have to use gimmicks ( or rely on money, as above) to attract and please a potential mate.
But men are incredible. Men are amazing. Men have so much to give.
Part of loving men is loving men. Loving, appreciating, and being receptive to manhood, positive masculinity, Yang energy, and the sacred masculine.
Sure, there are jokes about how men always try and solve problems instead of just holding space… and then there’s the reality, in which men cannot bear to see their beloved suffer, and would do anything to make their problem go away.
And there are jokes about men being insensitive or only wanting sex… when in fact, men are just as human as anyone, just as vulnerable and sensitive in love.
I’m frequently overcome by the profound generosity of my husband, and the non-romantic men in my life.
I didn’t always realize this, as I was too busy protecting myself from the bogey-man of, well, men being bogey-man-ish.
In reality, they were waiting for me to let my guard down and let them into my heart, so they could give me their presence, their kindness, their care, and their love, selflessly and endlessly.
Men are incredible.
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Kathryn Hogan is an author, coach, and spiritual student who writes about authenticity, spirit, love, and sex with a fun and sassy twist.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.