We’ve all had relationships not work out, and then wonder what went wrong. Feminists tell us female empowerment means being free to pursue men, have casual sex, and become self-sufficient. None of this is supposed to affect our relationships — but could it be?
Singleness is on the rise, so it’s clear this advice isn’t fruitful for many of us. In fact, many modern ideas about dating are actually ensuring our relationships are doomed to fail from the start.
Dr. Patricia Allen is a psychologist who has studied male/female relationships for 47 years. She outlines some of the common pitfalls modern women fall into when dating in her bestselling book Getting to “I Do.” For women who want a long-term relationship that ends in marriage, but can’t seem to fit the pieces together, her book offers some seriously helpful insight — and busts some common feminist myths about relationships.
Relationships Are an Exchange of Masculine and Feminine Energy
The basic message of Dr. Allen’s book is that relationships must always have a “masculine energy” person and a “feminine energy” person — not two people fighting for the masculine position, which leads to conflict and competition.
The “masculine energy” person is the one who pursues, gives, protects, and is respected for their thoughts. The ‘'feminine energy” person is the one who is pursued, receives joyously and gives back, and is cherished for their feelings.
The ‘'feminine energy” person is pursued, receives joyously and gives back, and is cherished for their feelings.
“Successful relationships are an exchange of opposite energies, so the goal is to be able to make a clear decision about your energy system before you begin a relationship,” Allen writes. “You cannot chaotically or spontaneously jump back and forth between the two, being both actively masculine and passively feminine. That destroys relationships and wears down one or both people.”
Many women pursuing relationships today may really want to be feminine, but don’t realize they’re actually embodying masculine energy — leading to relationship discord and hurt.
How Feminine Women End Up Acting Masculine
Dr. Allen illustrates masculine and feminine energy dynamics by telling the story of a young woman named Leslie, an account executive. While attending a party, Leslie spots a handsome guy named Mark; she boldly walks across the room and approaches him. She asks him to dance; he accepts. They have a wonderful night that ends in them having sex.
The two start a relationship in which Leslie is a “giving” woman. When Mark has a hard day at work, she gives him shoulder rubs. When his car breaks down, she lends him hers, even though it inconveniences her and negatively affects her business. When Mark has a problem at work, she stays up all night with him trying to solve it. She provides sex whenever he wants it.
Women who want to be the feminine energy in the relationship don’t approach first
Leslie sometimes feels resentment that she’s giving so much while getting so little in return, Dr. Allen writes, but she doesn’t want Mark to be inconvenienced or annoyed — especially because she can do things for herself. She tries to show Mark she’s a self-sufficient, independent, low-maintenance woman.
But Leslie’s relationship eventually falls apart. One day, she needs emotional support from Mark after her friend dies, but Mark has a problem at work and needs her help instead. The two get into an argument, and Mark leaves. Leslie calls Mark multiple times. She eventually awkwardly apologizes, but their relationship becomes strained. Mark becomes cold and distant, and the more Leslie attends to Mark’s every need and chases after him, the more he pulls away. She eventually finds him with another woman.
Many women have had similar arrangements with men. We’re dating someone, but the relationship is undefined and uncommitted (some refer to this as a “situationship”). We don’t want him to become annoyed or upset if we ask him to do things for us or commit to us. Instead, we give him a lot — back rubs, emotional support, sex — without demanding much of anything from him in return. We think: Once he sees how loving, giving, and helpful I am to have around — and how great I am in bed — surely he’ll commit to me.
Feminine women give back to a man after they have secured a commitment in which he agrees to be responsible for her.
But it just doesn’t work that way. Many women think of themselves as feminine, but actually put themselves in the masculine role of pursuer and giver from the get-go.
“Leslie believed that by giving her body to Mark, she would make him fall in love with her and later make a commitment to her,” Dr. Allen writes. “But handsome and successful men like Mark have been trained out of their generous, protective, and cherishing mating skills by women like Leslie who do all the work. Once Leslie had sex with Mark without requiring a commitment first, he had no reason to cherish her feelings or reward her with love and commitment.”
Dr. Allen notes that Leslie’s relationship went wrong the very minute she first approached Mark. Women who want to be the feminine energy in the relationship don’t approach first — they magnetize men to them, signaling interest by flirting with their eyes and smiling. They let the man pursue. They don’t call him first, and they don’t try to lead. Feminine women give back to a man after they have secured a commitment in which he agrees to be responsible for her.
Modern Feminist Ideas Warp Relationships
You’ll notice that Dr. Allen’s insight is essentially the opposite of what modern culture tells us! Many women today have heard that it’s perfectly okay to pursue a man if you are interested in him. After all, men and women are equal, and we shouldn’t have expectations of either gender. We’re told that women illustrate self-empowerment and equality when they go after what they want and make the first move. We’re taught to be self-sufficient, aggressive in sexual pursuit, and ultimately, women who will take care of ourselves.
Yet for women who want a strong relationship in which they are free to be feminine, this advice is off, because it tells them to embody masculine energy. The result is that their relationships are doomed to fail.
It’s about avoiding a competition or power play by having distinct masculine and feminine energies.
Women who want a relationship with a masculine man — someone who will pursue, commit, and provide for their welfare — should allow the man to pursue and require a commitment before giving him sex. Leslie really wanted to be the feminine energy, but was giving Mark all the benefits of a wife without having acquired any commitment from him. In a culture where it’s normal to hook up first, holding this boundary is something feminine women have to do consciously.
Are You Feminine or Masculine?
While women commonly want to be feminine and men commonly want to be masculine, there are plenty of masculine-energized women and feminine-energized men. Dr. Allen makes it clear that you can determine which energy is best for you to embody. Knowing which one you are requires being honest with yourself about your nature — are you the type who wants to be receptive, give back, and have your feelings cherished, or do you want to be assertive, respected, and career-oriented? If you’re the latter, you may find you vibe better with a feminine-energized man.
The point isn’t that all women have to be feminine and all men have to be masculine. The point is that without complementariness, a relationship is likely to become unstable, unhappy, or fall apart.
Without complementariness, a relationship is likely to become unstable, unhappy, or fall apart.
In addition, some people will hear Dr. Allen’s advice in Getting to “I Do” and think it means women can’t be respected for their brains or have a career. But that’s not so, she says.
“Being equal in career and brains does not mean being equal in energy preference,” she writes. “When two people have parallel incomes, the delineating line is still who is the active, giving masculine energy and who is the passive, receptive feminine energy. In other words, who is respected and who is cherished?”
In other words, it’s not necessarily about who makes the most money; it’s about avoiding a competition or power play by having distinct masculine and feminine energies.
Modern women are often discouraged from embracing their natural feminine qualities. Women who want a strong, long-term relationship with a masculine man ought to think twice about following modern feminist advice that tells them they should aggressively pursue men, focus on having a high-powered career, and have casual sex. For a feminine-oriented woman who wants to be with a masculine man, this will ultimately lead to unhappiness and a broken relationship.