The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurturance Culture

The opposite of masculine rape culture is masculine nurturance culture: men* increasing their capacity to nurture, and becoming whole.

The Ghomeshi trial is back in the news, and it brings violent sexual assault back into people’s minds and daily conversations. Of course violence is wrong, even when the court system for handling it is a disaster. That part seems evident. Triggering, but evident.

But there is a bigger picture here. I am struggling to see the full shape emerging in the pencil rubbing, when only parts are visible at a time.

A meme going around says ‘Rape is about violence, not sex. If someone were to hit you with a spade, you wouldn’t call it gardening.’ And this is true. But it is just the surface of the truth. The depths say something more, something about violence.

Violence is nurturance turned backwards.

These things are connected, they must be connected. Violence and nurturance are two sides of the same coin. I struggle to understand this even as I write it.

Compassion for self and compassion for others grow together and are connected; this means that men finding and recuperating the lost parts of themselves will heal everyone. If a lot of men grow up learning not to love their true selves, learning that their own healthy attachment needs (emotional safety, nurturance, connection, love, trust) are weak and wrong – that anyone’s attachment, or emotional safety, needs are weak and wrong – this can lead to two things.

1. They may be less able to experience women as whole people with intelligible needs and feelings (for autonomy, for emotional safety, for attunement, for trust).

2. They may be less able to make sense of their own needs for connection, transmuting them instead into distorted but more socially mirrored forms.

To heal rape culture, then, men build masculine nurturance skills: nurturance and recuperation of their true selves, and nurturance of the people of all genders around them.

I am discovering a secret, slowly: the men I know who are exceptionally nurturing lovers, fathers, coworkers, close friends to their friends, who know how to make people feel safe, have almost no outlets through which to learn or share this hardwon skill with other men. They may have had a role model at home, if they are lucky, in the form of an exceptionally nurturing father, but if they do not have this model they have had to figure everything out through trial and error, alone, or by learning with women rather than men. This knowledge shapes everything: assumptions about the significance of needs, how one ought to respond to them, what closeness feels like, how to love your own soul, and what kind of nurturance is actually meant to happen in intimate space.

Meanwhile, the men I know who are kind, goodhearted people, but who are earlier on in growing into their own models for self-love and learning how to comfort and nurture others, have no men to ask. Growing entails growing pains, certainly, but the way can be smoothed when one does not have to learn everything alone.

Men do not talk to one another about nurturance skills: doing so feels too intimate, or the codes of masculinity make doing so too frightening. If they can’t ask and teach each other – if they can’t even find out which other men in their lives would welcome these conversations – then how do they learn?

Men have capacities to heal that are particularly masculine and particularly healing. They often are not fully aware of this deep gift and how helpful it can be for those close to them, whether family or close friends.

To completely transform this culture of misogyny, then, men must do more than ‘not assault.’ We must call on masculinity to become whole and nurturing of self and others, to recognize that attachment needs are healthy and normal and not ‘female,’ and thus to expect of men to heal themselves and others the same way we expect women to ‘be nurturers.’ It is time men recognize and nurture their own healing gifts.

In Ursula K. Leguin’s book Gifts, an entire culture lives by the rule of what they call ‘gifts’ – powers to do harm – possessed by certain of its members. Some families possess gifts of Unmaking, where they can turn a farmer’s field into a blackened waste or a puppy into a sack of dissolved flesh. Some possess the ability to create a wasting illness, or blindness, or the gift of calling animals to the hunt.

By the book’s end, the child at its centre has struggled, against all signs in his culture, to realize something profound and fundamental. The gift they call Unmaking is actually a gift of Making, turned backwards upon itself and rendered unthinkingly into a weapon. The gift of calling animals is turned into a way to hunt them, when it is meant to let humans understand animals and live in balance with them. The wasting disease is the backwards use of a gift of healing illness and old age. He finally asks his best friend and closest confidant: what if we are using our gifts backwards? To harm instead of to help? What if they were meant to be used the other way around?

Nothing in the boy’s culture would tell him this is so. His entire society has been built around fear of these gifts used as weapons. Yet he has seen his father use the gift of Unmaking ‘in reverse’ to gently undo a knot or mend a creaking gate. His best friend’s gift of calling animals also gives her an aversion to hunting them, an aversion she must overrule in herself to meet her culture’s expectations. These images knock on the door of his mind until he makes sense of them; he has to struggle to see the truth without a single signpost or mentor to help him find this knowledge. Nothing in his world reflects this reality back to him, and yet it is real. He at first can hardly believe it or understand it.

Something odd happens when you google ‘man comforting a woman.’ Many of the top hits are about women comforting men. (try it.) The ‘suggested search’ terms too: ‘how to comfort a guy, how to comfort a man when he’s stressed, how to comfort a guy when he’s upset.’ Apparently lots and lots of people on planet earth are googling how to comfort men… and fewer are googling how to comfort women. Strange, isn’t it, since this culture views women as ‘the emotional ones’ and men as the strong ones. Perhaps something is a bit backwards here.

I tried to find an image that would capture the way men have actually comforted me, which for me is the most intimate image of holding me in their arms, skin on skin like a young baby, rocking or singing, letting me be at my most vulnerable, held safe. There when needed, when it matters. I could find only one image that looked remotely like the real thing.

Could it be that a lot of men have no models for how to nurture, comfort, soothe, and thus strengthen people they care about? If you happen to not have a highly nurturing model at home, where would you learn how to nurture? A top search hit is a bewildered humour piece about how utterly terrifying and confusing it is when a woman cries and about how men have no idea what to do. Could it be that the things that come naturally to many of us – hold the person, look at them with loving, accepting eyes, bring them food, hot tea, or medicine – that these are unfamiliar terrain for some, can’t even be imagined, let alone acted on consistently?

These things seem connected to me. And here is where my friend Rebekah, a drama therapist, comes in, who one day handed me the books Hold Me Tight and A General Theory of Love, and blew my mind. This is where attachment theory comes in. Bear with me, as this takes a little background knowledge – a quick summary of these books – before I can go on.

Attachment theory: cutting edge neuroscience

According to Hold Me Tight and A General Theory of Love, current advancements in neuroscience have completely transformed understandings of human relationships, from birth to death. What used to be called Freud’s ‘unconscious’ is actually located in the body, in a knowable place. Specific understandings of how the limbic brain work have replaced old ideas about love as a ‘mystery.’

Apparently about 50 percent of the population, people of all genders, have a secure attachment style: they were raised by responsive, attuned parents, who recognized their need to go out and explore as well as their need to come back and be comforted, and responded in a timely, attuned way to both. According to A General Theory of Love, this experience of attunement – having all their developmental needs met by attuned parents – literally shapes their limbic brain.

These folks as adults find closeness comfortable and enjoyable, they easily desire intimacy, and they know how to create a secure attachment bond in which autonomy naturally emerges and daily nurturance is the norm. This shapes the brain in material, physiological ways. This is how you build secure attachment: through daily attunement to the subtle cues of other people, and lavishing love and care while letting them come and go as needed. In this kind of connection, you know your home base is always there for you, so you feel comfortable going out into the world, taking risks, trying new or scary things, because you can return to safe arms when you need to.

Securely attached people know how to comfort and be there for one another when they need each other, and so they naturally know how to create healthy autonomy and healthy intimacy, which emerge in balance as they get comfortable with one another and create trust. Securely attached people are comfortable being vulnerable; they have had positive experiences of trust. There can be no joy of trust without the risk of vulnerability, letting your true self show and experiencing others catching you, mirroring you, liking you, and letting you go, when you are all there, visible, open.

Just like the first time you walk on ice or sit on a new chair, at first your muscles are clenched, waiting to see if the ground under you is secure or about to fall away. If the ice has always been solid, or you have never had a chair break under your weight, you may assume that you can relax quickly into your seat, or head out onto the ice and skate. You have no reason to think otherwise. If, however, you have had a chair break under you, you may think hard about sitting down again, and may take longer to relax into the secure base. If the chair has never been there for you at all, you may decide you simply don’t need chairs and prefer to stand. These are insecure attachment styles.

Secure, Anxious, Avoidant 

Attachment science also has learned that about 50% of the population has an insecure attachment style; this breaks down into about 23% anxious and 25% avoidant styles, which are apparently both physiologically insecure styles, but look and feel different on the surface. The avoidant style breaks down further, into anxious-avoidant and dismissive-avoidant styles. A very small percent of the population, around 3%, has a style called ‘disorganized‘ which is a mix of the other styles.

People with an anxious attachment style actively seek closeness and are afraid of losing it, and have a harder time trusting and knowing their partner will be there for them. The chair may have broken for them many times, or in a formative early relationship that was significant. Their limbic brains and entire autonomic nervous system is built differently than those with secure styles. They need extra reassurance and comfort to get secure and enjoy lots of closeness, especially with a new trust figure – though they have the same need for autonomy as anyone else, and it emerges as they become secure. They engage in ‘protest behaviour,’ i.e become upset, to try to seek closeness if they cannot receive it by asking directly. However, once they are secure and feel safe, they become exceptionally loyal and loving nurturers and feel immense gratitude and loyalty to those who give them this safety.

People with a preoccupied-avoidant style crave closeness but are afraid to show it, and will show it instead through sulking or silence, hoping their partner will guess. They can come to name their needs with a secure loving partner, but will struggle to do so.

People with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style also have a need for intimacy – every mammal has this need hardwired in our limbic brains – but at a very early age they complete a transition to a belief that they are autonomous and do not feel their need for intimacy. They decide if the chair isn’t going to be there, they will just stand, thank you very much. They can come to open up and become secure as they come to recognize their distorted beliefs about intimacy, but they need lots of time, space, and compassion about how difficult this is for them.

Having thoroughly repressed their attachment needs, these folks may have learned to act ‘fine’ at a very young age in order to keep a dismissive attachment figure close, or may have learned to create constant nonverbal barriers in order to keep an unattuned, invasive or dismissive attachment figure at arm’s length. They may feel suffocated or trapped when people get too close, and will unconsciously and involuntarily use ‘deactivating strategies’ – body language and facial expressions – to tell even their most intimate people to ‘back up’ even in the most intimate moments.

In other words, the nonverbal cues that other people use with strangers on the subway to maintain distance are the daily communication that dismissive-avoidant attachers use with their closest family members, often without even understanding they are doing it, which may feel very confusing both to them and to those close to them. They may feel that no matter how hard they try, those who depend on them never get reassured. They may blame this on the other person and call them ‘needy’ without ever realizing the nonverbal distancing cues preventing secure attachment that are leading to the signs of ‘neediness’ in the other person.

Nurturance, the literature teaches us, recognizes and responds appropriately, in an alive, moving dance, to the other person’s need for intimacy and need for space, learning how to engage in nonverbal limbic communication that comforts, reassures, and breathes. In addition to talking openly and honestly, the quality of care that creates a feeling of safety happens in a moment-by-moment way through mainly nonverbal cues. The limbic brain does not use language but reads the small muscles around the eyes, the set of shoulders, the breathing, the posture, of other people.

‘Earned Secure’ attachment: where nurturance creates growth

It is possible to change your attachment style by creating an ‘earned secure’ attachment as an adult. It is possible to create an ‘earned secure’ attachment between two insecure attachers, but it takes a lot more time, effort, and compassion: both have to recognize nurturance is entirely good and expected.

Of course, nothing can replace talking things over and calibrating with people you are close to. No one should be a mind reader. But it takes more than talking to change these patterns. The avoider has to risk opening up and letting their true self show in order to give and receive nurturance, and the anxious attacher has to trust and let go more, knowing the avoider will be back. Both of these changes are difficult; limbic responses happen very, very fast, below the conscious level and often outside of language.

The easiest way to form an ‘earned secure’ attachment is by being in a relationship with a secure attacher, and learning healthy intimacy from them, in which needs are responded to as they arise. However, secure attachers usually date a few people, then pick one and settle down early. They know how to create a big warm home bond. Avoidant attachers tend to prefer anxious attachers, and anxious attachers tend to be drawn to avoidant attachers, because each reinforces the early ‘rules’ about ‘reality’ – actually just haphazard chance, what happened to be going on between them and their caregivers at the time – laid down in their limbic brains before the age of three.

Shame and guilt over which kind of attachment style you have are completely not appropriate or called for, as one’s attachment style is wired in from an age when we are much too young to choose. It is no one’s fault. However, shame and guilt can be quite convincing even when completely uneccessary, as is the nature of shame. It can be incredibly convincing to the person experiencing it even when it is completely absurd.

What does all this have to do with assault?

That summary – above – is what the books say. But like the boy in Gifts, many of us are fumbling into an even bigger picture, trying to see a pattern that is just coming clear. Our culture does not give us many signposts. I’m trying to put things together.

Fundamentally, a healthy, secure attachment style is what lets people effectively protect and care for the wellbeing of others. It allows for the skill of attunement: recognizing when someone wants to come close and when they want space, not only by asking but also by reading subtle nonverbal cues.

Attachment styles can land in any gender, of course, and people can combine in any combination.

However, when attachment styles land in particularly gendered ways, we see certain patterns emerge that are all part of the bigger pattern, and, maybe, they can be understood as part of the ‘answer’ to the question of violence.

People with secure attachment styles are better at recognizing and being comfortable with this dance of approach-and-retreat, better at supporting others while letting others do what they need to do. They know deep down they are loved and loveable, and thus are more likely to be loving and nurturing towards others, both to be there for them when needed as sources of strength and solace, and to be able to recognize and honour when someone does or does not want to be touched. Shame prevents this skill from emerging.

We misunderstand shame

Attachment science tells us that human beings need mirroring and containers in others. Whatever is in us that does not get mirrored, or held in a larger container of acceptance by others, becomes a source of shame, simply for not being accepted. And if you have shamed something in yourself – like a normal need for intimacy – so early and so completely that you don’t even notice you are doing it, you will interpret that same need as shameful when you see it in others. Shame is entirely subjective, in this sense. This is all happening in the body, below the conscious level, not in a vague ‘unconscious’ but in a recognizable region of the brain: the limbic brain, which does not have language.

Shame and guilt unhealed and unaddressed remain powerful and, like a volcano, rise up in surprising ways. For instance, shame can lead men to shut down and run or blame women or act defensive instead of offering comfort and nurturance when someone they care about needs them. It can, alternately, lead men to ignore signs that someone does not want them close.

These are two sides of the same system, and must be understood together, because in a culture that does not expect men to show up for their own emotions, women get blamed for unaddressed male shame. 

In other words, it seems possible that shame and guilt, left subterranean, interrupt attunement, and can lead to an inability or unwillingness to properly respond to the needs of others, whether for nurturance or for space. I mean the really deep, structural kind of shame, that is so old and convincing, it doesn’t even appear as anything in particular. It just appears as ‘the way the world is,’ laid down in patterns in the limbic brain. This kind of shame hides, appears as nothing in particular, until questioned with compassion and curiosity, deeply, in safe company.

Anxious attachment styles and the mystery of human relating

In a patriarchal, misogynist culture, both of these imbalances (which are common to all humans), when they appear in men, are laid in women’s laps as blame and misogyny when men do not do their own emotional healing.

I am making sense of this, bit by bit, seeing the pattern emerge. For instance: men with anxious attachment styles may feel distress when an attachment figure seeks to back up a little, or a lot, and may not develop a healthy capacity to recognize and respond appropriately to someone’s nonverbal cues communicating the need for space.

They may come closer or become upset as the other person signals their need to disengage. If a man who happens to have an anxious attachment style does not know how to understand and accept his own needs for nurturance, he may attack a woman for rejecting him. The typical ‘hello, cutie,’ on the street followed almost instantly with ‘fine, be that way, bitch’ is an example many of us will be familiar with.

They may not notice or register or in extreme cases be concerned that someone they want to touch has frozen up, is giving off signals of paralysis or distress. Thus we sometimes find men who don’t think of themselves as ‘bad men’ who nonetheless rape and assault: their partners, girlfriends, wives, or women on a first or second date. (This is how the majority of assaults happen, of course: the ‘man jumping out of the bushes’ while more spectacular is much more rare.) They may resort to seeking power-over and dominance, because normal intimacy needs, when distorted and denied, come out in distorted ways. They are caught up in their own pain and can’t name it, or find appropriate avenues for it, and given the larger social norms that centre men’s experiences, this imbalance doesn’t get addressed as an imbalance but instead gets projected out into the world. A society that actively, financially, politically, socially, privileges traits it deems ‘masculine’ – nonemotionality, strength, independence – and actively disparages traits it deems ‘feminine’ – interdependence, nurturance – has few ways for these patterns to be openly loved, addressed, and changed.

In another example, those with a preocuppied-avoidant style – who feel the need for closeness but have a hard time asking and do not expect others to be there for them – may sulk if they feel rejected, putting silent pressure on women they are with to meet their demands. Perhaps the sulking partner who turns away in anger when sexual desires aren’t met may be having a limbic attachment experience that needs to be addressed as such, in a mature way, a way that takes ownership of the experience and works to heal it rather than project it outwards onto women.

Avoidant attachment styles: holding trust

Those with a dismissive-avoidant style may simply need to develop attunement in order to hold the trust they are given. They may want women to get close to them at first, and begin to build trust, but not actually know how to maintain trust once it begins, which can create destabilizing and confusing experiences for everyone involved.

When men happen to have a dismissive-avoidant attachment style, they may simply not know how nurturance and comfort looks and feels. They may have a very difficult time recognizing and loving their own deepest selves, and not even be aware of what they have lost. Thus they may blame women for being ‘too needy’ out of not recognizing their own needs for closeness and nurturance of self and others, having learned early that closeness is suffocating and that needs are to be denied.

They may not recognize their own body’s needs for comfort and connection, which result in elevated heart rate and changes in neurochemicals just as it does for anxious attachers, but in a way the avoidant attacher does not understand or recognize as they learned early on to repress these needs completely in themselves and others. They may not know how to meet their own and other people’s needs simultaneously, a highly developed nurturance capacity.

Even if they do not act in invasive ways, their style may inadvertently interrupt the creation of deep, honest, nurturing relationships, in which women they sleep with or get close to can feel emotionally safe with them.

In striving to be good people they may make ‘rules’ (like ‘a good man doesn’t touch,’) and have a very logical approach to checking if a woman wants to be touched, but have a harder time responding to her nonverbal cues or even sometimes responding to verbal cues for comfort and reassurance, creating an odd gap feeling.

The attachment needs are still there, but they may transmute into other more recognizeable things: instead of giving and receiving nurturance they may seek sexual connections while feeling utterly bewildered about how physical love relates to intimate or consummate love. They may experience immense, paralyzing guilt and shame when someone needs them to be comforting, and lash out, freeze up, or run. They may hurt people they care about by having sex with them in a strangely cold or distant way, without even knowing why they are doing it.

If a man with an avoidant attachment style experiences internal distress when someone he cares about expresses nurturance needs (such as the need for trust, reliability, availability, closeness, responsiveness, attunement) he may blame the woman for ‘being too needy’ instead of dealing with those intensely confusing feelings of shame.

Men with avoidant attachment styles may not notice the confusing nonverbal signalling they are actively doing very early on that prevents safety from happening with women they want to nurture and support, who may become more and more imbalanced towards them in response.

Since ‘absence of nurturance’ is just an absence, it can be hard to recognize early. When early avoidant responses to requests for closeness are not noticed as such, attachment science teaches us, ‘protest behaviour’ – the distress when needs aren’t met – may get louder over time, in ways both people are contributing to and neither understand. It becomes all too easy in a patriarchal culture that values rugged individualism over interdependence to call an anxiously-attached woman ‘crazy’ without noticing the parallel avoidant responses that are contributing, that are ‘crazymaking’. In other words, it takes two to enter into the avoidant-anxious trap, but patriarchal culture normalizes an avoidant style and stigmatizes an anxious style, wherever it appears.

None of this is worthy of shame; fundamentally, all of the insecure styles are based in an unquestioned belief that people will not be there for them and that nurturance is somehow a problem rather than wholly desireable and good. Avoidant attachers ‘know’ from an early age that the ice will break, the chair will collapse, best not to try. Insecure attachment styles are not chosen, are not conscious or intentional, and it is an understatement to say they are not easy to change. They deserve understanding, compassion, and empathy.

And yet living without loving, secure attachment bonds is the loneliest experience in the human repertoire.

Community care and cultural transformation

The solution to this is not to pile on more shame and guilt. This is really tricky, because insecure attachers have limbic brains structured by shame and guilt and may hear accusations where there are none. The solution is not to shame people for feeling shame. Instead, the solution is a complete transformation of social relations to allow wholeness back into our world. Yes, models of healthy interdependence exist if we know where to find them and how to recognize them. But no one stands in a shining circle of light and no one lives in the dark abyss; it is time we finally abandon these Eurocentric, western dichotomies.

What we need is a model for slow self-love that brings the shame up into the light, and reality checks with others who accept you unconditionally, hold you accountable, and aren’t going anywhere. We need a model of justice that recognizes the lived reality of interdependence and learns to do it well, not a justice of shame that frightens us all out of looking at our shadow sides or weakest selves in a world in which most men are expected to cut off parts of themselves from the time they are quite young.

The solution, in tangible terms, is community care and a great deal of awareness of how most of us did not get our needs met at key developmental stages, which means we did not move out of those stages and must do so now. Collective healing is possible. We can heal when we can finally be our whole, unguarded selves, in human community, without shields or guards, and be liked, accepted, seen, held. This is systemic change, spiritual change, at the core levels of our culture, lived each day.

Once shame can be reduced to more manageable levels, both personally and culturally, people can become more able to openly expose their raw spots trusting they will be accepted, and can respond to the needs of others rather than freeze and become defensive, invasive, or paralyzed.

Turning the gifts around: masculine nurturance culture

The answer to all of these difficulties is to openly discuss nurturance: how it looks, how it feels, how men can learn to practice it from the men who already know how in addition to communicating through women or fumbling around for years learning by trial and error.

Simplistic answers gleaned through this fumbling do not help: for instance, some men may actually avoid nurturing or protecting women out of fear of ‘white knighting.’ But ‘white knighting’ isn’t synonymous with ‘all forms of protection.’ White knighting means acting ‘protective’ in ways that aren’t attuned. Paternalistically telling her what she needs instead of listening to what she says is white knighting. To stop white knighting, don’t stop protecting; just protect while you also listen and believe. Protect her, actively, in the ways she actually wants protecting, and not in the ways she does not. Protecting people you care about – in ways that are attuned and responsive to their actual needs – is a normal, needed, and healthy part of nurturance. Only in the wasteland of guessing and fumbling alone would this confusion even be possible.

Why is there no high-profile institute for men teaching nurturance skills to men?

Men need to do this work with other men – not alone, not instead of doing it with women, but in addition, in accountable relationship with and to women. In other words, keep learning in the ways learning is happening now – but then share that learning with one another. Our institutions need to count this work as valuable, rewardable labour: fund it, give it high prestige, give it speaking tours and jobs in teaching nurturance. Read that line a few times. It sounds so impossible, doesn’t it?

The absurdity of that line suggests it may be a long time before a nurturing masculinity is recognized and rewarded socially the same way an abstract intellectual masculinity currently is.

In the meantime, men need to do this healing work every day, behind the scenes, reaping the rewards of having women and people of all genders feel safe with them, and of growing their own self-love and love of one another.

The wonderful reward of creating safe bonds is that in these places of trust, a warm glow of meaning and purpose emerges.  An inner circle of trust and vulnerability allows movement and rest: it lets the bees come and go from the hive. It creates shelters of chosen family and beloved community from which action, challenges to racism, sexism, institutional violence, can arise, a safety net to catch each other’s bodies and souls, the foundation that allows risk.

The opposite of masculine rape culture is masculine nurturance culture. This is men’s work to do, and yet it is needed by people of all genders who have men in their lives. The rewards are waiting.

Are you a nurturing man? Do the women in your life – partner, daughter, sister, friend, coworker, parent – tell you or show you that you make them feel unusually safe and close and cared for? If so, how did you learn? How do you open up spaces for men who want these conversations to begin to have them?

Every single man I asked this of said, “both men would need to want it.” Fear of closeness, masculine codes of interaction, the lower-level lizard-brain signals that men send one another, are real and are part of the picture. But many men are struggling with these questions, locked alone in their own little boxes.

Men have to do this with other men, despite the difficulties in doing so, for three reasons. For one, men understand what it is like to be a man much better than women do, and they can teach one another while understanding what it actually feels like and having compassion for one another. Men must also do this with other men because, frankly, women cannot be responsible for healing men while they also protect themselves from male violence and neglect, which is still endemic and thus a daily part of women’s lives. Finally, one of the great distortions of the human spirit in our culture is that each man lives in solitary confinement, thinking they can and should solve problems alone, that they shouldn’t need others. Jumping the barriers that keep men from talking about emotions with other men is itself a fundamental change, one that reduces shame and confusion.

So how do you know when men around you – the friend you just met for drinks, the colleague you have collaborated with on projects for years, the hockey buddy – may actually be quietly confused and thirsty for this kind of learning?

How can you signal your availability, to let men in your life know you are doing this yourself, so that those men who want to learn about nurturance can find each other? It’s as simple as starting a men’s discussion group based on this article.

It can be as simple as sharing this piece, and asking, “does this ever come up for you?”

It can be as simple as sending someone you know this piece, and saying “I’m available.”

It can be as simple as posting this piece, and saying “I’m here.”

—–

Hey, good news: this has become a book! It’s coming out in June with my favourite little indie publisher, AK press. You can already pre-order a copy here: https://norasamaran.com/2018/10/25/book-release-date-announced-turn-this-world-inside-out-the-emergence-of-nurturance-culture/

 

Next: Own, Apologize, Repair: Coming Back to Integrity

Resources:
Hold me Tight, Sue Johnson
Wired for Love, Stan Tatkin
A General Theory of Love, Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon
Attached, Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller
Bell Hooks, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love

Become a patron! Link to Nurturance Culture Patreon

I love hearing from readers! Reach the author at nora.samaran@gmail.com.

I apologize that I may not be able to respond to each request individually, but I read every email that comes in. 🙂

 

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I prefer people share by linking directly to this page. Please do not copy content to a different page without the express permission of the author, because bringing readers to this writing space is a big part of what helps make the work meaningful. Thank you!

I love this Bay Area Transformative Justice pod mapping worksheet so much that big, dramatic, hyperbole feels called for. ie I wanna shout it from the rooftops and say it again and again: if you consider yourself a feminist man, or you allow others around you to let you walk around with this identity and you enjoy having that reputation, or if you find you get laid or get dates or partners because of this reputation, and if you have not yet mapped out your pod of people who you would want to call you on it when you act in abusive ways, then do this right now. like today. like right away. Because it is everything, it is wonderful: https://batjc.wordpress.com/pods-and-pod-mapping-worksheet/

For a world in which everyone can feel safer, including those who harm and those who cause harm. Thank you.

This is an incredibly on point and insightful piece from Everyday Feminism I highly recommend you read and act on right away:  Abusive ‘Feminist’ Men Exist — Here Are 6 Things Men Can Do to Stop Them

*men: I want to be clear here that I am using this term in a trans-inclusive way, referring to masculine-identified people. I have chosen not to write ‘men and trans men’ etc in the piece above because I’ve been told and understand trans men do not need their own separate signifier as that suggests they aren’t already part of the main signifier. I recognize there are different opinions on how to do this well; as a ciswoman I’m no expert, am open to feedback so let me know if this works. For now until I hear otherwise, I’m going with the approach that made the most ethical sense to me when I heard it.

Puung image used with permission by the artist. See more here: http://www.grafolio.com/puuung1/illustration.grfl

Also feel free to join the Nurturance Culture and Masculinity Discussion Space online to connect with other men (and people of all genders) doing this work.

Do you love speculative fiction and social justice? I am working on a speculative fiction project that deals with the transformations our planet is undergoing, and the undoing of cultures of domination. Cipher is currently seeking collaborators, advisors, an agent, and a publisher. Learn more about Cipher here.

Men’s discussion groups all over the world have gotten in touch to say they’re discussing this piece. If you start a men’s Nurturance Culture discussion group please let me know. 🙂

Dating Tips for the Feminist Man was originally housed at the Media Coop, and is archived here

Find out your attachment style with this quiz.

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451 thoughts on “The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurturance Culture

  1. I don’t buy this at all. Many women tell me they feel safe with me, I have dozens of deep intimate relationships, I have many life-long friendships. My wife told me for 20 years that I was a good man and a good husband…

    And then ran off with a wealthy, violent, Harley driver.

    I am a ‘nice guy’. I have no trouble making friends with women. Last trip I was on I easily picked up a strikingly beautiful woman 25 years younger than me to travel with… But we did not sleep together, and that’s the norm. I have had one 72 hour period of sex in the last 9 years.

    Nice guys nurture – jerks get laid.

    I’d still rather be a nice guy – it’s in my DNA, but I certainly would not recommend it to others.

    Liked by 2 people

        1. nope. i might believe that you have convinced yourself people think you’re nice for the sake of your fragile ego, but i don’t believe other people perceive you as a nice guy. you probably come off as skeezy to most people you encounter.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. “Last trip I was on I easily picked up a strikingly beautiful woman 25 years younger than me to travel with… But we did not sleep together, and that’s the norm.”

      sorry, did the ‘strikingly beautiful” woman 25 years younger than you agree that what was happening was that you “picked up”? Does ‘not having sex with a woman 25 years younger than you” make you a ‘good guy”? Are there any reasons to hang out with “strikingly beautiful” travelling companions other than having sex or not having sex with them? Do you think it reflects on you in some way that you were “able to pick up” a “strikingly beautiful woman 25 years younger than you”? Rather than simply being a pleasant experience to meet another human being while travelling? Does ‘getting laid’ indicate that you were ‘being nice’ by not ‘conquesting’ the woman 25 years younger than you? The series of assumptions here are breathtaking. But they seem invisible to you, so we’ll leave this at that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Do you think it reflects on you”, yes indeed. It indicates that I am very attractive to women – but only as a friend. “picked up” – agree – poorly worded – I think she would agree that we enjoyed travelling together. “not having sex … make you a ‘good guy” not at all. The point is that she was not interested in having sex with me, and deep down, no woman would – because I am a beta.

        I am a good guy because I am nurturing and empathetic and always put the needs of others before me.

        I think what I’m trying to say (poorly) is that based on my experience, the experiences of the 5 guys I have known since childhood, and talking to dozens of woman in the 35 to 75 year range, the approach of being a nurturer is flawed.

        We have a wonderful veneer of society over our base impulses. We are generally supportive, we try to help and heal the weak and the vulnerable. We continue to refine our morality to be more inclusive and fair. That is all awesome and I fully support it.

        But in the area of sex the veneer is useless because (and this is the important bit) “We can choose to not hurt someone but we can not choose to be attracted to someone”

        So if you are a beta/nurturer like me you will have many wonderful/deep/meaningful friendships, you will hold your friends hand when her mother leaves this life, you will spend hundreds of hours listening to peoples problems and providing emotional support, you will find wonderful traveling partners.

        But you will fail in marriage – because you are not attractive. You will hear the words “I wish I was attracted to you but I am not”

        So my advice to people starting out now – don’t make my mistakes.

        If you are an alpha male with integrity, don’t change your nature. Lead your marriage with the same dominance and leadership that you use in business, and your wife will still adore you 30 years from now.

        If you are a woman considering a partner, and you are not sure but he “seems like a nice guy” RUN! If you have a chance with a truly attractive man you will be sure, and you will turn your life upside down to be with him. Choosing a beta will just lead to heartbreak for both of you.

        If you are a beta man like me, get a hobby. Or if you really must follow the path of romance, accept that you will be discarded regularly, and an Alpha may easily take your mate at any time.

        I suppose it may be possible to become an Alpha, but I wouldn’t know anything about that.

        So that’s my observation based on 50 years of life experience.

        Thanks so much for responding 🙂

        Like

        1. something in this is deeply disgusting and squicky and i cannot get clear on what. as someone who EXCLUSIVELY DATES what you seem to call ‘betas’ (what kind of fucking language is that anyway, we are not gorillas), something is amiss here. something is wrong. i will let others figure it out because i feel gross even coming near this. likely something else in how you think or interact is the real cause of whatever is getting in between you and the relationships you would clearly like to have. it isn’t being ‘beta’, whatever the fuck that even means. there is a world view distortion here that may be unsafe or unattractive for women, and that could be an entirely distinct cause than the one named here. i almost didn’t post this comment because something in it is disturbing and makes my skin crawl.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. it might be the MRA / PUA framing. or something about the concept that it would take manipulation to ‘get’ women. or maybe the sad sack poor me stickiness that is hard to get off your skin. there is something damp and disconnected in this. my life is full of beautiful careful so called ‘beta’ (wtf?) men who have loving connected secure partnerships because they do not project all this wierd shit onto women. the problem is the projections. that could turn anyone off.
          i left this here because it feels like a good example of the kinds of wierd distortions that the paradigm shift we are working through can figure out together. maybe others can figure out what the awful gross feeling is in this framing. i can’t.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Sorry to make you uncomfortable, but I do think discomfort generally indicates growth. That growth could be either processing contradictory ideas, or growing your ability to deal with creepy imbalanced people.

          Either is good I think.

          I understand that I came across as “poor me”, that was not my intent. I think I lead
          a spectacular life. There is nothing wrong with abstinence, and I would add that the
          women I respect most are also “long term single” https://cyclingdutchgirl.com/ (In my personal life too). It’s plausible that I have an unhealthy fear of romantic rejection, but I think I more than compensate with my rich network of relationships – my POD is double digits.

          “there is a world view distortion here that may be unsafe or unattractive” agree it’s possible that I am uniquely dysfunctional. But I’m basing my position on more than just my experience. Of the 5 guys I mentioned, 3 are still happily married at 25+ years – they are not the ‘nice nurturing’ ones of the group.

          “we are not gorillas”, In most areas no, but some remain. Business, mating, and the prison system (which has specific prisons for the safety of inmates who – quote – “are lower on the pecking order”). Remember “we can not decide what we are attracted to” – and that makes us gorillas in the area of mating.

          “the problem is the projections” I respectfully suggest that I am observing, not projecting. I talked to a woman last year who had this story. “When we were young, X was interested in me and I would use him for emotional support, but reject his advances. One day he said ‘If this is not going to become a romantic relationship then the emotional support ends, and we are no longer friends’ That was the day I started seeing him as attractive.” Their marriage is only 12 years old, but they seem happy.

          I don’t think I would ever say that to a woman, but it’s the point I am trying to make. If you focus on being a nurturer and don’t look out for your own interests people will not respect or be attracted to you.

          “take manipulation to ‘get’ women” I may have missed something, can you quote the line you are referring to?

          You said you tend to date betas, I’m curious if you also notice a pattern of loosing interest in partners after 36 to 72 months?

          Thank you again for posting – it takes real fortitude to discuss deeply held beliefs – I respect you for continuing this.

          And yes please – anyone else want to jump in?

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        4. there are SO MANY ASSUMPTIONS in this i can’t even engage. honestly. we have completely different frameworks and worldviews. cognitive biases, whatever, something underpinning this entire framework feels horrible. I can’t express it, but I’ve learned to trust my hunches. We learn in logic and composition classes that when making a cause-effect argument, in order to make sense, one needs to check two things:
          -does this cause that
          -are there other possible causes

          Either of those could yield answers to the q of why relationships aren’t working for you. Including this whole gross idea that we ‘give’ emotional labour in order to ‘get’ laid. i can’t tell you how many times over my life I’ve had a ‘good friend’ who once he got clear that we weren’t going to hook up, became abruptly no longer a friend. (The most hurtful one I’m thinking of was arguably ‘alpha’ in your reckoning – he had lots of women who wanted him, he just wasn’t my type – see ‘mainly go for ‘betas’.). I can guarantee you that if a close guy friend of mine gave me that ‘i am giving emotional support out of a hope of getting sex, and so the emotional support ends if sex does not begin’ ultimatum I would lose all respect and trust and interest, stat.

          “You said you tend to date betas, I’m curious if you also notice a pattern of loosing interest in partners after 36 to 72 months?”

          no, that has not been how things have gone in my life. nor in the lives of those close to me, who are for the most part all geeks and nerds of one stripe or another. They become close friends, they date, they get married or commit, they have kids, they relax into good long term partnerships. That’s who I’m close to in general. I have exactly zero humans in my life who speak or think in gorrilla hierarchies and I wouldn’t touch men who think that way with a ten foot pole. I genuinely think this is likely your issue. I’ve had former partners who were low sexual desire who found good partners who matched their low sexual desire. i’ve had partners who became friends after who ended up on powerful committed poly relationships and are in triads and dyads and all manner of ads. None of the men I’ve known think of themselves in terms of ‘beta’ and ‘alpha’ and the only men I hear speak that way have MAJOR ISSUES that make them not good partners.

          I’m not going to engage any further in this conversation because something in it feels gross and violating. I hope something in here has been useful for you. If not, all good.

          Liked by 1 person

        5. I think this article triggered me because I was raised to be a nurturer, and I was told that I was doing a good job, and then she left me for someone who was the complete opposite of what she said she wanted.

          The rest of my life blossomed after the divorce, but romantically I am stuck. I think I have gone from being a Feminist (in my 20s) to a mysonginst in my 40s – and I don’t know how to get back. I have many close female friends, but never want to go beyond friendship anymore.

          Thinking further there is nothing wrong with being a nurturer if you set healthy boundaries. I did not. By the time things started to strain I did not want to get help, I just wanted out.

          “does this cause that, are there other possible causes” very good point – there are dozens or hundreds of factors. Did your parents divorce, are you religious, how big is your support network – etc. We had many factors against us.

          Another point I thought of today. Everyone is different sexually. They can be attracted to any gender, any physical condition, even ferbies and car crashes, so it’s ridiculous to conclude that all women are attracted to Alphas.

          “I’m not going to engage any further” – see that’s setting good boundaries – something I wish I had understood much younger.

          This actually made me feel gross too, so that’s something for me to think about.

          A secondary reason for my OP was my theory that comment sections have become a lot more constructive since last time I looked (2011), I was poking to see what would happen (trolling). I think you were very constructive, and that’s really quite exceptional.

          Like

        6. 1. Re: Lorne’s story. Personally I would see that neither as an “Alpha” dominance move nor as a quid-pro-sex demand, but the kind of honesty that leads to healthy, balanced relationships. X clearly communicated that he was interested in her as a potential partner and that he was investing a commensurate quantity/quality of emotional energy and time. And he acknowledged that she had the full right to say “Yes I’m interested” to move towards that, or “No I’m not” to just be friends – but in that case he would be scaling down his involvement to ONLY being a friend. I have seen a few of my friends dangling after people for months – or even years! – unable to make room in their lives for a healthier love interest because they kept dancing attendence on their crush. It’s not healthy for either person to be in a lopsided relationship like that, and just vanishing or cooling off with no explanation would have hurt her feelings, so I think being upfront like that was actually a good way to handle it.

          2. Lorne, I’m sorry to hear that your marriage ended so abruptly Unfortunately, even when we do everything “right” we still aren’t guaranteed the results we want, because other people have to make their own choices too. Sometimes bad things happen to good people.

          Though on the other hand…

          3. Have you ever gotten angry because you put four quarters into the vending machine but it didn’t give you your Sprite? And then you realized whoops one of those was actually a nickel? Well when I hear someone upset that they weren’t valued in a friendship/relationship as much as they felt they should have been… My first reaction is to wonder what their nickel was. Because sometimes what we think we’re giving and what they’ve actually been receiving are two very different things.

          Like

        7. Spiraling! Thanks very much for #2, a very long time ago my counselor said I was all awesome, and no need to come back, but I don’t think I was/am. I am very good at faking being okay.

          #3 yes we figured that out, but not until after she was spectacularly in love with Mr. WealthAndPower I know my love languages now, and I have met people who matched mine and were interested in me, but I still chicken out.

          #1 My mistake was not making it clear that my needs were not being met, so it was exactly that kind of lopsided relationship. I was too “nice”. A few years ago a woman said she didn’t trust “nice” people, and I was completely horrified, but she was right. Now I would rather be with someone straightforward and honest than someone “nice” (who – like me – might be very good at faking being okay)

          Liked by 1 person

        8. A few more follow up thoughts.

          “feels gross and violating”, at first I thought this was a dishonest attempt to gain an emotional advantage by invoking guilt. After all this is a safe anonymous space and we can all block each other – except that it isn’t for Nora – by responding to me in her own blog she lost the (relative) anonymity benefits that the rest of us have. It’s not a safe sparing space for her. More importantly my premise that “All women are attracted to Alphas” is a categorizing statement, so very likely received as sexist. So it’s very reasonable to feel violated by the premise and I do apologize to her, and anyone else reading.

          “had a ‘good friend’ who once he got clear that we weren’t going to hook up, became abruptly no longer a friend”. I can certainly empathize with this. Solutions -> make friends with monogamous couples, or people who are “long term single”. If someone is recently single, or telling you how bad his/her relationship is, enjoy the connection, but assume it will be of limited duration. Given time we develop intuition and learn to read the signals. If a woman is constantly looking at my lips, chances are she’s not looking for friendship. If she is sharing unusually personal information, chances are she’s not looking for friendship.

          “I have gone from being a Feminist (in my 20s) to a misogynist in my 40s – and I don’t know how to get back”
          When first divorced I followed the recommendation to wait 2 months per married year before trying again (40 months). That caused a dissonance between my conscious and unconscious desires. Adopting a misogynistic (NCFM MTGOW) world view (specifically the belief that any woman would loose interest after 36 months) eased the dissonance and provided a safe place for me to wait it out, but it was damaging once the time had elapsed. If I am going to begin pursuing relationships, restoring my Feminist world view would be a wise prerequisite. Throwing the misogynistic world view before a group of feminists and watching it burn may have been a step in making that transition.

          We often get caught up in determining the most accurate world view. I don’t think that’s realistic – better to choose the world view you wish to have and stick with that.

          This was a wonderful thought experiment. Thanks everyone for the feedback. Even the “I don’t think you’re nice” sparked some interesting thoughts 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        9. good luck figuring things out, glad this was helpful. i don’t do ‘dishonest invokings of guilt’ – if that’s something that you’re accustomed to doing or hearing maybe that’s part of what’s odd in this. there are layers of something gross in this whole thing. clear out something in this and that might get you to a clearer solution. that’s all i can say about this. have a good night and good wishes with your next steps.

          Like

        10. “she’s not looking for friendship.” WTF NO”
          I consider this a reputable source? Item #3 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201607/5-reasons-we-tell-people-more-we-should

          “i don’t do … accustomed to doing or hearing” hmmm I think that’s about as falsifiable as “I’m a nice guy”. We are never 100% self aware. But it’s clear from this whole exchange that I jump to the worst conclusion first, and that’s not constructive.

          Nice bit on overcoming biases

          “good wishes with your next steps”
          Thank you so much!! I hope all goes well for you too 🙂

          Like

        11. hmmmmm…… I find your replies interesting.
          I don’t believe what you are saying. I Don’t believe you have to “Become alpha” to find a woman who will be attracted and stay attracted.
          I do think you have to play the gender game, and you can learn about that from Paul and Patty Richards at the Sente site. http://www.sentecenter.com I believe.

          Being “nice” all the time and never paying attention to your own needs first might not be the best way to be attractive. Women know that men have needs sometimes. Still, you can Serve her in a way that is masculine and avoid being domineering. You don’t have to be Alpha to serve your woman in a masculine way, do you?

          Your giving up posture is not attractive either. Be strong in your Beta-ness. Claim it boldly!! BE the Beta MAN!! Its very attractive to be a beta man who owns it and lives in it. I have a friend who is such.

          And check out the SEnte site for some interesting ways to make the life you want.

          Like

        12. Hi Jennifer!
          >Being “nice” all the time … might not be the best way to be attractive.
          >Your giving up posture is not attractive either
          Does this not prove my point? If I choose to embrace my nature of being nice and giving up when things are difficult, then it’s logical to assume that women would not be attracted to that. Someone like me would have to change his nature. I’m not willing to do that, and I’m certainly not willing to play games (and would not accept someone who plays games).

          I think perhaps I have the life I want, and it’s solo by nature.

          Perhaps I am evangelizing the idea that some people should not be in relationships, and that is something they should be happy with and proud of.

          Thanks for the input!!

          Like

        13. I understand that your life experiences make you believe these things about women and how men need to be an ‘alpha’. But the issue is that both men and women lump eachother into these categories based on a few bad experiences and then they become hostile and after that they only attract the worst people for them.
          I am a woman and I can assure you, my boyfriend is far from an ‘alpha’ type, he is also not conventionally goodlooking/attractive (when I met him lots of shallow boys/girls in my life told me I was ‘way too hot for him’) but you know what? It’s been years now and I treat him with a lot of respect, he’s so attractive to me and we have sex like nearly every day lol and I have no interest in persueing an ‘alpha’ guy with a sick car or a dominant manner I really would never find that attractive. I agree with you that there are definetely women out there who problematically seem to chase the real dickhead types and that is very frustrating for the ‘nice guys’ out there. But if this gives you any hope, women like me and some women I know in my life that are close friends with me, are always more drawn to the guy that will just be super nice and a good caring person. My boyfriend is supportive and comforting all the time, just naturally, he doesn’t do it to ‘get laid’ he’s just like that with everyone and I find that incredibly sexy. So, there are women out there like me and they’re not all going for the dickhead types and if they are then they’re also dickhead type of women lol. I hope this makes sense but yeah I just want to let guys out there know that they can’t just assume all women are like what you said they are.

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        14. Joanne – “But the issue is that both men and women lump each other into these categories based on a few ” This is one of the wisest comments in the discussion 🙂

          So if we agree as you stated, that there are some women who like (shall we call them “assertive” as alpha seems controversial nomenclature), and some who like “more nurturing” men, then my original argument still stands – as a man you should just be yourself. Don’t try to be more nurturing because some people would shame you. Just be sure to stay well clear of women with poor boundaries and you should be fine.

          I’m still stuck on the “are relationships beneficial or not” question. Objectively they are clearly expensive and risky. The benefits seem more subjective. If you look at the statistics ( https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/170802/cg-a001-eng.htm ) we are moving towards living alone. I think the simple reason for that may be “because it’s nicer and we can afford it now”.

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        15. Being “Nice” is not being honest. You are not expressing your needs in an open way. You are not being vulnerable. I can feel your resentment, and I understand it. You are convinced you were told that saying always yes would bring you love. That is false, that is true. Women (and men) only like people who are able to express what they want, instead of being followers. Read “Models” of Mark Manson. See, being “Nice” is nmot being vulnerable. Women like truly vuklneable men.

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      2. Hi Nora. I love your blog!! The cause of “Nice Guy” actions is shame, a very deep one, indeed. I’m not sure it is the same shame that you talk about, because I believe it is a shame about traditional “masculine” traits.

        I’d love, I’d really love to know what you think about it. Thank you very much indeed!!!

        Best resources about the “Nice Guy Syndrom”
        http://www.heartless-bitches.com/rants/niceguys/ng.shtml
        https://libgen.pw/item/adv/5a1f04b53a044650f503987d

        Like

        1. thanks! 🙂
          reply is – I no longer believe that Nice Guy syndrome ie when men act rapey while saying they are Nice Guys – is caused by the shame alone. Shame is just the underwater condition that sets the stage but lots of people feel tremendous shame and do not translate that into believing they are entitled to demand sex or are being denied something ‘owed’ to them if they do not have a hot sorority girl on their arm or the girl of their choice doesn’t choose them or women don’t act like obedient robots for them. After friends shared this book with me I have come to understand and agree that the activator of Nice Guy syndrome and all the rest of the violence is not that they feel shame but that they direct the shame through the filter of this culture’s deep conditioning into a false male entitlement drilled from childhood on. Check it out: http://unityandstruggle.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Lundy_Why-does-he-do-that.pdf

          Like

    2. Just adding my two cents. I agree with Lorne. No one would describe me as nice or particularly empathetic, more often distant, cold or brisk, but I’ve never had a problem getting laid, nor have I struggled to find myself in relationships. My more empathetic and in touch with their

      Like

      1. …. more obviously empathetic and in-touch-with-their-feelings male friends, however, are generally the ones who struggle most with their relationships, which is kind of sad, because they’re nice dudes.

        Like

    3. I don’t buy it. So many guys have this argument “I’m the nice guy.” Its manipulative. Its saying that because you are nice and you people please, you deserve things from women, but they aren’t giving it to you and so you are mad. We sense this and this is why we reject you. We sense that “nice” guys are playing the part to get what they want and its way more of a turnoff than the guy who is straightforward about what he wants. Nice guys scare me because you are being manipulative and you are playing the victim, so everything that goes wrong between us is all my fault and you’re the poor nice guy and I’m the bitch.
      The way you are referring to women by their age and scale of beauty tells me that you lack respect for women, and you are probably really angry at women. How bout being real and vulnerable for vulnerability sake and not just to get something from a woman. How about if you are interested in a woman romantically, you tell her directly and see what happens and then if she rejects you, you don’t get mad at her and take it out on her, but you accept it and move on. If you tell her directly, she could reject you, but that is the chance you have to take to have an actual relationship. And how about not referring to women by their age and how you are capable of catching one who is x years younger than you or “strikingly” beautiful. We are not show dogs. How about you read this article again because our attachment styles are really important and it sounds like you could work through your blocks to have a real relationship if you could address some of the things the author is speaking about.

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    4. Hi Lorne,
      Shit I’m sorry that is your experience and it would feel pretty crumby. Please don’t be put off by this article as it is truly totally correct. I have just come out of a 20 year marriage to an Alpha guy whom I never had real intimacy with due to his very avoidant very unhealthy attachment style. This article rings SO true to me … smack on … however there was a fairly big smattering of narsisism in there too – perhaps just another offset of poor attachment style. Believe me it was his Alpha side (explained below) that was attractive and NOT his attitude & behaviour, although obviously I got stuck. Think you’ll find women who go for this type wish their guy understood this stuff and if not are likely suffering.
      I once new a guy like you describe yourself. Yes he, like you, was friend zoned. However I have also known men who have enough Alpha along with good attachment and strong nurturing qualities that are incredibly attractive. My son is one. Tons of female & male friends, can talk about anything with any of them, gets close, is super nurturing yet still has a tonne of women chasing him like crazy. In fact they love him all the more for these loving, nurturing & supportive qualities.
      I think you are mistaking the nurturing discussed here, the nice guy and the alpha qualities of attraction. I would suggest you look them up 🙂 Particularly as you seem to be feeling pretty bitter. I think you’ll find even a weedy guy can have alpha qualities of …. not being a pushover and standing up for himself in a healthy way, having a strong sense of his personhood and masculinity, knowing his own mind but being open, and confidence, confidence, confidence. Just be strong in yourself and not anti women ‘bitter’ because that just becomes ugly … and actually shows a lack of confidence anyway. Maning up is not being a dominant arse hole. My son happens to be masculine & self assured too. That’s attractive. Maybe your a nerdy guy. Great, that’s intelligent, but don’t shrink and fade off into the background. Self assured with a strong sense of direction and confident presence, is SO attractive!! One of my other adult sons studying psychology said recently he was taking up martial arts because if you “know” you can handle yourself around other men you move higher up in the hierarchy from just the confidence you get from that alone. It shows. Anyway, Good luck to you. You deserve some intimacy of all kinds 🙂

      Like

    5. “I am a ‘nice guy’. I have no trouble making friends with women. Last trip I was on I easily picked up a strikingly beautiful woman 25 years younger than me to travel with… But we did not sleep together, and that’s the norm.”

      It’s surprising than you’re in your 50s (?) and still you think hanging out with someone beautiful someone validates you, just like a teenage boy thinking “wow! a GIRL talked to me! I must be cool!”.

      First, it’s no surprise a girl 25 younger than you did not want to sleep with you. If you were in your twenties, would you be after having sex with someone in their 50s? Or would you rather be interested in dating someone your age?

      And you say “friends” but then something about “picking up”. So.. was it about friendship or picking up? What you noticed the most about this woman was that she was young and strikingly beautiful. No woman wants to be seen as only that. She is a real person, just like you, with personality, passions, memories, so many things to offer. So she didn’t have sex to offer to a guy twice her age, but maybe she saw this lonely man travelling and being friendly herself, she thought she can keep you company. Maybe you two had some friendship experience, which is no less valuable than casual one night stand. If you write that you’re friends with many women, why would her friendship be more of value than friendship of someone who was 50 year old, married and so-so looking? Why was it the only person you mentioned if you claim to have many valuable relationships?

      Beautiful women are simply women and they were not born just to make someone happy by granting them their beauty – they are multidimentional people with many needs including friendships and meaningful, emotionally intimate relationships. But it’s hard to build a deep relationship (which healthy women want far more than any alpha stuff) if you perceive non-sexual relationships with women as some sort of consolation prize, or a disappointment, a cost that didn’t give you anything in return.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Alleris
        Thanks for the comment! I love this thread 🙂

        “why was she the only one you mentioned?” I used her as an example because at the time my brain was still swimming with phenylethylamine. My point was that this is my pattern with dozens of women (even in my marriage).

        This article describes it better
        https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/darwins-subterranean-world/201910/the-end-sex

        “but then say something about picking up” I can understand the confusion, perhaps “connected with” would be a better term.

        “and still you think hanging out with someone beautiful” If this is surprising to you, you don’t have any intimate connections with honest men. I wouldn’t say validates, I would say its something we value. Its wired to the primitive part of our brain, and it lasts a lifetime. I’ve seen the same pattern in one lesbian but not sure if its the norm.

        I recognize that I am more sensitive to beauty (all forms) than most men.

        “why would her friendship be more of value than friendship of someone who was 50 year old” think through the people in your life and who you most enjoy spending time with.

        “would you be after having sex with someone in their 50s” I wasn’t but one of my friend’s was, and I have a close female friend my age who regularly gets offers from guys in their 20s

        Ten years ago I was very judgemental of age gap relationships. Since then I’ve talked to dozens of people of all ages, and done the research. The stories were beautiful and touching. The research is a go. Today I would have no hesitation.

        The woman in this post was unique as she was the first woman since my divorce who I consciously expressed an interest in. All her flags are green. She knows how I feel and she’s not interested. We’ve talked about traveling again, and thats something I would value highly regardless of how we define our connection.

        I still maintain the original premise of my post, but I’ve recognized that the problem is mine not theirs. If I want to move beyond friendship, I have to make my interests clear. To quote a dear (and yes, young/beautiful) friend who I connected with almost a decade ago “you move too slow”. To quote another “you need live a little”

        So maybe I do.

        Thanks again! You are awesome!

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  2. Wow, I’ve been so waiting for just this article and info assimilation.Thank you so much for your voluminous mind and writings, a candle in the dark. Gratitude too for all the comments that help me wrap my heart around the soup that is hue-man-ity. For those of us who are older, it’s a miracle that these conversations are flowing, hopefully inviting an ocean of openings into integral communion
    .

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  3. This is a really beautiful piece, and put a mirror up to me in ways that feel helpful. My friends and family consider me a very nurturing person, especially for a man, but I also recognize in this article, myself as an anxious-attacher—and I think it is this, as much as being nurturing, that makes me feel somewhat out of step with typical patterns of American maleness. Mostly, I just want to say thank you SO MUCH for writing this.

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  4. I am a nurturing male. My father was an affectionate loving man who could also be abusive and controlling when he didn’t get his way. I did not want to emulate him in my marriage and have succeeded but it was a difficult conscious struggle for many years. Early in my marriage I found it difficult to understand how to be a husband. I would go to work and compete and achieve then come home and have to not compete and achieve but relate and support my wife and our infant son. I felt torn – on the horns of a dilemma – no role models to show me how. Should I give in to what my wife wants and feel emasculated ? I slowly started to realise that many of us have a false view of male power and masculinity. There is an unconsious belief that as a man I should be able to get what I want in a relationship – sex, freedom, a wife to tend to my needs and if I am denied the things I want then I am weak – not a real man. The truth is that real male power is not about getting what I want but about what I contribute into the lives of those I care about the most. I came to realise that every decision I make has power – I need to seriously consider how each choice impacts those I care about. I sought guidance from a higher power and came to understand that my calling in life was to be a husband and father. If we could raise our two sons and daughter well then that would be a far more important contribution to humanity than any career. After 31 years of marriage we have achieved raising our children well. I understood that my boys would imitate me so I sought to treat their mother well and they are now excellent husbands. My daughter waited for a man who was strong and caring and found that in her husband.
    Every morning I hug my wife and tell her that I love her. We go on dates and I often buy her flowers. I am by no means perfect and am still working on my calling.

    The article says that nurturing is the opposite if rape culture but I believe that my nurturing comes from my personality being an introverted intuitive feeling type. There are males that are not touchy feel like me who may not be nurturing types but are able to also represent anti rape culture by using their male power in ways that honour, protect and care for their wives and other women. I taught my sons that when they are in conflict to ask themselves “How am I using my male power? Am I using it to get what I want or am I using it to care for my loved ones? ” The other thing I taught them was to use their power to set their wives free to get the best they can be.

    I often speak to other men about caring for their wives as the most important part of parenting. Get that relationship right and we set a powerful example for the next generation.
    It is working well for my family

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  5. “Violence is nurturance turned backwards.
    These things are connected, they must be connected. Violence and nurturance are two sides of the same coin. I struggle to understand this even as I write it.”
    This statement by Nora is poignant. This is also the underlying premise of the film “Crash”. Our need to be in connection is so frustrated by the false premise of individuality taken to isolating extremes, and our unskilful abilities to deal with mutual needs, in general, that, currently, we often will hurt others just to be in contact.
    The need for Nurturance is probably the only Universal we can find and base any ethical code on. Ethics lie behind any decision we make and we make so many decisions for ourselves, one another, and others that a truly functional apolitical, secular, overarching premise about humans and all living beings would be of enormous service. We need it for our children, we need it for those who raise the children, we need it for those who take the time to create services to support both the children and those who care for children. And then there are the elderly at the opposite end of the spectrum. In between there are those with physical challenges, which in turn challenge the premises of ableism. Let’s not forget, there are also the inevitable times when we are all ‘indisposed’ in some way or other. Nurturance, care, and caring is the ‘gift that keeps on giving’ feeding all those around, where violence is the ‘burn that keeps on burning’ deconstructing all it touches. We need lots of the first and very small doses of the second. We need skills in administering both, in recognition of their chemical nature. Both genders need to feel competent in nurturing and dismantling, making and undoing, bearing and sharing the responsibility of knowing of our mortality. Knowing how to care/nurture is something we learn, through receiving meanwhile, learning how to care for others. (how many plants have suffered our bumbling efforts to care for them?) One of the first steps is listening, with our eyes and ears; each individual, in different moments needs something just that little bit different. We learn to listen to our complex, and occasionally contradictory, inner needs and nurture ‘them’ by learning to listening to others empowered by our attention to speak frankly. Self-harm, a pernicious violence, would fade. Statistics show how skilled we are in harming ourselves, which DOES harm others through our innate interconnectedness. It could be that violence is at the other end of the spectrum of nurturance/care, but we need more care than violence; it takes more energy to maintain a form than undo it (mortality’s entropy gnaws on form) All of us need more care. How about doubling up and doing it together, at the same time. #EthicsofCare (Joan Tronto, Virginia Held, M Barnes, T, Brannelly and more )

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  6. You got it right there. I believe you said it already in your article but I am just offering my two cents as a different way of describing this growing epidemic of violence over both our sisters and brothers which has infected our entire collective human consciousness. I’m sure you would agree that the shadow of denial of the extent that it has become so endemic must be brought out of the shadow and into the light through more awareness and the compassion of both men and women for each other. We as human beings are all apart of the problem and we also must all be a part of the solution – together! One bright note is my belief that we are about to reach the bottom with this problem and just as often it takes the alcoholic or addict to reach the bottom, to admit that they have a problem and to say that enough is enough in order to begin their own recovery. We cannot force a solution, but we must have as much compassion for the perpetrators of violence as we would for anyone who has a physical or psychological disease for which they are not responsible.. Namasté

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  7. Thank you Nora. This is what I have been trying to articulate for years with only moderate success and many tears of frustration. You stated it perfectly, with empathy, understanding, and solid, scholarly knowledge. I sent your article to my Dad and it reached him in a way that nothing I have ever said to him has. It helped him understand himself and his relationships with his wife and children better and gave him the courage and a vehicle for opening up to me a little more. Please keep up the good work you are doing and never stop!

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    1. hi thank you, i appreciate the interest and support. i prefer that people who like the posts however just write a little recommendation in their own posts and direct people to read it here. would that be ok? i have a note at the bottom of the he post expressing not to lift while articles without expressly asking first.

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  8. Thanks Nora, a very thought provoking article. I heartily agree with your description of the interdependencies of the different types and how they can lead to disfunctional relationships, but I was wondering how you came to the conclusion that shame was the emotional motivator. I am more inclined to think it is vengeful anger in response to a perceived insult – perceived being the key word, and most often from a previous individual – that leads to these occurances. This vengefull anger can fall on a wide spectrum, but I think it is esentially hurt ego and an inability to properly deal with those emotions.

    If you explain it in the article, sorry I missed that part.

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  9. Thanks for this post! I grew up in a house full of girls, so teenage boys are a bit of a mystery to me. As an adult I am the only female in my house–even the dog is a boy!–so this gave me some insight about what to expect when Tommy hits his teens. Thanks!

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  10. Hey i’ve been reading a bit of your story Lorne so here’s what i think.

    You’re saying you’re being nice and being “fake nice” here’s why your woman left you.

    Don’t be nice. be kind. being nice means that you’re dishonest and insincere.

    Being kind is being nurturing but it is coming for a real place. male Nurturance is something Women need and WANT. and this is coming from a guy. i’ve made alot of research. i’m 26. but according to what you say i know alot more than you do.

    I’m still trying to figure out what male nurturance is but here’s your problem.

    You said you comply to their needs before yours, this is the reason why. you were not being assertive.
    When you bring it to equal and state it like your friend did. that makes you assertive
    (my needs = your needs) that way everybody is happy. that is the real reason why i think she stayed with that guy.

    Also you have some sort of inferiority complex , saying you can never be this “GODLY” alpha male.

    Being alpha is just a term but it literally just means (in most cases) sticking up for yourself (your needs) instead of others or bringing it to equal.

    Nurturing is not a bad thing. male nurturing is necessary.

    Being nice is a bad thing. being kind is a good thing.

    that’s all i got to say.

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    1. Hi Tal!

      >I’m 26. but according to what you say i know a lot more than you do
      That’s as it should be. As you age you will need to decide between sticking firmly to your beliefs, or developing a philosophical approach to life. I recommend the second.

      >male Nurturance is something Women need and WANT
      Perhaps, but if they base their happiness on external factors they will always fail. Acquiring a ‘better’ partner, winning the lottery, or ‘improving’ your partner will make you happy for a short period, but you will return to the same baseline. https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy

      >Being alpha is just a term but it literally just means (in most cases) sticking up for yourself (your needs) instead of others or bringing it to equal
      I think we agree then. I can (and have) played an Alpha, but I don’t like who I am when I put my needs ahead of others, and I would rather stay single than be that person.

      >male nurturing is necessary
      I disagree. There are millions of women who are living spectacular lives without partners (much less nurturing partners). Women are NOT pathetic children – in my view they are at their best when they discard relationships and stand proudly on their own two feet.

      >Nurturing is not a bad thing
      Not always, but it can be. I’ll let Collins dictionary speak for me. “Her desperate longing for nurturance and care makes it difficult to establish safe and appropriate boundaries with others.” https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/nurturance

      I do think my marriage failed partly because my belief in nurturing created an unsustainable environment of co-dependency.

      I also think it’s time to stop talking about relationships. We’ve been writing “how to fix your relationship/attract a mate” solutions for many decades, and the divorce/relationship contentment numbers stay firmly fixed at 50% and 10%. Maybe it’s time to start writing about “is a relationship right for you”? When I look at 18 to 25 year old’s it appears that 20% are dating (vs 80% when I was young). That number is very close to the relationship contentment number. The necessity of coupling a century ago may have created synthetic happiness (as defined in the TED I linked). Perhaps we are maintaining a subjective romantic attachment to a behavior that has lost relevance. Maybe 90% of us are happier and healthier alone?

      Super fun talking to you. Thanks for the input!!!

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      1. >“I am 26 and know a lot more..”

        Lorne, You gave such a nice and fitting reply. He hasn’t experienced what it means when at 60+ you notice that all or most of your cherished beliefs were incomplete, wrong, ridiculous, or answers to the wrong questions.

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        1. Hi TGE! I used to be concerned about what goes on in the comments sections, but then I realized that for the first time in history, we have almost the whole planet talking together. So difficult yes, but amazing that it’s even happening. And ya – it’s worthwhile distributing a little “late life perspective” – people can take it or leave it 🙂

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    1. The artist who does these beautiful images is Puuung, I believe she is Korean, and you can find her portfolio linked to in the resources area towards the bottom of the article. Glad you liked it 🙂

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  11. I’m not done reading your article. I’d like to reply to part of it before I forget. I like the basic subject of your article very much. I’m going to reply to this part of it:

    I am discovering a secret, slowly: the men I know who are exceptionally nurturing lovers, fathers, coworkers, close friends to their friends, who know how to make people feel safe, have almost no outlets through which to learn or share this hardwon skill with other men.

    Now here is my reply. I’d like to give you an example of how a man did share this skill with another man. It’s up to debate just how nurturing he was though. My husband’s male cousin moved in with my husband and I. His cousin would get home from work first, then my husband, and then me. Every great once in awhile, his cousin would make dinner for my husband and himself. They would eat dinner before I would get home.

    This is where some people might debate just how nurturing that was. He didn’t make dinner for me. I didn’t have a problem with that. On my first day off of the week, I would cook enough food for the week, so I already had food cooked that I would eat.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I really like this part of your article:

    To completely transform this culture of misogyny, then, men must do more than ‘not assault.’ We must call on masculinity to become whole and nurturing of self and others, to recognize that attachment needs are healthy and normal and not ‘female,’ and thus to expect of men to heal themselves and others the same way we expect women to ‘be nurturers.’ It is time men recognize and nurture their own healing gifts.

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  14. I love the idea of bringing in attachment theory to look at this issue, similar to how it would be used for a heterosexual couple in couples therapy to understand some of the deeper issues that are going on. Furthermore along these lines, I think it could be very helpful to examine the issue of violence from some men and how that has impacted some women as if we were working with a couple. That said, the concern that comes up for me in reading this article is that it is treating violent men as the identified patient in the relationship without also taking into consideration women’s part in how this has come to be and how the “couple” needs to work together moving forward to create a relationship that feels healthy to both of them. This seems to be surfacing in some of the defensive comments from men insinuating that the women in their lives give sexual priority to men who are more rough and less soft, which I read between the lines as saying “You say you want us to be soft and loving but then you turn us away sexually when we’re not gruff and tough, picking instead men who are that way.”
    Secondly, since reading this last night I’ve been feeling some of my own defensiveness come up around the fact that this article seems to suggest that there are only two types of people in the world – toxic heterosexual men and nurturing heterosexual women. As a queer person, I would like to see less generalizing here, such as “Men are…” and “Women want…” There are millions of types of men and millions of types of women, not just two. And there are more and more people who are eschewing the label of both man and woman altogether and creating new categories of gender that give some other options besides just the historically standard masculine man and feminine woman. Alas, we are all affected by the violence we are seeing today, so maybe we need to look at this issue more like family therapy (with one HUGE and diverse family) rather than couples therapy with only two people involved.

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    1. i agree, thanks for sharing your perspective 🙂
      some of these kinds of questions become the focus of the book that developed after this was written – curious if that explores them more fully or in a good way. thanks for stopping in 🙂

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    2. re: categories of gender, that is. I’m less inclined to agree w the idea that ‘women are partly responsible’ for gendered violence but the rest of what you’ve expressed makes sense to me.
      If what you mean to be saying is that ppl of all genders are part of and acculturated into patriarchy so we can all perpetuate it, sure, I’d agree there. 🙂
      be well, thanks!

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    3. “we need to look at this issue more like family therapy (with one HUGE and diverse family) rather than couples therapy with only two people involved.” I REALLY like this! 🙂

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  15. Thank you for this article, Nora!
    You wrote: “Why is there no high-profile institute for men teaching nurturance skills to men?”

    There is! (Okay it’s not high profile, but it’s worldwide and growing). Check out the Mankind Project at https://mankindproject.org/
    My partner went through the program before I met him and remains active in one of the hundreds of ongoing men’s support groups comprised of initiates.

    Here’s what the MKP says about why they exist: “We believe that emotionally mature, powerful, compassionate, and purpose-driven men will help heal some of our society’s deepest wounds. We support the powerful brilliance of men and we are willing to look at, and take full responsibility for, the pain we are also capable of creating – and suffering. We care deeply about men, our families, communities, and the planet.”

    Men like my partner, and programs like MKP, give me hope for the healing of toxic masculinity.

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    1. I’m glad your partner got something out of MKP and I’m glad that you’re glad he went. My second mum is married to someone who’s also really involved in MKP, and many (if not most, come to think of it?) of my male friends have gone through the process.

      I used to think MKP was amazing. But it doesn’t work for everyone, and doesn’t necessarily build “nurturance” skills or strengthen “interdependence.” Instead, it can accidentally do just the opposite.

      Many men I’ve seen go through MKP first-hand consider themselves “emotionally aware, sensitive, caring, awake, evolving”. That’s the first trap. When push comes to shove, these qualities fall by the wayside, and I’ve also seen them say (to me or their partners):

      “We need boundaries.” [Warrior Archetype] AKA “You’re codependent, needy, demanding, encroaching on my space; your nurturance needs are too much for me; I’m not listening to your feelings and you can’t make me.” [Admittedly, this is technically “Warrior in Shadow” in MKP but most men just see “holding up the shield” as “healthy” whenever they panic. Internally, they are saying to themselves, “Don’t take it personally. It’s not about me, it’s about HER. It’s not my shit. It’s her shit.” (this is what the “shield” means in MKP) – can anyone else see how this invalidates her? He’s quietly telling himself that HIS ACTIONS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH HER FEELINGS AND TO LOOK LIKE HE’S LISTENING WITHOUT REALLY TAKING IT *IN* – hence the shield]

      “You’re just projecting…have you thought about where that feeling comes from?” AKA, “Go sort out your childhood wounds alone. This is nothing to do with me. It’s all projections, stories and transference. Go heal your inner child, then you’ll be find and won’t “need” all this stuff from me and won’t be angry at me for no reason…Go do the bodywork, the bioenergetics, meditate, journal, yoga, grief work, shadow work, dream work so you can see how it’s all YOUR stuff, own it, and be free of it. Oh, you already did all that and you’re still blaming me? Go back there. You didn’t finish it. You didn’t complete separation-individuation. You’re still merged, fused, enmeshed. You’re asking me to mother your inner child – I need space. Your inner child is inappropriate for this relationship. I want to relate to you, adult-to-adult.” [Denies that nurturance needs last with us cradle to grave.]

      “I alone am responsible for my feelings/needs. You are responsible for your feelings and needs.” AKA, “I’m not going to meet your insatiable needs and you cannot make me. NOTHING I can do can trigger you – it’s all YOUR STUFF, not my responsibility, not my stuff. I did nothing. I am not to blame, and I am not interested in even listening to your feelings – you need to listen to MY need for space for once.”

      This is how MKP folk can accidentally disqualify their partners and it results in increased isolation. The idea becomes, “It’s your shit, work on it yourself, end of conversation.” It’s about SILENCING conversation, with the trauma and everything that comes with it. I doubt this was the initial intention. I’ve unfortunately seen it work out this way too many times to count.

      MKP and other encounter-based therapies were in part inspired by the Gestalt approach of Fritz Perls, which is based on independence, not interdependence, if one does a close reading. His Gestalt-prayer (not a true reflection of Gestalt therapy per se, but nonetheless worth naming here as I’ve heard MKPers say things to this effect) – note the key words that scream “independence” here:

      “I do my thing and you do your thing.
      I am not in this world to live up to your expectations.
      And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
      You are you, and I am I,
      and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
      If not, it can’t be helped.”

      Note “I do my thing and you do your thing” – implies mutuality but actually is independence. “You are you and I am I” => “Stop telling me what I do that hurts you because that’s asking me to change i.e. JUST LET ME BE ME.”

      “I am not in this world to live up to your expectations” – easy for men to say this in statements like, “Stop being so needy, you expect too much, you’re hurting because you have these impossible expectations and unmeetable needs…”

      Watch Fritz Perls destroy Gloria in the Gloria Films, and you’ll see some of the roots of processes like “clearings” in MKP. Without the denser history lessons, even just a quick reading of Wikipedia’s own pages on “Fritz Perls,” “Gestalt Therapy,” “Esalen Institute,” “Human Potential Movement,” “William Reich,” “Alexander Lowen,” “Abraham Maslow,” “Harvey Jackins,” “Robert Bly,” “Alan Watts,” with an attachment-lens will show you quite quickly how these are individualistic therapies that are all about SELF-love, SELF-growth, SELF-actualisation, SELF-healing and covertly deny attachment needs. Got a problem with someone else? You’re just playing Victim, they say. Want to help someone? That’s just being a Rescuer. Got “real life shit going on”? It’s all your story and it’s actually all about you…i.e. your perception has no basis in reality. Then the MKP men go home and use all this as ammunition against their intimate partners.

      Like Nora, I’m honestly tired of men claiming to be feminist, sensitive and diligently “doing their inner work” when they keep up the traumatisation.

      Again – I’m not saying ALL men coming out of MKP are like this (your partner sounds like a great exception) but I just want to kindly point out that it’s not a perfect movement. I’ve spoken at length with many MKPers about this and they’ve admitted to much the same. They’ve also often used it to justify their distancing (“I need to go away and work on my stuff.”) and disengagement. Even just the labeling of something as “my stuff” can wind up being justification for withdrawal, when non-responsiveness and disengagement is causing much of the problem of loss of secure connection to begin with.

      If MKP leads to MORE nurturance behaviours, more interdependence, more secure attachment, more responsiveness, more engagement – then great. Let’s jump on it. If some of its precepts and practices are used as justification for disengagement – I’m not so convinced.

      I also want to point out an obvious fallacy of MKP – it’s easy to think that these men are doing the work “alone” when in fact they can only go “out there” to the scary places because they have a safe container / secure base of other men holding space for them. So the rhetoric looks like it can accidentally be about independence (even while trying not to) while the practice is still one of interdependence – otherwise, I doubt it’d work as well as it does for so many. BUT – and here’s the rub – MKPers forget this. They can occasionally forget that it is only BECAUSE of that secure base / committed container that they could even do that work to begin with, so they go home and say to their partners, “I do my work. You do your work. End of discussion.” (I’ve been on the receiving end of this exact statement). I.e. they forget that the apparently individual “work” done only happens because of the collective container…which they have no interest in building here. So it comes across as dismissive. They really do seem well-meaning and probably genuinely think they are doing the best they can, but it can cut off space for feedback entirely, arguably the lifeblood of a relationship. The hardest part is they genuinely also think they’re right.

      In addition to Nora’s great selection of reads, I’d also add Marion Solomon’s little known gem “Lean on Me: The Power of Positive Dependency in Relationships,” and Dan Wile’s “Couples Therapy: A Nontraditional Approach,” “After the Honeymoon,” and “After the Fight.” Specific to couples therapy, but implications would be HUGE if we actually took it all in as life practice into all arenas (if we were able).

      A big long rant, but I felt the “MKP will solve the nurturance problem!” comment needed some attention, especially given how pivotal Nora’s piece continues to be for many. I’d like to reiterate that men doing MKP may also come out the other side being more warm, nurturing, empathetic, engaged, responsive and responsible…but I’ve also seen the complete opposite happen.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Hi Lorne,

    Putting someone else’s needs before yours systematically, not temporarily when someone is in urgent need, is in my eyes never healthy, not for a woman, not for a man.

    I see no sustainable, good reason to do that, and in fact it is part of my job as a coach to help people realise that and heal the core wounds and/or shift the convictions and beliefs that lead people to not take their own needs into account.

    How does that sound to you?

    Warmly,
    Annemie

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  17. Hi again Lorne,

    I’ve reflected some more on what you wrote and feel like sharing some feelings and thoughts.

    I think your observation that some women find dominant men attractive is true, but that is to me a sign that these women are struggling with their self-worth and with healthy dynamics between themselves and men.

    A friend told me that the same thing that scares you can also turn you on, because it activates adrenaline in your body. But in my eyes it is not healthy to go into that kind of dynamic.

    Personally I am a very sensitive woman and I have a relationship with a very gentle, caring, nurturing man. I am incredibly attracted to him. His body is so sexy to me. I love him with all my heart and feel safe with him.

    Luka Bloom sings: “I still believe in love. Kindness turns me on.”

    I am the same, kindness turns me on. Safety makes so much possible.

    This man, this gentlest man I’ve ever met, actually awakens deep passion and wildness in me, because I feel safe with him. I need safety to open up and explore sexuality freely. I need nurturing to feel connected and loved.

    From what you shared about your past marriage, I wonder whether it is actually unclear to you why she left you, and whether you drew your own conclusions, which may or may not be true.

    I also wonder if you can be nurturing with yourself and hold yourself with love and compassion, so you can heal from the pain of this divorce. I hear disappointment and maybe even bitterness that you’ve been so nurturing towards her and that she still left you. It sounds like it came as a complete surprise and shock to you, and I want to offer you my empathy in this.

    I think at this point there is a very rich diversity in how women and men look at all of these things, and it is not very truthful to make statements like “women want this, men are like that”.

    We differ from each other, we are all at different stages of our journey with this.

    I think the questions that matter are: Who are you? How do you feel? What do you long for? What do you need? Which wounds are still bleeding and what are you needing to heal them?

    And then, if you still want a relationship: Which woman wants the same things as you? With whom can you match? What would make both of you happy and thrive?

    I also don’t see divorce as failure. Sometimes separating can be a very constructive thing. Sometimes people grow apart and are ready for a new experience with someone else. It doesn’t necessarily say a negative thing about you.

    I am divorced from the father of my child and it has given both of us an opportunity to grow and heal so much. We separated respectfully and co-parent our child still in alignment with each other. There is peace. Most of the wounds are healed and we regularly still email each other to apologise for something we’ve done to each other.

    How does all of this land with you?

    Warmly,
    Annemie

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    1. Hi Annemie
      I agree, every one is different, and you have to decide whats best for you. I’m still uncertain whats best for me.

      If I ask myself “what do I want most”, relationship is not in the list, but I still wonder sometimes, and attractive young women still seak out my company (within the last week in fact)

      Regarding “why she left” I can only go on the statements she made. They may or may not have been accurate.

      Im glad you are able to maintain a healthy connection with your x. That is something I hope to restore at some point.

      And yes I am bitter, but not exactly at her or our experience. Its more a general disappointment with the human species… “is it really so difficult to use a garbage can people”?

      I do think we romanticize romance far to much. People who never marry live longer, so that indicates to me that relationships are not healthy and should be avoided (as most religions state)

      I’m still uncomfortable with this article. Asking a gender to change in order to make yourself happy seems a disaster. Happiness and contentment come from within. I do however think that we should be raising boys in a more emotionaly aware / connected way.

      Hope you are well.

      Like

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