Vive La Difference!

Beyond a 50-50 love life

| September / October 2003

Many people today believe in a myth that says intimate happiness is attained through a '50/50' ideal of equality between men and women. Belief in this notion of 'sameness' is one of the major reasons that men and women have been unable to cultivate and deepen sexual, emotional, and spiritual union in intimacy. As many of us have discovered, when we focus on dividing the pie equally, our intimate embrace often becomes more like a business handshake and less like a delicious swoon that dissolves two lovers into a single heart of desire.

Culturally, what I call the modern '50/50 relationship' was born of dissatisfaction with the old style of suppressive relationships between the sexes. Until recently, men and women were confined to rigidly defined sex roles that dictated how they were supposed to behave -- or what they could achieve.

Eventually, many women and men found that they no longer wanted to depend on, or be depended on by, someone else. As individuals and as a culture, we began to embrace the ideals of wholeness and of individual completion by accepting both the feminine and masculine energies that lie within each of us.

Men began to accept their 'internal goddess' by learning to express their emotions and nurture themselves, while acknowledging their vulnerability in relationships. Women began to accept their 'internal warrior' by developing their careers and strengthening their political clout, thereby freeing themselves from economic dependence on men.

Intimate relationships between men and women evolved from what I call first-stage 'dependence relationships' to second-stage relationships based on the modern ideal of two independent people, whole unto themselves, coming together as equals and evenly splitting the responsibilities of the household, finances, and child rearing. Today's '50/50 relationship' is based on this second-stage style of intimacy.

Nobody would disagree that the 50/50 relationship is a positive step toward liberation from the first stage and its stifling gender roles. The trouble is, many modern women have had to cloak their unique and natural expression of feminine radiance in order to succeed in today's more masculine-oriented economy. And many modern men, stuck in a vague transition point between old models of the masculine and new identities, have become ambiguous at their core, unable to be fully present and confident in relationship and in their lives. Men and women have inadvertently become more and more sexually neutralized, unable to give each other what they really want in intimacy. Rather than celebrating the attractive differences between the masculine and the feminine qualities in each of us (a polarity which often bring intimates together in the first place), some people have begun to deny that there even is a difference between men and women. Of course, there is at least some difference that we could feel; otherwise, we wouldn't have a sexual preference. On the contrary, most of us know the kind of lover that we want. Regardless of whether we are heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual, most of us have a preference for either a more archetypally masculine lover or a more archetypally feminine lover.

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