I picked up a popular women’s magazine at the hair salon and read an interview of a single celeb who said that she wanted to find a man who is “stronger” than her. I hear this fantasy from the women on my couch all the time. They desire the man who is decisive and commanding, The Boss or The Knight archetype.
Most of these women are in therapy with me because they’ve lost their sex drive; largely because their actual man, isn’t a hero, a chief or a warrior. When I listen to their expectations, it sounds something like this:
A man should make a good living. He never asks you where you want to eat dinner. He makes the reservation and takes you there. He is to flirt and flatter, well and often. He should spontaneously throw you against a wall and tear your clothes off. He must demonstrate competence in the following areas: driving, handy work, oral sex and other various feats of masculinity. The ability to chop logs is a bonus. He should buy you a Coach handbag as a gesture of love, enjoy shopping for new bath towels, wipe your nose when sick, hold you when you’re upset (without trying to tell you what to do), spank you like Christian Grey then read you a Rumi poem right after, all of this without you having to ask, of course.
When guys don’t live up, women can get turned off. Libido is the perfect barometer for what you’re really feeling and behind the lack of desire for sex is often an outrage and contempt that men aren’t exactly what we think they should be: Ryan Gosling.
When you look into the living room and all you see is some dude in his boxers playing video games, it’s a powerful moment of truth. The reality is that some men are depressed, incompetent or anxious, ingratiating pleasers. A bunch of them have no skills for seduction. Some lose their keys, forget to pay the bills and get lost while driving. They don’t pull their share around the house (perhaps too tired from log chopping?). Some make less money than you.
Sure, none of this is sexy.
But as one of my girlfriends said to me, “When I don’t know how to use the remote control and he has to show me how for the fifth time, he doesn’t get fundamentally turned off by me.”
Women literally decide to break-up, cheat or punish men when they aren’t satisfying these expectations. It’s fine for women to want men to provide, protect, thrill or even save them, but this extends beyond wanting. When a want goes unfulfilled, we feel disappointed. The rancor that builds inside women when men aren’t that Knight in Shining armor suggest that these aren’t just preferences, they’re demands.
These unrealistic expectations destroy libido and ruin relationships. Further, they objectify men. Obliging men to be our savior is really just dependency disguised. Next time you notice that you’re contemptuously intolerant of his inadequacy, take a look at your own fears. Pause to consider your own inadequacies. An exaggerated focus on him being wimpy could be a sign that you’re not stepping up to your own power.
It takes a strong woman to allow a man to be a human being. A woman who can confront her own fears. We all have a deep yearning for safety, to be taken care of by some omnipotent being. Your man will never be this.
Ladies, there is no Knight in Shining Armor.
I know this sounds depressing, but it’s actually not. This realization is one step closer to creating real love. I’m glad women have the power to leave when men aren’t stepping up as partners, but let’s not over-wield that right and lose in the process the fundamentals of lasting relationships: patience, acceptance and tolerance.
Not the glamorous side of love, I know. I hate to be the Cinderella slayer.
In therapy, the first step toward growth is grieving the loss of the Knight fantasy. From there, a new sense of personal efficacy begins. Ladies learn to armor up, strap on the sword and mount the horse. And when women learn to tolerate that there is no perfect safety in this unpredictable world, they can begin accept that man sitting on the couch.