Monthly Archives: August 2016

Behind Women in Power

Women have come a long way. Or have they? The famous Virginia Slims ad campaign created by the Leo Burnett Agency claimed so in July of 1968 with the launch of their legacy “You’ve come a long way” tagline. The ads captured the progress of the women’s movement and often portrayed successful women working happily in their careers.  Just 48 years prior to the ad launch, the U.S. Constitution was ratified with the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. Today, 48 years later, a woman is running for President of the United States. Progress is being achieved. Albeit slowly—and with a few costs.

It’s not difficult to step back and notice that as women’s careers escalated so did thedivorce rate. Research shows that there is higher divorce rate among children of divorce, setting up a reinforcing cycle. Yet I don’t believe women are to blame for this. Women want and deserve equal treatment, respect, and safety. Women are not chattel, yet they’ve been treated like property for centuries. Today’s young women may not realize the sacrifices made by the generations of women before them to attain safe and equal treatment. More important, today’s young women—and men—may not realize that progress must still continue.

While I have specialized in gender dynamics and even give talks on ‘resolving the gender pay gap’ and ‘understanding the hidden differences in the way men and women work,’ I was still taken aback when a yogi, Rolf Gates, vulnerably disclosed in his book, “Meditations from the Mat” that he has to work on letting go of an “irrational fear of ‘women’s lib.’” He described that he struggles with seeing life as a zero-sum game (if you win, I lose), so his fear of being powerless heightens when he witnesses that women are outnumbering men in law school. That deadly competition between the sexes is real—and sadly many men are unaware that they have unconscious fears about women’s power. The conscious people, like Gates, work hard to find it, own it and release it.

Part of the difficulty is that men are more wired to be hierarchical and see things in win-lose scenarios. It goes back to those innate hunter skills that allow a man to singularly focus on the killing their prey—and to beat the other hunters to it first. Women, on the other hand, are more hard-wired to be more multi-tasking and collaborative and seek win-win solutions. It’s part of the mothering need to solve multiple children’s issues while also cooking meals, cleaning, and keeping an ear out for danger. The wonderful thing in our evolution and growth is that gender norms are changing a bit and with increasing role-reversals, a bigger bridge between the sexes is built. Even so, the greater majority of men and women reveal pretty entrenched male-female neurological patterning.

So what does this mean for the women’s movement and society overall? First, it illuminates the need for men to take Gate’s lead and uncover their own fears and biasesabout women. It is also important for women to understand male fears so they aren’t caught off-guard by subtle forms of sabotage. Some ways men unconsciously and/or consciously sabotage women is through sexualizing, dismissing, controlling, teasing, criticizing, interrupting, psychopathologizing, humiliating, abusing—and measuring women against a male standard.

How to success on your marriage

images-37Linda: So this couple walks into amarriage counselor’s office and the wife is crying about feeling neglected. Really wailing, she tells the marriage counselor that they don’t sit down to meals much anymore. They don’t go anywhere and have any fun. She feels like a maid around the house. Sex? It’s been years! And not only is intimacy a thing of the past, they don’t even talk any more! Sobbing, she tells the therapist: “I can’t go on this way.”

The marriage counselor gets up out of his chair and goes over to the woman. He gently takes both of her hands into his and slowly lifts her up out of her chair, maintaining eye contact with her all the while. He pulls her gently to him and enfolds her in his arms to give her a sensual hug. Then he plants a big kiss right on her lips for several seconds. When he disengages the embrace, she sits back down in a daze, but with a smile on her face. Then he turns to the husband and says: “Did you see that? That’s what your wife needs three times a week.” The husband pauses for a moment and then says: “I can do it on Wednesday and Friday, but it would be hard for me to bring her over here on Monday, because that’s my busiest day.”

Of course no reputable marriage counselor would interact with a client in such an inappropriate way. But the story is illustrative of the mistaken idea that a marriage counselor can do our work for us. The sooner we rid ourselves of the idea that our relationship can improve with efforts on anyone else’s part but our own, the better we are positioned to make the necessary changes.

It is a popular misconception that marriage counselors have some kind of magical powers that can fix relationships. There are so many gifted couple counselors, but the most talented are only able to give the couples they work with guidance and steer them in the right direction. For couples’ counseling to be effective, the questions and topics explored during the counseling sessions must illuminate the work that each individual must do to become eligible for a great relationship. And once those requirements are identified, each member of the couple is challenged to do the work between the sessions that will change the old habituated patterns into more productive ones.

The marriage counselor may be an excellent guide, knowing the territory of conflictmanagement skills, handling fear and anxieties, uncovering conditioned patterns resulting from unsuccessful modeling in childhood, how to establish open honest communication, learn from and forgive past transgressions, and how to build the fondness and affection system of the marriage. But what will determine the outcome is the how the couple implements what they learn in their sessions. It is the daily practice of the new skills that gives rise to the shift in the relationship. It is in the cultivation of the character traits such as courage, resilience, patience, integrity, creativity, and compassion that forms a more fertile environment for the relationship to grow.