Patriarchy has had a long run on planet Earth. The results are in and the verdict seems to be a pretty dismal one—environmental degradation, hoarding of resources, out of control competition, sexual violence, and warfare as decision making between nations.
To be fair to my fellow men, we’ve also created great works of art, engineering, and modern technological advances. Many men are becoming better parents, lovers, and nurturers. Still, we seem to be at a breaking point with the diehard values of patriarchy and the arrangement of having one sex controlling world events. Even now only one in five members of the U.S. congress is female.
It could be argued that we are in dire need of the female influence to balance the shadow side of patriarchy. That is, we need more receptivity, nurturing, and inclusivity.
Last weekend I attended the Woman’s March in L.A. I knew it was going to be big, but I didn’t have any idea that it would be hundreds of thousands—and millions across the world. The march celebrated women’s power, their need for respect, and a repudiation of what is largely regarded as a resurgence of a misogynistic political policy.
Marianne Williamson, author, political activist, and lecturer has repeatedly said that women could change the world if across the globe they stood up, marched, and said, “Not in my house.” (the “house” being planet earth) “Not in my house will children starve.” “Not in my house will people be homeless.” “Not in my house will people go without their basic needs met.” “Not in my house will the environment be trashed.”
Williamson says it has become too easy for women to blame the patriarchy of men for all our problems. She asserts that the problem is as much men’s patriarchal dominance as it is women’s willingness to sit down and take it. Well, for anyone who was at the march, it was obvious that women are standing up.
Let’s talk about how this affects romantic relationships. The patriarchal influence on the history of relationships across the world is that the male holds the purse strings, makes the decisions, and dictates the terms of the relationship. The woman may have a say, but there is usually an implicit understanding that he will determine the direction and outcome of major life events. Even in LGBT relationships this dynamic is often true. The partner who has more “yang,” or male energy, is often put in charge of the relationship decision making.
I once spoke to an Imago Couples Therapist who treated a couple living in this old model of patriarchy. When the therapist asked the man to mirror the woman (i.e. that he repeat back to her what he heard her say) he grew increasingly agitated, got up, and said, “I’m not mirroring her!” and abruptly left the session. The woman had a few choices: a choice to fall back into passivity, to insist they continue therapy to be together, to find other kinds of help, or to leave. The decision is hers but for many women the time for choosing passivity is over.
To be clear, psychological equality between men and women is not about men going “all soft.” It is about men retaining their authentic masculine while making room for women to have equal power.
A basic goal of Imago Couples Therapy is to break out of the patriarchal model and have egalitarian relationships, where power is shared and both people are held in equal esteem.
Oprah Winfrey showed up at my church a few months ago with her partner Steadman Graham. Winfrey says that if it wasn’t for doing Imago Couples Therapy, they wouldn’t still be together. It was interesting to see his grace in what must be an everyday occurrence of allowing his partner the spotlight. He seemed at ease in his masculinity and dignity. They looked like equals.
Oprah says all arguments are about couples asking three questions: Did you hear me? Did you see me? Did what I say mean anything to you?
In this week’s video she goes over a long history of dealing with patriarchy, raising consciousness, and coming to a place of empowerment and peace.
Take a look: