Be The Man, Be The Woman
Marriage, very simply, refers to a relationship between a man and a woman. While this may seem obvious, in truth, it would be more accurate to rephrase this as such: A happy and healthy marriage refers to a relationship between a masculine man and a feminine woman.
But what does this mean? In fact, this is where the age-old question begins. What does a woman want from a man?
While the answers are infinite, given that there are billions of women who have all sorts of different wants, there are certain things that women (and men) desire that are non-negotiable. They are based on the fact that we are human with primal and basic natures.
Thus, the better question to ask is: what do women want from men that is universal, non-negotiable and based on their human nature? With this correctly framed question, we can arrive at the correct answer:
What a woman wants from a man is the experience of feeling like a woman. And the more a man acts like a man, the more she can feel this feminine experience.
Women are feminine by nature, but what allows her to feel herself – i.e. her femininity – is the masculinity of her man. That masculine disposition will trigger the hardwired, natural feminine state of a woman and allow for the healthy and happy man-woman relationship to thrive.
Where does this leave us?
Torah literature is replete with drawing attention to the role of the man was the “giver” and woman as “receiver” in marriage. Taking this at face value, one could be led to believe that a happy marriage is where the masculine man is selfless, devoted and giving of himself all the time and every time to his wife. He gives and she receives. But real masculinity, which is at the heart of what our Sages mean to implicate by underscoring the manly and womanly roles in a marriage, is not about bending over backwards so that a woman always gets what she wants.
Before we can understand what it means to be a man in a relationship, we must understand what it does not mean.
It is not about putting her needs before yours so she will fall in love with you. It is neither about being so patient and understanding that you tolerate disrespect and rude behavior; nor being a knight-in-shining-armor to always attend to her needs and deal with her every conflict and challenge in life; nor being a Mr. Nice Guy who does everything to please her and keep her feeling loved. It is also not about being a dominating man who controls her or being a macho guy who is stuck up.
So then, what is it?
It is three things: Commitment to his principles, commitment to his purpose in life, and commitment to his partner. In short: principles, purpose and partner. Being a real masculine man is not only a quality as it relates to one’s spouse. It covers all areas of life, and speaks to a well-rounded character in all aspects.
Masculine chivalry is about being a man of high ideals and values. He lives with unwavering principles and virtues that will not be compromised even by his partner.
If she is someone who jeopardizes his upkeeping of his values and virtues, she has no place in his life. She must align with his code of values, and he will not bend in any which way to lower his high standard.
Secondly, he has direction and passion in his life. He gives his very best to the world by pursuing productive jobs and interests. If he is a teacher, he is deeply passionate about educating the future generation and ensuring a better world; and if he is a musician, he is dedicated to bringing joy and inspiration to himself and others. In short, he sees his career as more than a job. He sees it as his calling in life, and pursues it with relentless purpose and passion.
Thirdly, he is committed to his relationship. He looks for ways to make the world a better place for the one he loves. He treats her with utmost respect and is empathic towards her. He is also respectful towards others. And in fact, when his wife sees how he treats his family and friends with honor and devotion too, she gains more admiration for him and appreciates the respect he shows her even more.
High-quality women are desperately looking for men who embody these traits. When a woman sees that a man lives with a deep-seated drive to become his best so he can give his best, she finds him to be a leader. And she wants him to be her leader. She yearns for his devotion.
Herein lies the true wisdom of our Sages when they emphasized the man as the “giver” and the woman as the “receiver.” She wants him to be her leader. But he is not her leader because he dominates her and she feels helpless. He is rather her leader because she desires him to be.
Along these lines, the Vilna Gaon draws a noteworthy distinction between the similar Hebrew words for rulership – Melech and Moshel. They both speak to the power of dominion and sovereignty, but in what way do they precisely differ in meaning?
The Gaon explains that moshel refers to rulership which is self-imposed by a monarch. He is not an appointed leader by the people; he rather thrusts his dominion over others and forces their obedience. In contrast, melech refers to leadership which is decided and chosen by the people.
They willfully accept the king’s rulership and freely desire that he lead them.
The same is true of the woman’s desire for her man. She wants him to be her leader, but not a leader whose traits overwhelm her and suppress her; but a leader who allows her to feel every bit of her feminine self. Feminine nature is about receiving energy, and when a woman can come in touch with her feminine experience, she feels energized and loved and wants to experience that forever. And what creates this feeling of feminine experience?
As we have seen, masculine energy is more about character than physical strength and power. Building your character will do more for you than anything else.
Yet at the heart of all these processes before you marriage and during your marriage, it is trust in yourself.
You must become secure in yourself. Your commitment to your principles, purpose and partner will only exist when you – trust yourself. That will help in your decisiveness, confidence and emotional regulation.
In a relationship, this trust is of paramount importance because it is impossible for a woman to trust you if you cannot trust yourself. This is key. You may have heard wives refer to their husbands as the “rock” they can lean on during tough and stressful situations. That is because their husband has demonstrated poise and power during such times of unnerving crises. And for the man, this ability derives from trust and security in himself. He can only be her leader if he can lead himself, both in moments of calm and chaos.
If a man therefore arrives home and repeats lines that are self-deprecating, humiliating to himself and highlight that he is a loser and failure, he is not only putting himself in a worse position, but his relationship as well. By undermining his own trust in himself, his wife will feel that she cannot trust him and have him lead her, and with that, he begins to lose her heart.
This does not mean that a man cannot feel down and disappointed. There can be times when he feels buffeted by the vagaries of life and he hits a rough patch. During these times, support from his wife can go as far as lifesaving. However, save these exceptions, trusting oneself allows for the proper man – woman dynamic to evolve and a healthily balanced relationship to exist. The roles become reversed when the woman frequently needs to become the man and step out of her feminine zone.
These are principles which speak to the heart of a successful relationship. Many marital issues arise when the man does not (know how to) act like a man and the woman does not act like a woman. Learn what this means and live what this means, and you will be in place to love your life for everything that it is.