Growing up, our minds have been conditioned to believe that gender is a dichotomy. There are boys and then there are girls, and everyone has a part to play, women in nurturing and men in providing. As we get older, it becomes clearer to us that nothing this explicit exists. People in recent times have rejected these traditional views but continue to hold remnants of them citing biological sex as the source of differences between men and women.
Living within traditional male and female roles in committed relationships is currently coming under scrutiny. Be it in straight or gay relationships, which once was the established status quo of the male role as dominant and protective, and the female role as supportive and adaptive, is rapidly transitioning today.
Despite evident cultural changes, not all relationship partners are on board. Some people still define “manly” males as partners who take the lead, make the majority of major decisions, and provide perspective and protection, whereas the desirable female role is that of an eager launching pad, a master of quiet efficiency, with a joyous willingness to do whatever is needed to keep the relationship harmonious.
In their acceptance of these new options, new kinds of intimate partners are striving for a deeper kind of intimacy, one that supports the fact that both genders are equally capable of both leadership and support roles in different ways and at different times. Neither partner wants to be consistently responsible for decision making and control or to embrace the consistent giving up of self to support the other. They are choosing, instead, to both encourage whoever is the most competent to lead in different situations and have no trouble taking the support role when that behaviour is most needed for the relationship to thrive.
Whether one partner takes either one of the roles, or they have blended the two between each other, they want to interact seamlessly within those movable boundaries. And, they are seeing the results. Their ability as a couple to exchange those behaviours effortlessly is creating a new kind of teamwork that is far superior to what they had before. Instead of dependency on each other to form one perfect whole, they are excited about the different combinations they can exchange and build upon.
Every man and every woman has the capacity for both assertive and self-sacrificing behaviours. And, naturally, some are genetically more naturally inclined to take risks, to assume control, and to willingly take on responsibility for their partner’s needs and struggles, just as others prefer to follow someone they respect and feel naturally more comfortable in a supportive role. Most people are combinations of both at different levels and at different times, and are happiest when they can find the balance that best expresses who they are. Once confident to express that blend openly and authentically to another, they are also most likely to attract a similarly integrated partner.
Randi Gunther Ph.D.
Business Development Executive
IRIANS- The Neuroscience Institute