Being the best partner — 23 October 2006
Men need to be women’s gentle giants

Many men pride themselves for being muscular, strong and physically powerful. Women are attracted to men with these attributes –yet that type of strength also intimidates them.

Due to testosterone men are stronger than women. They have larger muscles and even when a man is equal in height to a woman, he is much more powerful than she is. Historically, this was a great advantage. The stronger men were better able to carry the hunted animal to their cave and feed their families. Evolutionally, the stronger men survived to reproduce more offspring.

Though most modern men no longer hunt for survival, today’s ideal physique for men is still a muscular and strong structure. Many men work hard to develop the masculine body for greater strength and appeal.

Smaller or weaker men tend to feel disempowered and may be bullied by bigger men. A sense of physical safety and security for men comes from their comparison to other men. A swift assessment is made to determine one’s chances of winning- should a physical confrontation occur. Even in our technological world part of men’s self esteem and confidence is built upon their physical vigor.

Women look to men for two major functions: to provide for and protect them. The providing part entails more than financial support, though this is a main element of safety for females. It also includes providing for their emotional and psychological needs.

The protection women seek from men is clear and often unspoken. Being a female in our culture is a vulnerable state. The threat of being physically overpowered by a male stranger is foremost in women’s minds as they go about their lives. When they are with their men, they can relax and feel safer. Most men protect their females physically and emotionally. Men do not allow other males to interfere with or offend their women.

Although most women feel safer with their men they also fear the men they love. Most females want to please their partner since this is their role and part of their self-definition. But, they also desire to please because they fear a man’s wrath. Even in relationships where the female is intellectually sure that the male will never harm her physically, she may fear him when he is angry.

Should a male decide to use his power and strength, the female is likely to be seriously hurt. As unlikely as this option is, the instinctual fear is a built in mechanism for the woman’s self-protection.

Most women admit to feeling uncomfortable when their men get angry. Though they may not be fully aware of the reasons for that discomfort, they report feeling ill at ease, nervous, and anxious to reverse the cause of his displeasure. A big angry man is scary –even if he is a nonviolent person.

It is also true that men are very uncomfortable when their women are angry, but for different reasons. Men commonly fear being psychologically overpowered by hateful words, discounting, shaming and critical language. Women fear for their physical well-being.

So if you are a man in a relationship with a woman, please consider:

• Your physical strength and power is a blessing to you and to your partner.
• Your female basks in the sunshine of your company in part, because she is free from tending to her own protection and can rely on you for her physical safety.
• She also fears you when you become angry. Bear it in mind and assure her when your cause for anger is not about her.
• Do not get upset with her fear of your anger- it is a normal, self-preservation instinct, which she cannot diminish.
• Be her gentle giant at all times. Even when you are angry with her, use a softer voice, reassuring language, stay seated (do not stand over her), and let her know that you are in control of yourself and that your anger is temporary and manageable.
• Be tender with her regularly to instill her trust in your love for her and your protective and kind nature.

• When you are calm let her know that you will never physically harm her or the children. Confirm for her your belief that it is immoral to hurt less powerful people.
• The healthier you are – the softer you can be with your woman and the closer you can be to each other.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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