As difficult as it is for a woman to define herself, know who she is, and feel good about herself and her life without a man; it’s equally as difficult for a woman not to lose herself, not to give away her power, and not to disappear completely when she’s with a man.
This post was actually inspired by an article featured in the January 2019 issue of Elle Magazine, “Jennifer Aniston Doesn’t Need A Happy Ending,” by Carina Chocano. The essay is short and subtle but still moving and I highly recommend that all Goddesses take five minutes to read it, as it is very Goddess-Attainable-esque. I love Jennifer Aniston as an icon (since I have no idea who she really is in real life). Over time she has seemingly emerged as this combination of real and unreal, and has in recent years become the embodiment of the ultimate single woman Goddess, kicking ass and finding her way, honestly and confidently. She simply refuses to allow anyone but her to define her, and she continues to calmly communicate in her own relaxed but firm kind of way that, “Nah, that box you want to put me in, nope, that’s not really gonna work for me. I have more important things to do than get bent out of shape over what you think about me.” She’s a grown woman.
Image courtesy of Elle Magazine. Photographed by Zoey Grossman and Styled by Alison Edmond.
I have to say that being single was pretty easy for me once I stepped into my Goddess. I battled with being single for years and years, struggling uphill against my single-ness, filled with shame and embarrassment over every rejection, over every holiday that I was “still single,” over every woman who walked by and flashed her engagement ring in my face. I am not sure how I actually found my Goddess, but I think it’s safe to say that I just exhausted myself with feeling lousy about being single. I got into my car after a crummy date one night and just decided that I was done living such a powerless existence, and I vowed to do whatever I needed to do to transcend that way of living. I also recognized in that moment that society’s expectations of a woman’s love life are so insidiously poisonous, setting us up to feel terrible about ourselves always—and I got super angry about it, which felt super good. This blog emerged from my conscious decision to put all of those painful expectations down and to instead put myself up.
After about a year and a half of rocking my newfound Goddess energy, my relationship status shifted from single to not single, and I am now having to relearn how to step into my Goddess, only this time in the presence of a man, which is WAY different. It’s super easy for me to be a Goddess with no men around—or rather, with men kept at an arm’s length. Not caring what men think about me and unapologetically expressing my thoughts and feelings as a single woman is totally cake. I can feel pretty and flirty and confident when I am out and about with a man because I know that he won’t ever get to see me up close when I’m a wreck, curled up in a ball of insecure confusion. But bringing a man a bit closer into my Goddess realm exposes this unreachable Goddess to reveal a real woman with real issues.
How does a woman behave like a Goddess within the constructs of a romantic relationship? Spoiler alert: I have no idea and am learning as I go, so I am not going to give any advice in this post. However, I invite you to join me now while I take a deep dive into some juicy and honest exploration.
Firstly, I don’t think there is any way that a woman can discuss how to be a Goddess in a relationship with a man, without first addressing and examining honestly the nature of her relationship with the most powerful male figure in her life: her father.
My favorite place to be was with my dad. I learned at a very early age the art of clinging neediness and was really, really good at it.
This is me at three days old, 1979. Don’t you just love retro photography?! Not to mention handlebar mustaches.
My father was (and still is) a very positive, protective, dependable, and consistent force in my life, so one would think that I would have a built-in, hard-wired, healthy perspective surrounding my relationships with men. However, because my relationship with my mother was not so positive (R.I.P Mama, December 20, 2017), my father’s role became that much more powerful in my life and I think this imbalance threw my ideas about men super outtawhack. Unfortunately, I learned very early in my childhood that since my mother’s protection, love, and consistency were not to be relied upon, my life instead actually depended upon my father. I learned that without a man (at such an early age, I believe a girl’s concept of her father and men in general are interchangeable) I was literally, not even metaphorically, but literally unsafe and insecure. I learned that my physical and emotional security was attached to a man and that my life and actual survival were reliant upon a man’s presence. Sadly, my childhood took me through some quite literally unsafe times, and every time my father was there for me, my feelings of terrifying dependence and utter reliance on him grew stronger. In my mind, the loss of my father absolutely equated to the actual death of this young Goddess.
I’m the crazed looking child on the left with my twinnie twin next to me.
I have always loved fishing, or maybe just the idea of fishing, because it has always reminded me of nice times with Dad.
He was a good dad (still is) and took us places. My lovely and beautiful grandmother would often join, making those occasions that much more magical for me, as well as a welcomed escape from the fear-filled days and nights with my mama.
So many of my years of single woman struggles consisted of me grappling with my own deep-seated tendencies to give men all of my power, often without even realizing it. I simply did not know how to unhook from the false belief that I truly needed a man. I did not know any other way to interact with a man, other than by giving him all of my power. It just happened, every single time (and still does to some extent, any time I stop practicing conscious presence in any given moment—which, who in the world can practice conscious presence every moment of the day, every day of the year?) A man would be standing next to me and I would give him my power just standing there. This could come in the form of anything from consciously or obliviously choosing to change how I was standing in the hopes that he might find me more attractive, to obsessively analyzing what he might be thinking or feeling, to any other number of insecure behaviors. Power discarding comes in all shapes and sizes and happens within an instant. And women do it all of the time. All women. Until they learn not to.
In case any woman has not been informed of this fact, I will state clearly for the record that most men really, really hate when women hand over their power. I know this statement is an oversimplification and is kind of a general and trendy sort of thing to say, but there is major truth to it. And the fact that men typically hate when women hand over their power should not be the sole reason that motivates a woman to learn to manage her power in healthier ways (otherwise, that would still be us giving them our power), but it’s a thing we do to ourselves that feels terrible and that men also happen to hate.
Unfortunately, many, many, many men are also terrified and disgusted when we as women own, express, and exert our power, even if we are doing it in beautiful, healthy, Goddess-like ways. Forget about when we are doing it in more assertive, forceful, and/or reckless ways. Most men can’t really tolerate much of that more aggressive style of power assertion in any capacity. So essentially, women are kind of set up to fail either way when it comes to the issue of power. Even my dad, who is pretty great, and pretty progressive and forward thinking in terms of female power and feminism, conveyed negative messages to me about female power at a very early age (most likely, without even realizing it). I can recall one car ride with my father when my sister and I were blasting and singing loudly the hottest song on the radio at the time, Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know. And in the height of our unbridled, emotive, melodic delight, my dad exclaimed, “Why is she so angry?!” I recall feeling angry myself about this comment and I think I blurted out something along the lines of, “Because her boyfriend cheated on her!” or “She’s not that angry!” and felt a strong need to defend ma gurl. None of my reactionary arguments assuaged my father at the time and I do believe he was actually disturbed by the song and Alanis’ intense levels of emotional outrage. He just kind of couldn’t really handle it and seemed to feel a bit scurred by the whole thing.
Video still from Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know. Click here to watch the “angry” video and listen to her “angry” song.
Aside from power issues that inevitably arise when a Goddess meets a man, there are also those abandonment/daddy issues that well up and ooze out from the depths of the guts of most every Goddess who is practicing honest vulnerability within a relationship. I have had to unlearn in my adult life that when a man “leaves” me in any capacity, deliberately or accidentally threatens to “leave” me, or even harmlessly or temporarily “leaves” me; that those arising fearful feelings that I might actually die, which thankfully occur less and less often with practice, represent very old and deep-seated wounds that need gentle but immediate healing. And no man is capable of healing them for me. These feelings can only be healed by a Goddess’s love for herself. However, it is like a cell memory that’s triggered every time a male enters and exits our space. Enter man = Power Compromised. Exit man = Life Compromised. In many ways, being a single Goddess is so much easier because I can choose to avoid men on any given day and thus avoid having to manage any of those painful and shameful triggers. In a relationship however, there is no escaping it. Going crazy on a guy is not the best option, and shutting down and shutting off is also not healthy for a relationship. Vulnerability is required, and finding the balance between strength and softness, trying to decipher between little girl feelings and grown woman feelings, is like learning a new language. I know the alphabet and I understand how to write and pronounce every letter, but I’ve never put these new letter combinations together before and tried to make sense of them in any real kind of way. But now I must, and fast.
[Just a note that there is a huge difference between a man exiting a woman’s space within the frame of a healthy, caring, nurturing relationship; and a man ghosting a woman, playing mind games, and displaying emotionally unavailable behavior. The latter is the kind of behavior that often feels like death for a woman. If a woman feels like she might die whenever an emotionally available man exits her space, then she might have some much deeper, therapeutic, self-love Goddess work to do before she can truly be with a man in any real and healthy way.]
Video still from Florence and the Machine’s Delilah. This song (which I LOVE) is all about Flo losing her shit over a guy, trying to cope and not go crazy, but maybe not quite capable of keeping it together on cue, and trying to manage those feelings of shame and self-disgust. This song used to be my anthem during a time when I was obsessing over a super ghosty bloke, and every time I hear it now, I think back on a former Goddess in the making, and it makes me love myself for going through that with open eyes and an open heart. Click here to watch the video and listen to the song.
I know I’m not the only woman (or man for that matter) who has daddy/abandonment issues. In our culture, we witness constantly how women do all kinds of things to manage these feelings, because when they arise, they are beyond uncomfortable to experience running through our minds and washing over our bodies. Some women, if they don’t think they can cope with the discomfort and fear, may actually go psycho hose beast and lose their shit, like Flo in the video above. Other women might come up with some kind of plan to manipulate and keep a man closer than he prefers to be. Women are skilled manipulators by nature and can often act in manipulative ways without even realizing it. In order to survive, our gender has had to find alternative means to gain and/or maintain power through vehicles other than the exertion of physical strength, and manipulative behavior is a quick and temporary substitute for true power. In many cases, manipulative behavior is way more destructive, powerful, and far-reaching than any use of physical brute strength.
Video still of Miranda Lambert’s Mama’s Broken Heart. I’m a huge fan of women divulging openly and honestly how easily they can lose their shit over a guy and I identify very much with the behavior, even though I choose not to practice it. There is something endearing about a woman admitting how cray cray she can actually allow herself to get, and all the shame and self-hate that goes along with it. Click here to watch the video and listen to this UH-MAZING song.
In order to combat this complicated abandonment-power dynamic, a woman might also simply choose a man who is not exactly on her level of awesome in order to ensure security. If a woman is with a man who doesn’t have his shit together, worships her, and/or allows her to take care of shit that he should be taking care of himself, he’ll probably stick around forever if she let’s him. Her security is intact, although happiness, not so much.
The other way women deal with these fearful feelings is to avoid them all together and essentially attempt to prevent themselves from ever feeling abandoned. Women might avoid men and relationships and/or present themselves as super cold and tough, discarding all vulnerabilities. I actually prefer the psycho hose beast approach rather than this tough gal strategy. The Robust On The Outside Yet Wilting On The Inside technique always makes me think of the Bruce Lee adage, “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” I much prefer to let the unbearable fear run through me and incapacitate me for a time, even if I humiliate myself and/or risk losing my relationship in the process; rather than remain cold and shut down for long periods of time. That method always seems to lead to things like tumors, repressed emotions and explosions, and very little growth.
Goddesses like myself have learned to find constructive ways to manage these feelings of fear and it has only been achieved through arduous trial and error. Honestly exploring and sharing our feelings with a trusted soul is a very direct, mature, and useful tool to ease the process of taking all the muck churning from within and bringing it out into the world for exploration and healing. It’s almost like turning on a light in order to see that the Boogeyman doesn’t actually exist. This particular Goddess, along with other creative Goddesses like Flo and Miranda, also channel these murky lurky feelings into works of art.
A painting I did about a guy I was losing my shit over—the same Delilah song guy who was ghosting me. I literally stopped losing my shit over him the day that I completed this painting.
I honestly don’t know if there is a way to learn how to be a Goddess in the midst of men without experiencing LOTS of loss and rejection. At least this has been my process, although as I was learning, I did not actually realize I was learning at the time. I just thought, “OMG I suck, stop doing this, stop behaving this way. How do I stop behaving this way?” And little by little, with each experience, and each hose beast episode, I became a little less psycho. Each time I would put a little more Goddess in the forefront and send a little more man into the background. And it started to feel good. Odd but good, because there will probably always be a part of me that feels comforted by giving a man my power. It’s familiar and easy, even though it’s essentially masochistic and self-sabotaging.
I have also found that the best way to heal from abandonment issues is to remain incredibly present while feeling and/or being “abandoned” in a relationship, and realize each time that I did not die like I thought I would and that I am actually fine. It’s a painful process of reprogramming those cellular memories but it’s the work that needs to be done. The level of shame about these feelings that we carry with us can feel so unbearable, but also motivates the soul to break our bounds and discover new avenues to behave in mature and productive ways. Living with the shame just gets to be too much for any Goddess to endure.
It should also be noted that a woman’s tendency to turn her power over to a man does not just stem from childhood issues. Society and direct experiences with men in the real world also play a hugely destructive part in this learned behavior. A woman’s meekness in her relationship can also be a direct and unconscious reaction to the fundamental knowing that if a man knew how strong, fabulous, confident, and fierce she truly was, he would run in petrified and repulsed horror. This isn’t some kind of delusional insecurity that women have conjured up on their own. This kind of thing actually happens on the reg. Many men actually bolt at the first sign of female strength, and therefore women innocently conclude that, “If he bolted from THAT, he’s really gonna be freaked out if I turn on the power full-blast. I better be sure to never do that. How can I find ways to never do that?” We as women know how powerful we are. We have just learned so incredibly early that if we want people—especially men—to like us, we need to find ways to mask the power that naturally wants to flow from us. As a woman, did you ever have your strength accidentally seep out in a candid moment only to notice the look of horror on a man’s face after realizing his beautiful and sweet princess was actually a commanding Goddess disguised as an agreeable and easy-going girl? I have. That look of horror is often enough to invoke deep and powerful shame in any woman. And if you are a woman like me who values having a relationship with a man, it’s easy to perform damage control and quickly find ways to reconfigure ourselves in order to be less horrifying to men. Rather than embracing that strength and saying, “Wow if you don’t like me when I’m at my most awesome, maybe I better go find a guy who can handle it, buh bye,” we instead feel wretchedly ashamed for grossing out our guy with our pesky primal power. All I know is that after 39 years of living, I would rather be alone and settle for stigmatized spinsterhood than play that game of trying to please and pretzel my way into a man’s idea of idealized dream woman. It’s truly exhausting.
So, after all of this analyzing and dissecting, what can we conclude? From my experience, I have learned that it is really important to conscientiously stay on top of our shit. I also think it’s equally important, if not more so, to be vulnerable and express softness and affection when it feels natural and good and safe, knowing that we might be rejected or humiliated, but knowing that we won’t die from it. It takes a deep and confident knowing that even if we are soft and open, we won’t lose ourselves and won’t die if we are hurt. Our softness as women endears others to be soft too and we won’t get lost in the giving if we take care of ourselves. We can be open and real and give and still be strong. At least that is what I would like to try for. Taking time for ourselves is also key. If we feel ourselves slipping, we don’t need to keep a man around so he can witness our internal (or external) meltdown. It’s not productive for the relationship and it is too easy for a man to absorb our stuff, especially if he is kind and caring, and too easy for us to release ourselves from our own responsibilities. It’s important to take that extra time and get back to our own Goddess. She hasn’t gone anywhere, she’s always there. She just hangs back until we call upon her. We must never forget to call upon her.
“Can the purpose of a relationship be to trigger our wounds? In a way, yes, because that is how healing happens; darkness must be exposed before it can be transformed. The purpose of an intimate relationship is not that it be a place where we can hide from our weaknesses, but rather where we can safely let them go. It takes strength of character to truly delve into the mystery of an intimate relationship, because it takes the strength to endure a kind of psychic surgery, an emotional and psychological and even spiritual initiation into the higher Self. Only then can we know an enchantment that lasts.” -Marianne Williamson, Enchanted Love: The Mystical Power Of Intimate Relationships