How Patriarchy Ruins Relationships

“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

I jokingly describe 2019 as my year of waking up to feminism and patriarchy. 2018 was waking up to attachment and interdependence. But too many couples’ therapists talked about their work in a gender neutral way, as if gender/power issues just didn’t exist inside intimate relationships, or had to be empathetically overlooked, in the name of therapeutic neutrality.

I still love the work of Susan Johnson, John Gottman, Stan Tatkin. Dan Wile is my absolute hero. Marion Solomon’s stuff also lines my bookshelf. They all talk about attunement, responsiveness, engagement, accessibility. They’re all about communication and effective dependency. I adore their writing on mutuality and reciprocity. I was humbled to speak with Dan Wile earlier this year, named the world’s “best couples therapist” by Gottman himself. I was doubly humbled to be put in touch with Sue Johnson by Australia’s leading EFT couples’ therapist, Jenny Fitzgerald, and attend a workshop with some of NZ’s best EFT therapists.

But some of Terry Real’s stuff really blew me out of the water. He doesn’t beat about the bush. He’s ballsy and he’s not afraid to call out men for not pulling their weight. On heterosexual couples, Terry writes: “Women are unhappy in their marriages because they want men to be more related than most men know how to be. And men are unhappy in their marriages because their women seem so unhappy with them.”

The Treatise on Love and War still stands. I still rest on the basic principles I outlined there, and if anyone is not willing to meet me halfway (or even quarter way), I’ve learned the hard way that what I need to do is notice the signs early on, and tap out. The allostatic load / nervous system regulation of being around flakey, ambivalent, inconsistent, unreliable, unpredictable folks who are just not willing to do the work is beyond my capacity.

But there’s a huge way in which that Treatise really, truly missed the point. It invisibilises discourse on how gender, power and privilege lead to overt and covert forms of serious harm in relationships. My shorthand for that is gender-power-attachment-trauma. The Treatise reduces everything to a neutral happy-land, where of course secure attachment and interdependence and emotional intimacy and coregulation and two-person-psychobiological systems and being ACCOUNTABLE and ENGAGED are depicted as obviously “good” things that of course everyone wants.

Um, no. Not (all) men, at any rate.

Terry goes on to write about how most of the time, it’s women who are dragging their male partners to his office. And how men don’t want change: in fact, the patriarchy means the status quo…er…rather suits them. Disengagement is bliss. Terry goes on to note how women are demanding for more emotional intimacy, more connection, more safety, more secure attachment than men have been raised to deliver. And. Men. Just. Aren’t. Showing. Up. They’re trying to do 21st century relationships with 20th century skills, and falling short.

Believe me, when I first read his words, I thought, show me the evidence. Show me some clear, empirical, quantitative evidence that this is the broad, general pattern. How could he make such sweeping generalisations? How was he so sure? Did patriarchy really impact relationships that much? I mean, is a relationship not founded on equality even really possible or just a shitfest? Was it true that therapists since the 70’s had been documenting the same pattern over and over again, of the “anxious-wife/avoidant-husband,” demand-withdraw, pursuer-distancer, that was so hopelessly gendered (at least, in heterosexual relationships)? Were we really that generic?

Well…er…yes. Reading the attachment literature, it’d be too easy to think attachment styles don’t really land in particularly gendered ways (“that’s just gender essentialism” arguments; “we’re all the same”) but it does: Del Giudice’s Sex Differences in Attachment meta-analysis on 60,000+ people from over 100 studies and 5 continents shows this, as with his follow up facet analysis (I don’t agree with his evolutionary explanation in the slightest, but the data is solid). And, what’s more, it’s less tied up in childhood stuff than it is in patriarchy, male entitlement, fragile male egos, shame, power, dominance and invisibilising of women.

“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” When you’re accustomed to just having your own needs met, anyone having needs other than yours probably feels supremely irritating and a waste of time.

When you’re the foreground, everyone else is the background.

This work is urgent, and I’m not prepared to say I’ve fully grasped it yet. But here’s a selection of my favourite reads on the theme so far – some a little more related to feminism, others a little more centred on relationships – in no particular order. Some blogs, some academic.

I’ve seen too many women get destroyed by terrible power dynamics inside relationships, with men who are some of the best facilitators, meditators, NVCers, deep ecologists, environmentalists, men’s-group goers and inner-work spiritual-therapised “woke” dudes I know.

So my interest in putting together this collection is, more than anything, not to “wake up” the men in my life. Rather, it is to reassure the women in my life that they are not crazy, needy, too much, demanding or childish. They are reacting in a perfectly normal way to how anyone in a subordinate position has ever reacted to the trauma of millennia of oppression, inside and outside the home: by losing their shit. This is precisely how anyone should react when faced with an unjust, insensitive and utterly unworkable situation; with anger, rage, hostility, distrust, resentment. Panic, shame and terror.

That’s a rather predictable outcome of being walked over, ignored, shut down, shut out, patronised, used, and put through an unnecessary emotional roller coaster with someone you genuinely thought had his shit together but turned out was too blind to his privilege and entitlement to notice how much damage he was doing, all the while saying “I did the best I could, I tried everything,” but really just using that as a cover while continuing to be checked out.

I have a confession: I’ve been empathetic for too long, and I can’t do it anymore.

As Nora Samaran, one of my all time fav writers, puts it: I’ve lost my ability to speak kindly while drowning. There are no answers here in this blog, just a clear, unabashed reckoning with the problem, a tidy list of things I’ve been reading this year, over and over again.

Solutions? Honest-to-God, I have no f***ing clue.

I’ve read a couple dozen countless books by the best couples therapists in the world. I’ve done a two-month training on relational healing, and an Emotionally Focussed Therapy externship. I’ve taken a postgraduate class on the science of intimate relationships. I’m flirting with doing a PhD on it next year.

I am, like most people who actively search out ways to improve the relationship, a woman.

I am really not the person who needs convincing.

I like what Nora says about “care and accountability” in her blogs and book, but – in NZ at least – we have a loooooong way to go before community/transformative justice efforts of the kinds she transcribes become thinkable, let alone practiced.

Bystander dynamics suck, but our communities of practice (particularly woke communities) let men get away with too much…because…well, nobody ever talks about them. And when they, do, then, erm, women listen, wonderfully kindly, and do nothing. I’ve had enough women open up to me about being on the receiving end of this and enough “woke” men in my circles also open up to me about treating women in ways that were blind to their privilege that I am beginning to see a pattern, and it’s not pretty.

Sure, the opposite of rape culture is nurturance cultureBut it’s too easy for men to read that and say, “Well, I never raped anyone, so I must be one of the good ones.”

Here’s what they don’t see: nurturance culture is more than not assaulting, killing or raping. It is more active than that: it is about actively striving to be emotionally available, responsive and attuned. It’s about being consistent, honest and reliable, and recognising the failure to do so can cause limbic damage and trauma.

And rape culture is not just about the physical and sexual act.

Rape culture is about thinking your needs matter more than hers. Rape culture is about getting what you want without making it safe for her. It’s about wanting it fun, fast and easy, without doing the work required to build emotional connection.

Rape culture says, “I meet my needs, at the expense of other people meeting theirs.” Rape culture says, “I want to be a jerk…and I want you to accept me as I am.” Rape culture says, “Your needs are irrelevant, absurd, and a demand on me, a ploy for power,” rather than seeing them as legit.

Rape culture might say self-responsibility-espousing things like “I meet my needs, you meet your needs,” while not recognising all the ways in which women invisibly hold the world together around them, discounting how they are automatically meeting your needs, while justifying refusal to meet theirs.

Terry writes: “What women are asking for is legit.”

So yes, I’m a little late to the feminist party, but here goes:

If you read nothing else, read these:

By Nora Samaran, whose work brings together patriarchy and attachment and probably saved my life:

The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurturance Culture

For Men Who Desperately Need Autonomy –

Own, Apologise, Repair: Coming Back to Integrity

There is another kind of boundary violation: The Covert Cross

Psychological Harm is Physical Harm: Part One – Abuse Shapes the Brain

Psychological Harm is Physical Harm: Part Two – Why Survivors Lose Their Voice

On Gaslighting

Dating Tips for the Feminist Man

Two Models of Nurturance

Turn This World Inside Out – The Emergence of Nurturance Culture


Other must-reads:

Portrait of a Marriage (Yes, It’s Mine) by Carmen Spagnola –

The epic emotional labour thread condensed -  (original version here or – READ THIS OR I WILL NAIL IT TO YOUR DOOR LIKE MARTIN LUTHER (some quotes are below).

The Awful Truth – Terry Real –

Feminism and the Mastery of Nature

This book blew my mind. It puts together the odd paradox of men feeling like they’re being consumed/subsumed/merged when women move closer (“incorporation”) and simultaneous hyperseparation/radical exclusion (classic avoidant attachment). Avoidant attachment, incidentally, is also linked to deep discomfort with dependence, particularly dependence on a unique other, which explains why Nora Samaran above talks about avoidant men (unfortunately) dominating the dating pool – they don’t attach easily, and consider women as a “homogenous” group, whose needs are secondary to their own (“backgrounding”) and who are all “interchangeable”. In turn, that partly explains the ambivalence and flakeyness so many female authors (below) describe frustrating in online dating. (Bolds are mine).

Homogenisation supports both instrumentalism, incorporation (relational definition) and radical exclusion. It produces binarism, a division of the world into two orders. As Hartsock (1990) points out, homogenisation is a feature of the master’s perspective. To the master, residing at what he takes to be the centre, differences among those of lesser status at the periphery are of little interest or importance, and might undermine comfortable stereotypes of superiority. To the master, all the rest are just that: ‘the rest’, the Others, the background to his achievements and the resources for his needs. Diversity and multiplicity which are surplus to his desires need not be acknowledged. The other is not seen as a unique individual bound to the self by specific ties. It is related to as a universal rather than a particular, as a member of a class of interchangeable items which can be used as resources to satisfy the master’s needs. Elimination of reliance on any particular individual of the relevant kind also facilitates denial of dependency and backgrounding. Instrumentalisation and commodification normally produce relations of this kind.”

“A hyperseparated account of self also emerges in Cartesian solipsism, an extreme denial of dependency which doubts the other’s mindful existence and treats the other as alien to the self, excluding the possibility of mutual recognition or exchange (Flax 1985:28–9). For Benjamin, such a hyperdifferentiation of self and other is associated with the inability to grasp the aliveness of the other; it reflects the dualisation of the self/other boundary and its construal as a relationship of opposition and power (Benjamin 1988:193). In the Cartesian dream of power, the subject is set over against the object it knows, in a relation of alleged neutrality in practice modelled as power and control.”


How to Feel Safe and Secure With Your Partner – Stan Tatkin –

Transforming Defensive Men Into Inspired Men – Adam Gilead –

Why Relationships Fail – Terry Real –

How To Deal with An Avoidant Partner and Interpersonal Stress

Why Some Men Struggle With Love and Partnership (Spoken Word)  –



And the rest of the grand list (will keep updating as I find new things):

Men talk more than women – 

“When men and women are together, men talk more. And yet, they think women talk more. So, to many men, it feels like an argument when a woman speaks up. It feels like an imbalance, because their (unspoken, unconscious) expectations are that women will quietly agree.”

“I am a person. You are not the default person with the default beliefs. I am not just a counter to you. I have equal significance*.”
“If I speak my opinions, that does not mean I’m being argumentative, just as it’s okay for you to speak your own opinions.”

Men Have Been Telling Women To Shut Up for At Least 3000 Years –

Why Men Don’t Listen to Women –

Against Chill – – AMAZING PIECE

“But Chill is not the opposite of uptight. It is the opposite of demanding accountability. Chill is a sinister refashioning of “Calm down!” from an enraging and highly gendered command into an admirable attitude. Chill suggests that young love is best expressed as competitive ambivalence. Chill demands that you see a Read receipt followed by a “Hey, was asleep” text three hours later and not proceed to throw your phone into the nearest volcano. Chill asks you to be like, “LOL, what volcano?” Chill presides over the funeral of reasonable expectations. Chill takes and never gives. Chill is pathologically unfeeling but not even interesting enough to kill anyone. Chill is a garbage virtue that will destroy the species. Fuck Chill.”

“These definitions are deceptively simple ways of asking people to have fewer strong emotions.”

If connection is our core human need why humans are so bad at it –

Relational Engagement and Empowerment: Establishing a Foundation to Address Gender and Power –

Attachment in adult relationships – a feminist perspective –

Predictors of intimacy in couples’ discussions of relationship injuries –

Process of Intimacy – Similarity, Understanding and Gender –

The discourses of intimacy, adding a social constructionist and feminist view –

Exploring Men’s Intimate Relationships (with feminism);

Love and Sex on Feminism : Reclaiming Authentic Relating (MEDIUM) –

Gender in Intimate Relationships: A Microstructural Approach by Barbara J. Risman, Pepper Schwartz (BOOK) –

Romantic love in heterosexual experiences, women’s experiences –

Mediated intimacy and postfeminism : a discourse analytic examination of sex and relationship advice in women’s magazines –

LOVE AND INTIMACY: THE GENDER DIVISION OF EMOTION AND ‘EMOTION WORK’: A Neglected Aspect of Sociological Discussion of Heterosexual Relationships by Jean Duncombe and Dennis Marsden –

The affective, cultural and psychic life of post-feminism –

Femininity and domination – studies in the phenomenology of oppression (BOOK)

Feminist analysis of self-help bestsellers for improving relationships – a review –

Towards a feminist understanding of women and power –

A Feminist-Informed Integration of Emotionally Focused and Solution-Focused Therapies –

The feminist/emotionally focused therapy practice model: An integrated approach for couple therapy –

Feminist issues in couple therapy –

Being Married, Doing Gender –

A Critical Analysis of Gender Relationships in Marriage (BOOK) –

Trust, distrust and feminist theory –

(linking vs ranking – horiz vs vertical power)


Constructions of Feminism in Unequal Relationships: A Personal Account from a North American in a Cross-Cultural Household –

The discourses of intimacy: adding a social constructionist and feminist view by   KATHY WEINGARTEN, Ph.D. 1991 –

List of feminist books to read –———3

Dear Men – Feminism Needs You –———4

The Woke Men Who Still Want Housewives –———22——————

Feminism should come with warning labels –———0

Beware these 10 types of feminist men –

Things I wish I’d known about gaslighting –

Abusive Feminist Men Exist – here are 6 Things Women Can Do to Stop Them –

The Importance of Listening from Privileged Position –

Nice Guy Lies –

Here’s what is and isn’t working about men’s work on college campuses –

Attachment and patriarchy –

The Loss of Pleasure or Why Are We Still Talking About Oedipus – Carol Gilligan –

Power, Resistance and Science: A Call for Feminist Psychology –

BOOK – In A Difference Voice by Carol Gilligan –

Two moral orientations – Gender Differences and Similarities – (CARE vs JUSTICE orientations)

Are You a Faux Friend – 12 Traits of Real Friendship –

John Gottman writes that the foundation for successful relationships is friendship. Well, no kidding. I liked this article because it was a sweet, tidy list of things I would want and value in ANY friend – consistency, showing up, following up, noticing the little things, being true to one’s word. I mean, if you’re not willing to show up in a reliable, attuned, accessible and responsive way, then we’re probably not even friends; merely acquaintances. I have a whole ‘nother piece I need to write about friendship, but this will do for here.

When boys become boys : development, relationships, and masculinity  –

Intent vs Impact: Why Your Intentions Don’t Really Matter –

Your Opinion Does Not Always Matter (Quit Playing Devil’s Advocate) –

Think It’s Not All Men? These 4 Facts Prove You Are Just Plain Wrong –

Why Men Should Stop Saying #NotAllMen Immediately –

NotAllMen is Harmful to Women –

How Many Ways Can Men Say Not All Men –

“Because while those Not All Men types may be parodies of outrage in and of themselves, they also have a lot of power. They have a lot of power because women have been trained since birth to coddle men’s feelings and to regulate our behavior so as not to appear too intrusive or domineering. We are taught to shrink ourselves so that we take up as little space as possible, but we are also told to sacrifice the little space we do have—and to do so joyfully—to men and their voices.

“For feminism to work, apparently we need to be appealing to men. We need to be nice to them. We need to make them feel like it’s a non-threatening movement that will take all of their interests and needs into account and hold their hand as we transition into an equality that will in no way disadvantage or even moderately disrupt their current privilege. Unfortunately, a lot of women take this message to heart because doing anything contrary to it presents as almost frightening. This is why, despite the stereotypes of separatism and misandry that are so repeatedly levelled at feminist activists and workers, so many women bend over backwards to try to be as accommodating as possible to men’s sensitivities. These women believe, with the best of intentions, that we are better served by stroking men’s egos than by issuing some straight talk to them.

“There are exceptions, of course. But in the vast majority of cases, when men speak to other men about feminism and gender equality, it is through the prism of protection and paternalism.

“Men, we mustn’t do this. Men, we need to take care of our women better. Men, we need to make a pledge to always be Stand-Up Guys. Very rarely will you hear these conversations being framed in ways that incorporate women as anything other than objects requiring masculine defense.

“When this tendency towards paternalism is critiqued by women, it is us who bear the brunt of the resulting anger. Why aren’t you being more supportive of men? Men are just trying to help.”

It’s Not All Men – But It’s Men –

“If you’re not one of those men—and I deeply love a whole lot of men who are not those men—that’s nice. Thanks! Keep it up! But let’s be real: Being the kind of man who doesn’t kill women isn’t a terribly high bar to clear.”

You Should Have Asked Guardian comic –

Male readings of feminist theory – the psychologisation of sexual politics in the feminist literature –

Why Power Matters: Creating a Foundation of Mutual Support in Couple Relationships by Carmen Knudson Martin –

On Shared Relational Responsibility, Knudson-Martin writes, “For example, to what extent does each focus on what is needed to maintain or improve the relationship? Who keeps track of what needs to be done in the house? For the children? For the relationship? Who attends to the emotional needs of others in this relationship/family? How entitled does each feel to have own needs met? How responsible does each feel for the relationship? How do concerns for the relationship overall compare with what is good for the self? What societal messages inform expectations regarding relational responsibility and entitlement?”

On Mutual Vulnerability: “For example, how willing is each to admit weakness, uncertainty, or mistakes in partner’s presence? How safe does each feel to share innermost thoughts and feelings with partner? How able are partners to seek relationship repair by expressing a feeling or concern? Who is most likely to do this? How anxious is each when partner is unhappy or displeased? How do power and position inform feelings regarding letting one’s guard down and openness to concerns of others?”

On Mutual Attunement: “Mutual attunement can be seen as each partner being aware of and interested in the needs of the other. This type of awareness contributes to the partner’s experience of feeling important and supported in the relationship. For example, how interested is each partner in knowing and understanding the other’s experience and perspective? Who listens to the other? To what extent does each partner notice each other’s feelings and needs? How do they respond to them? How able is each to respond to partner’s negative emotions? To be accepting of them? How do power, privilege, and gender socialization affect attunement processes?”

On Mutual Influence: “Mutual influence is being able to permit one another to make an impression on and have an impact on our thoughts, feelings, and actions. In addition to sharing decision making, it includes willingness to accommodate for the sake of the relationship and being open to being changed by the other. For example, how able is each partner to engage the other in addressing issues of concern to them? How open is each to being influenced? How free does each feel to directly express their opinions or make requests? Whose interests and schedule organize daily schedules and routines? Who is more likely to accommodate to whom? Whose interests are most reflected in major decisions? How do societal expectations effect perceptions of fairness? Influence processes?”

Embodying emotional labour –

An extremely clear definition of emotional labour –

Meet the Woke Misogynist –

I didn’t understand male privilege until I became a stay at home dad –

Faux male feminists draw ire in Hollywood –

17 Types of the Worst Male Feminists that Need to be Stopped  –

The Cost of Misusing the Term Emotional Labor –

A Guy’s Guide to Emotional Labor –

Every romantic relationship has a power imbalance but the stakes are higher for women –

Waiting to Be Asked: Gender, Power, and Relationship Progression Among Cohabiting Couples –

Distinguishing Emotional Co-Regulation From Co-Dysregulation: An Investigation of Emotional Dynamics and Body-Weight in Romantic Couples –


Love is better IRL: swipe online dating is toxic but not the only option –

Case study in online dating –

The fragile male ego has ruined online dating –

MetaFilter MEGA THREAD 700 PAGES on Emotional Labour –

PDF version –

“I was thinking more about this last night, and it struck me that part of the reason a great number of women have so much buried resentment about these issues is because men actually do perform emotional labor so willingly at the beginning of a relationship, which shows that they can do it and they are aware that it exists, right up until the relationship is secure enough that they can designate it “not my job anymore” and tap out.

Setting up special dates based on her preferences, wanting to talk about feelings (because the feelings are all rosy and nice at the beginning, but still), calling just to hear her voice, finding out the little things she likes so he can surprise her with them, being kind to her friends and family, we can watch whatever you want to watch (and meaning it), and on and on. But for a lot of men, these are the means to an end, where the end is a relationship where they never have to do any of these things again.

But for women who end up in relationships that start this way, it is hardly surprising that they feel cheated and duped when the mutual emotional labor disappears and she’s left handling it all by herself. She thought that this man was promising to live this way. She thought being noticed and validated would be long-term. Women consider emotional labor to be the backbone of relationships, not the entry fee.”


Emotional Labour – what it is and how to do it –

Men just don’t trust women and it’s a huge problem –

Where’s my cut – on unpaid emotional labour –

“I Want a Wife” – HILARIOUS post –

Emotionally Unavailable Men

Marge Piercy poems :

A Strong Woman –

Song of the Fucked Duck –

Right to Life –

Expressions of commitment and independence: Exploring men’s emotional responsibility in heterosexual couple relationships –

Love and Intimacy: The Gender Division of Emotion and `Emotion Work’ –

‘Workaholics’ and ‘whingeing women’: Theorising intimacy and emotion work — the last frontier of gender inequality? –

An Open Letter For F*ckboys: Fear is at the Root of Toxic Masculinity –

Men and Emotional Labour – It’s Time –

When Writing About Male Entitlement Makes Me An Entitled Female –

Male Sexual Entitlement –

Why does he DO that? book on abusive men (yes, even “sensitive, woke, New Age” men) by Lundy Bancroft –


Maybe you should just be single –

“For those of us who mostly or exclusively date the so-called “opposite” gender, romantic love really can be a battlefield. It’s where politics play out intimately and, often, painfully. We’re not supposed to acknowledge that love is political. But how can it be otherwise? How can it be anything but political, when relationships with men are so often where women experience gendered violence, where differences in pay and privilege hit home, where we do all the work of caring and cleaning and soothing and placating that patriarchy expects us to do endlessly and for free?”

“In patriarchal culture,” as bell hooks observes in All About Love: New Visions, “men are especially inclined to see love as something they should receive without expending effort. More often than not they do not want to do the work that love demands.” Even the very best and sweetest of men have too often been raised with the expectation that once a woman is in their lives romantically, they will no longer have to do most of the basic chores involved in taking care of themselves. When I’ve spoken critically about this monolithic ideal of romantic love in the past, most of the pushback I’ve received has been from men, some of it violent, and no wonder. Men usually have far more to gain from this sort of traditional arrangement. Men are allowed to think of romantic love as a feeling, an experience, a gift that they expect to be given as a reward for being their awesome selves. That sounds like a great deal to me. I wouldn’t want that challenged.

“Women, by contrast, learn from an early age that love is work. That in order to be loved, we will need to work hard, and if we want to stay loved we will need to work harder. We take care of people, soothe hurt feelings, organise chaotic lives and care for men who never learned to care for themselves, regardless of whether or not we’re constitutionally suited for such work. We do this because we are told that if we don’t, we will die alone and nobody will find us until an army of cats has eaten all the skin off our faces.

“Little boys are told they should “get” girlfriends, but they are not encouraged to seriously consider their future roles as boyfriends and husbands. Coupledom, for men, is not supposed to involve a surrendering of the self, as it is for women. Young men do not worry about how they will achieve a “work-life balance”, nor does the “life” aspect of that equation translate to “partnership and childcare”. When commentators speak of women’s “work-life balance”, they’re not talking about how much time a woman will have, at the end of the day, to work on her memoirs, or travel the world, or spend time with her friends. “Life”, for women, is envisioned as a long trajectory towards marriage. “Life”, for men, is meant to be bigger than that.”

Mefi – It’s just not worth it –

“As in, so many men fantasize about having a woman to care for the part of themselves that they can’t show to the world, the emotional, tender part that other men would mock them for… but when women aren’t elated to have a totally one-way relationship, it’s such a revelation. I mean, c’mon.”

“The other thing I think is sort-of hard about this is that we’re all only, at best, 80% emotionally grown up, and learning to live with and accommodate another person (in a close friendship, in a roommate situation, as a romantic partner) is a process and there’s a lot of give and take. So early in that process it’s not always clear — “Is this a normal amount of bumpiness in learning to live together for two people who are basically good people but we’re each only 80% emotionally mature because that’s about as good as it gets, and our 20%s keep bumping up against each other and causing some drama as we learn each other’s emotional landscapes … or am I moving in with a giant man-baby?” I think that’s why so often it’s 6 months or two years into the relationship and it’s slowly dawning on the woman that, “Hey … all this stuff he’s been doing all along? THIS IS NOT ACTUALLY RELATIONSHIP GROWING PAINS, HE IS ACTUALLY A MAN-BABY.”

“i’ve personally found that men who have really internalized “boys don’t cry” type stuff actually burden people, especially romantic partners, with their emotions constantly. they’re the guys who hit the table when they’re angry, who make you console them when they’ve upset you, who refuse to participate in things like small talk or gift exchanges or going to dinners they don’t want to go to because they view it akin to blackmail. they talk a lot about how women’s emotions are manipulation or childlike without realizing that they’re often behaving like over grown toddlers.”

“Oh god, yeah. From my experience, the guys that are like “I don’t want to burden anyone else with my emotions” are totally willing to burden everyone else with the externalities of those emotions.

“The man that throws his phone across the floor and then tells you that he doesn’t want to talk about it is not protecting you from the burden of his emotions. He is increasing your burden, as you don’t know why he is angry, the precise depths of his anger, and whether or not it is likely to fall upon you.

“The man who must have everything go perfectly lest he sulk and stew and make the rest of the day terrible for everyone else, because he can’t vent minor frustrations and get over them, is not saving us from the burden of hearing about his emotions. He is increasing our burden, as we have to either work every day to ensure that their day is perfect in exactitude, or suffer with him blighting the lives of everyone else.

“Just because you don’t hear about the emotions doesn’t mean the emotions aren’t there, and it doesn’t mean the consequences of the emotions aren’t there.”

How to spot a softboi and other shit chat –

On calling women crazy –

Where’s my Cut? On unpaid emotional labour –

“Emotional labor has followed the same path. We are told frequently that women are more intuitive, more empathetic, more innately willing and able to offer succor and advice. How convenient that this cultural construct gives men an excuse to be emotionally lazy.”

“When I asked him to elaborate he said he really likes hanging around with his guy friends because nothing is expected of him and he feels like he can relax. So I asked, then why even date women? Why not just hang out with your guy friends? And he said that he loves being around women because they’re kind, and soft and comforting and they make him feel relaxed and good in a way that men don’t. And I was like – you mean nurturing? And he was like – YES, nurturing.

“You know, my husband for the most part is one of the stellar ones in picking up on emotional labor. He deals with his family, remembers dates, pays attention to what I like, etc. etc. etc.

“But he said he could totally related to the above sentiments.

“So, I laid it out flat for him, and he said he’d never really thought about it that way. (Excuse the all caps)


“So, to be effectively told that you want to reap the benefits of someone else’s hard work and then not reciprocate at all, because it’s hard work for you (no fucking kidding) is… well, it can be devastating. It’s an indication of how little you are valued. The complete lack of empathy where you can’t even conceive that the thing you don’t want to do bc it’s not relaxing is also not relaxing for the other person. Oy.”

Men don’t need 6 month reminders – Tesia Blake, Medium –

“In essence, emotional labor is the work involved into thinking of others before you think of yourself. It’s thinking about how you can create a better office/home environment for everyone before you think about your own well-being or productivity.

“It’s when a woman wakes up, and before she’s even out of bed, she’s already debated with herself if she should run to the cleaners during her lunch break, or if she should gobble her food at her desk so she can leave 15 minutes earlier and swing by the florist on her way to pick up his suit for the benefit they’re attending tonight.

“She realizes it’s the third time this month she’s dropping the kids at her in-laws, so it’d be nice to give his mother some flowers along with the batch of sticky grandkids. She gets out of bed with the dinner menu for the entire week, along with a complete grocery list, already on her mind. As she enters the bathroom, she decides she’s definitely giving it a good cleaning on Saturday. Or better yet, why wait? As she brushes her teeth with her right hand, she grabs a Clorox wipe with her left to at least get the sink on a more acceptable state.

“Meanwhile, her partner is mindlessly scrolling through Facebook on his phone. When he gets up, he opens his closet and yells from the bedroom, “babe, do you think I should wear a suit tonight?” In the kitchen, standing before the breakfast she has just set for the whole family, she rolls her eyes.

“My fantasy of what it’s like to be a guy is you wake up in the morning, and your eyes open, and you’re like ‘I’m awesome’.”

Chelsea Peretti — One of the Greats

“Chelsea Peretti’s joke is, at first level, about masculine confidence. About how men have a much easier time believing they’re awesome than women do, since women are the ones who have largely been brought up to worry about other people’s feelings to the point of letting that chip away at their self-esteem. But it’s not hard to see that joke working on a second level as it also implies that men’s first thought upon waking up is of themselves.

Is the picture getting any clearer?”

“Men say that, but the reality is that women know from experience that nothing is as simple as “just ask me.”

Women know from experience that “just asking” hardly ever involves asking just once. And when she has to ask again, and again, and again, she goes from an equal partner just trying to share the housework to a nag faster than he can say: “yes, honey, I’ll take out the trash after the game.”

Spoiler alert: the trash will still be there the next morning.

Men assure women that they can just ask, but when they do, “nagging”, “having impossibly high standards”, “being too demanding”, and “wanting him to ‘read her mind’” are just a few things women end up accused of when men don’t deliver on their own promises.

It’s not about getting things done — it’s about noticing what needs to be done and then taking initiative

The point is, as Gemma Hartley puts it in her Harper’s Bazaar piece, that women are tired of “having to ask” in the first place.

It’s like we are not even speaking the same language –

It’s like we are not even speaking the same language Part Two –

Self proclaimed nice guys and other D-bags to avoid–

Positive Attitude BS – On the Dangers of Radical Self-Love –

Refusing to Be A Man

The End of Manhood

Not to beat a dead horse, but there’s also a huge literature on sexism in intimate relationships from the ambivalent sexism perspective. Bolded are some of the best ones. Ambivalent sexism kind of blew my mind, to be honest, as most of the above pieces relate more to the “hostile” side of sexism, and risk missing the “benevolent” side (see Glick and Fiske, 1996 below for reference). A longlong reference list of stuff I read over and over again for my most recent essay (reading this stuff was hard, but necessary):

  1. Abrams, D., Viki, G. T., Masser, B., & Bohner, G. (2003). Perceptions of stranger and acquaintance rape: The role of benevolent and hostile sexism in victim blame and rape proclivity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology84(1), 111–125.
  2. Barreto, M., & Ellemers, N. (2005). The burden of benevolent sexism: How it contributes to the maintenance of gender inequalities. European Journal of Social Psychology35(5), 633–642.
  3. Barreto, M., Ellemers, N., Piebinga, L., & Moya, M. (2010). How nice of us and how dumb of me: The effect of exposure to benevolent sexism on women’s task and relational self-descriptions. Sex Roles62(7–8), 532–544.
  4. Bohner, G., Ahlborn, K., & Steiner, R. (2010). How sexy are sexist men? Women’s perception of male response profiles in the ambivalent sexism inventory. Sex Roles62(7–8), 568–582.
  5. Brewer, M. B. (1997). On the social origins of human nature. In The message of social psychology: Perspectives on mind in society. (pp. 54–62). Malden: Blackwell Publishing.
  6. Casad, B. J., Salazar, M. M., & Macina, V. (2015). The real versus the ideal: Predicting relationship satisfaction and wellbeing from endorsement of marriage myths and benevolent sexism. Psychology of Women Quarterly39(1), 119–129.
  7. Chen, Z., Fiske, S. T., & Lee, T. L. (2009). Ambivalent sexism and power-related gender-role ideology in marriage. Sex Roles60(11–12), 765–778.
  8. Chwe, M. S. (2001). Rational Ritual: Culture , Coordination , and Common Knowledge. In Common Knowledge
  9. Cross, E. J., & Overall, N. C. (2018). Women’s attraction to benevolent sexism: Needing relationship security predicts greater attraction to men who endorse benevolent sexism. European Journal of Social Psychology48(3), 336–347.
  10. Cross, E. J., & Overall, N. C. (2019). Women experience more serious relationship problems when male partners endorse hostile sexism. European Journal of Social Psychology
  11. Cross, E. J., Overall, N. C., & Hammond, M. D. (2016). Perceiving partners to endorse benevolent sexism attenuates highly anxious women’s negative reactions to conflict. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin42(7), 923–940.
  12. Cross, E. J., Overall, N. C., Hammond, M. D., & Fletcher, G. J. O. (2017). When does men’s hostile sexism predict relationship aggression? The moderating role of partner commitment. Social Psychological and Personality Science8(3), 331–340.
  13. Cross, E. J., Overall, N. C., Low, R. S. T., & McNulty, J. K. (2018). An interdependence account of sexism and power: Men’s hostile sexism, biased perceptions of low power, and relationship aggressionJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
  14. Dardenne, B., Dumont, M., & Bollier, T. (2007). Insidious dangers of benevolent sexism: Consequences for women’s performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology93(5), 764–779.
  15. DeWall, C. N., Lambert, N. M., Slotter, E. B., Pond, R. S., Deckman, T., Finkel, E. J., … Fincham, F. D. (2011). So far away from one’s partner, yet so close to romantic alternatives: Avoidant attachment, interest in alternatives, and infidelity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology101(6), 1302–1316.
  16. Duckitt, J. (2003). Prejudice and Intergroup Hostility. In Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology (pp. 559–600).
  17. Dumont, M., Sarlet, M., & Dardenne, B. (2010). Be too kind to a woman, she’ll feel incompetent: Benevolent sexism shifts self-construal and autobiographical memories toward incompetence. Sex Roles62(7–8), 545–553.
  18. Durán, M., Moya, M., Megías, J. L., & Viki, G. T. (2010). Social perception of rape victims in dating and married relationships: The role of perpetrator’s benevolent sexism. Sex Roles62(7–8), 505–519.
  19. Eagly, A. H., & Mladinic, A. (1990). Gender stereotypes and attitudes toward women and men. Personality Ans Social Psychology Bulletin15(4), 543–558.
  20. Eagly, A. H., & Mladinic, A. (1994). Are people prejudiced against women? Some answers from research on attitudes, gender stereotypes, and judgments of competence. European Review of Social Psychology5(1), 1–35.
  21. Expósito, F., Herrera, M. C., Moya, M., & Glick, P. (2010). Don’t rock the boat: Women’s benevolent sexism predicts fears of marital violence. Psychology of Women Quarterly34(1), 36–42.
  22. Feather, N. T. (2004). Value correlates of ambivalent attitudes toward gender relations. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin30(1), 3–12.
  23. Fisher, M. I., & Hammond, M. D. (2019). Personal ties and prejudice: A meta-analysis of romantic attachment and ambivalent sexism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin45(7), 1084–1098.
  24. Fiske, S. T., Cuddy, A. J. C., Glick, P., & Xu, J. (2002). A model of (often mixed) stereotype content: Competence and warmth respectively follow from perceived status and competition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology82(6), 878–902.
  25. Fiske, S. T., Xu, J., Cuddy, A. C., & Glick, P. (1999). (Dis)respecting versus (dis)liking: Status and interdependence predict ambivalent stereotypes of competence and warmthJournal of Social Issues55(3), 473–489.
  26. Fletcher, G. J. O., & Kerr, P. S. G. (2010). Through the eyes of love: Reality and illusion in intimate relationships. Psychological Bulletin136(4), 627–658.
  27. Forbes, G. B., Jobe, R. L., White, K. B., Bloesch, E., & Adams-Curtis, L. E. (2005). Perceptions of dating violence following a sexual or nonsexual betrayal of trust: Effects of gender, sexism, acceptance of rape myths, and vengeance motivation. Sex Roles52(3–4), 165–173.
  28. Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (1996). The ambivalent sexism inventory: Differentiating hostile and benevolent sexism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology70(3), 491–512.
  29. Glick, P., Fiske, S. T., Mladinic, A., Saiz, J. L., Abrams, D., Masser, B., … López, W. L. (2000). Beyond prejudice as simple antipathy: Hostile and benevolent sexism across cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology79(5), 763–775.
  30. Glick, P., Lameiras, M., Fiske, S. T., Eckes, T., Masser, B., Volpato, C., … Wells, R. (2004). Bad but bold: Ambivalent attitudes toward men predict gender inequality in 16 nations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology86(5), 713–728.
  31. Gottman, J. M. (1998). Psychology and the study of marital processes. Annual Review of Psychology49, 169–197.
  32. Hammond, M. D., & Overall, N. C. (2013a). Men’s hostile sexism and biased perceptions of intimate partners: Fostering dissatisfaction and negative behavior in close relationships. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin39(12), 1585–1599.
  33. Hammond, M. D., & Overall, N. C. (2013b). When relationships do not live up to benevolent ideals: Women’s benevolent sexism and sensitivity to relationship problems. European Journal of Social Psychology43(3), 212–223.
  34. Hammond, M. D., & Overall, N. C. (2014). Endorsing benevolent sexism magnifies willingness to dissolve relationships when facing partner-ideal discrepancies. Personal Relationships21, 272–287.
  35. Hammond, M. D., & Overall, N. C. (2015). Benevolent sexism and support of romantic partner’s goals: undermining women’s competence while fulfilling men’s intimacy needs. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin4(9), 1180–1194.
  36. Hammond, M. D., & Overall, N. C. (2016). Sexism in intimate contexts: How romantic relationships help explain the origins, functions, and consequences of sexist attitudes. In The Cambridge Handbook of the Psychology of Prejudice (pp. 321–343).
  37. Hammond, M. D., Overall, N. C., & Cross, E. J. (2016). Internalizing sexism within close relationships: Perceptions of intimate partners’ benevolent sexism promote women’s endorsement of benevolent sexism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology110(2), 214–238.
  38. Hammond, M. D., & Sibley, C. G. (2011). Why are benevolent sexists happier? Sex Roles65(5), 332–343.
  39. Hammond, M. D., Sibley, C. G., & Overall, N. C. (2014). The allure of sexism: Psychological entitlement fosters women’s endorsement of benevolent sexism over time. Social Psychological and Personality Science5(4), 422–429.
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  42. Herrera, C. C., Expósito, F., & Moya, M. (2012). Negative reactions of men to the loss of power in gender relations: Lilith vs. Eve. European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context4(1), 17–42.
  43. Herrero, J., Rodríguez, F. J., & Torres, A. (2017). Acceptability of partner violence in 51 societies: The role of sexism and attitudes toward violence in social relationships. Violence Against Women23(3), 351–367.
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  46. Jost, J. T., & Kay, A. C. (2005). Exposure to benevolent sexism and complementary gender stereotypes: Consequences for specific and diffuse forms of system justification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology88(3), 498–509.
  47. Juarros-Basterretxea, J., Overall, N., Herrero, J., & Rodríguez-Díaz, F. J. (2019). Considering the effect of sexism on psychological intimate partner violence: A study with imprisoned men. The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context11(2), 61–69.
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  50. Koepke, S., Eyssel, F., & Bohner, G. (2014). ‘She deserved it’: Effects of sexism norms, type of violence, and victim’s pre-assault behavior on blame attributions toward female victims and approval of the aggressor’s behavior. Violence Against Women20(4), 446–464.
  51. Lee, T. L., Fiske, S. T., Glick, P., & Chen, Z. (2010). Ambivalent sexism in close relationships: (Hostile) power and (benevolent) romance shape relationship ideals. Sex Roles62(7–8), 583–601.
  52. Lisco, C. G., Parrott, D. J., & Tharp, A. T. (2012). The role of heavy episodic drinking and hostile sexism in men’s sexual aggression toward female intimate partners. Addictive Behaviors37(11), 1264–1270.
  53. Martinez-Pecino, R., & Durán, M. (2019). I love you but I cyberbully you: The role of hostile sexism. Journal of Interpersonal Violence34(4), 812–825.
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  56. Moya, M., Glick, P., Expósito, F., De Lemus, S., & Hart, J. (2007). It’s for your own good: Benevolent sexism and women’s reactions to protectively justified restrictions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin33(10), 1421–1434.
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  59. Oswald, D. L., Baalbaki, M., & Kirkman, M. (2019). Experiences with benevolent sexism: Scale development and associations with women’s well-being. Sex Roles80(5–6), 362–380.
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  62. Overall, N. C., & Hammond, M. H. (2018). How intimate relationships contribute to gender inequality: Sexist attitudes encourage women to trade off career success for relationship security. Policy Insights from the Behavioural and Brain Sciences5(1), 40–48.
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A lot of this stuff really just boils down to: do you care? Are you listening? Are you attuned? Are you PAYING ATTENTION? Are you willing to work things out? And paying attention is not just for the hard times, but also showing up wholeheartedly when things are going well, too. I love this facebook post, that sums up what I mean by this:



Well, as my friend Sophie says, it doesn’t have to be that hardcore every time. But just a bit more joy at our joy would be nice 🙂


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