It’s safe to say that the gender power dynamics between men and women have shifted drastically in the last couple of decades–and for the most part, that’s a good thing. Women are now able to be more autonomous when it comes to our lives, careers and education thanks to the activist work of our foremothers and their allies. We are no longer confined to being housewives, unless, of course, we opt into that lifestyle because of our own personal preferences. In the workforce, Black women are outpacing our male counterparts by earning college degrees at a higher rate, leading many of us to be trailblazers and head honchos in our perspective fields.
While our independence is a beautiful alternative to the lives of the women who came before us who were forced into certain roles because of rigid patriarchal beliefs, our liberation seems to have stunted men and their ability to rise up as leaders, protectors and providers.
A lot of modern women struggle with being the “everything” in their partnership. They handle all the ins and outs of the household in the morning–breakfast, lunch packing– prep the kids for school, and then go out to dominate at work only to come home exhausted to cook dinner and run the household again. The dreaded “second shift” of wife and mom duty is kicking the modern woman’s a**. While the woman flies around fatigued in her superwoman cape, her partner is somewhere taking a backseat to their lives together. As women, sometimes we just want to trust that the bills and PTO meetings will be handled, but the lack of trust leaves us resentful at men who won’t lead.
For women who are struggling in this paradox, I read an interesting piece on Herald Live that offered two suggestions on what you can do if the scenario above sounds a lot like your household.
First, understand there is a difference between laziness and accepting that it’s just his personality to be passive. If it’s his personality, you have to give him a break. The authors of the piece suggest that criticizing your partners personality doesn’t help motivate him to be a leader.
“The worst thing you can do is be critical of his personality. When you criticize his personality, the core of his identity as a person, he is bound to withdraw his love and emotions from you,” the Phindis explain.
It’s probably easy to point out all the ways your partner is failing you, but as the old saying goes, you catch more flies with honey.
Try trading your critical voice for a voice of validation.
“Praise him continually,” the Phindis write.
“The man in him will want to continue doing what his wife affirms as he responds well to positive feedback. Yes, there may be times when he doesn’t lead effectively. But find something you can praise, no matter how little.”
As. small as it may sound, think about how hype we get over a baby taking its first step. No, these men aren’t babies, but let’s be honest. A lot of these men either grew up without their fathers or didn’t grow up with a positive male figure in their life. Their voice of encouragement was their mother. Rooting for them, without restraint, is probably the best way to inspire him to rise up.
“Affirm his positive initiative, his courage in taking a step, and his desire to do right. As he steps out and leads, he needs to know you are supporting him and that you’re on his team rather than his critic,” they explain.
It may sound counterintuitive to let up on the criticism and up the praise, but your partner knowing and believing you have faith in him, may inspire him to have faith in himself too.