Question in Irish Times: 22.10.13
I feel brilliant most of the time, but I can’t find a serious relationship, so what’s standing in my way? I am highly creative and don’t conform to the physically strong working-male reality for the majority of men. Some girls love me because I am more in touch with my feelings, expressive, creative and passionate about life. According to the Myers-Briggs test I am an “ENFP” (extrovert, intuitive, sensing, perceptive) and am good at expressing myself. The kind of girls I like usually love that. But there are some masculine attributes that most men have that I don’t have, so I don’t think I will ever have a serious relationship with a woman, just like I am not attracted to women who don’t have some feminine attributes.
A I thought the John Wayne/Roy Keane version of masculinity had bitten the dust last century and the self-confident, humorous and artistic type was in vogue. Cross-dressing Eddie Izzard is very masculine; so is sensitive comedian Stewart Lee. Androgyny even rules in male grooming.
Psychotherapist Christopher Murray points out that ENFP men include Bill Clinton, Oliver Stone, Fidel Castro and Oscar Wilde: people who see life as full of possibilities.
But as the rise in male anorexia and steroid-abuse shows, men can be as vulnerable as women to gender stereotypes, so what “masculine attributes” do you think you lack?
“In my practice I try to help men who have lower self-esteem because they feel that they lack particular masculine qualities. It’s as if there is an accepted template for being a man,” says Murray.
“If our conditions of worth are external to ourselves and we believe that others will judge us negatively if we are not masculine enough, that can lead to lower self-esteem and despondency. However, if we can move our conditions of worth internally – that is, if we value ourselves for being expressive, creative and passionate [about things in life] and highly intuitive – then our self-esteem will increase and so will our self confidence,” he says.
I think you do value these aspects of yourself, but when you compare yourself to what you see as more “manly men”, you think that without such qualities no woman would want you. If you truly love the man you are, rather than focusing on what you are not, there is nothing standing in your way.
Psychotherapist Tony Moore has another take on your situation that you may find helpful. Try to define what “male” attributes you admire, then make a plan to pursue them. Physical fitness is achievable, he suggests, and if you want to, you can increase your levels of testosterone by getting involved in some male group activity related to sport.
“That way, your self-confidence will grow, you will get more friends, you will learn to relax, get a good sense of humour, and you will also not lose that special quality some women already like in you,” Moore advises.
If the masculine attributes to which you refer are to do with being a pursuer and seducer of women, be aware that deep, lasting relationships grow out of friendship and mutual respect. You say that you’re not attracted to women who don’t have “some feminine attributes”; perhaps your inability to move from friendship to coupleship is because you are limiting your view of what is feminine.
Maybe you are asexual and like being around women but don’t feel enthusiastic enough to be physically passionate. Or maybe you have had some awkward sexual experiences where passion didn’t ignite like it should, or where a woman rejected you.
Since some girls love you, you could choose one or two to share your concerns with openly. You have the advantage that women will talk to you about this stuff because most women like feminine men. If you fear feminine women aren’t attracted to you, you haven’t met the right one yet.