Episode 3 Navigating The Masculine & Feminine in All of Us

“Every human being has a masculine and feminine essence. Trouble brews when people start to weap onize these terms against each other in relationships. We all have masculine and feminine aspects, and it’s important to understand how to navigate these, especially in the realm of modern relationships.” — John Wineland

Today on The Embodied Relationship Experience:

  • Masculine and feminine energies present in everyone
  • Evolution of societal roles and expectations of masculinity and femininity
  • Common misunderstandings and misuse of masculine/feminine terms in relationships
  • Strategies to balance masculine/feminine energies for better relationships
  • How imbalances can lead to conflict, resentment, or dissatisfaction in partnerships

Connect with John:

There’s been this kind of rebalancing of our internal capacities and traits that has been incredibly healthy. The problem has come up in the relational space, where oftentimes the feminine attributes that a man cultivates are antithetical to what a feminine partner is attracted to and vice versa. So we have these relationships where there’s more equality than polarity. It often causes resentment, infidelity, and this quiet desire for something more from our partners.

Welcome back to the Embodied Relationship Experience Podcast. My name is John Weinland. Today, I want to dive into the topic of the masculine and feminine within all of us. It should go without saying—I think most people understand—that every human being has both a masculine and feminine essence, right? Where I see trouble brew is when people start to weaponize these terms against each other in relationships.

For example, I often hear women say, “How do I get him to be more masculine or in his masculine?” while men say, “I really want her to be in her feminine more.” They’re asking for the attributes of an individual’s masculine and feminine that they’re drawn to. It becomes troublesome when it’s used as a faux critique or complaint about how our partners are showing up. Most people understand that we all have both a masculine and feminine side, and it’s important to navigate this, especially in the realm of modern relationships.

Over the last 50 years or so, men have been cultivating their feminine side: their capacity to feel, intuit, flow, and express—all these beautiful feminine attributes that often come more naturally to a person who identifies more with their feminine side. Meanwhile, women have been cultivating their own masculine side in a certain way. They’ve been entering the workforce since the feminism of the 1970s, focusing on goals, meditation, and drive.

There’s been this rebalancing of internal capacities and traits that has been incredibly healthy. The problem has arisen in the relational space, where the feminine attributes that a man cultivates are antithetical to what a feminine partner is attracted to and vice versa. The masculine attributes that a woman cultivates are often less attractive to a masculine-identified man. So, we have relationships with more equality than polarity, often causing resentment, infidelity, and a quiet desire for something more from our partners.

I hear this frequently in the workshops I lead. What I really want to discuss today is the nuanced approach to understanding and navigating our internal masculine and feminine, and how this affects the internal masculine and feminine of our partners.

We’re at this stage of evolution where we’re becoming more balanced internally. Jung would call this owning our anima and animus in a healthier way, but it’s still vague. One of the questions I receive frequently is how to navigate these dynamics in relationships with our partners. Today, I want to unpack this topic as much as I can in the 45 minutes I have with you. I hope to provide tools that help you understand how your internal masculine operates, what it craves, how it expresses itself, and how it rests and gets nourished. Similarly, I’ll discuss how your internal feminine creates, expresses, and gets nourished.

I think the best place to start is by outlining what the feminine and masculine are within us. David Deida outlined the different stages of masculinity and femininity. Much of my model is based on his work, which described the first, second, and third stages of both the masculine and feminine. These stages have different traits and attributes. I’ve added my own insights based on my observations of relationships, where both partners now live in a fluid masculine and feminine experience.

Let’s start with the masculine. In the first stage, the masculine within us is concerned with gaining more freedom. This freedom could manifest as financial freedom, freedom to live a certain purpose, freedom of schedule, or freedom from demands. Just ask a mother of three if her masculine side craves time without demands; I guarantee she’ll say yes. So, we all possess these traits.

In the second stage, the healthy masculine is about creating healing spaces or containers for the collective, such as in a relationship. For instance, if there are issues in my relationship, my healthy masculine seeks therapy or workshops to help us. I aim to free love from conflicts or limitations by creating processes or containers to support it.

In the sacred stage, the masculine within me is inherently free. I’m open to what’s happening in front of me, embodying and transmitting freedom. I don’t need anything to be different to feel free.

Now, let’s discuss the feminine. The first stage of the feminine is self-centered, focused on how to receive love. This often looks like wanting a partner to act a certain way to feel more loved.

In the second stage, the healthy feminine focuses on the flow of love within the collective relationship. It aims for reciprocal love, often expressed through dialogue, feelings, or shared desires.

In the sacred stage, the feminine transcends personal preferences and focuses on what love itself demands. In this stage, love might compel someone to express frustration or desire uniquely, and it dictates action.

We’re constantly moving up and down these stages, from what “I want” to what “we want” and to what “love wants.”

To summarize, the masculine within us is consciousness itself, infinite and unchanging. The feminine is everything changing and experienced, the dance of life and energy. The quintessential dance between the masculine and feminine is fluid and gender-neutral. Identifying more with experience is being in the feminine; witnessing experience is being in the masculine. Integrating the two, combining full feeling with awareness, leads to healthy dynamics.

By understanding and practicing these principles, we can find a balance between self-centeredness, collective needs, and sacred desires. So, for me, learning to become—and I’m speaking as a man who’s masculine-identified and who knows he has a highly expressive, fiery, feminine emotional body—I have spent a lot of time practicing being a witness to my sensations and emotional bodies, and not being reactive to them. When I am in my first stage, I am reactive to my emotional experience. I’m so identified with the experience and with my emotions that they are what’s true; they are what’s real in my feminine. So, I do not have the capacity to take a beat.

When I’m in a more sacred masculine experience, I’m aware I’m having emotions. I’m now practicing things like breathing. I might be like, “Oo, starting to get hot. Let me take a breath.” In taking a breath, I become less attached to the experience and just a little more detached as a witness to the experience. “Wow, I’m aware I’m having this experience. It could go wrong, or I could really take a beat, take a couple more breaths, feel into what consciousness and love would ask of me in this experience, and then move from there.”

Okay, let’s take a look at this from the vista of a feminine-identified woman. A feminine-identified human is more identified with the experience they’re having. So, if they’re having emotions, then those emotions are the truth. If they’re having emotions, their experience and sensations around those emotions are the truth. If they’re having emotions and there are thoughts connected to those emotions—”He’s an a**hole, he’s always been an a**hole, he does this all the time”—then those thoughts are the truth. The more feminine-identified we are, the more the experience we’re having is the truth. I see this a lot in women.

One of the challenges I see, and often teach women to work with, is what happens if you step back from that experience. Just like I was talking about with myself and little Johnny, if you step back from that experience and tap into your internal masculine—your awareness—it doesn’t mean you don’t express the truth or feel the truth. You’re just stepping back to look at it.

A classic example of this is Byron Katie’s “The Work.” Byron Katie will ask us to look at beliefs. For those of you who know the work—a beautiful book, beautiful process—it’s incredibly masculine from the perspective that I’m stating here now. “Here’s a thought. I’m going to ask you to step back from this thought and examine it. Is it true?” Just asking that question gives you distance from the thought and often from the feelings you’re having.

One of the challenges I see with highly feminine-identified women, for example, is that their experience is the truth, and in many ways, it is. The problem happens when their masculine partner, for example, sees it and considers it a different truth. I mean, we’ve all had this experience where our truths and our realities are different.

But let me return to the internal experience. Another way to think about the internal masculine in a feminine-identified woman is the part of her that can hold space for her experience. Her sacred masculine is the part of her that can detach from experience enough to create space around it, to take a beat and hold it, and to witness it from a space of conscious awareness and examine it. This is often difficult the more feminine-identified any human is, because the more feminine-identified they are, the more the truth is what they’re experiencing.

Part of what we need to work with here, as we start to understand our internal masculine and feminine—no matter how we identify sexually or gender-wise—is to understand the part of us that is attached to experience and the part of us that can detach from experience and be a witness to it.

How might this work internally? One of the things I see with women who come to my workshops, and whom I’ve taught over the years, is that as they identify more and more with their feminine, they’re more expressed in the truth of their emotional bodies. It might be grief, held resentments, trauma, or fear. In practicing honoring their feminine more, they will step more into the expression because the feminine is the expression, the energy of being in that experience. The more they step into their feminine, the more they will be that experience. So, they will emote, cry, wail, or really own and honor their experience and what’s happening in their body and all the sensations that need to be expressed—and that’s beautiful.

But what often happens when they’re not in a held workshop space is that doing that at home will be very difficult and very destabilizing. Why? Because they haven’t cultivated their own internal sacred masculine or healthy masculine to hold this very deep emotional experience they’re having. For example, after a breakup, I will often encourage women to really feel the feelings, create a space—remember, the healthy masculine in all of us creates a space, a container where feelings can be expressed, love can be liberated, and the feminine in all of us can be honored. I often encourage women to go home, create a space, take 10 minutes in the morning, put on a song, light some candles, get on a sheepskin, and express. Give yourself permission. Let your healthy masculine create a container for your own feminine to express fully. That’s often a really helpful and beautiful experience, also very true for men.

Men who have feelings and emotions that they need, but the sacred masculine in her is the internal experience of being able to ground and hold internally her experience. It is the consciousness itself within her that is wider than the experience and isn’t changed. That’s the thing about the sacred masculine—it’s not changed by anything happening internally or externally. It’s always just there. It’s an absolute. Consciousness is an absolute; it just is. Life is an absolute, but it’s an absolute that is constantly in flow and constantly in flux.

So, learning to understand these parts of ourselves and create tools and rituals that give space for our feminine expression—for example, all expression is feminine—give space for what we’re feeling, give space for this kind of emotional experience of having a life and having a heart. These are all really important ways we can work with our internal masculine and feminine.

Let’s consider what integration looks like for every human, given we all have a masculine and feminine. Integration is going to look like the intersection of feeling and awareness. If I am having a desire, a full desire to make love or to be close to you or any of those things, I’m also bringing with that desire an awareness of time and space, of where we are, of where you are, of how you’re feeling right now, of where the kids are, for example, of what time of day it is, of how hard you’re working. I’m bringing awareness with my desire and also bringing awareness to myself.

So, rather than pretending I don’t have a desire and just locking it down, I’m bringing consciousness itself to the desire. “I’m having a desire to be close to you.” I’m literally meeting my desire with my own awareness and consciousness. I know that sounds so simple, but it’s a form of self-love that most people do not practice. Most people, when faced with needs, desires, or difficult emotions, will either blast them out—I see this in men and women—or clamp down on them, rather than bringing their conscious awareness to the sensations they’re having, to the feelings they’re having. This doesn’t take long. It could be 30 seconds to a minute of just feeling in your heart like, “Wow, I’m really longing to be close to my partner. Do I have to do anything about it right now? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe you share it, maybe you don’t.” But the integration happens when we, moment to moment—and again, this is moment to moment—bring consciousness to the sensation. Most often, that’s internal.

So, it’s a way that we’re bringing our innate masculine and feminine together within our unique human bodies in this unique present moment in this unique experience of being alive. By making that the first step, we’ve now got an integrated experience in the moment. So, we aren’t abandoning ourselves. We’re not pretending we’re not having feelings. We’re bringing loving consciousness and awareness to those feelings.

Now we get to feel into, from an integrated space, what we want to do with those feelings. If I’m in a first stage or self-centered state, I’m going to feel that integration, and I’m just going to do what I want. I’m just going to tell you, “Stop work right now and come home.” That might be the right call, might not be. If my orientation is more towards a healthy expression of that feeling or desire, then I’m going to communicate it to you. “Baby, maybe I text you at work. Maybe I’d really love for you to come home for lunch, and let’s… How do you feel about that? Would that work?” You communicate your desire in a healthy way.

In a sacred moment of expression—again, this is all coming from the place of integration first—in that healthy moment, you might feel there’s some artful and beautiful way for you to express the truth, in a way that liberates love in the moment. You might send your partner, rather than asking him to come home from work (which might be really difficult or almost impossible, let’s say your partner’s out of town), you can send them something right from this place of fully owning your desire. And when I say owning your desire, it just means you’re aware. You’re not running from the desire; you’re aware of the desire, you’re feeling the desire, you’re bringing awareness and feeling together, then you’re

So, you know, I might just get in a mood because I’m so attached to the experience. Watching ourselves as we go through our days, our relationships, and our lives, we really need to understand: “Whoa, am I getting so attached to the experience that I’ve lost my capacity to create space around it? Or am I seeking my own freedom so much that I detach too much from it? Or am I creating a healthy way to work with it, which is great—that’s healthy? Or am I tapping into something greater than myself by entering a state of integration and then allowing the question, ‘What would liberate more love? What would create more freedom?’ to drive my next move?”

This is a big, chewy topic, and of course, when we come to workshops, there’s a lot of time to dissect exactly what I mean in each individual instance. But I wanted to give you a pretty good take on how this works internally. Now, let’s take a look at how this would work in a relational space. Let’s take a look at that and flip the gender roles for a second. Let’s talk about his feminine and her masculine, as this is often a complaint or question that I get all the time.

So, let’s say you’re a masculine-identified man and your partner is feminine-identified, but she has a very strong masculine. She’s got a career, she’s driven, she’s super goal-oriented, and she’s in the typical masculine stereotype of driving, succeeding, getting things done, building stuff—you know what I mean? How might you work with that? I see this all the time, and men often struggle with it because, in that state of drive, if I’m masculine and she’s in her masculine, there’s not a lot of sexual juice there.

So, how do I work with that? In my self-centered masculine, I’m probably going to try to control or complain, or have some kind of reactive closure to not liking her in that state for too long. I’m going to want her to soften up, to be more in her feeling body, to be more juicy—you know what I mean? If I’m being self-centered, I’m going to want what I want from her.

If I’m in a healthy space—let’s say she walks in, and I can feel her being very linear and directed, in a pretty strong masculine state—I could try to help create a container that will help her transition from that to partner and maybe mother, and just kind of transition out of what she’s been holding and driving in her masculine all day into something that’s softer and more feminine, which is more who I know she is. So, I could run her a bath, give her a glass of wine, or sit down and be a space for her to share whatever her day was like, letting her empty whatever her day was like. In doing so, I’m creating a healthy environment, a healthy container, for her to transition from her masculine into her feminine.

Let’s say I’m in a more sacred or artful spot. I’m integrated in the moment, meaning I’m feeling what I’m feeling—whatever that is, frustration, maybe a little anxiety—but I’m also conscious. I’m not attached to it, so I’m not going to react when we’re attached to something. When we’re not attached to something, we take a beat, we take some space to it, and we give ourselves space to make a different choice. I think most of us understand that.

So, let’s say my partner walks in from work; she’s super linear, directed, really in her masculine, very much in a space that is kind of harder. What could I do with my body, my heart, my practice, let’s call it, that would artfully help her transition from that state into a more feminine state? This is assuming, of course, that this would serve her and the relationship. For example, if she’s coming home from work like that but I know she’s got three more hours of work to do, transitioning her out of that state into another state is not going to be helpful for her. But assuming that her transition is good for her and her body and her heart, and what she would probably appreciate anyway, then my artful approach is usually spot on. Sometimes you’ll make mistakes, and sometimes it won’t be, but more often than not, your intuitive hit is right.

She walks in the house, and I’m feeling the experience. If I am connected to consciousness, that field of awareness that’s witnessing experience, I am in a sacred masculine, integrated sacred masculine space. She’s coming in, she’s in a different sort of masculine, one that I would consider a little more in the self-directed state. So, I’m actually out-masculining her by being more aware and more spacious internally. I hope that makes sense; this is all very energetic, and I’ve just seen it enough times to know that it’s true.

In that space, I wait. I feel her; I feel the experience; I feel where she’s at; I feel where I’m at. I’m kind of a yes to wherever this moment is, and then I get to allow for some kind of inspiration of what would make this moment even better. What would liberate more love in this moment? What would liberate more freedom in this moment? What would elevate consciousness in this moment? I don’t know what that would look like. Maybe it looks like me taking the books or the briefcase off of her, setting it down, giving her a glass of wine. Maybe it looks like me calling her over, “Come sit down. Tell me about your day.” Maybe I come up to her, press my belly into her, give her a hug, and just take a few breaths with her, helping to downregulate her nervous system. Maybe I’m playful with her, do something playful or funny, or tussle with her a bit. But the idea is that I’m coming from a place of trying to make art. I’m not coming from a place of reactivity. I’m not coming from a place of wanting my partner to be different in this moment. I’m saying, “Here’s where my partner is. Let me feel this moment in me and in her, in this space fully, and just allow for something that liberates love, celebrates love, elevates consciousness to emerge as an inspiration in me.” That is practicing the sacred masculine with my feminine partner’s masculine, if this makes sense—and it does for most people.

Let’s flip it. Let’s say your masculine partner is in a highly emotional state, just really hurt, maybe something you did, maybe something someone else did, who knows, but he’s in a highly emotional state. He’s more identified with his feminine; he doesn’t have the capacity in that moment to take space and create a kind of feel-consciousness holding his emotion because he’s so in them that he is them. That’s a good way to look at when we’re highly in our feminine—we are our experience, we are our emotion.

You, as his feminine partner, could do a couple of things. In this instance, maybe it’s better for you to activate your spacious, conscious masculine or your healthy masculine and create a container for him to be fully expressed. Because the feminine in all of us just wants to be expressed and seen, if you’re in your masculine helping him be expressed and seen and held in his deep emotion, in his feminine, his deep emotional experience, you are now activating your own healthy and sacred masculine.

So, that might look like something like, “Wow, my love, I can see you’re super upset. Do you want to take just two or three minutes and just tell me, just dump it out? I’m just going to sit here and hold space for you, and you just get it out.” What have you done in that moment? Your healthy masculine is creating a container for his feminine—it might be wild feminine; he might be super emotional—but you’re creating a container. “Wow, take a couple of three minutes and just dump it out. What are you upset about? Is it about me, life, whatever?” And you’re holding space for that. You’ve now entered the realm of a healthy masculine partner, even though you are a woman who is primarily feminine-identified. You following me on this?

And right, you’re activating that tool. My partner is really good at this. So, let’s say you are feeling more. You’re coming from this place of “What would make art? How could we make this moment sacred?” This experience: he’s upset; I’m integrated; I’m feeling my feelings, and I’m also bringing awareness, conscious awareness, to this moment through my body. I’m integrated. How do I make this moment sacred? And you sit with that. Who knows what’s going to come to you? That’s the thing: there’s no formula for this stuff. This is about you dropping into a state and allowing something greater, a deeper form of inspiration, to come through you.

So that might look like, “My love, I’m going to get a pillow, and you are going to beat that pillow and get all of this out until you collapse on the floor.” You are now helping him fully express. Maybe he expresses all the things; maybe he just pounds on the pillow and then drops into tears and expresses some deep ache or pain in his heart. A lot of men really need this, to be totally honest with you. You’ve just now taken a moment and made it more sacred, meaning you’ve freed love, you’ve freed expression, you’ve freed consciousness, you’ve freed what was sort of trapped in him by helping to guide him to the space of fully expressing and owning what he was feeling while staying present and connected.

This is an example of how artfully working with the different states—masculine and feminine, integrated—can make a huge difference. It can be a gift to yourself and to your partner. I think that this is very much the invitation for all of us as we begin to integrate, not just learn the tactics, but really integrate into this way of being where we can artfully give our partners exactly what would help them be free. Does that make sense to you all?

Now, that’s an example of how to artfully work with different states and how each of these states can be brought together in a creative way. So, let’s summarize this a bit. If you’re in a relationship and you’re noticing your partner in their masculine or feminine state, or maybe both, your practice is to start noticing your own state first. Where are you at, internally? Are you feeling your emotions deeply or are you noticing a spacious awareness around them? Are you feeling spacious and able to create a container to hold this space, or are you reactive and unable to allow for a response that would liberate love?

From there, you can ask yourself what the situation calls for. Do you need to create a healthy container for your partner? Do you need to allow your partner to be more expressed, to express themselves more fully, while you hold that space for them in love?

This dance is ongoing, and it requires constant practice and awareness. Some days you’ll do it well, and other days you might find yourself reacting in a way that closes your partner off. But remember, the practice is about showing up, being aware, and being present in the moment. The rest will unfold naturally with time.

Thanks for being here with me today. I hope this was helpful, and I look forward to hearing how you’re working with this practice in your own relationships.

I also invite you to come to the Embodied Relationship Experience if you want to get more of this or want to dive into some of the practices that I talk about here. If you’d like to learn more, the book I published last year, ‘From the Core,’ goes deeply into the integrated masculine and feminine. So, if you want more on that, you can check out that book as well.

Otherwise, I’ll see you next time. Thanks for joining us.

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