How do you embody masculinity in a way that creates more connection and passion in your relationship? How do you avoid the stereotypes, while still getting the benefit of positive polarity in your relationship? Is there even a point to talking about “masculine” vs. “feminine” (and if so, what is it?)? Today’s episode is a conversation with Shana James, men’s coach and host of the Man Alive podcast. We take apart the myths of what it means to be a “real man” – and explore how you can get beyond what you’re “supposed to” be, uncover the true you, and bring all of you to your relationship. Learn how to break out of the box in a way that keeps you connected to the people who matter most.

Please enjoy this week’s episode, with Shana James, on Relationship Alive!

Click here to receive the Transcript for Shana James and Masculinity

Resources:

Here is a link to Relationship Alive episode 20, my first conversation with Shana James on Sparking Passion through Generosity and Authenticity

Visit Shana James’s website to check out the Man Alive podcast AND pick up her free guide to the Unknown Skill that helps men succeed in life, career, and relationships.

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visit http://www.neilsattin.com/128 to download the transcript for this episode, or text the word “PASSION” to the number 33444.

Transcript:

Neil Sattin: All right. Hello and welcome to another episode of …

Shana James: Man Alive, and welcome to another episode of …

Neil Sattin: Relationship Alive. We are your hosts …

Shana James: Neil Sattin.

Neil Sattin: And Shana James, and we’re here today to talk about some really important topics that we each wanted to cover on our respective podcasts, and so we thought, “Why not …”

Shana James: Become each other and do it together.

Neil Sattin: Right. We will merge like you’re not supposed to do, but why don’t we come together and talk about it, and so we have it for each of our shows?

Shana James: I love it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: I love it. Yeah. We’ve been really going back and forth around this idea of the stereotypical masculine and some frameworks out there that in some ways have been really helpful for men, and have had men step into more of their power, and confidence, and have deeper connections, and in other ways have, what might you say, pushed men into shame, and feeling wrong, and feeling they’re out of one box and into another box, and feeling confined, and so really wanting to look at if we are going to take on or if men are going to take on a kind of archetype or ideas of masculinity. How can they be played with versus … How did you say it? Versus constricting or something like that?

Neil Sattin: Constricting. Yeah. Yeah, and this question too of whenever, if you’re feeling like you should be some way, whatever way that is, how’s that going to impact you? How’s that going to impact your relationships, and because my show, like …

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: This is interesting because my show is all focused on relationship, and Shana, your show is called ‘Man Alive’, so it’s all about this question of how men can step into who they are.

Shana James: Yeah. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: I was wondering before we got on, I was thinking like, “Is there a difference when …? Is there something about men stepping into who they are where that could in and of itself get in the way in relationship?”

Shana James: Interesting, so the question being if men are themselves for lack of a more specific way to say it right now. Right? Like if a man actually discovers who he is, his own needs, his desires, his truth, that it could actually get in the way of a relationship?

Neil Sattin: That was the question.

Shana James: That’s the question.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I say that because when I’m looking at a lot of …

Shana James: Interesting.

Neil Sattin: I like the word you used, ‘Framework’, so I’m looking at some of the frameworks that are becoming more and more popular now as a way of I think reeling ourselves back from men and women being the same, and so trying to reclaim some of the polarity and the difference, and the beards I guess.

Shana James: Yeah. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: As I look at that, I can see that there’s a lot in that that actually does help us, men … I’m just speaking for myself here, step into more of who we are. In fact, I even grew this out a little bit for our conversation.

Shana James: “This” being “a beard” because some people are not watching this…

Neil Sattin: Right. My beard. Right. You might not be watching, so I grew my beard out. That’s an important thing to note.

Shana James: Yes.

Neil Sattin: That being said, when you start talking about what’s involved in people actually relating to each other, then I don’t think that those answers necessarily are long-term solutions. They could provide short-term solutions, but over the-

Shana James: The answers of like, “Here’s how to be a more masculine, or more of a man?”

Neil Sattin: Here’s how to be more of a man. Yeah. Yeah.

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Take charge, buy a gun, grow a beard, drive your truck, and own all of the archetypal or really stereotypical manly things.

Shana James: This is so interesting because hearing you say that, I’m like, “Oh, that wasn’t the frameworks I was talking about about being a man.” I was thinking more of the frameworks of David Deida and some other people out there who talk about a kind of masculine power that has to do with presence and solidity that I’m getting a little tongue in cheek in the way I’m saying this, but I do think they’re actually really powerful ways that a man or a woman … I mean, we could talk about it. Right? Masculine and feminine to me doesn’t mean man, woman, but yeah, so probably important that you and I get on the same page. Are we actually talking about the same frameworks or do we have different frameworks we’re thinking of?

Neil Sattin: I think that’s why it’s so important that we have this conversation, and of course, I was being a little facetious about the gun and the pick-up truck, and the beard for that matter, and you might be able to hear there’s a plow actually.

Shana James: Yeah. Yes.

Neil Sattin: I wish I were driving that plow. It feels so much more masculine as well.

Shana James: Manly than sitting here, doing a podcast.

Neil Sattin: Right. Right, or, “Why’d I get the plow? I should be out there shoveling like a real man.”

Shana James: Right. The whole idea of being a real man. See, my sense-

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: Right? This is where it gets confusing. I think a lot of the frameworks out there … My sense is that their intention in some of these more conscious realms and tantra and personal growth is to help men step away from some kind of box of, “Here’s what you have to be to be a man”, and yet, I think they have a negative spin sometimes where men take it on as, “Oh, now I’m supposed to do this to be a man. Right now, I’m supposed to be more present.”

Neil Sattin: Right.

Shana James: “Now, I’m supposed to lead. I have to lead every action.”

Neil Sattin: Exactly.

Shana James: Right?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. “I’m supposed to lead. I’m supposed to open my woman” if we’re talking about a heterosexual relationship…

Shana James: If we’re talking heterosexual.

Neil Sattin: Right, and there’s no room for me to be uncertain or vulnerable, or weak, or … Yeah.

Shana James: Which is so interesting because a lot of the work that I do with men is around how to be able to bring vulnerability, shame, weakness, desire, whatever our weaknesses and what I think makes me weak, but in a more powerful way, which again, I think could be confusing, but in a way, the way I describe it is like, “I have these vulnerable parts of me, and ultimately, I know I’m a good person or I’m a good man.” Like, “I know there’s more to me. I know that these things don’t make me unlovable or unworthy, and so I can bring these forward in relationship” or in another, any kind of relationship, but let’s say also romantic relationship with a partner, and not fall into, “I need you to tell me I’m okay. I need you to tell me I’m good enough. I need you to fix me or make me feel better about myself.”

Neil Sattin: Right. Right. There is that sense of, how do you enter a relationship without either partner feeling like, “Wow. You’re here to save me”, and whatever that translates into, if it’s one partner needing to be the hero of the relationship or one person needing to be the caretaker of the relationship?

Shana James: Right, and they’re needing to be saved.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: Then, what is it like to come into a relationship knowing that there’s potential for healing and growth without needing to fix or save each other? Right? That to me is a kind of mastery. Can we love each other through these challenging moments of vulnerability for both of us, whatever gender we are? That’s one end of the spectrum.

Shana James: That to me feels a little bit more like the Yin or a certain kind of foundation of connection, and then, you also mentioned earlier, polarity. Right? Then, how do we keep that spark alive also?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and this is an important place as well because I think the reason that the more stereotypical kinds of frameworks hold so much power is if you’re in a relationship where that’s not happening at all, then you can hear that and feel like, “That’s exactly what’s missing. I need that.” Whether it’s, “I need to be led and opened”, like, “I’m tired of making all the decisions”, or, “I’m tired of your” whatever it is, or it’s like, “Yeah, I need to step more into that powerful presence. For some reason, I’ve been scared to do that, or I’ve been holding back because I’m not feeling confident in expressing myself that way.”

Shana James: Yeah. Right.

Neil Sattin: If that’s place you’re in, and then you hear someone’s saying like, “Yeah. Step into your power and lead, and be opened” or whatever it is, then it can be like, “Wow. What a relief!” Like, “Yes, let’s do that.”

Shana James: Right. It gives permission in a way like, “Oh, I can lead and I can take charge, and I don’t have to be that asshole I saw my dad be or some other men in the past who were doing it without care for other people.” I’ve definitely seen that help men feel more empowered.

Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah, and-

Shana James: And, or, but.

Neil Sattin: It’s like … Two things come to mind. One is that it could certainly infuse some energy into a situation that that feels stale or stagnant, like where it’s just you need something to get the whole thing moving, but on the flip side, there is this question, and this is something I’ve talked about on my show, you’ve probably talked about it on yours, of as soon as we’re stepping into roles or scripts of how we’re supposed to be, that actually can kill the things that create juice in a relationship that are about being in the moment, being spontaneous, owning who you are, which to me, doesn’t have anything to do with whether my wife can hold my beard while we’re having sex.

Shana James: Yeah. Right. You mean that metaphorically? What does holding your beard mean?

Neil Sattin: I was just imagining like I’ve grown out this big beard. I don’t have a big beard like that, but it’s like just saying, “Yeah”, that there’s a point where even if we’re wearing the costume that we’re supposed to be wearing, and presenting the way we’re supposed to be presenting, that there’s a place where that play will be satisfying, but if you watch the same play over and over and over again, it’s going to get old.

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: If you’re in that play over and over again, it’s going to get old.

Shana James: Yeah. It’s getting old, or if you’re in a play, that I do believe that some fake it until you make it can actually work. Right? It can jump-start the engine let’s say, or it can give us access to certain parts of us whether it’s in the realm of leading or surrendering our vulnerability that we haven’t had before, and it can be a tricky line. Right?

Shana James: Like, “When is it faking it until I’m making it, and when is it that I’m just continuing to fake it?”, because anywhere I think where we keep doing something because we’re supposed to, I mean, maybe that’s the heart of it. Right? It’s like, “Oh, I am supposed to do this thing”, versus, “When I do it, I feel more”, and this might take some describing, but like, “I feel more aligned in myself. I feel more alive. I feel more true.”

Shana James: “I feel more open. I feel more joyous. I feel more vital.” Right? Like, “Where is it that we put these roles in as a “supposed to” as opposed to, “I’m going to try on this role”, or, “I’m going to put on a new costume and see how does it fit with me. Does it give me more access to my voice, and my truth, and my power, or does it have me feel stilted and constrained?”

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and you can come at it from the other angle too where authenticity can also be a trap.

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Perhaps you’ve seen this where someone feels like, “Oh, I’m just being me.”

Shana James: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Like, “It’s me to not take the initiative ever in bed.”

Shana James: Right.

Neil Sattin: I don’t know why we keep talking about bed, but let’s just say-

Shana James: It’s a concrete example.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Sure, and mine is right over there, so I keep looking at it, but yeah. Authenticity can also be a trap, and there’s that question of, “How do you be authentic without being held back by your authenticity as its own prescription or role?”

Shana James: Right.

Neil Sattin: I’m thinking about how you and I even met.

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: I can’t remember if we spoke about this in the episode that we did together for the Relationship Alive Podcast. We may have addressed it, but Shana, you were coaching for the Authentic Man Program, and I saw you in a video, and I thought, “I want to be her friend.” That’s like the ultra condensed version of the story, but I was in a place where I was married to my first wife, and really unhappy, and trying to figure out why I was so unhappy.

Shana James: Right.

Neil Sattin: That was how I came across Authentic Man Program.

Shana James: Right.

Neil Sattin: I was thinking about that as I was pondering this conversation that we were going to have, and thinking like, “Right. We came to know each other in this realm of not putting on anything fake, like learning how to be present, learning how to give attention in a way, where you’re not losing yourself, learning how to stand in who you are.”

Shana James: Yeah. Right. When I think about the Authentic Man Program and all the work I’ve done with men and you’ve done with people, I mean, I don’t want to speak for you, but there is a paradox or an overlap or a something between helping, for me, helping support men to find their authenticity, and I guess I probably have a bias or a belief that authenticity is not … What did you say? Something about like never making decisions, or like that authenticity is not a lack of energy, or a lack of life force in me.

Shana James: I think I have a bias or a belief that authenticity is a kind of fullness of life force and that that could be sadness, that could be anger, that could be joy, but that ultimately, there is this sense of, “When I check in with myself, I feel good about the choices I’m making, I have access to create what I want to create.” Not that I should be creating something or you should be creating something in particular, but that I know that I can create what I want, and so if a man comes and he’s … I’ve often said this, like some men have more of a heart-based, and some men, there’s humor, and other men, there’s just intellect that is through the roof, and other men, there’s more of like this mysterious quality, and I don’t try to steer men toward one way or like a cookie-cutter mold, but more to find what is your unique expression.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. I appreciate that, that there’s not this sense that anyone of those things is necessarily bad, though when anyone of those things is running the show, that’s where you end up disconnected or you lose access to parts of you that help you connect.

Shana James: Yes. Exactly. Exactly.

Neil Sattin: We’re talking about it in this realm of connection, and that’s where I tend to dance is like, “Okay. If I’m coming to you and I’m …” I mean, it’s maybe a little easier when you think about like, “I’m angry”, or “I’m really sad about something”, but I want to even think like, “What if I were really depressed and exhausted?”

Shana James: Right.

Neil Sattin: “What if I were spent?” This is like stretching what we’re talking about a little bit because that is maybe a state where you’re not in your energy, in your power.

Shana James: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: How do you be authentically that while I’m depleted, but in relationship, how do you bring that so that it is a force that connects you, so even if you’re depleted, you’re still able to be with the person that you’re with?

Shana James: I love that. Right, and then it doesn’t have to be the most passionate connection or the most exciting connection in that moment, but it might be more of a tender or a quiet connection. I love what you’re saying. I just had a thought, which may have flown out of my mind when you said about being depressed or … It’s like … Right.

Shana James: How do … Maybe there’s something in here about, “I’m trying to be something so someone else will want me, or love me, or believe in me”, versus, “Oh, I feel depleted right now. I feel depleted right, and I still care about you”, or even in a work context. “I feel depleted right now, and I’m still here committed to getting this job done or something”, but is there a way that we don’t have to hide what’s really going on, and at the same time, how do we bring those parts of ourselves in a way that creates more connection rather than pushes someone away? What might be the most authentic thing in that moment is, “Actually, I need some space. I need to move away from you, but I still believe we can do it in a connected way.”

Neil Sattin: Yeah, which bumps right up against the men need their space kind of mentality, that that’s somehow part of the masculine archetype is taking space and going into your cave to figure shit out, and if you don’t, now you’re what?

Shana James: Right. Right.

Neil Sattin: I don’t know. You’ve been, you’re more feminine because you want to-

Shana James: I was going to say a pussy, and I hate when people say that, but it’s like I think that is this idea or …

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: Then, in some realms where I’ve seen men learn, “Okay. Don’t bring your struggles to a woman or to a partner”, and again, I see the paradox of if we bring all of our struggles to our primary partner, I think that can create a heaviness and a feeling of like, “Oh, God.” We’re always going to be struggling together, but if you don’t bring anything to your partner, then you don’t know each other, and it’s all based on this more surface experience to get there.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and you missed the opportunity of pooling your resources with your partner, and sometimes, that one of you is depleted and the other of you carries the weight, and that’s not gender-dependent or spectrum-dependent, but that’s-

Shana James: Right. Yeah. Right, and I-

Neil Sattin: Go ahead.

Shana James: No, no. You go.

Neil Sattin: I was just going to say, so it’s a dynamic, and the question for me is, “How do you …?”

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: When you’re talking about polarity, the whole point is to create a dynamism in your connection, so how do you keep things dynamic?

Shana James: Yes.

Neil Sattin: You don’t do it by necessarily being the same way all the time. That’s for sure.

Shana James: Right. I like that you just went back to, “What’s the point?” Right? “What’s the why? What are we going for here?”, versus I’ve learned the art of setting context for something.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: Right? Like, “I’d like to try leading you around for the next 10 minutes because I want to see what it feels like in my body to unapologetically take control while still being connected to you in your heart and what’s good for you”, versus a lack of context, which is just like, “I want to try taking on this role. I want to lead you around.” There’s a way I think when we know for ourselves why we’re doing something, and when we can communicate it to others, it puts us I think in a deeper place of connection of, “Oh, now we’re more on the same team, we’re trying something out together, we have a sense of why we’re doing what we’re doing”, and then I think if you have a why, there could be endless number of “hows” to get there, versus, I’m going to focus on, “What’s the correct how?”

Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah.

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I like that. I like how what you’re talking about sounds so collaborative because that’s another relationship problem where each person feels like they’re alone in their silo to try and figure out how the hell to make a change or make a difference, or like they just got to figure it out.

Shana James: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Neil Sattin: That can sometimes really feel true when you’re in relationship with someone who’s a little shut-down and who doesn’t want to have the conversation about like, “I don’t want to be invited into leading you”, or “I don’t want to be invited into being led by you”. That sounds scary, or, “I’m not even there.”

Shana James: Right, and that could be a whole another conversation like, “What do you do?” Maybe you’ve probably … I imagine you’ve addressed this in your podcast. What do you do when you have a partner who doesn’t feel willing or isn’t wanting to stretch, or grow, or expand, or change things if there’s something that you’re wanting? I mean, that’s a whole another ball of wax we could get into.

Neil Sattin: It’s one thing about I think what we were talking about before we officially started, which is conscious relationship, and how our relationships really do require something different, and this is something I think about a lot because I work with a lot of couples where one of them is in that situation, and the question does come up for me, like, “Does this mean that there are a lot of partnerships that really aren’t destined to stay together because one is just going to be on a growth path, and the other one isn’t and has no interest?”

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: For me, that balances out with having experienced actually that even that –  even like having a foundation of like, “Yeah. I want to be a better person” – there are times when I don’t feel like changing. There are times where I’m stuck in who I am.

Shana James: Right. Right.

Neil Sattin: There are times where Chloe, my wife, where she will say, point out something that is represents an old pattern of mine, and I’m irritated, and I don’t want to do anything about it, so there is space in a situation that feels hopeless if you can stay engaged, and that’s really the art of what you’re talking about. It’s like – How do you show up even then in a way that doesn’t become about, “You should be growth-oriented because otherwise, how are we going to have a conscious relationship” that doesn’t become that, because now it’s just become oddly confining, even though it’s about growth and change?

Shana James: Yeah. Right.

Neil Sattin: I mean, at some point, you got to be able to figure out like, “All right. Are our values aligned enough that we’re on this journey together, or are they not?”

Shana James: Back to values. Yeah. Yeah. I just did a conversation last week that where we got into … Right. What are each person’s values and how often people don’t necessarily know their values.

Shana James: I mean, I remember doing some coaching before I got married, and we did some values conversations and where our values were differing and where they were the same and overlapped, and yeah. In some ways, we still ended up getting divorced, and we both I think are on a path of growth, but a different kind of growth, or then we had a kid and all kinds of things started to show up. I think I also want to speak a word to the complicated nature of relationships, and in our culture, it can seem like if you don’t stay together with someone, it’s a failure, but I’m also aware that now, we’re … I don’t know. We’re on a different topic in a way of conscious relationship, and what is conscious relationship, or how do we stay connected?

Shana James: How do we collaborate? How do we be on the same team? Maybe it’s all still … I think it all still is connected, but also, this idea of how to not get stuck in a stereotypical masculine role as we’re becoming more conscious maybe.

Neil Sattin: Right. I think where I start to get a little nervous is where these frameworks, as you’ve been talking about for masculinity, where they potentially become problematic, where they’re actually if you’re not bringing consciousness to them, then they become the source of problems –  and I can’t help but think at the moment of, “#Metoo”, and just how much of that is about  – more like this shadow masculinity. Right?

Shana James: Then, it’s like are we talking about like unconsciously masculine or consciously masculine, because I think the unconscious or the box of kind of cultural definition of masculine is be strong, be powerful, go after what you want, don’t apologize.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Shana James: At the same time, I know a lot of men, especially men who come to me, who have had really loving women in their lives, and they’ve been taught to be nice, and be good, and not overstep their bounds, and be respectful, and I think it has often put men in a bind like, “Wait. I’m supposed to be strong and powerful and not admit to any weakness. Wait, but then, I’m supposed to be kind, and loving, and caring, and what the fuck do I do now, and how do I actually express myself, or how do I share my needs and desires, let alone, even get them met?”, and so I think the next step … I don’t know. Maybe this is arrogant to say or too conclusive, but it feels like there’s a step in masculine evolution where, and sometimes the way I talk about it is head, heart and sex or head, heart and balls balance.

Shana James: Right? This way of both heart and love and care and sexuality being the dials turned up in a way to a hundred percent. Like I don’t know if I give up my heart and my care to be very powerful or sexual or confidence, and then I think men can get out in the world in a powerful way, and co-create or collaborate – versus the false power I see, which is, “I don’t feel powerful, so I’m going to try and take because I think that’s the only way I could get it.”

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. What I like to add if this fits into people’s paradigms in that “head, heart, balls” is also your connection to “spirit.”

Shana James: Totally. I’ve been realizing that lately, that I’m like, “Oh, it’s missing that fourth piece.”

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and how that fuels your connection to something greater.

Shana James: Yeah. Yes.

Neil Sattin: You’re being part of the whole, how we’re actually connected to other beings.

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: It becomes a lot more challenging to do things that are, let’s just call it since you did it earlier beautifully, the unconscious masculine. It becomes a lot more challenging to do that if you’re aware, if you’re conscious of “Oh, we’re actually connected, so why would I do that to you?”

Shana James: Right. Right. Right.

Neil Sattin: Why would I act upon you instead of bringing some ferocity in that still is able to be WITH you?

Shana James: Right. Right, and I think some of my favorite experiences of a man’s expression of power, they really come with this, there’s an intensity like you said or sometimes ferocity, but sometimes just an intensity. An intensity of loving or an intensity of passion, and it’s so clear to me that I’m cared about and that they want something good for me too, and yeah. I love bringing in the soul element, because in the soul, in my experience, there isn’t really a masculine, feminine. It’s more of this pure just being.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and it also, like as you were saying that, I started to feel like, “Right”, and there’s a difference between, “I’m with you so that I can get my needs met” versus, “We’re together so that we can get our needs met”, and how that changes the dynamic.

Shana James: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Then, it’s not like you were saying earlier, it’s not about taking what you need.

Shana James: Yes.

Neil Sattin: It’s about, “How are we going to get this together?”

Shana James: Right, which I’m wondering, okay, if we bring that back into this stereotypical masculinization or idea of masculine, whether it’s in a business context or a relationship context or a family context, when there is a sense of a man getting his own, that his own needs and desires are valuable, valued, important, and that so is “the other’s” needs and desires. I just, I wonder then how that impacts, and how to move beyond like I was saying before, this conflict of, “Wait. I’m supposed to be the rock. I’m not supposed to have any vulnerability. I’m supposed to be nice and take care of others”, and I do see this next stepping stone or next evolution of, “Oh, I can be powerfully grounded in myself, value myself, believe in my own self-worth, and also share I feel really vulnerable right now, and I feel moved to tears right now, or I feel really sad that there’s something happening in this relationship that it’s painful for me, or something I’m not getting that I don’t know if I need to get it from you or not, but I’m not feeling loved, I’m not feeling affection, I’m not …” Those things.

Shana James: Right? Can we actually come to the table and, I think express a kind of powerful vulnerability, or that vulnerability itself to me is power.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. I want your opinion on something, and at the same time, let’s try to shift our conversation, if we can, to get … let’s see how practical we can get”, because I don’t know that this is going to be practical, but let’s-

Shana James: Yeah. Okay. Let’s see.

Neil Sattin: This is the question. The question is, “Why even talk about masculine and feminine?”, because in my experience if two people come together and they’re willing to be in who they are to be impacted by each other, to speak to that, and sometimes that “speaking” is the voice, but other times it’s how you touch, how you … It could be anything. Right? It’s not just like blah, blah, “We’re going to talk about it”, but if two people are doing that, that’s where the energy is, and it’s not necessarily about leading or following.

Shana James: Being more masculine.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Exactly. It’s actually about what it feels like to be more real, and we got, like I’m somehow back at that authenticity piece. It’s just like be authentic with your partner, and there you are.

Shana James: Right.

Neil Sattin: You’re going to find your way into masculine, feminine. I’m just looking inside, like sometimes, you might be more like the tree, or the snowflake, or the squirrel, or the bear, or-

Shana James: Or the root of the tree, or the leaves of the tree. Right.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: Right. If we actually let go of, “I’m supposed to be some way that is either feminine or masculine”, would things just take shape in an easier way?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: Then, I think the question of authenticity though can be so confusing for people because at least from my perspective, we’ve all been conditioned from such a young age that it’s hard to know what’s authentic, like what’s true for us, but in the context, I found myself saying this recently, like I feel like an explorer. I love to explore dynamics and the inner world and the outer world, and, “What happens if I do this, and how will you react if I do that?” Yeah. I wonder if there’s a context of play, and I don’t know that I have an answer for this, but I like the idea of taking on experiments and time-bound experiments, and so for those who are in relationship, what might it be like for a day or a week to say, “You know what? I’m going to let go of any ideas of masculine, feminine, anything, and I’m just going to see what I feel moved to do.”

Shana James: Some of that might be scary. Right? Some of that might feel like, “This is really awkward or uncomfortable, but I’m noticing I feel moved to cry in your arms even though I don’t even know if I can, or I’m noticing I feel moved to take you into the bedroom and have my way with you”, or like any of those things, man, woman, masculine, feminine aside. That could be a really interesting experiment, and the opposite could be interesting too, or opposite being like, “What if we really put attention on a masculine or a feminine dynamic, and what if we each took on the other?” I don’t know that I have any concrete answers, but I think in practical terms, to become an explorer and to see what brings me more energy, and vitality, and excitement, and connection in the moment feels like an interesting way to go for me.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. There’s something about when you said, “Let’s each be the other.”

Shana James: The other.

Neil Sattin: What that sparked in me was, “Right – That makes a ton of sense” because if I’m going to be more feminine, let’s say in that context, hanging out with Chloe, then the odds are that I’m going to do it in a way that on some level, I’m looking for – that I feel is lacking. It’s almost like if she were to be like, “Tell me how to be a woman. I don’t really know”, or, “Tell me how to be a man. I don’t know what you’re missing. I’m just being me.”

Neil Sattin: Like, “Show me”, and I could see that being valuable that there’s some potential for it to feel … Like you got to be in the spirit of play.

Shana James: Exactly. Right.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. You don’t want to be in the spirit of being critical or judgmental, or, “I’m going to show you what I’ve been missing from you, but-“

Shana James: Right. Right. What if it’s just about me? It’s not about what I’ve been missing with us. It’s more like, “Oh, do I let myself …

Shana James: When I look at the whole spectrum of how I could express myself and what I could do and say, where are the places I’m not thinking it’s okay to go? For some people, for a lot of people, that’s anger. For me, I’ve also noticed it’s joy. I hold back my joy. If someone else feels less joyful than me, I feel a little guilty feeling joy or playful, and I have seen that for other people too, so again, maybe another practical way is starting to consider, and you could do this even with a partner or a friend, like, “Where do I see you holding back from what could be called a ‘Natural expression’?”, and that with anger, we don’t have to take our anger out on someone or blame or attack someone, but at the end of my last relationship, I had this really interesting experience where I started getting a little more frustrated, and at the end, he said something like, “I don’t think you’re as nice as you think you are.”

Shana James: I said, “That’s totally true actually. I believe you. I try to be nicer than I am, and there are things that bothered me that I don’t speak to, and I try to just shove under the rug”, because I’m like, “Oh, that’s not a big deal.” Then, it’ll come back out later, but when I went to one of my teachers and I told her that, she laughed and she said, “Actually, I think you’re nicer than you think you are.” It was just this really brilliant counterpoint where she was pointing out like, “That in my soul, I actually am really loving”, and it was my ego or my identity that started getting contracted and started reacting in certain ways, and if I throw all that away, there’s this way of like, “Oh, how can I give voice to all of those parts of myself, whether it’s nice or not nice, or …?”

Shana James: You know what I mean, and play with that in the spirit of play like you said so that we have more choice, not because now, I’m supposed to be a certain way, but so that we have more choice and freedom to be who we are?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. Just to be clear, I wasn’t saying that we should embody what we want in our partner. I was just postulating that.

Shana James: That that could happen.

Neil Sattin: Maybe what emerges is that because our idea of what that other is – if it’s something we’re wanting from our, more of from our partner, then we’re going to show it in the way that we’ve been wanting.

Shana James: Yeah. Yes. Right. That could be very interesting.

Neil Sattin: That could go for, like you could decide, “I’m going to play in the realm of being more like a tree”. Like what is it like to be the grand oak that lives for hundreds of years for the next week, and what kind of perspective does that give me if I bring that to our interactions versus like, “Yeah. I’m going to be the sapling that just grew and is new, and bendy, and playful?”

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: It’s a totally different … You can play with … I mean, who says you have to be masculine and feminine? You could be any of these things in the spirit of trying out a new repertoire, and it’s something that you can do on your own without telling your partner.

Shana James: Right. Yeah. I like that.

Neil Sattin: If they are tuned in, they might be like, “What are you doing? Why are you standing there with your arms out stretched all the time?”

Shana James: I love that. I’m just wondering too as we’re wrapping up if there’s anything we each feel called to say, and maybe … I mean, I feel moved to continue exploring this and see if there are anymore practical ways to apply this because I think this has been a very, in some ways, a roundabout conversation, but I like conversations and that it brings up … It has us question our norms and structures and ways that we’ve held ourselves and thought we had to be, and somehow, I just felt called to what you said of these ways we think we’re supposed to be and, yeah, what it’s like to actually let go of.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah.

Shana James: I’m supposed to be some way, and I could see a lot of the men I’ve worked with or I’ve had these responses of like … I actually had a man recently say, “I let go of being …” What did he say? “It seems like women really like me for being this kind, gentlemanly person”, and he was getting really frustrated, like, “That’s not all of me, and I want to have to be good to be liked”, and so actually, our next week session I said, “Let’s really talk about this. I think this is one of my strengths is to help men move forward and connect in relationship while feeling their own strength and their own power, and their own commitment to their desires and truth, while also being able to connect and still have their care. It’s like that balance again between the sex and the heart, or the whatever that kind of passion and heart or strength and heart.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I think what could be really helpful if someone was inclined to do this, and so if you’re listening and you’re thinking, “How can I get more related to what these guys have been talking about?”, I could see listing, “I’m supposed to…” over and over again until you’re … Set a timer for 15 minutes because the first five minutes, you’ll get all those things that are obvious, and then if you keep going, you’ll start to discover even more about the scripts that you’re playing, and it could be, “I’m supposed to be this way or I’m supposed to not be this other way” is another one, and then-

Shana James: I love that. I just thought you and I should both do that and post ours and be vulnerable with that.

Neil Sattin: Okay. I’ll do that. Then, if you’re in relationship, it might be great to share that.

Shana James: Share that.

Neil Sattin: Another twist on that could be, “I think my partner wants me to be…”

Shana James: That’s a great one.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Again, try to exhaust yourself in terms of what you write, so it’s not just the first things that come to you.

Shana James: Yeah. Yeah. Right. It’s not what you already know – then you surprise yourself.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Right. Right. Then, when you can share that with your partner, there may be things where they’re like, “Oh, yeah. I actually do want more of that from you, but I’m seeing how you think you’re supposed to be this way,” and it becomes a great opportunity for you to be in dialogue about, and to surface the roles that you each think you’re supposed to be following.

Shana James: Yes. Yes. Yes. I love that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: Again, in service of choice more than not supposed to let go of these roles and take on some other role. Right? I think that’s the endless hall of mirrors that we can get stuck in sometimes and to feel that sense of choice.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. That’s an interesting one because what do you do with like you’re supposed to be present?

Shana James: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Like I’m going to tell you that in terms of how I see successful relationships, if you’re not willing to be present, then you’re screwed, like that doesn’t mean you can’t-

Shana James: Right, and that doesn’t mean I have to walk around a hundred percent of the time being present. I get to actually say to my partner, “Are you able to be present right now?”, or, “Can we have this? When would be a good time?”

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: We do have to be willing to show up for each other I think in that way.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, so we are being a little prescriptive, but I feel like what we’re being prescriptive with are with values that actually allow for a lot of flexibility.

Shana James: Yes, versus stereotyped roles and ways we’re supposed to be. Maybe we jut brought it all the way back.

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Shana James: Yes. All right. I think we could do a part two and part hundred.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Shana James: I think we could keep going with this.

Neil Sattin: Probably.

Shana James: I like this, but for now, that feels like a good place to come to a completion.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Shana, it’s always great to … I’m so glad that we’re friends and it’s such an honor to have you back on Relationship Alive to talk about this.

Shana James: Thank you. I love that we’re friends too and colleagues, and that you continue to inspire me, and we continue to talk about what it’s like to be in relationships and new relationships in our later life, and to grow, and to be on this path of trying to figure out what the hell this is all about, so thank you for doing this with me.

Neil Sattin: It’s so important. Yeah. Absolutely.

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