Rare is the home that is not affected by the undercurrents and expectations of gender roles. Domestic oppression is a symptom of patriarchal programming. Even some of the most progressive couples struggle to challenge ingrained domestic roles.
Let’s pretend for a moment that there are two poles of gender: the Divine Feminine and Holy Father. Visualize an arch from one pole to the other, forming infinite degrees of human experience. Gender is a spectrum, and its history should be deconstructed to create a new type of human relationship: equality.
Those who associate more with the Divine Feminine are often taken advantage of in the home by someone who suffers from toxic masculinity—an imbalanced relationship that is hard to change.
The first step to mending this problem is for men to listen, self-reflect and apologize for the damage done. As an exercise, I have constructed a reflection and apology from one partner to another:
Dear Divine Feminine,
I’m sorry that I didn’t see how bad things got. You warned me time after time that [insert concern] was wearing on you, and I dismissed it because I didn’t respect you. I see how that caused you to feel dismissed and unworthy.
I painted you as a nag in my mind, loathing every word from your mouth that alluded to your attentiveness. I devalued how you took charge and called me out as a slacker.
You love me, care for me and want the best for me. You’re strong enough to fight for my well-being. I’ve exploited the energy that you spent to make things healthier for the sake of my masculinity.
I’m sorry that I dismissed you and the way that you want to live. I can see how that behavior can erode self-esteem and can make a person feel small and trapped. I can see how I diminished who you are. I made you an enemy in my mind to avoid the work I need to put forth to be part of the healing process.
I was not able to see how blinded I was by my masculine societal upbringing. I see it now: I haven’t done my equal share.
I can see how I pushed you away every time I showed how uninterested I was by your concerns. That must have made you feel terrible and rejected. You are so beautiful and don’t deserve to be treated like that. You matter to me and I trust your heart.
You continually live in fear of what could happen if you speak up. Will you be confronted with my apathy, condescension or anger? I’m sorry that I was not peaceful and harmonious. I will listen now and be a supportive and respectful person in your life. I want to be a collaborator.
I should have listened from the beginning.
I’m sorry that I distanced myself emotionally. I was afraid that I would have to change, grow and consider you as an equal. I made you feel alone when I should have been lifting you up. I pushed you away as though you were trying to invade my personal will. It felt threatening to be reminded that I was not treating you as an equal.
It has been easier to put you down than do the work. I know you’ll do the heavy lifting either way. I see now that that is not okay. I exploited you until there was nothing left of me to be proud of, and nothing left of you that I hadn’t already knocked down.
I can now see how I pigeon-holed you into a role and devalued your humanity.
I want to say “thank you” by learning how to be a better human, not only for you but for myself and everyone else. I will learn and show you my heart through my actions. These actions will be my way of saying that I love you, respect you and want to do right by you. You have cared for me in ways that I have not acknowledged. I want to listen, learn and love with you. You have shown me your love through your actions with the strength of forgiveness.
If I slip, please be gentle. I am a work in progress and aim to be progressive. I am here now and I am ready to address where I have to grow.
I believe in mercy, grace and reparations.*
*Can be paid through housework
Lois Volta is a home life consultant, artist and founder of The Volta Way. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.