Friday, July 07, 2006

In her Tuesday, July 5 column in the New York Times, entitled "How to Train a Woman", Maureen Dowd wrote: "Women may want to mold their men to be more obedient and less irksome. . ."

Dowd's premise betrays an exceedingly negative view of human nature and relationships. Her perspective is an expression of antiquated gender stereotypes; men are disobedient and irksome, so women must manipulate them.

The Tantric model of relationship is collaborative; each partner should be genuinely interested in the other's well-being and should strive to bring out the best in his/her mate, openly and honestly, without a hidden agenda.

Dowd began by wondering "does nagging work"? The answer, of course, is no. It will only lead to resentment and disharmony. As an alternative, Dowd cited a New York Times article by a woman who employed the techniques of animal trainers on her husband, an approach that reduces intimate relationships to a mere system of rewards and punishments.

Almost half the column is devoted to the views of Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers and the author of Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romance. We have not read the book, but according to Dowd, one of Fisher's key points is that women experience intimacy through face-to-face behavior because "for millions of years" women have interacted with babies that way, while men experience intimacy side-by-side, since for "millions of years" men have faced their enemies that way. While there may be a kernel of truth in this claim, it fails to account for the fact that for millions of years, men have been babies too and have had their most formative intimate experiences through face-to-face interactions.

In our experience, both men and women benefit from focused and intentional eye-gazing, and in long-term couples with problems, both men and women find it equally difficult to look at each other directly.

Dowd also wrote that "training your mate may be essential in an era when everyone is more connected and yet less," a reference to the recent study in the American Sociological Review that indicates "Americans may be getting lonelier and more isolated." The study is certainly alarming, but engaging in manipulative behavior is not an effective way to strengthen a relationship

The way to create deeper and more meaningful intimacy is to cultivate interest in your partner, to respect him/her as an individual and to treat your relationship as something important, something co-created and something mutual. Dowd suggests treating your partner like a trained seal. We believe that treating him or her like a human being would be a far better place to begin.

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