What’s the connection between what happens between people in their intimate relationships and what’s happening on the global stage? In this conversation with Susan, Terry Real makes those connections – clearly, powerfully and with huge insight.
Terry is a nationally recognized family therapist, author and teacher in the United States. He’s particularly known for his groundbreaking work on men and male psychology as well as his work on gender and couples. He’s been in private practice for over 25 years and has appeared often as a relationship expert on popular shows in the United States like Good Morning America, ABC News, media venues such as Oprah 2020, The Today Show, CNN, The New York Times, you name it.
A statement that Susan most associates with Terry is “to walk into intimacy, men and women must walk out of patriarchy.” And his unorthodox approach to couples’ therapy, which is essentially mediation at the intimate level, is “ whenever I have a woman who’s in trouble in a couple, my first move is to empower the woman, and whenever I have a man in trouble in the couple, my first move is to empower the woman.” “Women’s voices”, he believes, “are the voices that will be the wedge into patriarchy. Men will catch up, but women will lead the charge.” This is a powerful metaphor for why Susan believes that empowering women, and getting gender right on the planet, is the most impactful peacebuilding initiative we can undertake.
When Susan asks Terry to make the links between the intimate and the global, he says “it is dead easy, it’s about the basic mistake of patriarchy which is also known as dominion. The essential mistake of patriarchy is that as a man — and patriarchy is masculinity writ large — you are to be in control, you are above nature, you are Lord and Master, whether you are above the nature of your child, above the nature of your own vulnerabilities or nature as embodied by your wife, or mother nature.”
He also goes on to say that masculinity is basically at war with itself between the old model, the patriarchal model, and the new model, what he calls an ecological model, emerging especially among millennial men. He says that “the shift from a dominion model to a collaborative model, or the shift from a patriarchal model to a democratic model, is that you move out of the hubris, the pride, the delusion that you are above nature, and standing above the system, whatever that system is: your marriage your family your planet. You’re not standing above this system, you’re in it; you are a subcomponent part of it and you have to move inside the system effectively with the humility and clear perception of where you are in it.”
Powerfully he says, “the delusion of dominance is lethal. . . Let me say that again because I conclude many of my talks this way: we will move beyond patriarchy or we will die. It’s that simple.”
And addressing women, Terry says “Women are up to their eyeballs with co-dependency whether it’s mothers tearfully and pridefully sending their sons off to war or women voting for Trump in the United States and places like that”. He says that “whenever he has a woman who fears that speaking truth to power will have repercussions. . . I will never dismiss or pathologize these concerns because guess what, there are consequences. . . but ultimately you should do it anyway . . .because life is better when we speak up. . . when you have congruence inside your skin.”
He goes on to quote his friend Carol Gilligan who wrote the groundbreaking book in the 1980’s In a Different Voice. “The shift from being accommodating and compliant to being collaborative which means that you own your own voice and speak up, is not an easy shift for women. However, to move out of a dominance model and into a collaborative model is a bear for men. It’s really hard, they don’t get it, it’s pounded into you that the world is either one-up, one-down, winner or loser, dominate or be dominated. One of the things that people say is that men are afraid of intimacy. But they’re not. Men don’t know what intimacy is. Men are afraid of subjugation and you cannot be intimate from the one-up, one-down model. That’s why leading men into intimacy means leading them out of patriarchy.”
We ended with a really optimistic note looking at what’s happening with millennials, millennial men being the most gender progressive cohort that Terry has known so far on the planet. Some of the research indicates, he says, that egalitarian marriages breed happier, more satisfied partners than hierarchical marriages. As he says, “it’s about relational joy, which is the joy of being connected, being in the flow of relationality whether that’s with a partner, with nature, with God, with yourself, with your kids, to be in a state of flow and connection. This is the only joy we humans feel”.
Please accept our apologies on the sound. It’s not as good as we would like but it’s passable and we believe you will enjoy listening to this very powerful and groundbreaking episode.