All posts by Mark Groves

mark groves, relationship advice, dating advice, what is self-love,

Self-Love?! WTF Does That Even Mean?!?

A couple of years ago I was in Shavasanna after a pretty intense Kundalini class… for the non-yoga doers, I was basically just laying down in that state that occurs right before we sleep. My mind was running and the question I had asked myself was, “Why haven’t I found someone yet?”

To which someone replied… I’m not sure who that someone is, but let’s call her God, the big U (Universe, not Uterus), and said, “Your search has always been for yourself.”

Excuse me? What? Sounded like some existential bullshit I had heard before uttered by so many self-help authors. But I had never really comprehended what it meant, until that moment.

We are all constantly bombarded with cheesy ass shit like:

  • “Love yourself first.”
  • “You can only love someone else as deeply as you love yourself.”
  • If you want to find the one, be the one (okay, okay… I’ve said this one many times)
  • Self love, self love, self love….blah blah blah blah, and more self-love.

When I first heard about self-love I had no fucking clue what people were talking about. I thought I was supposed to grab some lube and kleenex and head to the bedroom. And then, like so many others, in the moment of post-coital observation, I felt no more self-love. In a way, I felt more empty (no pun intended).

Self-love seems rather elusive doesn’t it? It’s a buzzword that people love to spew but no one ever tells us how to fucking get it. It’s become the “conscious” lingo that everyone talks about, but no one actually knows what it is. It’s like Fight Club, except we already know how to beat ourselves up. What we seek is peace from the regular emotional shame we experience. We want a vacation from the poisonous self talk and perhaps just one glimpse of this fucking promise land so many “gurus” speak of.

I’m no guru, but I’ll tell you what I have learned from struggling as a human to feel like I am worthy of love. In that yoga class that day, I finally understood that I was not living a life of true self-expression.

I finally got it:

If you want everyone around you to behave with integrity, to love you, to honour you, to appreciate you, to support you, to value you, to give to you, to invite you to grow and change, you have to become all of those things. Your life has to embody what you want. Ie. If you want to find the one, be the one.

So WTF is self-love and how do we create it?

Well, first off, it’s important we understand that it’s not a destination, it’s a journey. You don’t just get to this magical moment where you’re like, “I DID IT! I FELL IN LOVE WITH MYSELF!”

Self-love is formed through the habits and rituals which fill our daily lives. It could be the choice to go to the gym instead of the club. It’s cultivated by creating a life that sends the message to ourselves that we matter and are loved and respected by ourselves, first.

Uh oh, I’m starting to sound a little guru-ey, aren’t I?!?

Okay, to make it a little easier, here are five self-love must-haves if you want to wake up, look in the mirror and be able to say, “Good morning you sexy mutha-fucka! You are going to kick-ass today! I love you bae.”

1 – Become best friends with yourself –  What do I mean by this? Take walks by yourself, take yourself to dinner. Learn you. Listen to your thoughts. Develop a meditation practice. Go on trips. Take drives. Spend quality time in your mind and heart. Go for hikes. Hug trees. Make love to yourself. Pursue your passions. Find a hobby.

We can’t love ourselves if we don’t even know who are. We can’t express our true feelings if we’ve never listened to them.

2 – Making healthy choices (food & exercise) – Eat more vegetables. Exercise. Get out in nature and hike. Stop eating shit that’s basically rubber.  Self-loving choices are not picking fries over salads all the time, or sitting on the couch instead of getting out for a run. People who love themselves have very different habits than those who don’t. We can’t begin to love ourselves and our bodies if we don’t make choices that cultivate that desired belief.

Start now. Go for walks. Do a workout. Join a gym… learn about food. Start to cook. Go to yoga (it has the benefit of movement and meditation).

3 – Boundaries –  What are they? They’re guidelines and requirements for people to understand how to treat us. They communicate what makes us feel loved, what we need from a relationship, what our standards are when it comes to communication and how people need show up in our life, if they want to be in it.

But there’s something even more important that boundaries provide, and it’s that they cultivate self-worth. They communicate to others that we are worthy of being loved and respected. And at the exact same time, they send the message to ourselves that we are worthy of being loved and respected. Win-Win.

Boundaries are fucking sexy too –  Why are they the new lingerie? Because self-worth is sexy and telling people that their behaviour is bullshit and will not be tolerated is more powerful than being a smooth mofo and having a rock solid backyard (ass).

Careful though, because just as quickly as boundaries can create confidence, one slip up or “exception” can eradicate our self-worth faster than Amazon Prime. You must understand how important this skill is because we can’t have high self-worth without making decisions that reflect that desire. If we let toxic and disrespectful people into our lives, and allow them to stay there, we will have no choice but to form the belief that we are unworthy and don’t deserve more. Fuck that. You do. But you’re the one who has to create those boundaries.

Having clear and healthy boundaries is easily the quickest way to cultivate self-love and self-worth, and to improve your Tinder profile. Okay, okay… it won’t help with Tinder, but it will help with what you swipe “yes” too…

4 – Share your feelings – Brene Brown isn’t kicking ass and taking names because vulnerability isn’t important. It’s #sohotrightnow (always). When we share our feelings, we send the message to ourselves that our feelings matter. When we tell other people what’s up, we allow them to peer into our hearts, which also sends the message to ourselves that we’re worthy of being loved. Vulnerability invites others to join us in a vulnerable space. One person always has to go first… be that person.

5 – Let yourself be loved –  You cannot fully love yourself if you don’t let people love, support and give to you. Why? Because until we let people in and choose people who can fully love us, we will never truly believe it.

A lot of us get stuck in this space where we’re SO GOOD alone and build a life that is centered around us. This is great…. But there’s a difference between walls and boundaries. Outwardly it might appear as though these people are selfish, but self-love and selfishness are two very different things. And in the latter case, the selfishness is really just fear masquerading as awareness and boundaries. What we’ve built is walls and walls keep people out; boundaries teach people where the door is.


The bottom line of self-love is this:

Stay true to you. Honour your needs. Create agreements in your relationships. Stand the-fuck-up for yourself.

We must stay the course. It’s SO EASY to just go back to the habits and life that led to us to to the moment where we woke up and realized that we weren’t happy and life was meant to feel fucking good. It’s easy to do more shots, to try to hump away our pain, to take that job that doesn’t fulfill us or to say yes to a relationship with someone who just isn’t it. We have to live a life that is in alignment with our integrity and our hearts.

How we want to feel has to be more important than the fear that we’ll never feel that way. What we choose demonstrates whether we’re living a life moving in the direction of our dreams, or our excuses. We can’t do both, so choose wisely.

You Be You. Let The World Adjust.

Before I started writing publicly I sent an article I wrote to a woman I knew who was a “writer”.

She was the first of many since then who would tell me that that my writing was crass and I shouldn’t put it out to the world, unless I changed it. That my work would be better if I didn’t swear. It would get to more people and be more effective in helping them transform. She told me that I use the word “fuck” when I don’t need to… that I’m far too intelligent to use slang and foul language in my writing.

I almost listened. I almost started writing and publishing under an alias.

Wow… thank god I didn’t. I would’ve been sending the same perpetual message we all get sent:

“It’s not safe to be who you are.”

So I said, “Fuck it.” And hit “publish” –  as Mark Groves.

I’ve been told not to write about many subjects… religion, sex, marriage, divorcecircumcision… the list of the taboo is long. People’s sensitivities will always be there, but our willingness to speak truth has to be greater than our fear of not being loved by the people who experience it. And truth is fluid… much like our identities and beliefs. They will all change as we do.

Whatever your art or your dream is, let it be yours. Let your voice be found as you type/speak the words. Let your message from yesterday be your old truth and the one you share in this moment be an expression of what’s streaming through your heart right now.

And if you wanna swear, swear. Are there times when swearing isn’t appropriate? Sure. In those moments you and I shall edit our language… But let us refuse to edit who we are… because that would be us continuing to support a system that tells us to alter our truth in order to tow the line and be loved.

No longer are we limited by the geographic confounds of our often misguided and systemic-minded linear lineage. We can find our people. We can share what our hearts yearn to scream.

So here you are. On the edge of your truth. Often waiting for someone else to approve of your choices. But at the end of the day their opinion will never matter if you cannot lay your head to rest at night in love with your authentic and transparent self. What you think of you will always trump what they think of you. When you align you with you it causes cellular cohesion. That’s a peace “fitting in” can never give you.

In essence, Self-Expression = Freedom.

relationship advice, dating advice

This Is Why Religion And Sex Don’t Get Along

Humans are sexual beings. This is a fact that no one can really argue… I mean, it’s what creates us.

Despite the importance of sex to our evolution, we have an interesting, and often dysfunctional relationship with it though, don’t we? It’s something a lot of us fear, especially within our embedded cultural and religious beliefs…which are often synonymous.

And fear is a dangerous motivator, because if not met with curiosity, the things we fear often become the things we shame.

I have been working with (and know) so many people who hold a lot of shame on the subject of sex and sexuality. They (we) were raised to believe that masturbation, heavy petting (the Catholic way of saying second base), sex before marriage, sexual curiosity, sexual desire, sexual orientation… All of it – will send you to hell. 

Have you ever taken a moment to consider the ramifications of such powerful and irrational messages about sexuality being sent to young (and old) minds; that they should fear their sexuality instead of seeking to understand it? It’s such a confusing message to receive as humans when the very thing that makes us is… SEX.  **If you’re not familiar with it, it’s when the penis goes in the vagina. And then out. And then in. Until one (or both…ideally) makes an “O” face… and biology does its job.**

Even this discussion, mentioning penises and vaginas, will trigger many people. The fact that I’m so openly talking about sex and penetration makes many uncomfortable. And to those people, when you get uncomfortable, I invite you to get curious. Because often, underneath that discomfort, is shame around the subject and fear of your own perceivably deviant desires to get a finger in your butt, get spanked, or some nipple clamps… even, God forbid, try doggystyle. (which are all normal curiosities btw…)

The irony to all of this is that sexual conversations are usually labeled as “crass” by the very people who later on in the evening log onto Craigslist seeking “Casual Encounters”, surf porn, or hire a dominatrix… But there’s a consequence to sexual repression that goes far beyond the internet, and it’s not only in deviant sexual behaviour, it’s that we have to abandon ourselves and our own hearts in order to adapt to cultures and belief systems that say sexuality, and being sexual, is the work of the devil.

Sex is human. Desire is human. Curiosity is human. Curiosity around sex/sexuality is human. To embrace any belief that shames any/all of these truths requires abandoning ourselves and our true essence.

Beliefs/cultures/religions are tricky though.. because we want to fit in. That drive to fit in will make us do crazy things. It has us adopting beliefs that aren’t congruent with our hearts and living lives that feel heavy… lives that require us to send an actor in everyday to to play a role that we wouldn’t wish upon anyone. *(Religion in its essence is beautiful… I’m talking about the extremes that don’t embrace education surrounding sexuality and curiosity)

As humans we hold our beliefs SO close to our hearts that any threat to those beliefs not being true, makes us go to war, hurt others, and even reject our own family members…. It’s incredible really what we’ll do to praise a God and to keep religious and cultural belief systems alive. We are so terrified to be who we are… isn’t that insane?! We’re terrified to express our sexuality and to maybe accept that we’re meant to want to hump, to caress breasts and to tickle balls (or be the receiver of those things).

When it comes to sexuality and beliefs we have two options:

  1. Abandon the belief system to hold our identity intact, OR;
  2. Abandon ourselves to hold the belief…so we can fit into our community/religion/culture/society.

Choice numero uno leads to freedom, understanding, acceptance, curiosity and responsibility with our sexual energy because we’re not being shamed for it. AND, it allows others to be free too.

Choice number two has mannnnnny costs. What are they?

Let’s use the best case study we can of the consequences of sexual repression:

Utah, which is the state that is centre stage for Mormons, who are generally quite sexually repressive and homophobic (I do love my mormon friends… no insult to you… this data is just too powerful to ignore), has one of the highest rates of subscription porn consumption. ALSO, Utah has the highest use of anti-depressants and pain-killers.

Okay, so we can argue the science and methodologies of the studies, OR, we can just accept what this data infers:

The price of abandoning ourselves is not just a sad life. It’s a painful life.

In contrast, in a 2013 Dutch study on BDSM (aka. Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, and Masochism) – These kinky sex practitioners, when compared to the general population, we’re less neurotic, more extroverted, more open to new experiences, more conscientious, less rejection sensitive, and had higher subjective well-being. Wow. Does seeking to understand and express our sexuality lead to happier and healthier humans? Hmmmm. Not a shock really, is it?

Let’s get back to the topic at hand though. Shame and repression have an enormous cost… We need anti-depressants to numb the pain of pretending to be someone else and not embracing our true selves. And because we aren’t free to explore sexually, we’ll just lock the door of our bedroom and watch other people get peed on… when we’re the ones who want to get peed on! Where’s the justice?!?

The truth is…everything in life demands to be felt. We can’t hide feelings and desires, they will always come out in some way. Unexpressed and repressed emotions live in the fabric of our being. If we hate our lives and who we’re pretending to be and we don’t actively change our lives, we will take drugs, form addictions, and either implode or explode.  The soul demands expression. The heart seeks to create peaceful connection. The human spirit doesn’t need to be indoctrinated with values and morality… we can sense on a cellular level if something feels right or wrong.

So, I want you to tap into you. I want you to ask yourself if your beliefs feel congruent with your heart. You don’t need to be a Christian or a Jew or a Hindu or a Muslim or a Buddhist to be a good person, you just need to be you. When you show yourself kindness, love and acceptance, you are inherently kind, loving and accepting of others.

You don’t need to subscribe to any form of relationship that doesn’t feel right to you. You don’t have to be heterosexual if you’re not. You don’t have to believe things that cause you to feel shame and hurt. Adopt beliefs that have you feeling free and loved for who you truly are.

If you have to abandon yourself to believe anything, you never believed it in the first place.


Are you looking to tap into you? If so, get your tickets to the Masters of the Universe Summit now! It’s annual conference I host in Vancouver, BC – The early bird tickets are on sale NOW.

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family, bad childhood, create family, ideal family, mark groves, family advice, createthelove, childhood

You Don’t Have To Come From A Great Family To Create One

We don’t get to choose our families that we’re born into. That’s a truth everyone can understand… and for some people that truth is very painful. The reality is that some of us win the family lottery, and others, not so much. For some of us, family will be the greatest support system and a place where our dreams and aspirations will not only be birthed, but also incredibly encouraged. And for others, family will be the source of pain and struggle, and more of a barrier to success rather than a catalyst to it.

It’s without a doubt that our childhood affects us. It has a strong influence on how we relate to other people, communicate, and often, why we’ll be drawn to different types of partners. Romantic love, to me, is where we go to heal a lot of our wounds; the wounds that were given to us by our parents, and to them by their parents…. and so on. Then, it would seem, that love, and pain, are both hereditary.

Despite the wide array of childhood experiences, we, on average seem to turn out pretty okay don’t we? A lack of love in our childhood can sometimes be the contrast we need to make love our priority as we age. Even a blissful childhood can reinforce the importance and power of sharing an emotionally-healed family tree. Yet we can often shame people with great childhoods… but that’s only because we wanted what they had.

As Carolyn Myss says, “One of the greatest sources of pain for almost all of us, is the giant misconception that we deserved a great childhood.” No one escapes childhood unscathed. We all have scars. We all have pain. And no one owns the copyright on hurt. My level ten of emotional pain might be your level three… but that doesn’t make my pain any less valid than yours, it just makes it different.

Regardless of our childhoods, where we come from doesn’t determine where we go, we do. We decide what our childhood means to us. We decide how to transform our pain into purpose… that is up to us.

To me, us healing as individuals is some of the most powerful work we will ever do because we are literally taking away generations of pain patterns and emotional wounds that have travelled through our DNA as we become  the first person to say, “Never again. Never again will I allow someone to be unloved. Never again will I let the pain of my family be transmuted to the pain of my children. Never again will I allow fear and disconnection to get in the way of love, community, connection, and safe arms to be held and to hold.”

Healing is powerful shit. It’s not just for us… because when we heal ourselves, we heal all of those around us, and most importantly, we heal up. And by up, I mean we shoot healing laser beams up our relatives’ asses and even to all the dead ones that passed on their hurt.

I was working with a client recently who said to me, “But why do my mom & dad deserve my love if they’re the very reason I’m having to process and feel all of this pain, hurt and trauma?” To which I replied, “Imagine if your parents have never felt what it’s like to receive unconditional love? And you get to be the first person to give that to them?” Phewwwwf. That’s some boombastic stuff that hits us right in the feels. When we love unconditionally, for a lot of people, that will be the first time they’ve ever experienced it.

And you know, not all of our parents and relatives are going to respond well to our love and forgiveness… but remember, we’re not giving other people love SO THAT they’ll respond a certain way. That’s conditional love. We’re sending others love and forgiveness simply because that’s the energy we send out into the world.

“I love you no matter what. Whether you choose me. Whether you receive my love. Whether you’re even capable. I love you because love heals. And when I give you love, despite alllllll the reasons I have not to, in doing so, I love myself. I heal me. Through you, I find me.”

Easy to say, right? I want to share with you a true story about this very subject:

I have a friend who comes from one of those families where everything you hear from his childhood makes your heart cringe. You wonder how parents could ever be like his. You can feel his heart and the pain that has been transplanted into him. You can feel his search for healing. You can see the child who never really felt loved for who he truly is.

He was raised religious… and when he barely turned twenty one, he got married. That’s what they did in his family, community and religion. But he didn’t marry for love…he thought he did back then, but more so he married because he thought he was supposed to… I mean, it’s what you do, right? We follow the stories and narratives of those who surround us.

Despite the obvious space and disconnect between him and his wife, he was receiving the approval of his church and family. Throughout this time he was desperately disconnected from himself. His religion shamed true self-expression and he felt trapped… And when we feel trapped we do desperate things. So, he had an affair.

His marriage would end because of that (and clearly much greater issues)… and so too would be the beginning of the end of his relationship with his family. His father and mother slowly distanced themselves from their son because they felt ashamed of his choices, his failed marriage and disassociation from the church. He was not being a good practitioner of his religion. He was not being an “ideal” son. He was human, flawed, imperfect, like all of us… but he was not given the space to make mistakes and to learn…. but boy, was he learning.

He would go on to marry the woman he had an affair with. No gaps between relationships. No time alone. One day, she said to him, “I don’t trust that if I were unable to work, that you could support us.” This cut deep.

This man had never felt supported. He didn’t know what a safe and secure relationship felt or looked like…. It was never modelled for him. He was terrified that she would leave him…. So he cheated on her too. Hurt her before she hurts him. Prove that he’s not lovable because he does unlovable things and never felt loved by his family… and the pain pattern continues.

So now, we have a vulnerable and lost  man who’s never truly been himself. Who became the type of person and made the type of choices to get the love and inclusion of his family, community and religion. And yet, despite following the path he was taught, has never been more lonely, alone and abandoned…. by his family, community and religion. Shitty deal, right?

He was terrified that he would never achieve financial success to be enough to get the love of a woman. So, what did he do next? He started running drugs to make quick and easy money… and he was quickly and easily caught.

The thing he feared most, loneliness, would be forced upon him as he was sentenced to twenty-eight months in prison. In there, he would finally face his choices, his heart, his soul… and he would come face-to-face with his truth.

Today, that man is a great friend of mine. He’s one of the most giving, loving and community-oriented people I know. He has built a great business, and a wonderful life.

Not so long ago he wrote his parents a letter expressing his experience. He told them about his pain, about how much it has hurt that they haven’t made an effort to speak to him in ten years. That religion and family should always be accepting and loving… and that has not been his experience with them. He told them that, despite all of this, he loves them and forgives them… and yet, he still hasn’t heard back.

But that doesn’t phase him. You know why? Because this man has taught me that we can create our own families. We have a ritual in our community where we have “Framily” (friends+family) dinner every couple of weeks. The host rotates and so does the theme. Friends are encouraged to bring others who don’t know anyone… new transplants to Vancouver or maybe just passing through. People who maybe don’t have a family and may have never known one.

If this sounds amazing to you, create it just like we have. It may sound scary (and super exciting) but I want you to know that, despite where you come from and whatever your past is, you can create what you seek. You can be the architect of the life and family you want. You don’t have to wait for anyone else to give it to you… the healing comes when you give it to yourself and then share that love with all of those around you. I don’t even know you… and I can tell you that I love you.

Friends can be far better brothers, sisters or parents than our own. Our past doesn’t dictate our future. We don’t forgive others so that they may move forward, we forgive them so we can.

We don’t need to be blood to be family, nor do we need church to find God. We are all family, and knowing unconditional love, is knowing God.


My GO TO recipe for family are these amazing tacos

Who doesn’t love tacos?! Try them and change your life…


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12 speakers from around the world… and only 200 tickets. Early bird is on! Get your ticket here and use the code “createthelove” to save another $50! – http://bit.ly/2lxkKPF

relationship advice, dating advice, vancouver relationship coach, positive psychology, nyc relationship coach, love,

If You’re a Valentine’s Day Hater, You’re Missing The Point

The cynicism surrounding Valentine’s Day is enormous. It only takes one peek at our FB newsfeed to see people buying into it or remarking how it’s a “Hallmark Holiday”.

There is tremendous value in the holiday though. For some couples it’s an amazing opportunity to celebrate their love for one another, and for others it’s a necessary reminder as to the importance of expressing our love to the special people in our lives. The reminder is great, but what does it say about the state of love and relationships that we need this reminder?

And for single people, if the pressure they feel every other day of the year wasn’t bad enough, V-Day is that pressure on speed and steroids. Combine that lonely desperation with alcohol at the bar and it’s a recipe for some high pressure loving that will lead nowhere good, unless good is an orgasm.

Why do we need to HAVE to have someone to celebrate this day with, and if we don’t, we’re a failure?

I think V-Day just perpetuates a commonly endorsed misconception and belief about relationships:

Being “in a relationship” is better than being single.

The truth is that being happy has nothing to do with being in a relationship, and everything to do with just being happy, alone.

Research suggests this too. It’s happy people who have great relationships, not people in relationships who are happy.

In other words: Happy single people become happy romantic partners. 

Happy people report greater relationship satisfaction, improved health outcomes, and a lower divorce rate. 

Of course healthy relationships and shared connections are important, but it’s not a romantic relationship that is predictive of our level of happiness, but more so relationships in general. 

People who have great interpersonal relationships with friends, family, and lovers, are happier.

Not surprisingly, they also have a great relationship with themselves. They can sit comfortably in their own thoughts and find peace and fulfillment through spending time alone. 

“My alone feels so good, I’ll only have you if you’re sweeter than my solitude.” – Warsan Shires

Because truthfully, it’s always been about falling in love with ourselves first. It’s from that place where we choose relationship partners who add to our already amazing life. That way we know we’re picking kick-a*s people who remind us that love comes from a place that’s whole, not empty. If they don’t improve our lives and help us grow, and us do the same for them, then they are not welcome to join us on the ride.

Sure, even when we find someone from that place of fulfillment we can still take each other for granted and the little “wake-up” that V-Day can provide is important to remind us that it’s all about the little things. 

The types of things that are the fuel to continued love and connection. 

“Do what you did at the beginning of the relationship and there won’t be an end.” ~Tony Robbins

Love is born through everything we do. Love is a verb. 

And we need to communicate it on the daily. 

I’m not saying we need to buy our partner chocolate and such each and every day. What I am saying is couples can, and need to, consistently communicate love through how they speak to and interact with one another in each moment. 

Something as simple as buying your lady her favourite coffee on your way home from work, or getting dressed up to look sexy because we want to capture their heart and show each other we’re still trying.

That’s it. People want to know that they matter. 

They want to know that you’ll still fight for them and try to win their love. 

They want to know that you’ll pry their heart open when they’re on the verge of closing it and still wine and dine them to get some loving by earning it, not expecting it. 

They don’t want you to skip foreplay because “it’s just not something we do anymore”. 

All of these things matter, and intimacy and sexual connection need to be a beautiful event and production at times. 

Sometimes candles are nice. Sometimes lingerie is. 

Team that up with some R&B and handcuffs and we have a party. 

Valentine’s Day is just another day, and it’s all about how we use each and every day to improve how we are showing up to the world and to love. 

Although this is the “official” day we celebrate, it should be no different than any other. 

It is a beautiful reminder that we should never forget love requires effort. 

Whether we’re single or taken, being happy and personally fulfilled is the most important thing we can do for not only ourselves, but also for our partner, even if we haven’t met them yet.


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Why I’m Done With Relationships

When I was twenty-seven I was in a five-year long relationship. The woman was (is) beautiful, kind, smart, athletic… she was basically perfect. But yet, despite what I tell you, there was just something in me that was screaming and gnawing at my soul that I wasn’t where I needed to be. This is about my journey through that… and a little more.

This seems shocking to read, right?! Most people thought what you’re thinking right now, “Why the fuck would you potentially question that type of partner? Hot and smart? You idiot.” All I can tell you is that it just didn’t feel right. Knowing what I had (her), and feeling what I felt was a great source of pain for me… because my intellectual mind was saying, “This is what you’re supposed to want”.

And my emotional brain replied, “But it’s not what you want.” That gap made me feel sick.

On the day we got engaged my world imploded. I looked at her as we shared the joys of her reply to my invitation to matrimonial bliss, and all I could think to myself was, “I think I’m supposed to be more excited than this.”

For the next three months my stomach was in knots…

My nights out became later, my beer consumption increased. I would sleep in our spare room and tell her I was feeling sick, when in actual fact I was secretly searching the internet for the answer to:

“How do you know if he/she is the one?”

Not surprisingly I wasn’t the first to search this subject. I stumbled upon many articles and forums with women buzzing about… the odd man would enter the conversation, with his digital head down, shamefully searching for an answer to a question most of us (especially men) are scared to ask.

But that’s where I found myself… among the often frequented, but not often spoken about, alleyways of the internet. (maybe a couple porn sites too…)

It was in that darkly lit forum that I would share my story with what I now consider saviours and angels. I would spend hours reading the stories of others and their answered questions. And honestly, I was really searching the depths of my desperate soul to understand why I felt the way I felt.

In the mornings my fiancé and I would have coffee and as she would walk out the door to work I could feel the shame and guilt wash over me… I felt like an awful person to have brought someone down this path while feeling so much trepidation and uncertainty. I would look at her through the mask of contentment I wore… An actor who was playing far too many roles; roles that weigh heavily on the soul.

It would be in the second month of our engagement that I would be asked three questions that would forever change the course of my life (of which I’ll share my answers):

1. Would you be okay if she left you tomorrow? Yes. Yes I would. Actually, I would be more than okay. I would feel like a million pounds lifted off my shoulders and the burden of responsibility to those around me to get married by ____ years old, have kids by __ years old… all of that bullshit would be gone and I could finally scream, “FUCK THE SYSTEM”. I have written before about how in these moments when we’re afraid to leave, we try to force our partners to leave. We drink, we respond sharply, we distance ourselves, we lie, we cheat. We even wish they would cheat on us, and some of my clients/readers have even admitted to having wanted their partner to die.

My gawd the lengths we will go to avoid hurting others and listening to our souls… all to not experience the pain of failing in relationship, and more specifically, being the one who ended it. But alas, I digress to the next…

2. Can you imagine what the altar would be like waiting for her, whatever your “altar” may be? No… I cannot. And even the idea of being at the altar hurts my stomach. It makes me scared, nervous, anxious… The challenging part about these feelings is that I was sold my whole life that “men are just afraid of commitment”, so that’s the message that I used to make this anxiety make sense. But I can tell you today, from my lens of clarity and understanding in looking back at my experience, that some fear related to relationships is healthy and normal, but terrifying anxiety is not. And a fear of commitment, whether you’re male or female, can have many pathologies… but don’t be so quick to dismiss your feelings and anxieties because someone one day shamed someone from leaving by saying they’re “afraid of commitment”. This fucking comment makes my blood boil because it’s so dismissive and lacks any sort of curious inquiry…. But that’s a whole other article.

The third, and most powerful question I have ever been asked:

3. Can someone else love her better? Yes. Absolutely 150% yes. This is the one question that kicked me square in the balls. And I’m not talking the kind of kick that grazes the left nut… I mean the winding up, take a run, field goal in the sacro-illiac.

It hit me. Finally. I saw it all. I was so scared to leave. I had been on a journey searching for an answer that I had always known was there. I was searching for the answer to be anything but what I knew to be true.

I look back now and I can see that I was so terrified of hurting her… I was terrified of letting go of someone so amazing. I was petrified of not meeting the expectations of my community, my friends, my family, and… loosely, deep in my subconscious, my religion/God.

But in order to maintain this facade I was not only hurting myself, I was lying to and hurting her. Sure, I deserved love that made me scream from the rooftops, but more importantly, in that space of my fear and cowardice, she deserved it more. She deserved truth. She deserved to be loved for the fabulous and amazing woman that she was and is today.

(SPOILER ALERT) I ended it. Ok… you knew that was coming.

It was both one of the most challenging conversations I’ve ever had to start, and also one of the most beautiful moments of my life, because I finally, despite all of the pressure and all of the reasons I should’ve married her, chose me.

That decision, up until this point in my life, has been one of the most powerful decisions I have ever made. I acknowledged my pain. I acknowledged my heart. I saw the child in me, who was so scared, and I grabbed his hand and told him, “It’s going to be okay, we’ve got this. I’m not sure what the future looks like, but you are finally free of the emotional anvil that has plagued every cell of your body.”

how do I know if I should leave?

I want to tell you what it means to leave. I want to tell you what it means to let down someone you love, hurt them, and also know that it’s the right thing to do, and necessary. I want to be able to answer all of your questions and lead you to the same peace I feel. But I don’t think one can verbalize such an experience. It must be had. But I’ll tell you where it led me:

In the days and months after I left the relationship I was pissed. People I loved, and thought loved me, pushed me away. Some people talked behind my back, some people shamed and threw words that felt like daggers. Many told me I was:

“Afraid of commitment”

“Afraid to grow up”

And that I had “Peter Pan Syndrome.”

Some told me that I would never find anyone like her again.

These types of people will always exist… In a way I think they are a test to see if we’re truly willing to stand in our truth and in our integrity. I see them now as people who were put in my path to test my fortitude and to build my resilience. You must know for yourself too that they are driven by fear because our choices scare them. More specifically, my choice meant they could be left someday. My choice challenged the system that says:

“You work through anything and everything.”

“This generation treats love like it’s disposable”

“You made a commitment”

What I’m most grateful for though is that people loved me. People held me up when I thought I had no future. Even strangers saw the human in me; that I was hurt, confused, and lost… and loved me for it. I will be forever grateful for the friends and family I have…for their love was so much more powerful than the messages of those living in fear. They were the hope I needed to take one step, even if it was small, everyday.

The challenge with our world (among many) is that, unless there’s some form of physical and mental abuse, no one has support for the person who leaves. I’m certainly not a victim of the experience, but we’re so inundated with these messages around relationships and marriage needing to last forever that we treat those who leave as if they’ve murdered someone. As if they’ve failed at something there is no space to fuck up with.

So, needless to say, when I left, I was pissed at the people who lied to me. Because I finally saw that we hold marriage to this ideal that “You marry someone and you stay with them forever. Maybe in love, maybe not. You work through everything…that’s what marriage is.”

The love part didn’t matter though, because our ability to “stay together” is what we’ve made determine our self worth.

Want the evidence? Look at how we celebrate anniversaries instead of the quality of a relationship. When was the last time you heard someone say, “With every passing year we raise our communication game. I have never known her as well as I do now, and I’m so happy to support and love her on her journey and in her dreams.”

Instead we hear, “Oh, you made it to twenty years!! Amazing!!”

Followed by whispers… “I heard she’s banging Ben, her trainer… and he’s been humping Teresa for years.”

We have been lied to about marriage. We have been sold a story that is so filled with holes that I can’t believe the revolt has taken so long.

Want the truth?

  • Most relationships don’t last forever (you already knew this…come on…)
  • Not all people who are married are happy. A lot. Many. More than we’re willing to acknowledge.
  • Most people don’t actually know how to be in healthy, loving, emotionally expansive relationships.
  • If previous generations think we leave too soon, it is equally as safe to say that many people also stay far. too. long. As in, they die, in misery. Married though. So at least they die with jewelry.

This is why I don’t want one of those relationships. They are fake, full of shit, lack emotional connection, and are really just a couple people living together who fart, do laundry, and maybe eat dinner at the same table.

I want more. I think we all do… it’s just that no one has taught us how to even create a deep and fulfilling relationship. There is no education on relationships, and for that reason most of us will follow the path we’ve been sold by our cultures, religions and societies that say we have to marry “this” type of person, who’s “this” gender, “this” colour, and/ or “this” religion. Fuck that. This is why our hearts and souls scream to us at night, we’re all on antidepressants and, as Brene Brown said, injecting our ass fat into our faces. We do drugs, drink, seek fleeting romances, all because we’re terrified of going against a system. We’d rather live completely out of alignment with who we are so that we don’t threaten the lives of those around us.

For just over the last ten years I have studied relationships; What makes them work, why they don’t, and the intricacies of human psychology and why we do the things we do. And I studied all of this from a very selfish place: to understand myself and how the fuck I got engaged when I knew I didn’t want to. Crazy. Expensive. Fucking. Choice.

Your life lessons don’t have to be expensive (although most are). I want you to know that you don’t have to do shit you don’t want to anymore. You are not a prisoner because of a decision you made when you didn’t know what you know today. You can love however the fuck you want. You don’t have to marry in the same religion, culture or colour. You can marry a dude, a chick, or both. You can get peed on in the bedroom, you can lick butts and you can make deep, soulful love. You can be true to yourself.

The response to this by those fearful, scared people I mentioned before is generally a giant reaction that it’s going to make everyone sluts and that it means people will be selfish and destructive… people are destructive when they don’t feel loved and accepted for who they are. When people are unconditionally loved, they don’t need vices and pain outlets. (Antidepressant, sleeping, and diet pill sales are gonna plummet!!) So my only caveat to all of this advice is that you live a life of integrity and with kindness. When you’re kind to others, you’re kind to yourself.

In the thirty-eight years of my life I have been the funny kid, the athlete, the chubby kid, the pretty boy, the heartbroken guy, the player, the man whore, the college bro (I had frosted tips and wore abercrombie….gawwwwd), the pharmaceutical rep, the white picket fence checklist guy, the booty caller, the blackout drinker, the intellectual, the poet… and now, after all of that, I am me.

That journey didn’t come easy. Or free. Or simply. It unfolded and continues to unfold exactly as it should. I didn’t know why I needed to leave my engagement, but I had to. I didn’t want to leave the security of my job to become a writer and a relationship coach… but I had to. I didn’t want to run an annual conference when I didn’t know how, but I had to. I answer the call each time I get it because I now understand that we don’t get to be certain and to be in love with anything; people, jobs, dreams… all of them require vulnerability. They require leaping and letting go of what we know to be true. They require trusting. Yourself. The universe. Your heart.

Today I have a job I love. I have a partner I love. And I have never felt more connected to myself, the people around me, and now, to you. I know you may not have all of the answers today, but I promise you, one day, each leap will make sense, you just have to take it.

Trust. Trust. Trust. And love. A lot. You got this mutha fucka. Now go get it.

Are You Giving The Wrong Kind Of Love?

“Can You Actually Love Someone Knowing They May Leave You?”

I remember when a friend of mine asked me this question…

I thought this was ridiculous. In my first two relationships the women left me… and I was understandably heartbroken.

This pain led to confusion about what love was. I wondered, “How could love hurt this much and be a good thing?” My confusion turned to frustration, which translated into drinking lots of pints and making out on dance floors.

I never really thought about limiting how much I loved until I saw what love can do. Because of the devastation of heartbreak, from that moment forward I abandoned going to the depths with love and relationships (not the “drop it like it’s hot” kinda depths, I could hit tha floor). I had now subconsciously subscribed to the story, “If I love people they’ll leave. If I let people love me they’ll hurt me.” This is a common narrative that most people live by without even knowing it, and they’ve abandoned loving, like, truly loving, because they’ve been hurt. Welcome to the club, right?

What I didn’t see is that the heartbreak is love too. We want the pretty parts of love… but love is ALL the parts.

The “unconditional” part of love is where most of us get confused because most of us weren’t taught it. When our families need us to practice “this” religion, to get “this kind” of job, to marry “this kind” of person, that’s conditional love. When the people around us only love us when we do things that make them happy, that’s conditional love. When our societies and cultures only accept us when we stick to the status quo and don’t challenge their beliefs, that is conditional love.

Our need to be accepted and part of a tribe/group is inherently programmed into our cells, which evolutionarily, if we were kicked out of a tribe, meant almost certain death. Those who followed, survived. Those who didn’t, well, they aren’t on Ancestry.com.

So how do we love unconditionally when we’ve never been taught it? And more importantly, how do we love someone even if our relationship ends?

Relationships are where our  wounds are born, so it’s in relationships our wounds are healed. But in the dance of love, this isn’t so easy to do, right?! Why does healing have to feel so hard?! Gawd. No wonder we would all rather take antidepressants, get hair plugs,  and inject our lips and asses.

This is how most of our relationships play out:

We meet someone and get super excited (or we’ve been with someone for awhile and love them deeply)… and then they either don’t reciprocate our invitations to develop a relationship or they end the one we had. It’s a terrible feeling to want to build love, only to have that desire not reciprocated, and from our perspective, rejected.

When most of us love people, we don’t love them just in the present moment, we love them also because of the story we’ve built in our minds of “how it’s all going to play out.” Loving someone and holding them to a future is, in essence, conditional love. It’s “I love you as long as this story goes the way I have imagined.” Well, it seldom does.

It’s not to say that when people leave and kids are involved it’s not painful. Or when relationships end in any capacity we’re not allowed to be heartbroken – because if we did, that would mean we’re loving people conditionally. It’s not that at all.

As I said before, the painful parts are the love too. They’re the unconditional parts. They’re the parts that say, “I love you so much that I can still love you regardless of what you choose… even if that’s not me (us).”

It can be challenging to understand when our hearts have been broken, but I think most of us have been in the space where we have wished that others would’ve understood when  we wanted to follow a passion that wasn’t in alignment with what our family/culture wants, or even why we didn’t want to go on a second date. Most of us have been in the position where we’ve hoped that someone would be able to offer us compassion when we broke their hearts or left them… We have all wished for unconditional love from those around us.

conditional love, mark groves, createthelove, relationship advice, dating advice,

So what we wish for from others, we must give.

When those women left me when I was younger I didn’t understand how to love them despite their choices. Sure, I wanted what was best for them, if it meant me. And them not choosing me had me resentful. It made me angry and caused me to abandon my own heart because they followed theirs. I fell in love with a story that wasn’t mine (them being part of it), and because of that I put down the pen on my own. I tried to force a love story with those women, not seeing that if I accepted that truth (and let them go) in my heart, I would welcome in the woman who was actually part of the story I dreamt of.

You see, this is where we all get stuck; we don’t offer ourselves the unconditional love for our story to not look exactly how we thought and/or we’re taught it should be. When we do we accept and see that maybe being a doctor, having an arranged marriage, being heterosexual, getting divorced, following a different dream, are all okay paths. Actually, they’re not just okay, they’re perfect, for us… because they’re our story.

What does this have to do with people leaving us or relationships ending? We allow their path to be their path. When we allow their path to be their path, we allow our path to be ours as well. Do you see that? When we love people for being human, we give ourselves permission to be human too. Unconditional begets unconditional.

How do we make this make sense when people abandon families and/or cheat and leave? Firstly, needing to make it make sense is the foundation of building a prison to keep ourselves in. Secondly, if we get stuck in the space of wishing they hadn’t left or wanting our lives to look differently than they do currently, we are fighting against what is true. You fight reality, and when you fight against what’s real, you lose.

You need to accept what’s real, because the only alternative feels like pushing a big rock up a big hill. You look at your life as it is today, and you love yourself unconditionally. You put one foot ahead of the fucking other and you build from where you are. You start. You take care of you (and those around you) and you stay committed to your life, your story. Stop getting stuck on which actor needs to play which role and see that you’re the casting director and the fucking writer, and the lighting person, and the executive producer. You’re all of it. The whole fucking sha-bang (is that a word?!).

If you loved yourself unconditionally, you would love your life as it is. You would express and love all the parts of you, even if you think others won’t. You would put your self-worth in your hands and make you choosing you decide your lovability rather than someone else. The moment you decide whether you’re lovable is the moment you put your worthiness in your hands. When it’s in your hands, no one can ever take it from you.

I see now that it’s not whether I can love people if they stay or go, it’s: Can I stay and love me even in the most painful parts?

can't get hard, cause of ED, cause of erectile dysfunction, men's health, mark groves, createthelove, positive psychology

Why You Really Can’t Get Hard

I was a late bloomer to the sex game. Even the concept of dating a girl scared me so much that I never had to worry about the sex part, I was still working on the “be kinda cool around chicks” part. I didn’t kiss a girl until high school and the first assisted ejaculation didn’t come till shortly thereafter that kiss. Anyone who’s touched a booby knows that once you’ve touched one, you want to either touch those boobies a lot more, and/or all the boobies around you, for pretty much every waking hour. So, stopping at “light petting” wasn’t likely to happen, despite my church’s best effort.

My sexual experiences and education came quick… (the puns are so easy here, right?!?)

When I entered (gawwwwwd it’s killing me) my first relationship I was quick to fall. I was such a romantic and so excited about love that I would celebrate our monthly anniversary… Cheesy right?!? I love cheese.

I was very passionate about building a bond with my girlfriend. Relationships came naturally to me, and I had no problem being committed to the person I loved and seeking purpose in being a great and loving partner… and building and feeding my own life and passions (calm down co-dependent police).

Unfortunately (at the time), that relationship ended. As most are, it was a painful breakup. I took about seven months to myself. I went out with friends, I met new girls, but it wasn’t until I met the next girl I dated, that I got sexual with anyone again.

She would be the fifth girl I’d kissed in my life, and the second I slept with… All this by the ripe age of twenty. Why am I telling you this? You’ll see. Read on.

That relationship would end and it would break my heart wide open. I no longer wanted love, because from my perspective with a freshly broken heart, love meant hurt. I had many friends at that time were hooking up with girls and sampling different goodies. All this time I had stayed in my integrity and it had gotten me what?!? A devastated heart.

So in that moment I would choose to try a different path. A month after my girlfriend and I broke up, for the first time in my life, I brought a girl home from the bar to my parent’s house..to have a one-night-stand with. Well, that was the plan. We were both naked and about to do it, but I couldn’t get it up. For the first time in my life, my wiener was like a noodle. I mean, all systems should’ve been go. Hot girl. Check. Naked. Check. R&B music. Check. Lubricated. Check. Hard…wait. nope. fail.

And so we (I) would welcome the first of three causes of ED:

(1). Being out of integrity:

Man… it would take me years and many shots of Jack Daniels to actually own this truth: I was out of integrity for most of the sexual encounters I had outside of relationship. I am not a one-night-stand guy. But yet, for years, I tried to make this my truth. My MO. I got celebrated for hooking up with ladies and I saved myself from heartbreak by never letting anyone truly love me. I lived through and told some great stories though.

I danced in the space of promiscuity to avoid love.  Over time I would recognize that if I drank enough I could drink away my built-in guidance system that wouldn’t allow me to get erect when the sex wasn’t in alignment for me. I was drinking away the very thing that was there to protect me. Sometimes I would even use Viagra or Cialis to curb my values and integrity. Using pills to escape truth seems to be common these days doesn’t it?

The penis is interesting, right? Because it must work in order to have sex. The vagina has an out… It requires lubrication, yes. But women can still allow entry and find things for lubrication in order to have sex. A guy can’t prop his dick on a kick stand or wrap it to a popsicle stick. It has to work in order to have sex. A man doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, he wears it on his dick. Our dicks are connected to our hearts, and we can’t avoid that truth. Although, do we ever f*cking try.

Which leads me to point numero dos:

(2). When we begin to actually care:

This one is messed up… because when we care is when our penis is supposed to work. I had a good friend who was a family doctor who told me that one of the number one causes of ED was “new partner anxiety”.

It would be a couple years after that big heartbreak before my walls even started to come down a bit. I hadn’t felt butterflies in years and even the hint of loving someone hadn’t edged its way into my experience. I went on dates, I drank my way through encounters. Then, when I finally met a girl I cared about, I understood this statement wholeheartedly.

I was in integrity, I cared about her. I waited until what felt like the “right” time, and then boom. No boom. Again, all systems should’ve been go. But yet, I couldn’t do it, because I couldn’t get hard.

I didn’t intellectually understand why this was happening in that moment, but now I see that my fear of getting hurt was causing me to have a fear of letting this woman in (ohhhhh the irony). In my experience, relationships had led to heartbreaks and pain. Sex, on a meaningful level, had solidified that truth. And here I was, at the potential for heartbreak’s door, and it was like trying to put a marshmallow in a piggy bank. When I actually needed to perform, I couldn’t.

I realized that I had placed my masculinity and my lovability in sex. And the pressure of having to perform for someone where it actually mattered, mattered a lot. In a way, so much that it scared me and paralyzed my dong.

(3). Health/fitness/nutrition:

In order for the penis to get erect it requires blood flow. It’s no secret that ED is related to cardiovascular disease. I’ll also save the long-winded information about how your physical health is likely directly related to your emotional health.

So, instead, let’s focus on this: Erectile Dysfunction can be a symptom of cardiovascular disease, if you’re at all concerned about the health of your vascular system and you have risk factors associated with it, definitely go to your doctor. In all reality, adhering to a healthy diet, learning how to manage stress and having a good exercise regimen are the likely solutions to this issue. The trick is, you have to want good health more than you want to work 80 hour weeks, eat sh*tty food, and continue to ignore the glaring health signs that you need to pay attention to. That’s about as clear of a PSA (Public Service Announcement) I can provide.

mark groves, positive psychology, createthelove, treat ED, erectile dysfunction

What’s the solution?

Maybe it’s time we saw our dicks as something different than battering rams? Maybe we need to see them as they are: very accurate barometers of our hearts. From emotional health to physical health, it all seems to manifest in the very thing we need in order to procreate. Ironic right? Our bodies and minds attempt to require a certain level of health and congruency in order to pass on our seed. Coincidence? I think not.

It’s time we accept as men that we are emotional creatures. We require connection and love. We desire closeness and intimacy that is safe and secure. When we’re operating from a certain level of awareness, we can’t shut off the truth that whom we choose to share our sexual energy with, is important. Accepting this reality made me finally understand the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” But boy, was it ever blissful to do shots, dance on speakers, and not know the real consequences of those choices, until I knew them.

If you want to stop getting ED the first thing you have to do is stop living out of integrity. How do you know what is in/out of integrity?! The truth is, you already know the answer to that. You know what choices you’re making that don’t feel good. You know when you’re hit by the cloud of guilt that blows over you the moment after you reach coitus. Yep. You know exactly what I’m talking about.

Next, you need to make different choices, and in turn, that will change how you feel about yourself (as in you’ll start loving yourself because you’ll start loving your choices… finally!). Personally, I took a vacation from women. I vowed to not have sex or be intimate with anyone where it didn’t feel in integrity and/or who I didn’t have feelings for. This taught me that I could stay committed to my integrity, and I also learned how to live in my aloneness. I invite you to do the same. Its other incredible benefit is that it also rewires our brains by teaching us that we deserve great love and that our worthiness isn’t found in random encounters. It teaches us that we’re a man of integrity. It teaches us that we get to choose. And most importantly, it teaches us that we get to decide what kind of man we want to be.

What about the scenarios where we actually care? Most of the time in these cases it’s the anxiety of love that has us not performing, so we need to talk about it. We need to express that we care and this is why erectile dysfunction is happening. We need to let our partner in on the secret, and then it’s not a secret. ED only has power over us if we let it. Your ED is asking you to be vulnerable and communicate, which is a skill that is necessary to create a loving and wonderful partnership… Your dick is soft so it can teach you to be soft too. F*cked up right? Ohhhhh the lessons in life’s experiences are vast.

New partner anxiety and infidelity aren’t the only ways ED can show up in relationships. It can be that we’re not communicating something that hurts. Perhaps our partner cheated on us and we haven’t stood up for ourselves and dealt with the hurt. Perhaps we’re no longer attracted to our partners.  And maybe, just maybe, we’re holding on to emotions instead of sharing them.

As a partner of someone who is experiencing ED, the worst thing you can do is take it personally and make it about you. Be curious, be understanding. Don’t shame him. Ask questions. Love him. Hear him. And then ask how you can help support him.

My journey has allowed me so much clarity surrounding my relationship to my penis, to sex, and to my partner. I now see that my body always knew what was right.

It’s funny, because often I’ll get asked, “Do you regret or wish you could take any of your choices/mistakes back?” No, I don’t. It sucks that I’ve hurt people and been hurt. It is unfortunate that I had to stray from my path so much to find it… but that’s exactly it; I had to leave my truth to know what it was. Other people were part of my lessons, as I was part of theirs.

When I look back, I look back with clear eyes because I’ve learned from my past. So any hope to change it would be hoping to change the experience that taught me the very things I needed to learn to be the man I am today. So you see, there are no mistakes. Life has a brilliant way of teaching us. And sometimes that lesson is through Jack Daniels and getting some extra exercise from a few walks of shame.

mark groves, feminism, patriarchy, masculinity

Are Women The New Men?

Marry a man who loves you more than you love him. A woman will always give more than what is necessary to her lover. It is ingrained into her, like maternity. But even when a man loves you more, he will still only be able to meet you halfway.”

Halfway?!? Really?! I’m sure I’m not the only man who read this is thought, “F*ck that”. I love like a powerhouse.

I saw this meme posted recently on Instagram and I thought to myself, if a woman subscribes to this she will always be in a victim state, “He didn’t love me as much as I loved him. He could never meet me where I was at. He, he, he _____ (not the laughing hehe).”

But this isn’t the first time I’ve read a quote that condescendingly referred to men and their ability to show up and be human. We are inundated with memes, culture and media which speak to what a “real man” would do or how if a man was “man enough” he would _______ blah, blah, blah.

Imagine how you end up treating the men in your life when you believe he is “less than” you? Even though, when I work with both men and women, they both struggle with communication. Because love and communication aren’t gender problems, they’re human problems. We are all struggling with the same bullshit. None of us have any idea, at the end of the day, what we’re doing. But yet, projecting our confusion and lack of understanding on men curbs responsibility doesn’t it?

Honestly, the language about men is, more often than not, appalling, and the message we send about men to young people, both little boys and little girls, is irresponsible and unnecessary. Because we’re not teaching them love. We’re teaching them to see each other as separate and as if something is “wrong” with men. We teach young men who are scrolling Instagram that they need to become a “real man” by subscribing to what some broken hearted women wrote during their time of pain. Because if the quotes and comments weren’t coming from a place of hurt, do you see how we wouldn’t say them? When we write and/or say things that are demeaning about the other sex, we cause more separation and polarity. We perpetuate the “me vs. you”, the “us vs. them”.

It’s interesting to me, because we’re in this time where what we allow in terms of conversations about men, is like we’re back in the 1950s listening to men talk about women. It’s as though, in all the efforts to move from a patriarchal society to a balanced world, we have caused the pendulum to swing in the other direction… and now men are the new women, and women, are the new men.

It’s kind of funny really, because the usual reaction to this (and you’re likely feeling it) is to say “but men have done this to women since the dawn of time!” And to be fair, you’re mostly right. But do you see what that does? It justifies continuing the separation of genders. It takes the “Men held down women” truth, which we are still trying to resolve, and justifies the same actions. In trying to eradicate inequality, we create inequality.

That’s why war can never be fought with war. Hurt begets hurt. Pain patterns continue.

As a man, I want to say this:

I’m sorry for what we did, but we didn’t know. Just like you we were taught what was right and wrong and what roles our gender was supposed to play. We were raised to be bread winners and to continue the pain patterns of the men who came before us. But, please see, a lot of us recognize that. We are trying to change that. But when you speak of our whole gender being “broken” or “not emotional”, or perpetuating messages about “a real man”, you hurt the ones who are helping create the world you dream of. You have to understand that in order for us to meet you where you’re at and love you from our depths we must go against the very programming which did anything but prepare us to do so. We wanted to love deeply but at the same time, we were told we’re not emotional. We were told “real men don’t have feelings”. We were told that we couldn’t show weakness. We were taught, just like you, to abandon ourselves to continue to satisfy a system.

You blame men, but men have hurt men too, and so have women. The truth is, we’ve all been hurt, and if we continue to keep the hurt alive, no one can ever heal.

We’re all in pain and upset about some parts of the world we were handed. We’ve all inherited hurt. We’ve all been given this planet and these feelings… and we can either fight over who’s to blame, or put our hearts and heads together to fix it.

We all need hugs. We all need understanding and love. We all want to be connected and to feel safe to be ourselves and pursue our dreams. But we also have a responsibility over what messages and narratives we’re not only sending to the world, but also the ones inheriting it.

Be the one who chooses to spread the message of wholeness and unity. See gender issues as human issues. Be the one creating a message, not perpetuating it.