How to make sense of adult relationships- what men & women really want
The ideas presented here are from the approach to intimate adult relationships as developed by California based relationship yoga-master, David Deida (see the link to the left of this page which will take you to Deida's website).

Having spent many years of his younger life on a yoga spiritual path, Deida realised that despite having attained high levels of consciouness through yogic practices, many of the 'masters' still had the sexual ethics of adolescent boys. Many of them behaved in sexually exploitative manners towards young female devotees, and their approach to both sexuality and human intimacy was often the last aspect of their beings to evolve towards maturity. As such, he realised the importance of sexuality and its potential role in spiritual development- and it was the area where most of the existing 'gurus' were clueless. Deida decided to focus on sexual intimacy as a spiritual path. Years later, he has provided profound workshop experiences to thousands of people around the world; has authored more than 10 books explicating his unique approach to sexual union; and has made hours of audio recordings available. You can read chapters from his books for free on his website, and you are able to listen to excerpts of the audio recordings which are available for purchase.

I have no vested financial interest in promoting Deida's work. Rather, my motivation for bringing it to people's attention is simply that his approach turned nearly 15 years of struggle and confusion in my own marriage into a viable proposition with a way forward. A work friend gave me a set of audio tapes from a weekend workshop which Deida had conducted in the late 1990's. On the very first listening, almost everything which had been confusing and painful to both my wife and I transformed into understanding. I was able to see how my desire to not replicate the old version of relationships (from the 1950's role models), while a step forward, was still fraught with problems and mistakes which created pain and disunity.

Beginning my education in psychology and social sciences in the early 1980s, I quickly learnt that the ideal for a contemporary male (as opposed to the 'old-school' macho male) was to be somewhat androgynous. Masculinity had a very bad reputation, with the increased awareness of male violence and sexual abuse of those less powerful. No 'thinking' young man of the era wanted to overly identify with traditional notions of masculinity. Of course, this was only a decade or so after the counter-culture movement which saw men realise the self defeating consequences of traditional rigid masculinity- men began to grow their hair long, wear jewelry and colourful clothes, and learnt how to dance 'free-form'. Not only was the traditional rigid masculinity damaging to men's lives, but the Vietnam War made it clear how damaging a world full of John Waynes could be to innocent others. The women's movement made it clear that it was no longer acceptable for men to use violence to control them; the new ecological movement made it clear that a ruthless and uncaring approach to the environment would lead to the destruction of the planet and all forms of life. Things had to change, and fortunately, they did. Many men got the message- they needed to find their 'inner feminine'- to learn how to losen up a bit, go with the flow, adorn their appearance, stop being so competetive and violent.

It is hard to view this cultural development as anything other than a much needed change. However, as with all social evolution, there have been unintended costs. In the process, positive aspects of masculinity, such as creative drives, protection of those weaker, and self sacrifice were easily forgotten in the rush to point the finger at the evils of traditional masculinity. If men wanted to survive in this new world, many realised that they needed to eschew their masculinity and become 'balanced' human beings, with equal amounts of feminine and masculine traits and capacities. This was the intellectual world I entered in my early 20s when I began studying psychology and sociology, and I became as good as any of them at developing my feminine traits, often at the expense of my masculine nature. Of course, the same thing in reverse was happening for women. In order to be taken seriously in the contemporary world, young women were required to eschew many traits traditionally associated with femininity. Any interest in children became viewed as some kind of mental weakness; an emphasis on softness and love became viewed as inviting sexual exploitation, and therefore complicity in abuse; the desire to look attractive (to self and to others, including men) became viewed with derision. No doubt, there was the need for the social change which the women's movement generated. Any reflective person is apalled by stories of what women had to endure, both in society and in relationships, in the pre-feminist era.

However, as with men, it appears that something entirely important for the zap of interest between men and women was lost in the scamble for equality. Yes, men can cook meals, look after children, wear colourful clothes and dance free-style. Yes, women can run companies, be in the military, change car tyres and pay the bills. We have achieved a state of more equal opportunity in social role for both genders. And many men and women can succeed in non traditional roles, and find these entirely rewarding- and most of us are able to act in non traditional roles in our public lives, being men-women/women-men in the workplace. However, when it comes to our private intimacies, it is likely that sticking with the androgynous version is going to result in..... not much of anything.

Deida introduced the notion of most of us having either a 'masculine essence' or a 'feminine essence'. These basic tendencies are usually (although not always) based on gender. Most men have a masculine essence, and most women have a feminine essence- in a minority of people, the essence does not equate with their gender. It is common in homesexual relationships for one person to have a primarily masculine essence and the other a primarily feminine essence. There are also some heterosexual people whose gender is opposite to their sexual essence. The following discussion can therefore be translated to cover such people, as it is the sexual essence which is important, not the actual gender.

In order for attraction to be present and maintained in intimate relationships, there needs to be a zap between masculine and feminine, almost like two different poles of electricity. The masculine pole is inherently interested in the feminine, and vice-versa. When a relationship between a man and woman begins, it is typical for him to bring with him the main quality which is appealing to the feminine, ie, his masculine presence. He pays close attention to her, undivided, focusing on all she has to say. He 'penetrates' her with this presence. Women reciprocate with dropping their guard and opening up with radiance- bright smiles, laughter, beauty, etc. To a man with a masculine essence, this is like finding a patch of warm sunshine at the bottom of the garden on a cold, grey, dreary winter's day- it brings him to life. The feminine essence wants to be penetrated by a masculine presence which exudes integrity, strength, honesty, purposefullness. It is no wonder that the beginning of relationships is often the happiest time, as both masculine and feminine essences are usually giving free reign to their natural tendencies. The zap between these two poles is happening in a natural manner, and each party is getting what they need from the other:- the masculine partner needs the light which exudes from an opened feminine heart; and the feminine partner needs the penetration which busts open her heart if done with integrity.

With time, it is not unusual for the masculine partner to begin withholding his presence; and for the feminine partner to withhold her radiance. Neither are making a conscious choice to do this, but there are many messages in our culture which encourage us to become 'de-polarised'. In the end, most of us meet somewhere in the middle, with both partners having become somewhat androgynous.The exciting zap between the sexual poles has been lost, and the interest in the relationship begins to fizzle out. Our culture has done a good job at convincing most men that masculinity is essentially violent and abusive; and that feminity is stupid, frivolous and childish. The workplace expects us to all be equal in all things- men learn to behave as pseudo women, pretending to be caring and sensitive- actually interested in common sentiments; and women learn how to behave as pseudo men, pretending to actually care about power plays, organisational dominance, competition. And the reality is that most of us are able to do this- and succeed at it. However, when it comes to our intimate relationships, we appear to have thrown out the baby with the bathwater- pseudo men and women, playing the roles of their opposites only results in disinterested and disengaged pretenders. Men start looking for feminine radiance elsewhere (other women, the beauty of nature, the colour and brightness of the TV set or computer); and women start to look for masculine penetration in the illicit lover who will ravage her with passion, or just begin to close down emotionally.

I find a minority of Deida's notions to be a little like yoga-fetishes in that they seem to be more about that particular subsulture than they are about essential masculine/feminine characteristics. However, he is at his best when he talks about the three stages of relationships. These reflect stages within our culture, as well as stages and moments within specific relationships. An awareness of these stages allowed both my wife and myself to make immediate sense of what we had been doing wrong for many years, and to begin to correct these. For myself, I stopped denying my masculine essence- this was entirely liberating, as I had internalised a radical feminist view that associated masculinity with male abuses of power. I gave myself permission to stop pretending to be what I clearly was not (a womanised man), and was able to be more real about myself without fears of becoming an abusive man. I began to cherish the feminine qualities of my wife, rather than seeing them as failed attempts at maleness (which up to that time, i'd assumed she should be aspiring to). I realised that if I as a man failed to occupy the masculine space in my relationship with a penetrating presence, then my wife would- and I would wind up with a stressed and hardened woman, bending herself out of shape, rather than a loving heart connected woman. Stepping into the masculine pole allowed my wife to no longer have to play that role; and it allowed me to feel some self respect again. The truth is that I made a lousy pretend she-man; I make a much better authentic man. And my wife makes a much better authentic woman with a feminine essence than a hardened he-woman. This shift in awareness allowed the dynamic zap to re-enter our relationship after many years of squashing it. We still have challenges, however they are not problems that go with bending oneself out of shape to fit an erroneous cultural ideal.

Deida's three stages are as follows:-

Stage 1: The submissive housewife and the macho breadwinner

This stage has been the predominant stage globally up until quite recent times. It is characterised by strictly defined and rigidly upheld gender roles. The man is out in the world bringing home the food and the woman is at home caring for the children. The man dominates the woman with threats of physical violence and withholding of resources and the woman dominates the man with threats of emotional violence and withholding of sex. Intimate partners acting out of Stage 1 use their lover/spouse as a means to satisfy their own needs, selfishly manipulating the other to get what they desire. They tend to judge themselves by external factors, be it the size of their paycheck and muscles (men), and the size of their breasts and impeccability of their perfect household (women). Whenever we focus on ourselves and how we appear to others, we are in a first stage moment. The result of this 1950's type of relationship was emotionally disconnected couples, frightened women and lonely men who died prematurely.

Modern caricatures of this stage are the big-spending female gold digger, the too-good-to-be-true mother of 50s TV shows; the violent/abusive husband, the angry hip hop gangster and the money-hungry TV preacher.

Stage 2: The working girl and the sensitive flow boy

The cultural emergence of this stage started in parallel with feminism and the gender equality movement. In the 2nd stage, people seek to become more integrated human beings. The emergence of Stage 2 has lead to women embracing masculine values and opportunities, becoming tougher and more independent, and men have embraced feminine flow and emotions, becoming more open and relating. Men and women learnt to discover and cultivate their opposite- men grew their hair long, learnt to dance, wore colourful clothes and got in touch with their feelings; women learnt to assert themselves, to get what they want, and to direct their own lives. This correction needed to evolve so as to overcome the limitations of the 1st Stage. Where people acting out of a first stage moment seek approval through their possessions and appearance, people in a second stage moment want to be appreciated for what they can who they are inside. Value is primarily determined by internal properties of the self.

The 2nd stage is very concerned that things should be done the right and proper way, and 2nd stage men in particular consider it important not to rock the boat too much; whereas 2nd stage women are very willing to rock the boat in order to obtain their sense of equality with men- these women have discovered their 'sword' and are ready to chop men down to size if they believe they are not be treated with fair equality (ie. treated like men). As men, we gladly accept people’s boundaries, even when they wish we didn’t, and try not to escalate conflict. In intimate relationships, the tension of polarity (which results from the attractive differences between masculine and feminine) often disappears and is replaced by a withholding of depth, often felt as repulsive by both partners- feminised men and masculinised women often results, with the loss of 'zap' between the genders. Typically, such men and women just eventually lose interest in each other.

In societies, the second stage is expressed as an aversion to conflict and an almost suffocating political correctness. Everybody agrees to disagree, and to continue pretending to not be who they actually are- in fact, to actively dishonour who they are and the different strengths and gifts related to this.

The second stage individual is generally stuck in a perpetual self-improvement cycle that seems to lead nowhere, as the development often goes away from our true nature as opposed to towards it. Men with a masculine essence generally make lousy women (the act is not convincing, and dissipates who they really are); and women with a feminine essence, while able to 'cut it' in the  masculine public arena, often find themselves unwittingly driving men away in their intimate lives.  Happiness always looms on the horizon, but never quite arrives. Taken to its extremes, Stage 2 sees men and women actually repulse each other, or at best experiencing no 'zap' or attractive tension between the masculine and feminine ends of the pole- they have met somewhere in the very uninteresting middle.

Contemporary women may like the concept of sensitive new age men, but many have found the reality completely unrewarding, uninspiring and actually stressful, as these men are unable to take the burdens off their women's shoulders in intimate relationships. Women with a feminine essence will no longer accept being bullied by macho-men, but in their intimate relationships, they are generally wanting to relax into a trusting love without having to make all the decisions and set all the directions. SNAGS mistakenly believe that a 'good' man leaves it all up to the woman to set the direction in a loving relationship, whereas most women with a feminine essence are actually wanting a strong man who is full of loving integrity to take up this role in their lives- they want to be able to trust the integrity of a strong man, knowing that his sense of direction is also informed by his love for her.

Modern caricatures of stage 2 are the directed female headhunter or business executive, and the male crystal healer and emo singer-songwriter.

Stage 3: The radiant goddess and the warrior of love

For those rare souls fortunate enough to experience it, this stage is characterized as an ongoing state of gifting yourself to the world and your partner. Think of when your last relationship started- there is a good chance that the person with a masculine essence (usually the man) was giving the person with the feminine essence (usually the woman) 'his' undivided attention, ie. his presence; not watering it down with pretending to listen to her, pretending to care, while actually worrying more about the state of his car. In response to being penetrated by this masculine presence (which is what a feminine essence really wants, as this is only thing she cant do for herself), the woman's heart is  burst open in love, which radiates back to the man- this is the sexual polarity in action.The woman offers her divine radiance in service of her partner and the world, opening them up with the deep flow of her life force and beauty. The man offers his unending integrity and stability, as an expression of his desire to penetrate the world with truth and love.

This stage is not necessarily calm or peaceful, as the politically correct stage two prefers. These individuals know freedom and love intimately and consciously choose not to repress their true nature, which may offend those of lesser consciousness. When a person expresses him- or herself through a third stage moment, their intention is to serve the world – or the people in it – in their opening to truth and love. Sometimes, their service won’t be appreciated, but since a person in a third stage moment has transcended the need to be validated by external or internal factors, it matters little. 

In intimate relationships, the feminine third stage is expressed as pure, unfiltered life energy, bursting with love, expressed as both wild storms or warm summer breezes. She is an oracle, a pure expression of the feminine, of nature Herself. She serves her man by seducing him out of his narrow-minded focus on getting things done, by sexing him out of his head and into his body, by earthquakes of anger through her body as she hurls lighting bolts at him for being less than he is capable of, but also through the warm nurturance of her love. The man serves her in return by remaining unperturbed, unaffected by her wild emotions, pressing into her with his presence and love, as they find union- this is a 3rd Stage moment.

Deida's appraoch is an attempt to help people arrive at 3rd stage relationships and/or moments.

The best place to start with this journey is for men to read 'The Way of the Superior Man' by David Deida, and to listen to his recordings. Women can enjoy reading 'Dear Lover', but many also find the 'Superior Man' book to be a very useful 'owners manual'!. Click on the link to the left to go to Deid'a website where you can sample more of his approach.