Episode 18: "Maintaining your Power and Success with Men in Today’s Relationship Scene" with Dr. Herb Goldberg
Alissa Interviews Psychologist and author Herb Goldberg on “Maintaining your Power and Success with Men in Today’s Relationship Scene”
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This is Part One of two-part program.
Welcome to “Just for Women: Dating, Relationships, and Sex”. I am your host, Alissa Kriteman. This show is dedicated to bringing you the most powerful tools to help you be the most dynamic, empowered woman you can be. This interview is part of my “Summer of Love Anniversary Series” where we really explore how dating, relationships, and sex have changed over the past 40 years. Today I am very excited to welcome Dr. Herb Goldberg to the show.
Dr. Goldberg is a renowned psychologist and author of “What Men Still Don’t About Women” and “Men Want Really Want”. He has dedicated his life to helping men and women understand each other so that we might have better relationships, more respect, and love. On today’s show we will discuss some of the concepts and ideas from Dr. Goldberg’s book, “What Men Still Don’t Know About Women.”
Dr. Herb Goldberg: More so even then thirty or forty years ago men and women are objectifying each other. Men are still primarily drawn to women based on their physical appearance, their sexiness. Women are drawn to men according to their power symbols, their success symbols due to which I think they can see in the men the possibility of somebody who is a hero.
Most men invest everything in the woman that they have. They become extremely tied into her and once they are into that relationship, they actually, rarely leave which is something important for women to know because lot of times the women get very focused on whether men going to cheat or not, whether a man is looking at another woman and that kind of thing. And I think women should be assured that even men do that kind of thing, it is very rarely likely to lead to anything.
In a kind of traditional date, the man chooses the restaurant, the movie, drives the car, makes the sexual advance. The woman simply reacts to him; if the movie is lousy or the restaurant is bad or the sexual initiative is poorly timed or it gets lost on the freeway or any of those things, who is responsible? It’s the man.
What we really want to see in male-female relationships is what I would call an authentic sexuality. The sexuality really based on two people who like each other, who like being close to each other, who enjoy the physical contact because they feel safe and trusting with each other.
Alissa Kriteman: Dr. Goldberg welcome to the show.
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Well it’s a pleasure to be here.
Alissa Kriteman: For those of you who don’t yet know Dr.Goldberg, he is a gifted author of eight books including the book that we are going to talk about today “What Men Still Don’t Know About Women: Relationships and Love.” He is a passionate men’s advocate and Professor of Psychology at California State University in Los Angeles where he teaches psychology, psychotherapy, and human sexuality classes.
He has appeared on numerous talk shows, has been featured in publications such as The LA Times, Eastern Chronicle, USA Today, Men’s Health, and Psychology Today. He is a regular guest on CNN news programs, the Charlie Road Show and hundreds of radio interviews. So let’s see here. Dr. Goldberg we are just going to jump right in, OK?
Dr. Herb Goldberg: That will be great, sure.
Alissa Kriteman: In your book you say there is a prevailing notion that male-female relationships have changed significantly and fundamentally in the past 40 years. Not only is this belief wrong, it’s dangerously misleading. Can you elaborate on that for us?
Dr. Herb Goldberg: I think that this is what I would actually call “crazy” making going on in male-female relationships which is…and there is a lot of double messages, complex double messages going back and forth and I think that’s partially because there’s two basic levels to the communication between men and women. There is the content level, which is the external level the kind of things we do and say that are obvious to the opposite sex. On that level, I think people have changed a lot. I think men are much more enlightened about issues around sexism and they are more aware of some of their own shortcomings and I think women have certainly moved away from being the dependent, weaker sex.
On that level, things have changed a lot. There’s certainly a lot of awareness. Intellectual awareness about issues around sexism and also about relationships generally. But on a deeper level, relationship is still extremely traditional. Actually, regressively so meaning that I think more so even than 30 or 40 years ago, men and women are objectifying each other. Men are still primarily drawn to women based on their physical appearance, their sexiness.
Women are drawn to men according to their power symbols, their success symbols due to which they can see in the man the possibility of somebody who is a hero, a rescuer or take-charge kind of a person. Now some of that is in denial, but these are all what I call process elements. The process elements are the things that often change. The process elements are still very polarized meaning process meaning that men are still I think very externalized, focused very much outside of themselves and women are still very much internalized, focused on their inner self. Those are process issues meaning I think they emerge from very deeply rooted defense mechanisms. They are in denial for both men and women because both men and women don’t like to see that in themselves.
Alissa Kriteman: All right, all right. You just said a whole thing.
Dr. Herb Goldberg: I know it has been a lot. I am going to slow way down at this point.
Alissa Kriteman: I was going to say just this, OK. Let’s go back to why 40 years, a lot has happened, a lot has changed, we are more aware, but we are still regressing, wee are still objectifying, what’s happening here?
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Well, I think first of all, I think it’s the way the whole liberation movement started. I think the women’s liberation or feminism really began on a lot of victim-energy. In other words, I think women’s enlightenment, a lot of women’s enlightenment came around the issues of feeling that they have been oppressed, that they have been objectified, that they have been controlled, that they have been degraded, dismissed by man and so feminism was really about empowering women, which is fine up to a point except that I think women didn’t see their side of the coin particularly in their relationships with men; they didn’t see their part of the dance and how they helped to set up a lot of things that they found offensive, how they participated in them.
So those deeper elements and what I would call permanent conditioning were not impacted. So women have really remained very traditional on a deeper level meaning for example, they still continue to react to men, how they still tended to lose themselves in relationships, and at the same time they developed very liberated and enlightened attitudes. So intellectually women changed a lot. They became very sophisticated about issues around sexism, where they didn’t change was the deeper ways in which they relate to in precise men and I think that’s why we are in trouble.
Men the same thing – men I think may try to make changes also very much externally they try to become what women have wanted them to become and so they became more sensitive on some levels, they became more tuned into issues of sexism. But what they didn’t really alter were the deeper elements, which was the tendency to withdraw and distress. The tendency to always have to take charge, to take responsibility, to feel guilty, to objectify women in a deeper way, so there is a lot of things that men didn’t do. We did the easy stuff. We changed the external attitudes, but we didn’t change the deeper practice.
Alissa Kriteman: All right. Let us go more deeper here. So women relating to and perceiving men what are women still missing?
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Well, an awful lot of women are missing – on the upside what women are missing is the tremendous amount of power that they have in any kind of relationship with a heterosexual man, particularly once it becomes intertwined, once the man begins to become really interested and committed to the relationship.
Women have incredible amount of power for a number of reasons. One, the main reason being because most men are externalized meaning that they are focused outside of themselves. They have very weak or even non-existent support systems. They are basically very isolated. They are very, what I would call, disconnected. In fact in my new book I talk about the progression of masculinity being from externalization to disconnection to oblivion. The oblivion is the personal oblivion, which is the direction most traditional men head into, which means, as they get older, it becomes more and more impossible for them to make a close and personal connection with anybody, literally anybody.
So, most men invest everything in the woman that they have. They become extremely tied into her and once they are into that relationship, they actually rarely leave, which is something important for women to know because lot of times women get very focused on whether men are going to cheat or not or whether man is looking at another woman and that kind of thing and I think women should be assured that even when men do that kind of thing, it is very rarely likely to lead to anything significant beyond a fantasy or may be some kind of acting up, but certainly not a destruction of the relationship.
Alissa Kriteman: I want to talk about this for a second because you are saying that it is almost like inevitable that there is going to be a problem because if a woman is feeling, do you think a man’s natural way of developing in relationships because he is more prone to being an isolated type of person, that he is going to get really, really, really connected to his woman…
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Exactly.
Alissa Kriteman: …and woman may be have the tendency to recoil like, “hey man! Have your own life. Have a men’s group or something.”
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Exactly.
Alissa Kriteman: You are saying that women need to understand that that’s the way it’s going to go.
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Exactly.
Alissa Kriteman: OK.
Dr. Herb Goldberg: That’s a perfect point and I think that a lot of women are very much aware of that. There are actually… many women are oppressed by that which is the… the intense dependency that men develop once they get into that relation, which gives women enormous amount of power.
Alissa Kriteman: If we use it properly. So how do we help our men unwind from being so intertwined in a relationship?
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Well, I think that’s an interesting question because that’s often the double message because women I think women want that and yet at the same time they don’t want that. I think in some ways, on an unconscious level women tend to promote men’s isolation.
Alissa Kriteman: How?
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Well, a lot of men feel guilty when they do things on their own once they are married or once they are in relationship. I certainly found that to be true among a lot of men that I know particularly. If you try to get together with them, they will always want to ask the woman’s permission first and they…or they feel like they shouldn’t do it or they may… Then they tend to abandon lot of their friendships once they get into a relationship with a woman and then they feel…I think women promote that because it makes them feel more secure.
In other words, by questioning the man or even hinting somehow he is really not…he is really may be out there flirting with women or something like that. They promote a man’s tendency to feel guilty when he does something on his own. But outside of that, that’s the way that women can encourage a man to unwind really is by keeping a very strong, separate self; keeping their own very strong boundaries, having an interesting life that is separate from the relationship and that they are committed to, and that kind of forces the man to do something with his. It also frees him from the guilt that he might have when he does things on his own.
Alissa Kriteman: Yeah. It definitely is a delicate balance because there is a lot of empowered women who are…they have their careers and they are managing the household and they are definitely keeping their lives separate and yet at the same time does that affect the quality of the bond there? So I can see how men and women really…I mean it is a wonder people stay together at all.
Dr. Herb Goldberg: If you want to bring out the absolute best in a man, I think women who have very strong boundaries, are the most likely to be treated really, really well by a man.
Alissa Kriteman: Strong boundaries with love, I would say?
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Very strong boundaries, yeah, with love but it doesn’t have to be an all encompassing kind of a love.
Alissa Kriteman: I mean instead of being mean like, “Hey these are my boundaries and blah, blah, blah…,” it’s kind of like “Hey, these are my boundaries” from a deep place of honor and respecting a woman so, why is a woman who has strong boundaries going to be more successful in a relationship or marriage?
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Well I think a number of reasons. Number one is that men have a lot of anxieties about too much closeness, dependency. When they find themselves becoming dependent or the woman becoming too dependent on men, it shuts them down a little bit. So they start to close up. Women with strong boundaries tend to keep a man open. His anxiety level is down, it allows him to appreciate, it gets his attention. Men because they are very externalized, they need a lot of stimulation.
I mean in a traditional relationship where the woman who is a pleaser, an accommodator, and who centers around that, they don’t get any stimulation. When a woman is a reactor, when she takes her cues from the man, when she tries to please him, when she tries to get on to his wavelength all the time, do the things that he is interested in, when she refrains from making decisions and she allows him to make the decisions, when they do things socially and that kind of thing, I think men lose interest because they need a very high level of stimulation.
When they are with a woman with strong boundaries, who has an interesting life of her own, and doesn’t seem like she is totally wrapped up in him or dependent, it tends to keep him stimulated and keeps him very much tuned into her and also very appreciative and excited when he is able to be close to her, particularly sexually.
Alissa Kriteman: Great stuff, wow! Now we are going to have to take quick break to support our sponsors and I think when we come back I want to learn more about these deeper changes you are talking about; that you mentioned or alluded to in the beginning there.
Dr. Herb Goldberg: OK, sure.
Alissa Kriteman: Great. This is Alissa Kriteman, your host for Just for Women: Dating, Relationships, and Sex. We are talking with Dr. Herb Goldberg, amazing, amazing man, font of knowledge, renowned psychologist and author and we will be right back.
Alissa Kriteman: Welcome back to “Just for Women: Dating, Relationships, and Sex.” I am your host, Alissa Kriteman. We are talking today with Dr. Herb Goldberg in our “Summer of Love Series” about what men and women can still learn about each other, to help us to have the love in the relationships we really desire to have.
So Dr. Goldberg, before the break you were telling us many amazing about how women can understand men and a couple of things were, supported individual growth, support him having friendships outside the relationship, have our own separate lives, our own separate, vibrant lives because that’s actually a major attractor, and for women to have really strong boundaries.
Another point that you talked about you said that in the last 40 years we have done a lot of may be superficial work, we have done a lot of great work with women’s liberation and empowerment, but there is still deeper work to be done. Can you talk to us a little about what that deeper work is?
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Right. The deeper you get the more elusive it gets, the harder it is to see, the greater the tendency to deny it. I think the most dramatic thing that has not changed is what I call the “Actor-Reactor Scenario” that goes on in male-female relationship which is relationships between men and women… intimate relationships.
I mean we must follow the actor-reactor dynamic which has the man as the actor and the woman as the reactor. The man initiates the relationship usually. He takes the phone number and makes the phone call, drives the car, chooses the restaurant, makes the sexual approach and that kind of thing and women tend to react to the man.
The problem with that is that the actor-reactor dynamic creates an undertow, an emotional undertow that is going to shape the whole relationship. Regardless of how great the guy is or regardless of whether the woman is a CEO of a corporation or a stay-at-home mom, the deeper dynamic is going to create her feelings, meaning that if she is a reactor, she is going to feel controlled. If she is a reactor, she is going to feel that she is losing herself in the relationship.
If she is a reactor, she is going to feel a sense of low self-esteem. If she is a reactor she is going to feel like she is really not participating in the decisions what she is going to forget is that at the beginning of relationship she helped to set that up because most of the times when the man was actually asking her for inputs, very often she wasn’t really giving him direct inputs or she simply wasn’t taking initiative. She was replying to the man. Now a lot that is unconscious. The reason it is unconscious is because the actor-reactor dynamic feels very romantic. It feels very romantic to be swept off your feet, to have a dashing sort of relationship with a dashing man who wants to romance you, wants to make things wonderful for you, that kind of thing.
The man is the actor meaning that he feels a responsibility to create the relationship, to keep it going. When things go wrong, he has a tendency to feel that it was his responsibility, his fault and women feed into that. Similarly because most women when relationships start to go bad, they feel victimized. They very rarely say, “What am I doing that’s allowing the relationship to go bad?”
Mainly they are going to be focused on the way they are being treated by the man and women are very supportive of each other and pointing the finger at the man and pointing out his flaws and his limitations and his unworthiness and that is really the crux of the problem in the relationship which these women haven’t really seen themselves yet. Very few women have seen themselves as equal players in a relationship, equally creating the problem with an accurate perception of what they do to help create that problem. They are certainly not the whole problem, but they are half the problem.
Men are half the problem. Men have a lot of work to do very intrinsic of all. But it’s [xx] women to be with traditional men because most traditional men are very externalized and so they don’t satisfy the woman’s needs for closeness and for having the same proportion of conversation.
Alissa Kriteman: Let’s go back for a second here. Let’s talk about this how women have been the reactors- it’s really funny. You are just laying out for us all of the pitfalls, the landmines that happen. We are conditioned, unconsciously conditioned to create and be in relationships that actually don’t work.
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Exactly.
Alissa Kriteman: And it [xx] me, which is why I love talking to you. You show us exactly how as children we are groomed to have this actor-reactor kind of relationship and it is a scenario that is going to implode because like you said, the woman is not empowered to be direct and then if she is direct in what she wants, she might be perceived as a bitch or she might be perceived as too much and then a man can’t handle that.
Dr. Herb Goldberg: I am not sure that that’s [xx]. Let me just comment on that quickly. I think that it is not so much that she is going to be perceived negatively. It is more than when…this is really on a deeper and more than denied level, but when women actually take the responsibility and initiative and are really direct, they actually I think, are afraid that they are going to lose power in the relationship because a lot of the power that women get in traditional relationships is manipulating a man’s compulsion to take responsibility and then to feel guilty or badly when things to bad. In other words, there is a lot of power in allowing the man to take the responsibility and then to feel badly- it frees the woman up…she is always [xx] big guy when things go wrong, if she is the reactor.
If she has really implemented her initiative, in fact to take the traditional date for example, in a traditional date the man chooses the restaurant, the movie, drives the car, makes the sexual advance, and the woman simply reacts to him. If the movie is lousy, or the restaurant is bad, or the sexual initiative is poorly timed or he gets lost on the freeway or any those of things, who is responsible?
Alissa Kriteman: Yeah. Who is going to put on the…where is the romance if the man…if we are not allowing man to initially take the initiative and take us out, and do all of that, are we becoming buddies, where’s the sexual attention, where’s the romance?
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Well, that’s very interesting because the sexual tension that appears in the romantic relationships tends to dissipate really quickly because it is largely fantasy-based. I think the lot of the sexual issues that couples have is because relationships start on the drug-high of romance and so the sex is extremely exciting at the beginning, but it’s fragile and that excitement can disappear very quickly.
What we really want to see in male-female relationships is what I would call an authentic sexuality. The sexuality really based on two people who like each other, who like being close to each other, who enjoy the physical contact because they feel safe and trusting with each other and so you may not get the same really hard sex right at the beginning, but you are going to get…Sex has the capacity for growing and for getting better, rather than all of sudden disappearing.
Alissa Kriteman: Is hard sex at the beginning some kind of indicator, red flag, something?
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Absolutely a red flag. I think the less the couple has in common really in menu often and the more fantasy ridden it is, and the more it is driven by deeper needs to be rescued so to speak by the other, the harder the sex is going to be at the beginning. And once those needs are satisfied and once the two people no longer need to create fantasy around each other, the sex is going diminish and deteriorate, may be even disappear. Yeah…hard sex is often the indicator. My equation for that is the higher the ride, the deeper the crash.
Alissa Kriteman: I definitely, definitely have experienced that. That’s why I asked you. I mean that is pretty well known that hard sex is a red flag because you are not going to be your real, deep [xx] with someone like that. But well let’s get back to this woman becoming more equal players without losing the sexual attention and the romance. What do you got for it?
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Well, I think the important thing to remember is a trade-off. And also why it is important just to… for the woman to be very conscious of what they do. If they are very conscious of what they do, then they can choose to keep it romantic if they want. The important thing is that if they are going through the reactor mode, without seeing themselves intentionally, they are really vulnerable again to feeling victimized, to feeling diminished, to blaming the man when things go wrong and once that happens the relationship is not going to be very flexible. Once women get into this sense that they have been injured in the relationship and it’s the man’s fault, their motivation to improve the relationship and to do the hard work of looking at themselves is going to diminish, even become non existent.
I think the important thing is for women to see how they set up a lot of the things that happen to them. How they participate in creating that and then once they can see how they do that, even if they choose to do that, that’s fine as long as they don’t later lay on the man and they don’t see the man as having oppressed them or victimized them.
Alissa Kriteman: Let’s talk about that. What’s the top five ways that women unconsciously sabotage the relationship?
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Well, I think there is a number of ways. Number one is by becoming too centered around the relationship, too focused on it. Number two would be approaching the commitment and the intimacy issue. Intimacy is really a by-product. It’s not something you talk about and it’s not something that you demand or it’s not something you buff the other person for being inadequate at. Intimacy is a situation where two people really get to know each other and they feel safe with each other and they open up to each other, and they see the reality of each other.
I think by the fact that women also tend to shutting them down by over-reacting to certain things that men do, in other words when there is a conflict or when a man makes a certain comment or a joke or reveals something about his fantasy life or his inner life that the woman finds a little bit threatening, the woman over-reacts to that and reacts to [xx] it, may be even in some cases withdraws from the man, attacks him, cries even…when that happens the man just shuts down. So if you want real intimacy with a man, you really have to make it very safe for him to be his real self without feeling like he is going to get clobbered for it.
The fourth element that women do to undermine is romanticizing the relationship initially. When you romanticize a relationship too much, you tend to be scared of hurt or want to avoid and deny conflict. You don’t want anything so to speak, negative to intrude. But the reality of a relationship is that there is always going to be conflicts and there are negatives and the relationship has to have a lot of room for putting the negatives and the conflicts on the table. I think women and men will find it if they deal with conflict openly, it can be very scary, but it is very, very bonding and the more you are continually hang in there and work through conflict, the better the relationship is.
The last thing is I would say is the equation that a good relationship has to feel very romantic and I think that’s also…gets in the way of a good relationship. So I think all these elements plus women just really need to get comfortable with their anger, women really need to get comfortable with boundaries, women really need to get comfortable dealing with conflict directly, even bringing it up because very often it’s the man that has to finally surface the problem and women have a tendency to want to duck around or evade the negatives and they want things to be nice. The favorite word that occur to a traditional woman in a relationship is the word, ‘nice.’ Can’t you be nice, isn’t this nice, and wouldn’t this be nice and that’s usually a red flag when women use the word, ‘nice’ a lot, it’s a red flag that they are really approaching the relationship in a very traditional way.
Alissa Kriteman: Wow! This is just great, great stuff. Sometimes it’s a little bit to difficult to hear because I think we as women can look into our lives and see where we have unconsciously done all of these things. We have put too much focus on the relationship. We tried to push commitment. Definitely romanticizing the relationship and so you as a man, as a psychologist, as someone who is in the know, is really saying, “Ladies, stop doing this!”
Dr. Herb Goldberg: The important thing is to know that you are actually damaging yourself when you do it. You are bringing out…you are setting it up for the relationship to fail.
Alissa Kriteman: Yeah. Completely, unknowingly I mean really…
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Unfortunately doing it without being aware that you are doing it and when it does fail, you have tendency not to see how you set it up. The important…the bottom line here and I hate to use the word bottom line because it’s so overused… but the bottom line is that women have tremendous amount of potential, power in the male-female relationship.
Tremendous amount of power to make that relationship work, and to keep the relationship working even when it hits a really bad point. Women have a lot of power, if they don’t over-react, if they don’t immediately go into a blaming and a victim mode, and once a man bonds with a woman he very rarely leaves and so if women don’t over-react when a crisis occurs or even if a man has an affair, most of the time when a man has an affair or “cheats” on a woman or whatever, it is not the beginning of the end of the relationship.
Alissa Kriteman: You know what Dr. Goldberg we have got to wrap up. But you know what, I am going to have you back because we have to talk more about how women can tap into this power that we have in relationship, we have got to go deeper, but we are completely out of time. How can we find you, where we can find your books, and where we can find you?
Dr. Herb Goldberg: I have a private practice in Los Angeles. I have a website herbgoldbergphd.com.
Alissa Kriteman: What’s your email?
Dr. Herb Goldberg: My email is [email protected]
Alissa Kriteman: Stand, cross check, ladies. Check out these books, they are amazing. “What Men Still Don’t Know About Women, Relationships, and Love.” The whole first part of the book is really an education on who men are and the male process and so much great stuff about who men are and so check out that book and also Dr. Goldberg did an interview with another host on the Personal Life Media and that was Dr. Lori Buckley and that was great and they talked about a different book that Dr. Goldberg wrote called, “What Men Really Want” and so check out that interview as well.
And listeners, thank you for tuning in. If you would like to email me, please feel free. You can email me at [email protected] You can ask me any comments, any questions, make any comments and for texts and transcripts of this show and other shows on Personal Life Media, please go to the website, personallifemedia.com.
Dr. Goldberg, thank you so much for being with us. We will definitely have you back. We have to talk more about how women can be more empowered in their relationships.
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk to women because very often I think I have been [xx] falsely get this reputation for being a man’s advocate. I don’t feel really am a man’s advocate. I am really an advocate for both genders to see how they impact the other and to see what derives their behavior and I think you have certainly given me an opportunity to do that this morning.
Alissa Kriteman: Thank you, thank you very much. Yes, it has been a pleasure to do…so much more I want to say which is I don’t think men do have role models to be powerful men and if we are going to be grooming ourselves as empowered women, we need empowered men as well. So I really will apply the work that you are doing.
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Well, thank you, Alissa.
Alissa Kriteman: Awesome. Thank you so much We are out of time. I am your host, Alissa Kriteman. You were listening to Just for Women: Dating, Relationships, and Sex. Thank you for tuning in. We will see you next time.
This concludes Part One. The interview would be continued in the next episode of this show.
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