What Do You Think About Nurturing & Gender Roles in Hetero-Adult Relationships?

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 06:37
Submitted by Betty Dodson

Hi Betty,

I know that this blog is about sex...and what you have to say about it is mind-blowing and paradigm-shattering, for me. Because of your unique viewpoint, I would love to hear your opinion on a question I have about women's roles.

What is your opinion about the role (if any) that nurturing should play in a woman's relationship with her (male) partner? Once, after I had been with a partner many years, (and things were already getting rocky) he said, jokingly,' that it was my job to keep him from getting anxiety and being anxious. I was surprised at the honesty I was hearing, and immediately I knew that was wrong. I am no longer in that relationship.

However, the theme does continue to come up with other men...specifically asking for nurturing at different times when they need it. Nurturing is a healthy part of a relationship isn't it? If it is mutual, and not care-taking and codependent...? You can see I am still trying to figure this out, as I know I come across as a nurturer (in all my relationships). I need some balance, though.

What do you think about nurturing and gender roles in hetero adult partner relationships?

Thank you!


Dear D,

The first most obvious meaning of nurturing is a mother raising a child. However the act of nurturing is important in all of our relationships/friendships beginning with nurturing ourselves. That's number One. If I can't take care of myself then I'm not able to nurture another person.

As for your lover's expectations that it was your job to keep him from getting anxious, that's a bit much. Yes, we can be loving and supportive by encouraging another person, but we are NOT responsible to keep them from feeling anxious unless we are their therapist who is a professional and getting paid.

As for men in general, most smart women know we are the first sex. Since we give birth, we have more genetic material, our brains are wired for better communicating and we understand co-operation and how to work in social groups. When women speak together, they often refer to their husbands as the "Big kid" after they start having children. I just witnessed Carlin going through pregnancy and birth and her husband was absolutely spectacular. He was by her side at every turn. When he comes home from work, she can hand the baby off to Daddy and take a break. Parenting is a two (or more) person job. A good Daddy is every bit as much a nurturer as Mommy in an ideal world.

Dr. Betty

Liberating women one orgasm at a time

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Fri, 04/24/2015 - 09:23

I was struck by how the stereotype gender roles we play as emotional and sexual creatures are juxtaposed in your post.

The sexual stereotype has women passive, waiting for their prince to arrive and for him to "give" her an orgasm whilst the emotional stereotype has men passive, expecting their female partner to deal with all of the messy emotional stuff.

Both can be crippling roles to play if they are made exclusive. They can limit men and women, physically and emotionally. Ofcourse there are times when one will take the lead emotionally or sexually, but worthwhile relationships require balance, a degree of give and take from both partners.

We need to stop teaching our boys to "man up", stop teaching them shut down their emotions and empathy, and at the same time we need to encourage our girls to own their own sexuality.

Maybe we also need to learn to say "no" emotionally sometimes. I know that there have been times in my life when I was wrung dry emotionally, just left with nothing to meet my own needs and it never ended well. Betty's point about nurturers needing to look after themselves is well made.

Nurturing men

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 10:41

If I had a nickel for every man I dated who nurtured me, I'd have a nickel. And I dated a lot of men.
Then, when I became ill at a new boyfriend's house, and he bathed me with a cold, wet cloth as I hugged his toilet all night and most of the next day, carried me around when I was too weak to walk, drove me to the doctor, I thought, "This guy is a keeper."
We've been married 30 years.
It's so much easier to nurture when your partner nurtures back.  It's as though you are filling one another's emotional bank accounts.

Nurturing and sharing

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 13:55

Nurturing is mutual in any mature relationship. Sadly, our society still teaches boys to stuff their emotions. We are often ridiculed, on the sports field and even by our own parents, for expressing visible emotions such as tenderness, fear, and concern. People who have been taught to be insensitive to their own feelings will find it difficult to be in tune with the feelings of others. This is not any one person's fault, but is the result of sexist social conditioning. Balance, give and take, and freely swapping the 'strong' role and the 'nurturing' role---that seems ideal to me. By the way, I can't see anything to be gained by postulating either gender as innately superior. The end result of such suppositions is always going to be condescension and attempts to establish a preferential status for one's own group. I think we've had enough of that in human history.

Re Sex Blog --- W/O suport - couples likely to become sexless!

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 17:22
feminist indignation (not verified)

      Let's first separate D the questioner's question from the example/observation and also separate the prejudice of the judgment from the observation.

      First as I am hearing the question(s) as, "What part should a woman's nurturing ability play in a relationship bond within hetero adult partner relationships?"  There is a second question, which is about nurturing and gender roles?

      Second in separating the judgment of being anxious is a weakness from the observation he said (his exact words). The questioner D, supports this weakness thesis by saying, "I was surprised at the honesty I was hearing, and immediately I knew that was wrong, I am no
longer in that relationship." The example uses the world "nurturing" which has a pejorative connotation when used with adults as it is often used as Betty pointed out  in the context, "… raising a child." Further it is possible to hear D's man wrong, as "not manly" (what ever that is) because he succumbs to "anxiety" and by extension " codependent".

      So in the question "nurturing" can be heard as pejorative and this is reinforced in a judgmental example.

      If the question was change to read,
"What part should a woman's support of a male partner play in securing a
relationship bond? My partner asked that I be more supportive to help "
keep him from getting anxiety" as well as when he becomes

      The overriding relationship question is,
"Are you there for me?" In other words are you dependable and
accessible to me when I need support, safety, community, reciprocity, love,
peace, sex etc. If we experienced secure attachment in childhood it is more
likely we can reproduce it in our adult relationships.

      To answer the questioner's question, while there are differences
between men and women there is no difference when it come to meeting the human
biological need for support and trust to a secure bond. Both genders have a
primal need for safe secure attachment from whence to venture forth into the
world. For couples this is a reciprocal necessity both have to be willing to
"lend themselves" to the other so to speak. Reciprocal here also
means being able to "receive" that support and care.

     Because secure, tight, dependable adult bonding is difficult, complex marriage involving more than 2 people is much more rare.

      If a couple is unwilling to be there for each other it is more likely they will shut down, drift apart, develop a more sealed off relationship, hide with affairs, alcohol etc. or separate as was the questioner's example.

      In terms of this "sex blog", couples that are unable to connect; be part of each other's subjective emotional reality are more likely to become sexless. It works the other way
too, couples who lack sexual learning are more unlikely to utilize the
connective forces of sex as a way to become aware of their own and each other's
subjective emotional reality.

       Both genders require attachment. It's not a weakness or virtue of one.