Ideas about what constitutes a strong man are often framed in the negative. Real men, it is thought, are not obedient, needy, effeminate or acquiescent. Men who are perceived to have success in seducing women are seen as masculine and men who have relationships with other men that are overly intimate or sexual are definitely not seen as masculine. For many of us with distorted understanding of strength, the very qualities that make a relationship work make us fear that we are being wimpy and submissive, when in reality we're being strong in our ability to accommodate, be flexible and generous, and lacking in an obnoxious bravado.
In reality, a strong man is tolerant, flexible, generous, faithful, and competent without believing he's omnipotent, and more interested in being close than being worshipped. Women may fall and fall hard for a bad boy with a big ego, but are then devastated when that man is not protective and reliable, fun and funny, kind and accessible. Yet he needs to retain his wild side, which, when properly channeled, is rewarded by admiration, laughs and sex.
In a New York Times article, Marta Meana, Professor of Psychology at the University of Nevada said, "What women want is a real dilemma... Women want to be thrown up against a wall but not truly endangered. Women want a caveman and caring. If I had to pick an actor who embodies all the qualities, all the contradictions, it would be Denzel Washington. He communicates that kind of power and that he is a good man."
Women and men are simply wired differently. Each gender has its own way of solving problems and often labels the other gender's process of resolution as disability or willful dysfunction. The overriding and default solution to danger, stress, threat and conflict is determined by inborn gender specific solutions and the different ways boys and girls are socialized. Men "fight or flee" (for and with their woman and children), with the goal of protecting their family. Women, on the other hand, "tend and befriend": they nurture and take care of the people they love, particularly their children, partner, and close friends and relatives. Men may group in order to more efficiently fight or flee, but action overrides relationship. Women become all about relationships and proximity, and intimacy overrides action. Each response is a loving one but when misunderstood, will lead to conflict. For a man and woman to thrive as a couple, each must be an activist for the relationship and given the difference in how each gender is activist, learn to value both equally. The caring caveman is an activist for sure; an assertive, strong, take charge guys who can be caring, warm, affectionate yet retain his maleness.
Carol Gilligan is a psychologist, ethicist, and feminist author who explains that "each sex perceives a danger which the other does not see - men in connection, women in separation." When a man can confront his fear of connection and use his character strengths and virtues to create connection, he will find himself with a woman who is responsive, loving and wants to have sex with him. When a woman can learn to confront her fear of separation and thereby learns how to let go of issues and attempts at control, she will find a man who is also quick to respond, tender and amorous.
Being instrumental means men eagerly assert themselves on behalf of the relationship. The caring caveman is a guy who does not hesitate to be instrumental. We make dinner reservations, buy flowers, find interesting ways to spend time together, and are quite present and instrumental in creating and solidifying the team, the WE. The thing that is hardest for men to learn is that women are responsive to their actions. Men and women are equally frightened of being powerless and submissive. Men generally are activists during courtship; we know how to be the caring caveman when we court the woman. Men don't understand that if they act like they acted during courtship and continue to be the caring caveman, if they made sure that everything was good between them and their partner, they would get what they want more consistently.