When I was single and searching, one thing that I craved more than anything was a man who was capable of being a strong leader, especially with me (I can be a tough nut to crack sometimes). When I learned about the differences between yin and yang–one being necessary for the other, I realized that if I wanted a strong, yang man, I would need to be more yin, more feminine. This intuition was echoed by the advice given to me by my dating coach at the time.
One of the difficulties I immediately ran into was that I felt like I still had to wait around for a man to start leading me in order to follow him, and surrender to him. Over time, though, I realized that yin can actually initiate, in her own way, a good polarity, where one partner is more in charge, and the other more receptive and surrendered.
In Part 1 of this 2 part series, I gave tips on how to be the leader in a relationship. Here, in Part 2, I will be discussing techniques for those who wish to be more yin, more receptive, to inspire leadership in your partners. As always, although I use “man” to refer to the more masculine, yang partner, and “woman” to refer to the more yin, feminine partner, for the sake of simplicity, it is not necessary, nor will it always be the case, that the yin and the yang partners correlate to these physical genders.
For those, both men and women, longing (secretly and otherwise) to be in a more surrendered role with your partner, read on–even the most seemingly reluctant would-be leaders will be inspired by the tips offered below.
Before I get into the specifics, though, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the difficulties and vulnerabilities that the yin partner faces. On the surface, yin looks like they have it easy, because “all they have to do is follow,” and our society tends to prize leaders as smart, capable individuals, meanwhile shunning followers as brainless sheep. Therefore, the “work” that the yin partner does, and what she contributes, often goes unnoticed, except hopefully by her yang counterpart, who knows and understands how to bask in her feminine radiance.
The struggle and turmoil that a yin partner might potentially face is almost always under the surface, but trust me, I’m speaking from personal experience when I say that it takes strength and maturity to surrender. When my fiance and I first started consciously practicing adding more polarity to our relationship, I fought surrendering tooth and nail, I had so much resistance and fear. If I had a dollar for every time I thought, “Ugh, it would be so much easier if I was the one in control,” I could retire right now on my own private Caribbean island.
And I’m hardly alone in this struggle; many women who secretly long for a more submissive dynamic with their partners also fear that this will make them weak, foolish, taken advantage of, and that it will undo the good works of feminism. Men who long to be more surrendered (so I’ve heard) fear that they will be judged for choosing what some consider the more feminine role (this is why I have emphasized that this dynamic does not have to correlate to physical gender).
Here’s a hint: the one you’d prefer to take on in the context of a relationship (which has no bearing on how you behave in other contexts, like career) is not the one that comes easiest to you, or the one that you think you *should* adopt; it is the one that turns you on when you think of being that way, and having a partner of the opposite polarity be that way with you. For the longest time, yang came much more naturally to me than yin, but it wasn’t what my heart really desired in a relationship.
All this is to say, if you are wanting to be the more yin partner, you cannot cherry pick only the good parts, just like the yang partner cannot cherry pick “topping” in the bedroom without also taking responsibility for making difficult decisions. To be surrendered, receptive, can bring bliss and happiness to those who crave it, and it will also expose your fears about losing complete and total control (this makes your ego go crazy) over your own life.
Waiting for your yang partner to “step up” is not taking responsibility for your part in why he might not have yet. Try stepping into a more surrendered place, and see what happens. Many men who would be leaders, and would love to be your leader, will shy away from doing so, and seem passive, if their woman is unwilling or emotionally unable to give up control. So if you are thinking, “yeah, well, my so-and-so won’t step up…” try it, and you might be surprised.
Through much trial and error, here is what I have found works for me, both in continuing to practice staying feminine, without reverting back to a need to control things, and also, as a way to inspire my man to embrace more of a leadership role.
1. Breath and Relax
When I was single, I would sometimes lie awake at night and fantasize about what it would be like to have a man take complete control over me and everything in my life, and I relished these fantasies with delight. Why? Because in my fantasy, he was in control, but he was making every single decision that I would have made anyway.
This is a fantasy. In real life, he whose lead you decide to follow will make decisions based on what he thinks is the best course of action, and it may or may not have anything to do with your best idea. This doesn’t mean your idea wasn’t as good as his; that is irrelevant. It means that if being surrendered is more important to you than getting your own way, you will let him have his way, regardless of whether your traffic route/restaurant choice/dish-washing method/idea of romance is “better” or not.
When these discrepancies arise, remember that surrendering control to another person can bring up fears, anxieties, and insecurities, which, unchecked, can result in controlling, nagging, or harsh responses.
During these times, breath, relax, and ask yourself if his course of action, though not what you would do, is really going to put you or anyone else in severe danger?
This is an important question to ask because, just as the yang partner needs to set good boundaries, so does the yin partner. Choosing to be more surrendered does not mean you become a robot or a doormat. If there are behaviors you genuinely don’t want or can’t put up with, you have the right to leave.
If someone is abusive towards you, physically or emotionally, then this is not the time to surrender, this is the time to get the hell out, and avoid the “evil bees.”
On the other hand, if the conflict in question is that he wants to get pizza at Pizza Place X, and you think Pizzeria Y makes better pies, do you really need to sacrifice your desired relationship dynamic just to get a tastier slice of pepperoni?
In most cases, once you are relaxed, you might find that you’ve suddenly lost the need to say anything at all. Or, if you still want to speak up, then…
2. Replace Demands and Judgements with Desires and Emotions
The idea that being in the more yin position in a relationship means that you never speak your mind is a myth. Many strong men who enjoy the leadership position will be quick to tell you that they don’t want a robot or a rag doll; they want a human being with a fully developed personality.
I personally was afraid that embracing the more surrendered role would mean I would never share any opinions again (and, as you probably already guessed, I’m a fairly opinionated person!). Interestingly enough, though, I actually find myself expressing myself MORE, not less, when I am in a more feminine space.
It is the way that you express yourself that might need to change. When we are afraid, we can latch onto control as a mechanism to keep things “safe.” Part of the practice of surrendering is about letting go of that control mechanism; however, that doesn’t mean you can’t still express your fears and desires.
For example, a controlling demand might be “Slow down and stop driving like a crazy person!” The more surrendered, open response would be something like, “When I see the speedometer go over 80, I get nervous.”
Or, to use the earlier example, “I’m really craving Pizzeria Y. I love their pepperoni mushroom,” instead of, “Ew, Pizza Place X is gross. Let’s get Pizzeria Y.”
Even the best of leaders are not mind-readers. It is a complete falsehood that if a man was a “real man,” than he would “just know” what to do without you needing to say anything. This is a ridiculously unrealistic expectation to have of anyone, and assuming that he will take care of everything without any input on your part is childish, spoiled behavior. He will NOT know that his fast driving makes you nervous, or that you are craving a certain kind of pizza, unless you speak up.
The trick is knowing how to express your needs without demanding them, and the key is to talk about your own feelings. Emotions are the realm of the feminine, so expressing your emotions will not undermine your yang partner’s authority the way a command or a judgement will.
Judgements and demands are disrespectful, and will either drive him away, or slowly train him into the more passive role, leaving it to be up to you to pick up the yang slack, and driving both of you into deeper resentment. Although you are not responsible for his ability to lead, you don’t need to make his job more difficult than is necessary.
In the examples above, you can probably already tell the difference between each response. In the responses that expressed emotions and desires, there is an openness, and it will likely inspire him to change course. (Although, a word of caution, this is NOT intended to be a technique to always get your way. No means no, in all contexts).
The driving example really happened in my own relationship. I used to shout at him in the car to “slow the fuck down!” He would usually keep going at the same speed, and we would argue about his ability to drive the car safely. I realized that he was angry because I was insulting his driving instead of asking for what I needed from him.
So, one day I tried a softer approach, and said, “Love, I’m feeling kinda nervous, and a little motion sick, from the car going so fast.” He immediately slowed down, and asked if I was ok, was there anything else I needed. Since then he drives more cautiously when I ride in the car with him.
(Most) men are not assholes. If you are in pain or need support, or have something that you desire, they will often feel empowered by being the one to “fix” whatever ails you, provided that you don’t undercut their masculine power first by making demands about it.
3. Practice Gratitude
One of the first yin practices I took on was the practice of gratitude. Gratitude can, of course, apply to being grateful for everything in your life, and focusing on what you have instead of what you do not have.
And, more specifically, I learned to receive and be grateful for compliments. Whenever someone complimented my outfit, or something I’d written, I learned to ignore the knee-jerk reaction to deflect it with modesty, and instead respond with a simple, “Thank you.”
A turning point for me was when an unshowered, toothless homeless man walked up to me and said, “Hey, Girl, you got a pretty smile.” At first I recoiled, but then I remembered my practice of accepting compliments, so I stopped, looked him in the eyes, and said, “Thank you!” smiling even bigger. I could see him light up at my receptivity. From that moment on, I became even bolder, waving and smiling at construction workers’ catcalls and men honking their car horns at me while I was walking down the street. Thank you, thank you, thank you for noticing and appreciating my femininity, my sexuality, my beauty! I didn’t say those things out loud, but I let my smile say them for me, and the men who were previously “creepy” or “gross” to me, I now perceived them for what they really were: men who could see the beauty of the feminine, and were so excited by it that they had to call out, or honk their car horn. And knowing this, I could only be happy about it.
(I should point out that none of these men that I opened my heart and my smile to ever crossed a line with me, or even created any issues at all.)
Many women have a particularly difficult time receiving compliments on their sexual appeal from men. I highly recommend transforming your reaction to any male attention to be one of joy and gratitude. After all, they are noticing your feminine beauty. Appreciating them for it doesn’t automatically mean you have to have sex with them, or even find them sexually attractive in return. I think, though, that it does mean that reacting with disgust or unkindness is cruel, bratty, and uncalled for.
Another gratitude practice that is specific to dealing with your yang partner is to thank him, rather than criticize him, for any attempts he makes at making you happy. This doesn’t mean you can’t also express a preference (see #2); it means that you should, first and foremost, praise what was given before asking for anything else.
I once heard a story of a woman who remarked to her husband that she wished she could have some flowers that would last forever. The next day, her husband brought her plastic flowers. She rolled her eyes at him and said, “Ugh, you just don’t get it, do you.” But I think it is she who doesn’t get it, “it” being the love and care and thoughtfulness that he was expressing by both listening to what she wanted and attempting to make it better.
Here is another analogy that I often find useful in my own relationship: at my job teaching chess to elementary school children, I learned early on that in order to keep a 5-yr-old interested in this complex game, they needed lots of positive reinforcement. One of the trickiest pieces to remember how to move (especially for little kids!) is the knight, so whenever a beginner would move the knight correctly, I would praise him or her for it, even if it was considered a “bad move” according to more advanced chess strategy. This is because if they aren’t praised in the beginning for getting the basics right, they will never feel excited enough about the game to learn and master the more advanced ways of playing.
The same holds true for when you feel like your man maybe made a “bad move.” Maybe his strategy is not that of a master, YET, but he will get there if you praise what he did right instead of harping on what he could do better.
The more gratitude you can express–and especially the more gratitude you can express for the things that men give you, and do for you, the more you will inspire him to do and give more.
4. Express Pleasure
This one is fairly straightforward: whether it’s some delicious food you’re eating (Mmmmmmmm!), a funny joke (laugh out loud without holding back!), or a tremendous orgasm building, express the pleasure that you’re feeling.
The yang partner is energized by the yin partner’s pleasure, gratitude, surrender, and joy. However, he doesn’t want a passive doll, he wants an alive, and fully expressed female. When he sees you delighting in certain things, he will likely want to find a way to give you more and more of those things.
5. Do Not Rescue Him; Be Willing to Let Things Fall Apart a Little
For me, this has been the toughest one, and it is the one that makes the biggest difference. Until I learned to do this in my relationship, I would practice the other four up to a point, and then I would revert back to a childish, controlling demeanor as soon as things–anything–that he was in charge of would start to go south.
When my fiance and I first moved in together, he had a habit of leaving his clothes all over the floor, and I would begrudgingly pick them up, put them in the hamper for him, and then yell at him for “making” me clean up after him.
Then, I came across a book called The Surrendered Wife, which discusses the importance of letting your man fail so that he can learn from his mistakes. In this book, the author offers up several stories of women who surrendered and remained supportive of their husband’s ability to figure it out through defaulted loans, electricity being shut off, kids being fed chocolate cereal for dinner, and making a plumbing issue worse with a DIY attempt.
I stopped picking up my fiance’s clothes for him, and I stopped reminding him to do it himself. At first, this meant I was tripping over shirts, socks, and sweatpants on a fairly regular basis. But, wouldn’t you know it, after about a week or so of that, he started putting his own clothes away.
Your man needs to know that if he screws up or drops the ball, you won’t immediately swoop in to clean up his mess. This is what a mother does for her child, not what an adult should be doing for another adult. Let him spill his own milk, and let him figure out how to clean it up himself. He will prove himself a capable man if you treat him that way.
What I found is that this practice, in addition to giving my fiance greater freedom, afforded ME greater freedom to not be so damn perfect all the time. In Part 1 of this series, I told a story about him leaving stuff on a particular shelf after he said he wanted us to keep that shelf clear. I would then nag him whenever he left stuff there. Well, there’s more to that story: when he was home, I made sure I kept that shelf clean, but sometimes, when he went out of town, I would allow myself to leave things there, thinking, “Well, he’s not here to see, so I don’t need to worry about making an example of myself as being the one who gets it right.” Ugh, horrible, I know. So much better to relax and let both of us be humans who make mistakes sometimes.
A final thought on being the yin partner: a musician friend of mine once said that he used to think he would have to choose between focusing on his career or focusing on a girl, until he met his current wife. She demonstrated such support for him that he came to realize, “I can’t really have one without the other.” When you nag, demand, emasculate, and control, weak men will bend to your will and strong men will push you away so that they can stay focused on their lives. When you can offer your surrender, compassion, and support, strong men will value your opinions and what you have to offer, and want to include you in everything they do.
Surrender, surrender, surrender: there is bliss, joy, and happiness to be found in surrendering, if you are willing to give up having total control over everything. It isn’t always easy, but it sure can be fun. 🙂