The following article by Paul Elam was read and discussed on the Get Her Off That Pedestal! broadcast of the Man Woman Truth radio program.
Many years ago in a previous married life, I once participated in the now splendidly American ritual of taking a doomed marriage to therapy. Our stay was brief, like a car careening through a ditch on its way to hitting the base of a bridge.
At one point the therapist, a really intelligent but sadly brainwashed woman of about 40 years, turned to me and said, “Paul, it’s pretty clear you don’t trust women.” She said it like she was reading out a conviction for the jury.
“There’s some truth to that,” I said. “But then again, women don’t trust women, either. So why should I?”
Our kindly, bright therapist looked completely nonplussed. Her mouth moved like a guppy trying to suck water, but not a sound came out. It was pretty comical, actually.
If you’re a red pill guy you are going to recognize this situation. It’s another one of those moments when you have to tell someone you don’t fit the sitcom stereotype of some guy that shows up with his hat in his hands for being male. You’re not Raymond, and you don’t care if everybody loves you.
That is unbelievably hard for a whole lot of men, those we call blue pillers. Most of these men do not have the awareness or skills to do themselves a lot of good at this stuff. I have seen it plenty of times, in the course of providing mental health services, in friends and relatives, and in myself. I can still see it in myself if I am not careful.
Generally speaking, men are by nature very unskilled at holding their own on an intrapersonal and emotional level with women. We have heard 50 years of drill about male power, patriarchy, and how those translate into an oppressive culture of dominated women.
My experience in studying human behavior for 25 years, particularly that of the sexes, paints me a very different picture. It’s a picture of a distinct majority of men that lack the facility to hold their own emotionally with women. They fumble for words, get quiet, or try not to say anything because they can’t out argue her. They often appear totally helpless.
If that sounds like unfair stereotyping of men, you have my understanding, but not a retraction. I stand by my admittedly unscientific opinion.
The important question here is why. Why do men, often very intelligent, accomplished and reasonable men, become either the class dunce, or in a smaller amount of cases, destructively angry, when they try to negotiate the complicated emotional landscape of life with a woman?
If most of these men were engaged in some sort of conflict with one of their male friends, they would be summoning all their logic and lining up their facts and not backing down from anything. How and why do they get so incompetent, even oafish, when it comes to a conflict with their wives or girlfriends?
The answer is Pedestal Power. This is what happens when you engage in conflict with someone who gets to play by different rules, who can’t be held accountable, and who will work hard to make you suffer if you win. This is how people on a pedestal operate.
But, of course, they only have power over people that put them on the pedestal to begin with.
We could engage in an exhausting discussion about why so many men are this way. But it would never get anywhere and wouldn’t mean much if we found the reason anyway. Call it biology, socialization, sociobiology or a government conspiracy, there are not very many men that can bring themselves to hold women to the same expectations and standards they do with men, and few that could do it well if they knew enough to try. Almost all men have the woman they are involved with on that kind of pedestal. And nothing good can ever come from it. When you are on a pedestal, the only place to go is down.
The answer, of course, is that if those men ever want to escape the pressure and stress of being a sitting duck during conflict, the pedestal has to go. The trick is in how you do it.
I think the mistake most men make when trying to depedestalize a woman is that they try to knock her off the pedestal out of frustration, when they would likely do better to invite her to step down and join the real world. The emotionally aggressive reaction of men to feeling powerless against a rigged game is more than understandable; it’s just not helpful. Actually, it is powerlessness personified. That strong reaction is because they still have her pedestalized; they are still seeing her as the one on a throne. They expect for some reason that she will volunteer to step down to earth out of some sense of decency or love. They expect a lot of things.
These men have a very hard time figuring out that she really only needs to come off that pedestal in their own minds.
A guy like this doesn’t need to make it clear to his woman that she needs to come down a few notches. He needs to make it clear to himself, and he is likely blind to that. Perhaps hopelessly.
If he is one of the few that can do it, though, the game changes. Indeed, it quits being a game and starts to resemble an honest, even if troubled, relationship. All a man has to do is decide that he does not do pedestals, for any person, for any reason, and he, of course, has to follow through.
If he does that a troubled but honest relationship might have a better chance at working. Even if it doesn’t, the guy is a lot more likely to leave on his feet and do better in the next relationship because he is prepared to see a woman be unhappy, even pissed off at him, but not prepared to even acknowledge her problems unless she is reasonable and mature. It doesn’t matter if he really screwed up or if she is out of line from the start, she still has to wear her big girl britches.
Just like with anyone else in the world, “Come back and see me when you can be reasonable,” is a perfectly constructive and rational response to a partner who is out of control emotionally, and it is what you would expect to say to someone who was your equal. Men who think it is out of the question to expect emotional maturity from women are the ones with the most trouble wrapping their minds around this.
And this is exactly what this is all about; treating yourself and your partner as equals. With that in mind, here’s a quick list of what equals don’t get to do. Keep in mind I am assuming you are pretty much average and try to do the right thing in your relationships. On the outside chance you’re a dick, none of this will help much.
Your equal doesn’t get to demand spot answers and stand there with her toe tapping, waiting for an answer. When you see her as an equal, that sort of behavior looks pathetic. You reject being treated like a bad kid in the principal’s office.
Your equal doesn’t get to ask you a question, and then refuse to actually listen to and consider your answer. She has to try to have at least some awareness that two people are involved.
Your equal has to be accountable for their mistakes, just like you do. “I’m sorry, but you made me,” is NOT accountable. Trying to reason with someone who is blaming you for their own mistakes is a guaranteed waste of energy. Don’t do it. Disengage and refuse them an audience until they pull themselves together. Til they “woman up,” if you will.
Your equal can’t dole out treatment that she won’t put up with herself. You have the high ground when expecting her to not be hypocritical and to reciprocate the accountability and fairness you bring to the table. If you retreat from that, it is because you propped up her pedestal with your failed integrity.
Your equal can’t expect you to entertain any of her concerns unless she is bringing them to you as an adult with agency, accountability and in a genuine search for a solution. You know the difference between that and someone just mad and venting, don’t you? Well, do your business with the grown up and tell the little girl to respectfully go take a hike. If she has been successful in getting you to lose your cool, this is a change you can make to stop that from happening.
People who summarily and immediately reject communication with someone throwing a tantrum usually have far fewer reasons to boil over. It is simple math.
But if you listen to a ranting child, and try to solve whatever her problem is, and then it blows up in your face, then you need to get real. You are fully responsible for creating that monster in your life.
Now, I am not an expert on how to make a relationship work. I am pretty sure that no one is. But if I had to guess at what would give two people a fighting chance to find any semblance of peaceful, mutual respect for the long haul, it would start with the assumption that it is easier with two grown-ups on a level playing field. I also know for a fact that level and pedestal don’t fit under the same roof.
This is why I think it is very important that we teach our sons the dangers of allowing themselves to be inhibited in their conflicts with women. Boys really need parental figures of both sexes to sit them down and tell them that women are supposed to be fair and reasonable, and when they are not they should be called to account; not by trying to change them, but by ignoring them till they figure out how to change themselves. If they are interested in staying, they will learn. If not, it is no great loss. But of course, if you have them on a pedestal, you won’t know that.
In fairness, I have to say it really is hard for men to do this. It runs against a lot of rote programming. There are many that I believe are simply incapable of it. Those that can do it, the red pill guys, are ones that are able take a look at themselves and make a conscious choice to dismount that white horse for good in their own minds; to see their women as full adults, with all expectations associated with adulthood. They are willing to face the fear of loss, and loss itself if need be, to get the job done.
There is no chance at a good relationship, and no possibility of toppling that pedestal, unless you have to capacity to let someone go who needs to go.
Thanks again to Paul Elam for such a no nonsense approach to the problem with putting anyone, woman or man, on a pedestal. – Dr T
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Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.