In the summer of 2018, a 41-year old woman flew from Brussels to Spain. After arriving at the airport, she drove to a hospital, her heart beating with joy. At the same time, she was filled with sadness due to the journey behind her. I will call her Jamie (the name is fictitious for privacy reasons). After checking in at the hospital, she walked over to the fertility department and sat down in the waiting room. As she was staring at the green walls, she reflected over the past 18 years.
At age 23, Jamie had earned a master’s degree with honors and set out to work for a reputed HR services company. She quickly rose through the ranks. At age 31, she founded her own company. She could afford anything she wanted, owned a loft with river view and loved travelling on a regular basis to exotic, sunny places from where she would lead her successful company powered by the worldwide web.
If you saw Jamie, you would think she was everything a mature man could wish for in a woman. She was smart, ambitious and sensitive. She was pretty, too. It was hard to understand why she attracted the wrong men all the time. In her twenties, she would attract men who expected her to look good and follow them; she fell in love with powerful males, often older, who projected the image of a hero, a leader, a charismatic and dominant man. Jamie enjoyed the sex and companionship they offered her, but at the same time she struggled with her not being true to herself.
She would date men who were mainly focused upon themselves and their own pleasure. She was willing to give her power away, suppressing her needs for his needs, adapting herself and working hard to make him feel good and at ease. She put on colorful dresses and make-up to please lovers and cater to their demands. She would accept married men, emotionally or physically unavailable men, even narcissists. Jamie was living in what can be described as the first zone of feminine development: the ‘superhero femininity’ zone. She viewed men as superheroes.
Like Jamie in her twenties, a woman dating in this zone of feminine development wanders between a pendulum of feeling needy and desperate on the one hand and being angry and hyper-emotional on the other hand. One day, Jamie would sit by the telephone waiting for her lover’s call. The next day, she would write him an angry e-mail accusing him of wasting her time. Women in this zone will say things like: “There are no good men out there.” And: “All men are liars and cheaters.” And: “Women are exploited all over the world.” These women dwell in a victim-like mentality. Not surprisingly, most women in this zone refuse to take responsibility for their messy love lives. Jamie, however, did realize her role and knew that she had to change her ideas and behaviors if she wanted to stop love from hurting her.
In her early thirties, Jamie decided that she would develop into an independent woman. Jamie started to feel that she did not need men. She had a great career, friends, hobby’s and basically everything she wanted. She started to learn painting, enrolled for a salsa course, took sensuality workshops, read books and filled her life with social activities. There was simply no time for her to feel what she was missing out on. She did not experience loneliness, except for during the holiday season or when she declined invitations to parties where she did not want to show up alone.
She noticed that she started to attract different types of guys. Really nice guys would look up to her. Men who would often be struggling themselves and feeling emotional. She would also date men who respected her career but were so busy building theirs that they did not have any time left for a committed relationship. Now, men no longer wanted her for sexual pleasure, but they were looking for a woman to take care of them, mother them, protect them, solve their problems. Men whose ‘feminine energy’ was over-developed compared to their ‘masculine energy’. They were looking for a woman to lead the way in love and in life.
For a couple of years, Jamie felt good about this. She had let go of the pressure that she needed to share her life with somebody. She felt like a happy singleton, while remaining ‘open to love’. If love would come along, fine; if it would not, fine too. She neglected her need for being touched and having her sexual needs met in a committed manner. She substituted love and devotion for superficial solutions.
Sometimes, Jamie met her needs by herself and through the use of ‘friends with benefits’. Other times, she would accept men like Ricardo, who were incapable of managing their own life and depended upon her to lead him. Men way below her standards. She was living in what can be described as the zone of superheroine femininity. Like many other single females in their thirties, she had developed into a ‘heroine’ who refused to be hurt by others and fiercely protected herself.
She refused to set goals for love, out of fear for feeling pain and being vulnerable again. Hence, she no longer wanted to pin herself down to her earlier goal of finding a life partner and having a baby before the age of 35. She loved listening to friends and coaches who would proclaim that she should just become a mother if she wanted to, because she did not need a man. Independence was everything!
And for a long time it was. It took perhaps as much as 6 or 7 years before Jamie started being able to admit to herself that she felt incomplete. She did not feel wholly fulfilled as a human being if she did not have someone to share her life with. At the same time, she refused to go back to the first zone of development she had experienced in her twenties. She did not want to feel so many emotions again that she would need to take 30-minute showers to wash away a river of tears.
Sometimes, Jamie could not help herself and revolved back to the first zone of feminine development, but mostly she remained stuck in the second zone. At age 40, she realized that she was risking to lose the race against her biological clock. Hence, she went to a hospital only to find out that her egg cells were already too old to get pregnant naturally. The only option left for her was to buy eggs and sperm cells from donors in a nation which allows this, as her native country did not.
While sitting in the waiting room, she still could not understand the ‘why’ of her love stories. Why had she been unable to meet the good guys and stop attracting the wrong men? How was it possible that she was smart enough to earn an honors degree but incapable of solving her love problem? As the doctor called out her name, she forced her mind to forget about the past and focused on the process of having a fertilized donor egg implanted in her belly. After nine months, she gave birth to a healthy boy and started a new chapter in her life as a solo mom.
Jamie is not alone. All over the world, millions of women remain stuck in the first or second zone of feminine development. They spend their lives as sidekicks of superheroes or as independent yet incomplete superheroines. Luckily, there is an alternative, which can be described as the third zone of feminine development.
The developmental zone of integrated femininity means that you know that you do not need someone but that you WANT a partner in your life anyway. You are aware that if you do not look for a life partner, you will remain single (as opposed to the je-m’en-foutisme attitude of the second zone). It means that you realize that your quest for love must come from a place of empowerment AND vulnerability instead of desperation (first zone) or fierce independence (second zone). Developing into your zone of integrated femininity means that you are the most true to yourself. It means that you incorporate healthy aspects of superhero AND superheroine femininity and apply them in a balanced, integrated way.
You may wear a dress because it makes you feel pleasurable about yourself. You may put on lipstick because it makes you feel the joy of adorning your feminine body. You may celebrate the magical power of creating life with your sacred womb. You no longer feel ashamed of your body but you love yourself as you are. You feel confident and easy about yourself. You feel femininity deep, deep within yourself.
You explore your sensuality from an integrated way as a pleasurable experience for yourself, not as a tool to seduce men. You make space and time to invite and receive a partner into your life. You practice the art of relaxing, feeling, welcoming, the ‘soft’ qualities which most women naturally possess. You do not feel the need to compete, to show off your achievements when you are in a man’s company. You feel a healthy attraction style towards good, available men who do not demand women to follow them like servants but neither do they need women as mothers or nurses. The good guys want a relationship with balanced women on an equal basis.
It also means you are not unwilling to take out the garbage bags (first zone), if needed, but you can see the benefits of inviting a man to take responsibility for household chores (third zone), without telling him when or how to do it (second zone). A woman living and loving from within the integrated zone of femininity is able to speak her truth without putting a man down, attacking him or throwing her emotional baggage upon him. She is able to express her needs in a soft yet powerful way. She can talk to his heart rather than his head and feel relaxed in his company.
There are so many aspects and nuances regarding integrated femininity but I hope that my main point has come across. One primary reason why some smart, strong women grow old single is that they remain stuck in the superheroine zone or they wander between the superhero and the superheroine zones, yet never achieve the integration between these zones. In Stephen Covey’s words: good relationships are based on neither dependence nor independence, but on inter-dependence.
Now it is up to you.
In which developmental zone do you choose to live your life? Depending upon the choice you make, you will either grow old single or share your life with a partner.
After having read this article, you can no longer say that you did not know.