What It Means to Hold Space for a Woman
‘Be authentic. Hold space. Be present.’ These phrases may sound vague, but they’re what the women you love really need. And here’s how you can give it.
“I just need you to hold space for me.”
This phrase may strike fear into even the most stoic male heart.
“You can’t hold space!” you may cry. “It’s space!”
But if you want to be with an emotionally intelligent, spiritually inclined, mindful woman, chances are you’ll be hearing this type of phrase. It’s becoming more and more mainstream, and whether or not you consider it New Agey, this phrase describes an active state of being that is extremely powerful in a relationship.
It may seem like an absurd, haphazard combination of words that doesn’t actually describe anything. It’s actually describing one of the mysteries of life, something that cannot be described. It’s speaking about a more complex — and complete — understanding of human experience. When a woman says something like this to you, she’s inviting you to live in the moment in a full, focused, joyful way, with her. She’s asking for your help, your support. She’s asking you to pay full attention to her, witnessing her experience, without judging her experience as good or bad.
When a woman says this, she is actually asking you to be present, and to pay attention to her, fully. This is incredibly important and I can’t stress it enough. My upcoming book has a whole chapter about how powerful it is to be truly present with the women you care about. And as Jordan Gray says, another way to say ‘presence’ is ‘paying attention.’
To hold space for another person, you have to first do it for yourself. They say our bodies are 80% water — but we’re really 99% space! So breathe deeply, opening up your body further. Hold space within yourself first, which means allowing yourself to simply be. Whatever arises, don’t judge it as good or bad. Witness it, allow it, accept it.
Holding space for another is to hold space for them, within yourself. This isn’t just foo-foo energy talk: it’s building a connection with this other person, based in part on subconscious physical cues. It’s holding the person you’re with in your awareness, just as he or she is; to witness their emotions with empathy, whatever they are.
Anyone can hold space for anyone else. However, I feel that there’s an added dimension available when a man does this for a woman; namely, he is able to be present in his masculine power, and thus allow her to relax into a more feminine state. My experience is that holding masculine for myself can be very exhausting, and being with a man who is willing to step into the masculine fully so that I can ‘drop my guard’ is a huge relief. Holding space is a way to make your masculine power available for the women around you, for the good of all. We need your presence, your masculinity, and your power. When women realize that this is what you’re doing (and yes, you’re allowed to tell them!) they will relax. Unwind, release tension, melt. They might cry, they might simply smile, they might snuggle up. However they express it, what they will really do is show you a part of themselves that few people ever get to see. It’s beautiful, and it feels great for both of you.
Here’s a primer on how you can integrate holding space into your daily life, to improve your relationships with women, other men, and yourself.
Pay Attention to Your Experience
You don’t have to be a yogic master to experience the benefits of mindfulness in your life — and your relationships with women. You don’t even have to meditate!*
All you have to do is be aware of what is actually happening right now, within you and all around you, while trying not to judge it as good or bad.
It’s the simplest thing in the world. And the hardest.
Being mindful of the people around your means witnessing their experiences, their emotions, their words … without becoming reactive. Mindfulness is an inner space of stillness, of being, which manifests outwardly as focused attention.
Pay Special Attention to the Women Around You
You have an incredible power when it comes to women. The power to hold masculine space, so that they can relax into their feminine selves. A very simplistic description of the sacred masculine is that of a container. The feminine is the fluid within, able to flow because she doesn’t have to contain herself. If you’re craving feminine presence — softness, receptivity, playfulness, authentic adorable womaniness of an indescribable quality — holding space for the women around you is how to get it. This doesn’t just benefit you: it is a huge relief to be able to just be feminine. It’s a huge relief for anyone of either gender to know that they are being truly seen, and that they are not judged. Holding space makes life easier for the people around you.
This can be especially powerful when the woman you’re with is feeling sensitive, upset, hurting, or needs your emotional support and listening. The next time you’re in a fight and don’t know how to move forward, or find yourself getting frustrated, feeling that you aren’t helping, it’s time to take a deep breath, and hold space for this woman.
Turn your focus towards her fully. Really notice this woman, the details of her appearance, her posture, and how she has chosen to present herself; what she is doing, how she’s doing it, the things she’s saying and the things she is leaving unsaid; anything and everything. If a reaction starts to arise in you, accept it within yourself, and try to provide a non-reaction externally. You don’t have to give any compliments in order to hold space. You don’t have to provide advice to be providing your masculine presence.
You don’t have to say anything at all.
This is really about holding space within yourself. Be aware of how you feel, place the nexus of yourself, your consciousness, fully in your body. This has the effect of holding space for the other person, within yourself. Doing that creates a connection between you, an exchange of energy, with subconscious cues. The same way yawns are contagious, if you tense up in response to another person’s emotional charge (to protect yourself from it, which is understandable and we all do it!) the other person will do the exact same thing: tense up. But if you realize that you are tensing up, and instead breathe deeply and release the tension, perhaps by being aware and breathing into it, you are giving that gift of relaxation and space to the other person.
It’s therefore important to use your body to show that you are really there, really present. If you’re not sure how to do that, try turning your body towards her, squaring your shoulders so that she lines up with the middle of your chest, and turning your head to face her fully. Watch her eyes. This may seem obvious or insignificant, but it is profoundly meaningful, and often we change our body language without realizing it, accidentally sending cues to our partner that we don’t want to send. Being aware of your body language is powerful. Practice being aware and trying to open.
Holding Space Means Support in Healing
Everyone has trauma.
The only way through trauma is to feel it. If a person doesn’t feel their pain, their anger, their fear — if they instead repress it — it grows and festers, like a sliver that doesn’t get pulled out. But feelings like pain, anger and fear are, well, painful! And scary! And upsetting! Feeling them isn’t fun. It takes a great amount of courage and strength to do so.
Holding space means lending your courage, your strength. It means creating a safe environment for someone you care for to exorcise the hurt within them. Allowing that person to cry, to scream, to shudder; witnessing their authentic experience and reacting with love and acceptance to the extent that you are able, is a powerful way of supporting them in this most important spiritual and emotional work.
Don’t worry — it isn’t always going to tears and screaming! In fact, the more you practice holding space, the more you integrate it into your daily life, the more relaxation and fun and silliness will follow you, from everyone around you. As you learn to do this with women, the results will be especially profound and lovely.
When a man is holding space for me, I light up. I let down my guard. I feel more energetic, more free, less worried.
When a man turns the power of his attention to a woman, and holds space in this way, magic happens. When you truly see her, hear her, know her, you can become aware of her beauty and power. Because of your awareness, she’s able to relax into the moment, be more feminine, be more herself.
Love is a verb, like eat, or sleep. You don’t just do it once. Being present with a woman is itself an act of profound love. So practice it, and watch as magic happens around you!
- If you want to try meditating, I recommend starting with a body scan. It’s a simple, task focused meditation that’s relaxing and really illuminates what it means to pay attention to your experience. Here’s a quick one I made just for you.
This story was previously published on The Good Men Project.