June 01, 2024

Jewish Matchmaker Journal: The Art of Providing Containment: A Guide for Men

This month, I want to talk about “containment”, a concept that you may or may not have heard of in regard to relationships. Containment, in the relationship context, refers to actively creating a safe and nurturing environment where women feel secure, understood, and empowered. While both men and women can offer containment to each other, men play a significant role in providing this essential support system for women. In this article, I want to focus on some ways that men can provide containment for the women in their lives.

Understanding Containment

Containment encompasses emotional support, empathy, and creating a sense of safety for another. It involves attentively listening to a woman’s experiences, validating what she is feeling, creating conditions that enable her to pursue her goals and dreams, being available to her - both physically and emotionally, providing for her, being committed to her, offering practical assistance, and in short, to actively make her wellbeing a priority. Containment is about being a steady presence that acknowledges and respects her feelings and perspectives, while supporting and protecting her. I’ve seen the oyster and pearl used as an analogy for containment -  the man is the shell, the woman is the pearl; the man creates an environment in which the woman can thrive in all the ways unique to her - enabling her to become the pearl - the eshet chayal - that such a space allows her the freedom to become.

The Foundation

Empathy is a cornerstone of containment. To provide effective containment, a man must strive to understand a woman’s experiences and emotions. This involves active listening without judgment, putting yourself in her shoes, and acknowledging the validity of her feelings. By demonstrating empathy, men can create an environment where women feel heard, valued, and supported.

Safety is also an essential element for a woman to feel she can express herself authentically. Creating a “safe” environment means creating a space where she feels completely comfortable sharing her thoughts, fears, and aspirations with you without fear of ridicule or dismissal. This involves respecting boundaries, keeping her confidences, and not engaging in behaviors that make her feel vulnerable or threatened. You never put her in dangerous situations, losing situations, or mentally or emotionally harmful situations. She can 100% trust that you have “got her back”.

Reliability is another crucial aspect to providing containment. A man demonstrates reliability by being consistently present for the women in his life. This includes being a shoulder to lean on, staying available, and actively participating in her life. You follow through on your word, you are there when you say you will be there, you remember important dates, you make difficult decisions, you organize, you take charge of logistic, and if a problem arises - you immediately acknoledge it and focus on repair. Reliability builds trust and reassures women that they have someone they can depend on. This feeling of having someone dependable, trustworthy, and reliable allows a woman to relax into the relationship. Her emotions flow easily and lovingly toward you while her soul expands to full potential.

Encouraging self-expression and self-care are additional aspects of providing containment. Create an environment where your partner feels empowered to voice her opinions, assert her needs, and pursue her passions without fear of judgment or backlash. This requires open communication, respecting her perspectives - even if they are different than yours - and celebrating her achievements and contributions to the relationship and the world. Every human being brings a unique perspective to the world. Encourage your partner to be fully herself and to express her individuality in the world. Don’t belittle, stifle, or repress her with your words or actions. Let her know that you see her, and you love what you see. Her accomplishments and freedom of expression are not as threat to you in any way - you want to nourish and encourage that freedom.

Self-care is also vital to a woman’s emotional well-being. Encourage her healthy habits and respect her need for personal space and time. Offer your assistance so she doesn’t feel overwhelmed. Most women I know are juggling a zillion different tasks and putting self-care at the bottom of the pile. Take some of those tasks off her plate and let her know that it’s equally, if not more, important for her to make time that is devoted to only her needs. When it’s appropriate, actively participate in self-care activities with her - such as exercising together, enjoying a shared hobby, or simply spending quality time together.

It’s Controversial

Women who don’t have the support and stability of containment, develop the belief that they must do it all on their own. This belief creates a fiercely independent, take charge, “I can handle it - full steam ahead” mindset which in many ways, hardens a woman and can make her bitter. Sorry feminists, but this is my perspective!

Containment has nothing to do with “equality”. All human beings are equal. This is about energy, and whether you want to admit it or not, the different sexes bring a different energy to the table. When a woman exists in a space where she feels safe, secure, heard, understood, protected, and genuinely loved, her innate essence is free to express itself in full force in this world. Containment is the method to her beautiful madness - and when a woman has a support system this powerful, she is free to become everything that is in her to become. Through emotional support, empathy, reliability, encouragment, and providing a safe space, you can truly be the wind beneath her wings.