This article was originally written for and featured on The Good Men Project
There’s a lot that can be learned from the 50 Shades phenomenon; what men and women want in love and sex, healthy and unhealthy boundaries and the exploration of the definitions of ‘abuse’ in relationships, to name a few.
It’s Valentines Day, as my lady and I sit in our favorite London cinema watching Fifty Shades Darker, based on E. L. James’ second novel, and I’m taking mental notes on a different set of lessons.
In this article, we’ll look at what us men can learn from the movie’s Christian Grey character about being men.
In this movie sequel, we see Christian go through a process of self-improvement as the character brings to the story not only the qualities that made him a billionaire but the positive changes he’s making for the sake of love.
Despite many men scoffing at the Fifty Shades series, it’s worth bearing in mind that Christian Grey is a billionaire. You are probably not. And despite being a fictional character, thousands of women are in love with him.
So maybe it’s worth seeing what we can learn from this man?
Here are six things I took away from the film…
1. Be Vulnerable
These days, it’s not just men who struggle to being vulnerable and opening up emotionally; it’s almost a worldwide epidemic from a relationship coach’s point of view. It is, however, still us men who are affected the most by resistance to being able to be vulnerable in relationships; as the battle against the stigma of emotions equalling weakness continues.
Like with the first movie, there are many scenes that has the audience sniggering or bursting into laughter at the sheer cheesiness. There is one scene, however, that I don’t join in with the sniggering and actually find quite touching.
At one point, his girlfriend Anastasia is upset and in the process of storming out of his apartment, at which point he doesn’t demand that she stay but instead with complete vulnerability says “Don’t leave me”. And with that, he drops to his knees and assumes the position that he has previously made his ‘Submissives’ adopt in their BDSM sex.What makes his “Don’t leave me” vulnerable and not a command is that he’s speaking directly from that part of him that fears abandonment. In times of upset, we can either communicate from a protective layer that’s designed to stop us feeling our fears or we can speak directly from that fear. Women want to ‘feel’ us more than we want to feel ourselves. When you can meet her on this level, you will win her heart.
2. Have Power
Unless you are born into a position of power because you are royalty, any serious power a man possesses over his environment can only be a product of the power of his mind.
In the film, Christian has the power to make men lose their jobs, he acquires entire companies at the click of his fingers and can fly himself anywhere in the world in his own helicopter.
But he can only do this because he has built himself into a man that builds billion-dollar businesses. He can fly anywhere in the works because he not only got himself into a place where he can buy aircraft but he learned how to fly them himself.
Flying is hard – It’s why pilots are paid so highly.
All external power comes as a result of personal power. And the way you can start to exercise – literally train – this power is through making powerful decisions. A man’s power is measured in the power of his intent; his capacity to will something to happen and then make it happen.
3. Exercise Control
Control freaks are those who seek such a degree of control over their environment that it negatively affects the people in their lives. They do this because at their core, they have an uncontrollable fear losing control.
In the first movie, Christian, who has the infamous line “I exercise control in all things”, is clearly such a person. In the sequel, we see him battle this as he relaxes in certain ways such as letting Anastasia order her own food at restaurants (!).
The irony is that the way he achieves this is through control – of himself.
Christian continues to literally exercise control, represented in one scene where we see him perform a holding position on a pommel horse, which takes an immense amount of physical and mental self-control; balance, strength, and concentration. For Christian to submit and be vulnerable when he knelt before Anastasia would have also taken self-control; to resist defaulting to defensive behavior.
Physical training and optimizing your health is perhaps the most effective way to develop self-control. Not only does exercise require physical control-based attributes, staying on top of your health requires resisting temptation in you diet and doing workouts that in the moment feel far from good, which helps build mental strength.
4. Know Yourself, Own Yourself
We all have a dark side; parts of ourselves that we would rather not show the world. Sometimes, we don’t even want to admit to ourselves that we have certain aspects to our personalities.
Christian Grey is best known for his dark side – or more specifically, how it plays out in his sex life. His involvement in BDSM sex-play, however, is really just a manifestation of the deeper goings-on in his personality, resulting from a troubled childhood.
And Christian knows this. In fact, he knows himself incredibly well. He understands the origin of his ‘quirks’ and of course knows exactly what he likes in sex. But not only does he know these things, he owns them.
In the books and movie, everyone knows about Christian’s involvement in BDSM; his driver and even his cleaning lady. He doesn’t talk about it necessarily, but he doesn’t hide it either.
Likewise, while you don’t have to make all of your life public, never hide parts of yourself out of fear. And most importantly, never deny or suppress parts of yourself. Even if they are dark. Bring them to the light because only then can you work with them. Owning yourself, including your flaws, is a quality that all people instantly respect.
5. Don’t Let Her Go
We all fear abandonment, and chances are that being abandoned by you is your partner’s greatest fear in the relationship. Almost all relationships have had at least one argument where one or both parties have walked out or threatened to leave. But understand that whenever you threaten to leave or to ‘let her go’ if she is threatening to leave, she dies a little inside.
Fifty Shades Darker starts where the first movie left off; with Anastasia having left Christian after he crossed one of her boundaries (which she invited him to do, to be fair, but then saw a part of him that scared her).
Being genuinely sorry, Christian doesn’t try to flip the blame for what happened on to her nor does he say “Well screw you then, I’ll find another Submissive” (which he could, easily). Instead, he tries to win her back. He doesn’t let her go.
For a woman, one of the greatest feelings in the world is being loved with such strength that she can feel you love her through anything, despite anything; with a love that penetrates and pursues.
It’s important to note the difference between love and obsession. Love is about the other, obsession is about you. Stalkers, for example, don’t really love their victim; they find a sense of self-identity through them. Arguably, Christian is probably both in love and obsessed with Anastasia, but the whole plot of the movie is that we see him move from the latter to the former; from controlling to loving.
Allow your lady to feel your love through any hardship or test (especially her tests) and you will be rewarded with an equally if not stronger love from her.
6. Take Risks
Human beings have two inherent biases when it comes to taking risks or trying something new. The first is that we exaggerate the likelihood of failure and the second is that we exaggerate the imagined consequences of that failure.
It’s this bias is that holds us back in everything we do; work, business, love.
Christian is a risk-taker, albeit a calculated risk-taker. In the film, one scene that makes all the females in the audience collectively bite their lip is when Christian and Anastasia are in the back of a packed elevator. Pretending to kneel in order to tie his shoelace, Christian runs his hand up Anastasia’s leg and under her dress as he stands back up. Not wearing any underwear, because he had told her to remove them while they sat in the middle of a restaurant moments earlier, he goes to work while the other people in the elevator remain clueless.
Not only do women find this kind of fearlessness hot as F, this kind of calculated risk-taking is testimony to how someone like Christian builds a billion-dollar empire.
Next time you hesitate in an area of your life, remind yourself of your inherent bias to make everything seem scarier than it is. Take more risks, live life more, and train yourself to be a man who prefers the regret of failure to the regret of not having tried.