Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Love, Respect, and -- Say, What???

Perhaps I am misunderstanding or misinterpreting something here. But, I have been seeing an idea floating around the interwebs to the effect that:

*Women need love and men need respect and this is the way to have a good relationship/marriage.*



This reminds me a bit of these lame-ass books I read years ago called "Fascinating Womanhood" and "Man Of Steel And Velvet," which basically advised men to do manly things like kill spiders and women to cry like little girls when their husbands were unfaithful to them (thus, playing upon the emotions of these dudes and bringing them back into line.)  I kind of tried to get into these ideas, as I was a Reagan conservative at the time, and all.  But, they also kind of made me gag.  Over the years, I have decided that these books and their ideas serve nobody, really.  You don't encourage women to act like little girls in order to gain the love of their husbands.  Women are also plenty capable of killing spiders, for land's sake.  And being a good, suportive husband does not require dudes to perform manly feats of daring-do.  My son, for example, is a very manly man.  And guess who was standing on the arm of the sofa when the GIANT lizard got into the family room?  And guess which woman with the biology degree caught said lizard -- with her bare hands, no less.  Yet, when I am at a loss and need advice about an important matter, guess which young man is always readily available with a sympathetic ear and solid horse sense?  "Manliness" and "womanliness" are not always so easily defined.

Anyway, these fascinating, steely, velvety ideas seem to be back, although somewhat repackaged.  Women need love and men need respect, you say?  I say bunk. They both need both.  Over a lifetime, they both need both.

Now, I have heard women speak disrespectfully of their husbands.  Truly disrespectfully.  And -- maybe -- that is what these "new" ideas are addressing.  It is very destructive to a marriage when a woman is consistently disrespectful of her husband in thought, word, and deed.  It is just plain mean.  And shows a lack of love.  But, I have also heard husbands speak disrespectfully of their wives, which is destructive.  And mean.  And shows a lack of love.  Love and respect are -- intricately and irrevocably -- tied together.

I guess, though, what people may be thinking of, when they speak husbandly love, are tenderness on the part of the husband toward his wife -- an emotional connection, understanding of her feelings, a sweet touch and expression, an intuitive knowledge of her needs in the moment. For example, if the wife is suffering severe barfiness and exhaustion every evening during her first trimester of pregnancy, a husband who knows -- without being asked -- to bring the TV into the bedroom, so he can both watch the game and rub his wife's back while she suffers for the sake of their child, could be said to be showing love. This husband realizes the need his wife has of being close to him, even if she is not particularly good company for a few months. He will recognize that watching the TV out in the living room while his wife is stuck in the bedroom every evening after dinner -- unable to achieve an upright position without upchucking -- is not the loving thing to do.

By the same token, when people think of a wife showing respect to her husband, they may mean that she actively shows an appreciation for the things he does for her and their family, for his abilities, for his strengths. If a husband is good at his job or at household repairs, for example, he probably would appreciate his wife praising him for those things. Such praise from the woman he loves would, naturally, give a man confidence and build his self-esteem.

Now, before I make my feminist self hurl by talking like this, I would like to point something out.

Even though women need love and men need respect, I believe it is equally true that women need respect and men need love. I have been married long enough -- and many of my friends have been married long enough -- that I know this. I know it for sure.

After a long day, during an illness, while grieving a loss -- heck, at any and all times -- men need "love" just as much as women do, in many of the same forms that women need it.  They enjoy tenderness and intuitive understanding just as much as any woman.

And women need respect as much as any man does. Women go through many phases in their lives -- phases which are often dramatically different from each other. This may sound -- or even be -- sexist, but many women bear children.  And this bearing of children and raising them and having them leave the nest means that a woman must redefine herself several times as she goes through life, in a way that is both professional and profoundly personal. Having the respect of her husband is vital to a woman -- to her self-confidence and sense of self-esteem -- as she goes through these phases. A husband who shows his wife that he respects her in her roles as a wife and mother, in her professional and creative endeavors, who actively supports her as she transitions from one major role to the next, gives her a truly priceless gift. The esteem with which a husband regards his wife's intelligence, opinions, and thought processes will profoundly impact the way she views herself. A husband's respect for his wife has just as much an impact on her self-confidence, self-esteem, and success as a wife's respect for her husband has on him.

Life is complicated, and sometimes (blessedly) messy. Let's not put each other into nice, neat little boxes too easily. Those boxes, which -- admittedly -- may seem to work at times, can end up being our self-imposed prisons, whether we are male or female, married or single, or some combination thereof.


No comments:

Post a Comment