Yesterday’s blog on chivalry started me thinking …… and talking …. with my friends about what a man brings to a relationship. Most of the women I talked to said they loved having a man pull out a chair for her, open a door, etc. – even my younger friends who aren’t nearly as accustomed to those practices. Thinking about chivalry and how it makes me feel on the inside makes me think about the interplay of the masculine and feminine and how each of those qualities contribute to the health of a relationship. (I do want to say here that I’m heterosexual, and I only know what I’ve experienced, so I’ll apologize to my dear lesbian and gay friends up front. I know this all applies to your relationships in some way as well, but I can only speak of my world. I’m not intentionally leaving you out.)
So, I asked my friends – mostly single but some married – what qualities does a man bring to a relationship? I kept hearing the words safety, security, stability, strength, rational thinking. I also heard a lot of apologizing. That makes me sad that we have to apologize for voicing that there is a difference between men and women and what they bring to a relationship. Somehow we’ve gotten to a point where we think we should be all alike, and it’s wrong to say that men do some things better than women and vice versa. I know that nothing is across the board because we are all unique mixes of masculine and feminine qualities, but I can tell you that my women friends are much different than my male friends. I can see it and feel it. So, to say that there is no difference is ….. well….missing the point. So, I’ll do like everybody else and apologize up front. I’m going to stereotype here and offer some thoughts that may change from day to day and hour to hour and person to person, but I heard them validated by enough men and women today to assume there are some universal truths.
My friend Alayne eloquently stated the quality that her boyfriend brings to their relationship. She said that when she is all over the place emotionally and is trying to sort out her feelings, he can stand with her, staying true to his feelings and just let her do what she needs to do to process her stuff. He doesn’t discount her or try to change her mind. He listens and can stay involved without becoming emotionally involved. I asked her what happens inside her when he does this. She said the only word she could think of is that it makes her feel like she can “rest.” “And, what does that do for you,” I pressed her further. She said it helps her to feel okay being who she is.
From the man’s perspective, Tom gave a really long answer, but what stuck with me was “he should ‘ground’ her, providing her the confidence of knowing that he is there and loves her, while also helping her grow and stretch and soar.” I love that word “ground,” and it sounds very much like what Alayne described. Another male friend said that he was hoping I was going to ask what a man should bring to dinner – that would be easier than this question. He said he is working on developing himself into a better partner by learning to tell the truth of how he feels and who he is. He is on a journey to make himself more comfortable and strong in who he is so that he can operate without the walls that come between him and the woman he loves. Men aren’t necessarily born into this role. It does have to be developed and grown. Hopefully, it can be taught at home, but we all know that is not always the case.
My girlfriend Ann mentioned the “comfort of knowing my hubby has my back, emotionally and physically, too, if need be.” Elizabeth mentioned that she loved the physical hardness of a male versus the softness of a female. She loved sharing with her gal pals, but it was different to share with a man. “I like the less stressful and less emotional stance that many men take. There’s security when I’m freaking out and somebody else is not. I like men,” she added.
My friend Lisa mentioned that she loved men’s more direct manner of speaking and she really digs it when a man protects her because he wants to and she shouldn’t have to….not because she can’t. Gretchen loves the way she feels protected when a man simply holds her. My friend Karen also appreciates the physical strength of a man to do things that she can’t physically do herself. I know I appreciate that myself. It’s just tiring to have to do all of the physical things around the house. I know a man could do it so easily. Just this morning, I struggled and strained to open a molasses jar, and I almost cried because I hurt my hand and couldn’t get it open. It was a frustrating feeling of helplessness. I longed to say, “Honey, can you get this?”
My sister-in-law said she thought it sounded a bit sexist (again an apology), but she thinks men give women confidence, protection, courage, and they provide and do things for us. Cristal, my college roommate, echoed that when she offered “Marrying late in life at 41 really helped me to appreciate all that my husband brought to me. The greatest gift, I guess was trust in myself and confidence. I also enjoy always having my best friend to cry to, laugh with, and cling to when I’m upset or scared. I’ve lived more of my adult life as a single person than I have a married person and I wish I could come up with the reason I just feel “complete”. It’s like God just tightened the bolts he used to put me together.” My friend Denise quoted her mentor who said a man’s role is to provide, protect and procreate…even though I told her not to bring the penis thing up. But, everybody wanted to bring it up. Pun intended.
Greg said, “A man should be the rock in the relationship. He should bring stability, support, and a foundation in which to bring up a family.” He went further to mention that too often women fall into the trap of wanting a macho but sensitive guy. These are all but impossible in the same person. Tough guys generally aren’t going to be the sensitive type as well. I know I’ve made that mistake before. I’ve tried at times to get support from a husband that I should have been getting from a girlfriend. I now know that sometimes I need to process something with my same sex friends before trying to process it with a man. Those are different types of relationships, and I can’t expect my partner to play the same role as a girlfriend.
In a texting conversation with my young friend Jessica who is whipping my ass with her marathon training program (just sayin’), we discussed the song by Kenny Chesney called “The Woman with You”. That song captured Jessica’s feelings of relief after having a long day at work, school and running to come home to a man that would just value her and love on her. (She’s young. She doesn’t realize she’d also have to cook dinner after all that.) That’s the part I like, too. I’ve worked in corporate jobs in male dominated industries for a long time and had to butt heads all day and be very masculine in my work. It was nice to come home and be a woman…..to cook dinner….to be loved on….to feel like a girl. To me, that’s what I love about the masculine …. it brings out my feminine. Just being with a man makes me want to paint my toes, smell like a girl, wear a swishy short skirt and smooch. And, when I feel feminine, and I feel safe in being that, I’m at my best. I think that’s what all these gals and guys are saying. When we can relax in who we are – masculine or feminine, be proud of who we are and work in our strengths, it just makes us feel good. I’m with Elizabeth…..I like men. Bring ’em on.