AROUND 'A VOW': Happy Love! -part I
Updated: Apr 18
In an era of fast-paced living and triumphing individualism, both blossoming in economies more GDP-friendly than family-friendly, you may be excused to think marriage is on its way out. Aren't casual hooking apps more popular than the registry office? From Tinder, triumphing egotism, and, even, financial pressures forcing the most willing to postpone settling down to start their own families, marriage is pitted against merciless foes indeed! And yet... The cynical view doesn't hold. Heterosexual men still crave for that sweet loving wife, heterosexual women still have bridal dreams, and, far from binning it as irrelevant, homosexuals are campaigning all over to reclaim it as a right. Marriage is more than still alive against all odds: it's kicking. Under so much threats, though, couples still face the gloomy prospect of the d. word. It remains common wisdom indeed that 50% of all marriages will end up in divorce. Couples, now a always, therefore want to divorce-proof their relationships. How to?
The times are confusing, and so are the recipes. There is indeed a whole market out there, where so called-experts of all kind are selling their two pennies of advice. Men and women are different, we are told. Men and women are wired differently, raised and educated differently, and so think and feel differently. Men and women are so different, in fact, that they might as well come from two different planets! No joke - that's actually exactly how goes a popular paradigm, drawn from one of John Gray's bestselling books outlying just such view: 'Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus'. You want to have an harmonious relationship with your partner? Well, that's easy! Since we are either Martian or Venusian, nothing but the embodiment of the gender we belong to, let's just deal with our spouse as the alien he/ she is and all will be well! Here's the road to marital bliss according to John Gray:
'The success of a relationship is SOLELY [my emphasis] based on two factors: a man's ability to listen lovingly and respectfully to a woman's feelings, and a woman's ability to share her feelings in a loving and respectful way.'
In other words, men are well-known for being inadequate in dealing with their emotions and so ought to work on 'feelings', whereas women, on the contrary, ought to mind how they 'share' theirs, because, to their thick partners unable to listen, their emotionalism will just be received as disrespectful nags. If such gender labellings strikes you as being clichés (sexist?) it's because they are.
The problem with such approach is that, by encouraging spouses to just see their partner as the caricatural embodiment of their respective gender, it reduces people to their sex: women are fragile sentimental creatures in need of love and care; men are tough walls requiring no less than respect; and, so, couples should take such gender characteristics into account when approaching issues they might have. Men: learn how to feel and talk, or else the wifey will get sick and tired of your stonewalling (and you don't want your stuff thrown off the balcony or packed in suitcases at the door, do you?). Women: don't be such sensitive whinges, or else the hubby will get sick and tired of your misery and negativity (and you don't want him to run off with the bubbly bimbo singing his praise at the office, do you?).
This, put bluntly, is nothing but caricatural nonsense.
Your partner, like you, is not the embodiment of a gender. Your partner, like you, is an individual with his or her own background, history, experiences, and whole set of issues that has been shaping his or her personality from childhood to past relationships. Nobody is a stereotype. If you have issues, these issues do not stem from ingrained biological or cultural traits resulting from what your dear love has in-between their legs. They result from their personality and history clashing with yours. Marital conflicts are not the product of chromosomes.
Don't get me wrong! Women and men indeed do have different biologies. They also have been socialised differently. Manhood and masculinity are not womanhood and femininity, and so are the expectations in terms of behaviours. But, the danger is in disproportionately magnifying such differences. To claim a man's ability 'to listen' and a woman's ability 'to respect' is the 'sole' miracle recipe to a blissful relationship is as useful as relying on cargo science to fly a rocket. It won't work, because it's too crude. John Gray again:
'Men primarily need trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, and encouragement. Women primarily need caring, understanding, respect, devotion, validation, and reassurance.'
Well, no. The sentence should read:
'Both men and women need trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, encouragement, caring, understanding, respect, devotion, validation, and reassurance.'
There is no such thing as men from Mars vs women from Venus. There is only us, all from the same planet Earth, and us are individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses, values, and needs that are specific to us all as individuals - not as specifically male or female. You want to divorce-proof your marriage? Then stop seeing your partner solely as a man or a woman, but, acknowledge them instead as a unique person. How? This will be the topic of part II.
'A Vow', my collection of love poems, is available on Amazon :