This myTake it's something I've been thinking about a lot, but I was inspired to write it from a conversation I had with one of my good friends, Desconhecida. So you can thank her for her encouragement. (Assuming you like it that is. If you hate it, you can blame me. 😉) But I would like to talk about what love is, and how many people relate to each other differently when they think they are doing what the other person really wants.
Disclaimer: this is very much a bunch of generalizations, and there are exceptions. You can consider this the average, or even the most common occurrence among men and women. And if it really makes you feel better, you can take this as my personal perspective on men and women. However, it is generally understood to be this way. But there will always be exceptions, and sometimes there are a lot of exceptions.
First off, we need to clarify our terms. Love especially. Because I can love a person, and I can love a donut. I can love my wife by holding her hair back at 2 in the morning as she vomits into the toilet while she's pregnant. I can also love her by buying her flowers and writing notes when she least expects them. So what is love?
Love is desiring what is good for the other person, for their own sake. That's it. It's very simple, but hard to do. It's wanting what is best, with no thought for yourself, and when lived out in daily life becomes a continuous outpouring of yourself for the sake of the other person. Now obviously, love can take different forms depending on what kind of personal relationship we are talking about. I can love a baby, and desire what is best for their sake. Change their diaper because they need it, feed them, clean them, and care for them. I can do the same for my aging grandfather. But the relationship will be very different because the people are different.
Being IN love, on the other hand, is a feeling of infatuation and commitment to another person. Overtime, if the relationship is healthy, it deepens into a sincere respect and appreciation of the other person, despite their flaws. It really becomes an attitude of wanting what is best for them, and continuously doing what is best for them, just because you love them.
Men and women, crazy as this sounds, are different. In fact, in some ways they are very different. This was highlighted when they did a test where they had a crowd of people and they posed a difficult choice. Would you rather be alone and unloved they asked, or inadequate and disrespected? Then something interesting happened. 90% of the women chose to be inadequate and disrespected. Everyone would choose this option they reasoned. Who would not want to be loved? But surprisingly, 90% of men preferred to be alone and unloved rather than inadequate and disrespected. From their paradigm, if there wasn't respect then there wouldn't even be real love.
This difference shocked all sides, because they each assumed that their perspective was so obvious that no one which choose anything different. And yet this highlights a fundamental fact about us. Women desire unconditional love in a relationship. Men desire unconditional respect.
In our current time respect is confused as agreement and approval of all choices. That's not it, because otherwise that natural desire that men have would be ridiculous. What it is is an honoring of his ability to make good decisions. If he makes a bad one, it is honoring his ability to learn and grow better. If there is an assumption that a man will fail, he will often fail because he does not feel like he has to live up to anything. But if greatness is expected of him, it is much more likely that he will achieve it.
Women naturally desire unconditional love. They desire real affection and being continually chosen. This is a natural and good desire. They're not expecting to be put on a pedestal and worshiped, what they want is to be the first choice their husband makes. They want him to love them when they have put effort and time into making themselves look good, and they want to be loved when they feel like crap and they haven't taken a shower in days. And if they are loved like this, they will radiate life and love to others.
When a woman is not receiving unconditional love, that she so strongly desires, she will often cry. When a man is not receiving unconditional respect, that he so strongly desires, he will often get angry.
We also naturally give what we want most. Men will default with giving respect rather than love, thinking they are doing what their wife wants. So when she says she doesn't want to talk about something right now, she is feeling fine, he respects what she says and backs off. But for her, if you really loved her then he would keep pushing until he found out what was really bothering her.
In another example, women consider it loving to help the man figure out directions so they can get to the place on time. If she tells him to stop and ask for directions or tells him what she thinks is a better route, then in her mind she is loving him by helping him so they can arrive on time and not be late. But for him, he wants to know that he has what it takes. That she respects his ability to find the way there on his own. That's why he gets angry when she is trying to help him, because he is feeling disrespected. And yet she's just trying to love him.
These situations, where the two different modes of relating clash, can often cause deep wounds when each person thinks they are doing what is best for the other and what the other wants. This is why in Ephesians 5, the Bible says, "Husbands love your wives.... wives respect your husbands." because women naturally already love their husbands, and men naturally already respect their wives. Now they just need to do the other mode as well.
This difference between men and women extends to the way in which they value themselves as well. Women value themselves based on the number and quality of their relationships. This is why they are so willing to talk about their emotional problems. It's a means of connecting with other people. This is also why they expect men to keep pushing when they say they're fine. Because not only is it a sign of love, but it's also what you do when you are trying to connect more deeply with people. This is her paradigm. Whereas for men, they value themselves based on the number and quality of their achievements. Men are always looking to achieve more and greater things. So we seek help from other people in order to achieve these things.
The classic way in which this plays out is a woman who is telling her man about the problems she is having. It is difficult and hard for her to deal with. So of course, being in the achievement mindset, he tries to help her fix it. Then she gets even more upset, and accuses him of not listening. He thinks he was listening because otherwise he wouldn't be able to help her to find the solution. But for her, she wasn't seeking his helping fixing it, she was seeking connection with him. That's what she meant by listening. She wanted his understanding, not his planning. So her attempts to connect frustrated both of them, because each person misunderstood what the other was actually wanting. You can see this highlighted really clearly in the video below.
But the more we come to know each other and our differences, and the more we make an effort to bridge that gap and to have a permanent state of our Will oriented towards the other person, the more of a massive foundation we build throughout our relationship. And as you start to get older the foundation gets so strong that those infatuation feelings again start rising up, and do so continuously. That's the old couple who hold hands in the mall. They learn to love each other so much that doing something for the other person feels like you're doing it for yourself. And so when one dies the other often very quickly follows.
This is what love is. And when it is romantic and sexual as well, it can forge a relationship that will last a lifetime. A relationship where despite the difficulties and occasional times of dryness, a foundation can be built that is so strong that the relationship will never crumble. It will last until they are old and wrinkly, and yet they see each other as more beautiful and more attractive than they ever did when they were young.