Welcome everyone! I hope that you’re having a wonderful Sunday. As you all know, Alayna and I have been working on a series of posts lately dealing with some of the things that we’ve struggled with and some problems that we see in the culture. As I’ve said in earlier posts, we both hope that those of you who read this find in helpful, but the primary purpose for writing these has actually been for us, not for you. We’re working to get ourselves on the same page, work through some disagreements, and effectively express our concerns, beliefs, positions, and fears so that we can better understand one another first and foremost. So, this week’s post is from Alayna, and I personally think that she did a great job of expressing some real issues in American society as a whole:

While preparing a post about what marriage means and what it’s meant to accomplish, I kept getting hung up on exactly what it means to be loved and how people allow that love to die. This necessitated that the marriage post be postponed a few weeks so Tobias and I can wrestle through a major issue that helps sour multiple marriages. This issue is one of harmful expectations. And just like we did with dating, this post is directed to women and next week Tobias will address the men.

While the coffin for a marriage is always ready (as part of living in a sinful and imperfect world), couples put the nails in and hammer them through with repeated mistakes. The nail of harmful expectations is often firmly in place long before rings are exchanged or ‘I do’s’ are said. This of course means that even before a marriage begins, its demise has already been started. This demise comes to you straight from Hollywood (and the like). From the comfort of our couches or theater seats, we see heroes who possess a perfect hairstyle, physique, and fashion. He locks eyes with the heroine and instantly his life (and our’s) is changed. She consumes his every waking moment and is in his dreams at night. He knows when she will have a bad day before it happens and always shows up with the perfect remedy. He chases her through airports so they can share one last-last (since the last one was in the car seconds previously) kiss or embrace. He wows her with lines like “you have bewitched me body and soul” (Pride and Prejudice). He obsesses over her (in a romantic way of course) and moves heaven and earth to save her and be with her. And all this in only a couple hours…think what we can fit into our entire lives!!! While watching these scenes play out, our heart skips a beat and our breathing quickens (or momentarily stops…depending on how one processes romantic thrills). And then the moment is over and we have a desperate yearning to live it out again…the next time, however, we fully intend to play the role of the heroine. We walk out of the theater with a subconscious but fully planted expectation of what it looks like to be loved by a man.

When our real-life hero walks into our lives, we notice him and fall in love with him, but there is nearly always some level of discontent. Something is missing. Most women walk into marriage with either a ‘husband improvement plan’ in the back of their minds, or with the expectation that he will magically change himself and become the beloved Hollywood man we’ve pined away for. While these women imagined love being like a torrential downpour preceded by roaring thunder and flashing lightning, most love is like a small rainstorm. Constant, pleasant, and allows the sun to shine through. But it lacks the drama and intensity that we women can crave. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with grand gestures or making some days (like important anniversaries) extra-special. But women often condition themselves to miss the gentle rain because they’re too busy desiring the giant storms and think that that’s the only way to show real love. Men claim that these expectations are unrealistic, but how hard can it be to chase someone through an airport, we ask ourselves. Ultimately, it’s not that these expectations are unrealistic, it’s that they’re misguided. Is it possible that while focusing on what our man is not, we’ve lost sight of what he is?

The simple truth is that, while your man may be missing some of the characteristics that Mr. Hollywood possesses, it is emphatically true that this works both ways. Mr. Hollywood is also missing characteristics that your man possesses. The key here is refocusing our attention so that we notice what our men do to show their love for us. And then we can prioritize and maybe come to the conclusion that the constant gentle rainstorm might actually be preferable to the occasional downpour.

The following are ways that Tobias loves me in his own way rather than Hollywood’s style. While I appreciate the opportunity to publicly brag about him, I’m guessing some of these are true for a lot of men (maybe even your man?). So ask yourself, what is really important?

-Tobias has never chased me through an airport (and in all likelihood never will). But he has pursued my heart through his own loving gestures (flowers, quality time together, hugs, making contact throughout the day (calls, texts, messages, etc.)

-Tobias has never talked like Mr. Darcy. But he has told me that he loves me.

-Tobias has never been obsessed with me or been overwhelmed by a need for me. But he has deliberately chosen to prioritize me in his life and has shown that by repeatedly setting aside time in his busy schedule to make sure my needs are met and to spend time with me.

-Tobias has never been awestruck by me. But he has loved me regardless of what I’m wearing, how my hair looks, or what my make-up regimen was (or wasn’t) that morning.

-Tobias has never felt desperately lost or alone while living 4 hours away from me (our current situation). But he has re-arranged his schedule (when he can) to make time together happen. And he has been faithful to me through the distance.

-Tobias does not find his life purpose in me; nor does he claim that I am the only important part of his life or the only receiver of his attention. But he has made me his highest priority (other than God) and has trusted me to be a help to his other projects rather than a hindrance.

So how does Tobias (and most men) score on the Hollywood test? Fairly low probably. The adoration, worship, and all-consuming nature of the love that Hollywood shows is polar opposite to what many women receive each day. But they receive that love day in and day out. Year after year. And isn’t that more important?

Conclusion

Men are human, too. It can be difficult for them to do small things for us over and over if they go repeatedly un-noticed or seem unwanted. Like us, they want recognition for their efforts, and a response that shows we notice and appreciate them. Cultivate a spirit of thankfulness rather than discontent. You will be happier, and your man will be as well. Start today and find 5 ways your man has shown you love in small ways in the last couple days. Then go find him and thank him for them. Looking for a new year’s resolution? Look no further.

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4 thoughts on “On Gender Relations Post 4: Great (or not so great) Expectations (Alayna)

  1. As you describe it, Alyana, Hollywood (and other extreme cultural forces) make men into Gods for women (and women into Goddesses for men). Once again, and probably continually, we are tempted to abrogate the first commandment.

    When we see ourselves and our desires first and only how can we expect to have a decent marriage? It is only by looking beyond myself and seeing my wife through God (the real one!) that I can sustain our almost 40 year marriage, and I’m sure the same is true for her. We are both flawed human beings struggling to make it.

  2. My only issue with this, and I really think it’s a rather small one, is that you make it sound like the real man is a second best. Like the cheeseburger in commercials always looks better than the one in real life. I think, though, a real examination of what life with one of those ‘hollywood men’ would look like is worth it. How often does the man chase the woman through the airport because he’s not going to see her again? Or at least not for a year or so. How often is that emotional high the result of recovery from crushing lows? How many times has one or the other’s life had to fall apart in order to manufacture that moment of incredible love?

    And even if you can cope with all that, could you really cope with the constant pressure of that incredible moment of love, relived over and over again, constantly? It’s a wonderful emotional high, true, but it seems to me (as a guy and an introvert, I’ll admit) that it’d get pretty exhausting after a month of that every day.

    I think the Hollywood romances are like rollercoasters, whereas the real thing is like a car. No matter how sporty the car and windy the road, it won’t give you the high of the rollercoaster. But, on the other hand, if you had to go from NY to Florida on a rollercoaster, you’d be beaten, battered, and bruised by the time you got there. On the other hand, you can sleep in a car.

  3. Excellent post. All to often, we get caught up in pursuing the illusion and forget to engage in real life. Colin, I don’t think that this is a matter of ‘the real man’ being ‘second best’. It is about falling for a lie. The ‘Hollywood man’ doesn’t exist in real life, and when we try to act as if he should, we totally mess up our lives.

    Thanks for the insights Alayna!

  4. Colin and Lynne, I kind of agree with both of you. Alayna has some great points here about falling for a lie. The hollywood ‘man’ doesn’t really exist, and those men who do make attempts to replicate him in their lives generally don’t do a great job of actually being stable, supporting men. Alayna mentioned to me a story that she read, written by a woman who had fallen for a ‘hollywood man.’ The comment that stuck out to her was this ‘My husband did chase me through an airport… three years later he was chasing someone else.’ I think this feeds into the point that Colin was trying to make. The lie that Alayna is pointing out isn’t merely that the ‘hollywood man’ doesn’t exist, but that he is better than the real man.
    Colin’s point that the ‘love’ and extreme passion of the hollywood man is impossible to maintain for any real duration is a good point, and it’s one that Alayna’s made to me several times, and I think that she was trying to bring that across in her post. It is better to have a real man who stays the course than a ‘hollywood man’ who jumps from person to person.

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