I am all for romance.
I believe that romance, even in its traditional form, can be a genuine celebration of the feminine.
In some ways, Valentine’s Day represents this—it invites (traditionally) the men of our world (who tend to represent the masculine) to flourish women (who are typically an embodiment of the feminine) with gifts and flowers and beautiful things as an act of pure appreciation.
It can be about the sheer beauty of the feminine opening to receive from the masculine, which is part of the cosmic tango of these two complementary polarities.
However, as women, even if we were not literally read and fed fairy tales as a young girl—which most of us were—we are all infected with “princess syndrome.” Even the most fiercely independent women I have worked with have discovered that deep down within, the princess lives.
This idea of being saved from ourselves, of the happily ever after, of being validated by being chosen, is pervasive. It seems to nag quietly, irritatingly, in the background for most women I have met—no matter how much they may want it not to and how much it wildly juxtaposes their chosen, conscious beliefs.
These ideals are ingrained deeply into our being. They are imprinted upon us by every magazine we open, every movie we watch, every billboard we drive past, and it is almost impossible to avoid their impact. It is inescapable—it is not our fault, it is not shameful, but it just is.
We are products of our environment and our environment is one that bombards us with stories and silent messages that sell us the ideals of being swept off our feet. We are left with countless unconscious and false beliefs that teach us that “if he loves us,” he will do anything for us. If he loves us, he will do A, B, C, D, and E. If he loves us, he will go to the ends of the earth to prove so.
If he loves us, he will write a poetic card, buy flowers, arrange a surprise—insert here whatever your personal Valentine’s fantasy is.
This is problem number one.
Problem number two is feminism. No, I am not anti-feminism—in its true form. I am a feminist. The problem is what I could call a “false feminism” that causes us to feel entitled in emotionally unhealthy ways.
What I have noticed over the years, both within my own personal process and working with many other women, is that we tend to end up with an inner teenage girl who is both wounded and demanding. She is secretly insecure and needs to be validated by men (even though she may feel shame about this and deny it, even to herself). She also knows she has rights. Rights to be treated a certain way, to be loved well, to be doted upon and adored.
She doesn’t just know she has a right to these things, she demands them. So, we have a little miss princess with a voice. And this is where we begin to see a deeply damaging cocktail of fairy tales and feminism emerging.
Bear with me.
I believe, of course, that as women we deserve to be and have a right to be loved fully, to be truly held, seen, and celebrated by not just our men, but by all men. I believe that we deserve a man in our lives who bothers to get to know us in our wholeness, in our complexity, who wants to know what makes us tick and turn us on. I believe that we deserve our partner to understand our love language and do the things that make us feel seen, heard, and loved. I believe that we have a right to a man who’s willing to make an effort and step up and action his love and show us his heart.
But, I have also come to see and believe that we can be overly demanding of all the above.
I see a generation of women who tend to hold their men to, at times and in moments, unreasonably high standards—perhaps because we finally feel we have the right to. This is understandable. But perhaps, sometimes, the pendulum has swung too far?
We hear often about the pressure modern women come under to be the full package—the goddess in the bedroom, the perfect mother, financially secure and successful, an amazing cook in the kitchen. We do come under all of these pressures, and the weight is immense.
But we must realise that men come under the same weight of burden.
We want them to romance us and be the manly man. We want them to hold us and make us feel safe and secure. We also want them to be communicative and emotional and open—things that don’t come so easily to many men because they weren’t raised in a way that cultivated and encouraged it. We want them to be the white knight and the hero, but we want them to be soft and sensitive too. We want them to know what we want and when we want it. We want them to get it just right all of the time. We often seem to want them to read our minds. And boy do we punish them quietly when they don’t. We want them to never miss the mark.
Why? Perhaps because, if we were deeply honest with ourselves, we would realise that our own insecurities were being triggered by their supposed imperfections.
Perhaps if we were deeply honest with ourselves, we would realise that we are asking them not to prove their love, but our worth. Perhaps we would realise that we struggle to receive from others in our day-to-day lives (as the healthy feminine should be able to) and so we place enormous pressure on these symbolic days, craving to be at the centre of the receiving, as though it is our only opportunity to do so.
Perhaps this Valentine’s Day (and every other day of the year) we can instead begin to step in to our more authentic feminine and offer up the same compassion for our men that we ask them to offer us. Perhaps we can be as forgiving of them as we would expect them to be of us. Perhaps we can give them the space and the room to journey, to heal, to fail, and fall short as we all need to.
God forbid, he forgets a card, or buys the flowers we hate, or books the wrong restaurant, or doesn’t plan the day that we had privately envisaged. Can we take our men off the trial stand? Can we stop testing them? Can we love them as they are? In the same way that we ask them to love us? Can we move through a day like Valentine’s Day without those demands and expectations? Could we instead offer love and appreciation to him for who he is, rather than trying to take it for ourselves? Could we champion his successes rather than watch out for his supposed shortcomings? Can we remember that much of what we are looking for cannot even be provided by him, and will only be discovered by journeying deeply into ourselves? Can we do that?
Can we be that powerful as women? Can we love that big?
After all, isn’t that what real, raw romance is really about?
Author’s note: This article utilises the phrases “men” and “women” for the sake of ease, but its principles apply to any relationship, regardless of the sex of the individuals, whereby one partner identifies with more “masculine” principles and the other with more “feminine” principles, which always tends to be the case, given that this polarity is how the magnetism is created.