“A man should be a strong and stable father figure” is one of the many things my mother told me about relationships.
Her idea of a “man” was…I want to say, old-fashioned. He must be protective of me, remember the little things, appreciative, die-hard romantic, and of course, a strong, stable father figure.
Unfortunately, my father fell short on some of those things. My mother used to say that he has “Peter Pan Syndrome,” being a Gemini and all. He was spontaneous, sarcastic, and a socialite.
No matter how much she tried to convey her needs, she usually felt hurt. Whilst he would meet her needs once in a while upon much persistence, the things she wanted just didn’t come naturally to him. They weren’t him.
She held onto all the things that upset her. Every now and again she brought them up and relived the experiences. It wasn’t healthy for anyone, especially her.
As a teenager, I began reading Mills & Boons novels. If you have read any of those, you must know that they are entrenched in the ideas my mother held about men and relationships. She was not alone in her beliefs. These ideologies have come down through generations in my family. It is a hard task to overwrite them.
As I grew older and navigated relationships, I found myself in my mother’s shoes several times. Hurt.
Why couldn’t the men who I met live up to these standards? Where were all these men who were supposed to be undying protectors and whatnot?
Over time, I realised three important things about gender and relationships that I want my children to know.
We are human first, and “men” and “women” second.
It’s a given, but perhaps, we sometimes forget amidst the traditionalist and “Disney” view of what men should be like.
Just because he is a man does not mean that he must own a fancy car and a big house and pay for all your things. It also does not mean that he is the sole protector, rescuer, or “knight in shining armour.”
In a similar fashion, just because she is a woman does not mean that she alone is responsible for cooking, cleaning, and fostering kindness (largely thought to be a feminine trait, in my experience).
These roles can be reversed, and they can also be shared. It is wonderful to see a cooperative and mutually understanding couple.
You have choices.
If the relationship does not work for you, there are several options, such as talking to each other, seeking therapy together, and ultimately, a mutual and respectful decision to end the relationship.
Ending a relationship does not mean that this person is out of your and children’s life forever (unless there are obvious reasons why this must be the case).
Yes, both parents are important, and truly respectful relationships will transition to another form of a relationship, once the romantic one ends so that their children can continue to have some form of consistency with each parent.
Sometimes couples know that ending the relationship is the right decision but become stuck in the idea that their children need to see a happy family and that means their parents are together forever.
We all know deep down that what children need, above all, is to see and experience healthy relationships. The facade of “togetherness” does not replace the genuine health and happiness of a relationship.
Everyone is entitled to be themselves.
People can decide they want to do one thing today and change their mind the next day. They can make promises and vows and break them. They can say all the things that you want to hear and turn out to be the complete opposite. And it hurts. All of this hurts.
However, men and women are allowed to make their own choices and be whoever they want to be. At the end of the day, from a spiritual perspective, nobody owes anyone anything. We come here alone, and we leave alone.
Do not become attached to a single idea of a person. People have many sides. One day we might get sick of each other. One day we might decide to take different paths. That’s okay. That’s a human thing to do, actually.
Hurtfulness begins when we think that we own this person, or that they owe us something. The only person that you are truly responsible for is you.
Life has a funny way of teaching us these things. Often, we keep hitting the same roadblocks until we finally understand what we are being nudged to learn.
Whilst our children will face their own lessons, we can try to teach them what we have learnt to make their journey a little easier. What will you teach your children about relationships and gender?