I recently read an article in Elephant Journal by one of my favorite authors.
As usual, it was an excellent piece written by the author that had all the heart and soul her pieces always contain.
In the article, the author articulates what romance means to her, how it seems to have evaporated over time due to changing societal norms, and that she and all women should essentially hold out for the romance they all deserve. Understood and noted on all of it!
However, at the end of her article, she wrote a few sentences that triggered me. “Dear men, we want romance. We need romance. We expect romance. We deserve romance.” Well okay! Let me put that down on my never-ending list of to-dos!
Here was my initial, out-of-the-box response: “Oh yeah? Well, dear women, we want romance. We need romance. We expect romance. We deserve romance.” So there!
Then I put my inner man-child back in his box and took in what she was really asking for. She wasn’t being unreasonable. She wasn’t being unfair. She wasn’t being demanding or overbearing. In fact, quite the opposite; she was being crystal f*cking clear! Most of us men don’t do well in ambiguity. When forced to guess what women are thinking, we will miss the mark most of the time (at least I do!).
Here, she’s being clear on what she wants, taking any and all guessing out of the equation in articulating her wants and needs. This is it! Here is the instruction manual on how to get the love we want from our women. Romance them. Be attuned to them. Listen to them. Hear them. Support them. Communicate with them. Embrace them (figuratively and literally). Protect them (when they want it). Touch them (when they want it). And just f*cking love them. Got it.
But the thing is, and this should shock no one, us men want romance, too. We want to be loved, we want to be cared for, and nurtured; we want to be supported; we want our partners to show us affection in ways that make us feel loved and appreciated.
My initial reaction to the quote in the article was simply a gut response to it feeling like doing the romance is a one-way street, that it is the responsibility of the men to romance the women. I call bullsh*t. A relationship is between two people.
Men want romance, too, although that may take an entirely different form than what a woman would want. Does that invalidate it? Of course not. My view of a healthy relationship is all about living on the proverbial two-way street—sharing of love, sharing of responsibilities, sharing of support, sharing of child-rearing, sharing of intimacy, and so on. And of course, sharing the responsibility of romancing the other, in whatever form that may take.
Some men may be shy to admit this, but many of us are true romantics at heart. We watched the movies, we got sucked in, we got emotional, and we felt it, too. I sure did.
Growing up, one of my favorite movies was “When Harry Met Sally.” Of course, we all knew exactly how it was going to end, but that was it! The friendship, the building of a true connection, the offering of love, the fight, the rejection, and then the dramatic yet romantic crashing of the New Year’s Eve party to confess true love and desire. Yes, I loved it and wanted the starring role of Harry.
But as I get older and feel more comfortable and secure in communicating my own wants and needs, I also wouldn’t mind being the Sally sometimes, when my woman shows up to claim me. Is that wrong?! Does it mean chivalry is dead, like I see so often stated on women’s profiles on the dating sites? No, it’s not wrong, and chivalry is not dead. It’s just evolving, just like so many things in our world. If true chivalry is what you want, then go for it. Just define it. What does it entail? And once you define it, women, don’t forget to ask your man what he wants. Remember…two-way street.
The author is right, to a point. Modern dating is different, more informal. But as someone who is currently neck-deep in the dating scene, I see a lot of positives and “modern” virtues that are still creating strong connections. When I see a woman’s profile claiming to want chivalry, I consider this to be someone more old-fashioned. Nothing wrong with that and if I were to match with someone wanting chivalry, I would be cognizant of her desires while communicating with her. Not surprisingly, one of the first questions I’d ask her would be, what does chivalry look like to you? Yep, there it is again: communication. It’s critical to any healthy, thriving relationship to minimize or eliminate that nasty A word: ambiguity.
The minimization of ambiguity is certainly one of the key relational goals. However, part of romance, in my definition, is the element of the romantic surprise. These things may seem, at first glance, to be contradictory. Let me explain. I may not explicitly know that my woman would like a quick weekend trip to some cool destination, but I’m going to make an educated guess that the element of surprise and the thought of a weekend away would be romantic and enticing. But I’m operating with some ambiguity because I don’t know for sure that she wants to go. In my mind, this is healthy “romancing” while living within some understood and unavoidable areas of ambiguity. All in the name of romance.
If I know my woman, which I should (!), I should have a pretty good idea what she likes, what she wants, and what will make her feel romanced. And vice versa. If there’s good communication, it’s not rocket science.
Here’s my reframe of the author’s original quote:
“Dear women, we want romance. We know you want romance, too. Let’s figure this sh*t out and romance the hell out of each other.”
Harry (and Sally)