She listens to me.
Don’t mistake that for obedience (because that she isn’t!). She just listens. And she will tell me if she agrees or disagrees. If she’ll join me in my thoughts or counter me. We disagree a lot, but then again rarely ever. Because we talk things through, and we listen to each other to finally find agreement in the disagreement.
We live and let live. The reason why she listens to me is that she knows I listen to her. I take her seriously. I take her thoughts, wishes, and emotions into consideration and make sure that whatever needs to be said and done is said and done with common courtesy.
I grew tired of these Man versus Woman conversations. The whole #MeToo movement caught me by surprise, and the tone in the feminist movement got a bit scary to me. Too many #BossLadies screaming #TheFutureIsFemale. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against women’s rights. I believe everyone is free to express themselves. But it got scary.
This was not the world I grew up in and frankly too many “angry” people together, no matter the sex, skin color, or beliefs, freaks me out. I couldn’t escape and got confronted in many ways, so it made me think…
I was raised by a single mother. My aunts had more to say in their households than the men who played macho man till the bedroom door closed. My female cousins were spoiled more than all the other young men in my surroundings. Being raised in both the Netherlands and the Caribbean island of Curaçao, my experience was different from the rhetoric of the social media women online.
Confused, it was truly a time for some self-reflection. This is just my perspective, but I was raised in a world where according to the boy in me, women rule and men cowardly turn to alcohol and fake machismo. Now, suddenly, these women are saying they’re not in charge? I felt I had to make amends and set out to apologize to women that I might have done wrong, because I might…and the responses were a surprise to me.
“You have nothing to apologize for.”
I’m pretty sure reading all the #MeToo articles that I did something wrong. I made my fair share of mistakes and I probably didn’t apologize to the right ones yet.
Being new to this masculine role in a new feminist movement, I set out to discover more. To listen. To understand. I was a boy, raised by a single mother, and was confused on how to be masculine. I was afraid of doing something wrong (again). My eyes are slowly opened by an ongoing experience that tells me all I need to know.
About two and a half years ago, I started a relationship with a lady who had a sexual experience at way too young an age, against her will, not knowing what effect it would have on her future experience with men. I fell head over heels for her just when the #MeToo bombs exploded. She was a single mother and had to re-understand her life. She set her boundaries. Spoke her mind. Allowed her heart to open slightly (with some doubts). And there I was, “lost” in a world where I was trying to create my life. Find my masculinity and finally getting on my own, living with physical limitations due to a spinal cord injury that forces me to walk with a cane.
I was just starting to stand back up in life after being knocked down for quite a while. My last partner had passed away in a scuba dive accident. The one before left me because I was not half of the man she deserved. And before that, I had such a wrecking experience, that just that story deserves a whole book. But let’s say I did everything wrong I could have, and she was no saint either. We both need to apologize to each other still.
My heart had been bruised plenty, but this lady was listening to me now. She didn’t judge me for being a man, boyish at times, and sometimes bluntly stupid. She didn’t hide her emotions for being female, girlish too. So we put it on the table, and we talked. We talked, discussed, and we listened. We laughed and occasionally we cried. I cried even more than her.
She told me of all her past boyfriends and male experiences. How at times she felt obligated to “perform.” Where she felt happy and accepted. Where she felt angry or rejected. Listening to her, I knew she was my special one.
She accepted her flaws, and that made me share my insecurities or show my strength (and again, tears would fall). We allowed ourselves to mix and match. She kept me at a distance for the first year we dated, and I waited. I showed up and left her alone. There was no one way to find each other. I just knew I wanted her, and she deserved the time to realize that and the space to see that I deserved her.
More important to her, that she deserved someone like me.
Now two and a half years later, I understand where many go wrong. I understand the sentiment of the masculine and the feminine and I try to recreate a balance with conversations for both sides to understand. No doesn’t always mean no, but it definitely doesn’t mean force yourself upon her. It means respect her and go away. She will find her way if she wants to—if you deserve it too.
It would’ve been easy to hold out for someone easier. Something more like all those romantic stories out there, but that wouldn’t have been half as satisfying as our accomplishments now. Been there, done that, and lost myself in it. Our love is our choice.
We had to put in our time and work. And we chose it. Over and over again. It’s not just a story. It’s not an Instagram post. It’s pure reality, and in this time of swipe left, you have to make a choice and make it right. She’s raising a young daughter who will have her fair share with young men. I want to be sure that we set a standard that the future is something we build together. That we need to listen just as much as we need to talk and express ourselves.
If you want to have a relationship, understand that you won’t always be right, even if you are.
That you can’t use your gender to get what you want. That you can’t force something just because you’re physically or mentally stronger.
You will have to listen to each other or don’t, but then clearly choose to walk away.
But make it real. Sit through the uncomfortable. Listen to all those things that you don’t want to hear. Understand the anger and the jealousy. Embrace the hardship and stand by for all the appreciative smiles. The “thank you!” The patience. The solution. The fulfillment.
She listens because she knows she is heard.