Romantic love from a man's perspective - Part 1
Having just gone through yet another Valentine’s Day I thought it apt to share some thoughts around romantic love. I have shared previously that I believe that humanity is characterised relationally. In other words, we only truly know ourselves in the context of our relationship with others. Many times, people say to me “I just need time away from everyone to figure myself out”. While this can at times be useful, the reality regarding how much we have actually achieved this is exposed when confronted with those who we are in relationships with.
Of all these relationships, one seems to expose us more than any other and that is our romantic relationships. In my romantic relationships, I have found in my significant other, a mirror that has been more confronting than any other relationship. My siblings tend to be quite nice to me and accommodating of my flaws, my workmates have generally been similar and rarely got exposed to my less palatable side and my parents live so far away that their ability to have much influence is mainly historic. One of the realities that I have had to face is that I am an extremely emotional being. Despite popular belief that men are devoid of emotion and can wander through the world engaging with women at a purely physical level, this is not quite my experience.
From a very young age I was highly attuned to my mother’s emotional needs. Dad’s work required many hours from him and consequently mum was the primary caregiver in the home. By the time dad got home from work I imagine his resources were so depleted that all he could really afford mum would have been the scraps. In hindsight I believe I made a covenant with myself that I would never be responsible for a woman’s sadness or loneliness. In my early relationships whenever sadness would present itself in my partner, I would try and rationalise it away through logic, trivialisation and denial. I remember vividly being confronted by a woman who refused to engage me at an intellectual level and instead met my rationality with pure emotion. That was my undoing! I was unable to deny what was right there in front of me, the reality of the hurt that I was capable of causing.
Having been confronted with the reality of my imperfection, despite my sincere desire to not want to cause hurt, I subsequently developed a different strategy which was to run. Using intellect, I would explain it away as “not meant to be!” “If we were truly meant to be then you wouldn’t be this unhappy” I developed the attitude that unless I could make a woman perpetually happy, I would prefer romantic solitude or singleness. This created a constant dialectical tension with my other belief which is that relationships are the primary identifier for humanity.
I am currently confronted with societal norms that are in direct conflict with my paradigm around romantic relationships. I view relationships through a covenantal lens and what I witness is a predilection towards contractual relationships. I attend weddings where couples profess their vows to be together through thick and thin until death parts them and then leave as soon as greener pastures present themselves or the going gets tough.
What shall I do then? What does it look like to be a ‘real man’ in a romantic relationship in this ever-changing landscape? Tune in for part 2 where I share some thoughts around this. Happy love month :)