My recent break-up has gotten me thinking about the way women should be treated in a relationships, and they ways we do -- or don't -- learn these things. Conventional wisdom says you learn by example in early childhood by watching your parents. Dad treats Mom with love and attention and respect? That's what learn you expect from a mate. Dad doesn't? Well then, that is The Way Things Should Be. Later you go out and choose partners who help you mirror that dynamic. Of course, most of this is unconsciously adopted (who would think to themselves, "Gee? I wanna choose someone who treats me like crap!"), which is why so often we grow up and land smack dab in the middle of the same relationship dynamics that we grew up with.
So how can we (re)learn how a woman should be treated?
Fortunately, in my own quest I've found a good therapist who has help me recognize why I
excused the inexcusable. And I have great friends who have gently -
but firmly - shown me what I should expect:
- They should speak with respect and admiration
- Smile when I walk in the room
- Take ownership of their actions, and be able to say "I'm sorry" when they're wrong.
- Open my door, and be gentlemanly
- Make me feel good about myself, and accept me for who I am
- Make me laugh, and find me funny, too
- Pay when we go out
- Make me a top priority
- Juggle their schedule to make time to see me
- Be nurturing
- Gladly carry the heavy things for me, because they can and it makes them feel useful
- Be responsible
While many of these things seem like they are just common sense...it has been surprising for me to discover that for me they haven't been. Soon after I began dating again, I had a small disagreement with someone I was seeing casually. He was in the wrong, and when I called him on it, he fessed up to it and said he was sorry. But the biggest shock to me was that it was a BIG SHOCK to me. I couldn't recall a relationship I'd had in recent memory where someone actually ACKNOWLEDGED that they were wrong and said "I'm sorry" to make amends without a lot of angst and teeth gnashing and defensiveness and back-and-forth. The simplicity with which this apology happened was startling to me. When I was relaying the events to my friend Kimberly, she blew my mind when she said, "This is what you should EXPECT. Of course he should say "I'm sorry" when he's wrong. You should EXPECT this."
You can read all the books in the world and know intellectually what you should demand for yourself, but actually experiencing it? is a whole different ballgame.