My last year of college, I did two research papers on gender roles in relationships. I found that the most common roles, or the ones we are most familiar with are: the feminine-female and the masculine-male. My research showed that this partnership tended to be the most passionate in the beginning, but usually ended the quickest. The androgynous relationships were the ones that had the highest rate of success. Another area of my research focused on what actually made up the act of dating: dinner and a movie, who pays the bill, when do you stop seeing other people, what makes it official or exclusive, and so on. Finally, throughout my research, years, and experience I have come up with what I call the flaw theory – now I’m no scientist or full-time “gender researcher” (whatever that means), so this isn’t some fancy-schmancy calculated theory. However, it is rather interesting. Let’s begin the process.
How They Meet
Oh darling buds of May, love is in the air, blah-di-blah-blah. This is the beginning of the hardest part if you ask me, because how you start is very important. First of all, how do people meet? Usually one of three ways – oh and one of them is not quietly reading a book at a coffee shop. The odds of one of those “meet-cute’s” is slim to none. The real world ways are: school, work, or through a friend. So once you’re out of school you basically have two pipelines for meeting “the one.” Here’s the kicker, the older you get the more baggage each party would have accumulated. The heaviest piece of baggage is usually a past relationship. Enter timing. If either person has recently left a serious relationship (recent can even be a year, btw), the odds are against you. Depressing, I know… start collecting cats. There is a bright side and an exception. The bright side: When you both are in the right place at the right time, it makes it that much more magical. The exception: Some people really do meet and fall in love even when the timing is bad.
First date, and so on …
I actually love first dates. They’re well-planned, no one is too attached yet, and there is just so much hope and potential. Enter gender roles. Every race, sex, religion, what have you carries with it, it’s own stereotypes and double standards. As women we deal with double standards all day – big ones. Then there is dating, where our normal rules go out the window and now men actually have something on us. He is expected to open doors, pay the bill, and be the transportation. For a woman this signifies respect, and hopefully means he’s got a job. Not putting out on the first date signifies our respect for ourselves, and being appreciative and complimentary is how we as women display our respect to the man. This is not a how to, this is just basic math.
The Game, and Speaking Different Languages
I read my mom’s copy of Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus when I was 12. Not to brag, but to give you an idea of just how much this interests me. The book is just littered with what you would consider sexist gender roles. The sad part is that the majority of us abide by them when we’re in love. The common theme was: men say what they mean and don’t say what the don’t, and women do the opposite. To a man, every day is opposite day for a woman; I’m fine means I hate you, leave me alone means come here, and do what you want means don’t you dare do what you want (aka do what I want you to do)! For a woman, this is how she tests the affections that a man has for her, in reality it is a mean and cruel game that signifies one’s own insecurities. But don’t worry, men have there own little games too.
Enter bro code. While we were reading He’s Just Not That Into You, and Men are From Mars…, he was reading The Game, and I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. These basically say to treat a woman as horribly as possible without letting on that you are and you will get in her pants and be in complete control. In both books, women are the equivalent of an object or an animal.
I’m not going to harp on these double standards. We are all aware of them and they will either continue into your relationship or they won’t. For the health of your relationship, I hope they don’t. Here is where things get a little more serious:
The flaw usually enters the relationship from day one, or by the end of the first date at the latest. Think of the flaw as a seed that is placed in your brain the moment you realize you are more than just physically attracted to a person. However, there is only one seed between two people. This goes along with the same idea that no matter what, one person will always love the other more. This seed can shrink and grow, and it can be transferred back and forth. The seed grows with jealousies, intentional disrespect, and deluded accusations. The seed shrinks with acts of unconditional love, a growing respect for one’s self, and healthy time apart. The seed is transferred when control is transferred. By the way, the person who “wears the pants” is not necessarily the person in control. Also, “in control” does not mean you are intentionally steering the relationship, it really means you are more in control of yourself and therefore don’t need constant reassurance within your relationships. So whomever is most in control of themselves tends to be the one who does not have the burden of the flaw. The flaw will always be there, somewhere, but it can remain a small seed – a reminder of vulnerability and the need to stay true to yourself and continue to grow as an individual.
At some point, these two crazy kids will decide whether to be exclusive or part ways. This doesn’t mean they love each other, and hopefully they realize that. It doesn’t mean they have to post it on Facebook, or start trekking that road to marriage because that’s “the next obvious step.” It means they have a real shot at loving someone and being loved completely. It also means they have a date to weddings and parties, which is always nice. So I encourage you to let your love be or not be. Don’t place a lot of rules on your relationship, don’t think that because one thing happened in one relationship that a similar road in your current one will end the same. Definitely learn from your past but don’t use it to constantly be suspicious or out of control. Just enjoy the ride and trust that everything will work out or not, and if not, you will be ok.