I‘ve been saying it for years. Or at least since 2008, when I’d first written about the necessity for the man to be the gas, and the woman the brakes—that in heterosexual romantic relationships, the man must be the one propelling the relationship forward.
Phil once surprised me by having a shirt made for me using a quote I’d written: “The man should love the woman just a smidge more [than she loves him].” Then he added: “—And he does.”
Back in 2004 I scribbled in my journal a list titled, “The Perfect Man For Me.” And much of it is about feeling unconditionally pursued and adored, making feelings known, no games, no pulling away, no taking space.
Lately I’ve found myself repeating this advice to women in my life, where the men in their lives are more brakes than gas. I’ve also asked myself if the dynamic is the same in my marriage, these many years later. It is. Do I feel unconditionally loved? Yes. Do I know that Phil wouldn’t waiver a second, that he’d choose me every single time, I do. I know in my bones how much Phil loves me, but a lot of the time, I’m not sure he likes me.
He scolds me. He says it’s not scolding, that he’s just frustrated, but it feels like constant criticism. None of this is news. Phil’s intentions are always good, but his delivery sucks so hard. It’s been the dynamic for years upon years. He backs off when I throw a fit about it, until the complaints creep back in, and I’m left apologizing for something again. I wish on my grand-master list of The Perfect Man For Me, I’d included “He doesn’t want to change me. He doesn’t want me to be more like he is. He likes me just as I am.”
But by wishing this, aren’t I being a hypocrite? Because he should want the same, someone who loves him just as he is. My wanting him to stop being critical, when by nature he is always critical of all things, isn’t that hypocrisy? Maybe wanting to be liked and adored just as you are is lazy. Maybe it’s a way of saying, “I shouldn’t have to change,” even when maybe you should.
PHIL’S LOVE LANGUAGE (THE WAY HE FEELS LOVED)
9 Acts of Service
8 Quality Time
5 Words of Affirmation
4 Physical Touch
4 Receiving Gifts
MY LOVE LANGUAGE (THE WAY I FEEL MOST LOVED)
9 Physical Touch
8 Receiving Gifts
7 Words of Affirmation
4 Quality Time
2 Acts of Service
Of course, you should love people the way they need and want to be loved, not the way YOU want to be loved. It takes work to not “do unto others as you’d have done to you.” Don’t love the way you want to be loved. Love the way they want to be loved. For so many years, Phil will list all he’s done for our family, for me, to make my life easier, and I just shrug. It doesn’t make me feel loved. But, wow, if he took the time to make me a “mix tape” filled with songs that make him think of me (ew, except no Elvis Costello or Renee Flemming), that would do it for me. Telling me how hot I am, how much he adores me, that works, too. But emptying the dishwasher? Never, ever, going to make me feel smitten.
We want to be loved in the way we most feel loved, as outlined in Gary Chapman’s, The Five Languages of Love. I wish I’d taken this quiz back when I was dating and drafting out the list of what I wanted in a mate. Because it’s damn exhausting being married to someone whose love language is “ACTS OF SERVICE.”
Maybe I’m just tired. I’ll fall asleep beside the man who really would sleep out in the rain if I said that’s the way it ought to be. Only he’d probably complain about what a mess the house is once he came inside.