Do men and women weaken themselves in order to bring out the best qualities of the opposite sex?  I am starting to wonder.  Many women I have known throughout my life have a dream of taking the man, rough around the edges, and healing him, making him a better person.  What could be more admirable? If you want to melt a woman’s heart, let her know that she makes you want to be a better person.  This is ultimately Christlike and truly an admirable impulse, embodied in the story of Beauty and the Beast.  There is something amazing about the idea of the magically transforming female bringing out the best in others through love.  I think there is also a dark side to this perception. 

There is a certain Mormon perception, and perhaps it is an American perception, that men always marry above themselves in the spirituality and righteousness scale.  Perhaps this helps both to progress spiritually.  but what happens when the man uses this as an excuse to slack off.  Can the idea that women are naturally more spiritual cause men to vacate spiritual leadership in the family?

     Furthermore, as a total nerd and “nice guy” finishing last in high school, I have to say there is an absolutely mind shattering tendency for a certain type of girl to always pick the bad boy, with the idea that they can change them.  Too often, this is not the case.  Women let themselves into unhealthy, even abusive relationships under this idea that they are needed and that they can fix their spouse.  It leads to severe unhappiness long term, and children who grow up fatherless, either symbolically or literally. 

      It leads to tremendous pain and suffering.  At some point, the man needs to man up and actually make the change, or the woman needs to  move on and accept defeat.  Hopefully this happens before marriage or children.  I think this just might be the key to getting real change, being willing and able to move on in the face of continued bad choices.

    On the other size, men want to feel like strong protectors and providers.  Some of Man’s most selfless and noble behaviors occur when fighting for the best for his family.  We want to be providers.  We want to protect the women we love.  This is typified by the damsel in distress theme we find recurring in superhero stories.  It’s Lana Lang or Lois Lane to Superman.  It holds a certain charm and romance.  As any feminist will quickly tell you, it also has a real dark side.

     It seems in order for the man to be a protector, the woman must need protecting.  The ideal damsel in distress is passive, unable to care for herself in the real world.  I don’t think this is any more healthy than the spiritual immaturity we encourage in men.  Certain women may stop making choices for themselves, lacking confidence in their own decisions.  They fade and become Ophelia.  This causes real pain and heartache for herself and her daughters and no superhero of a man can stop it.  In the immortal words of Roberta Flack, we begin “kiiling me softly with his song.” 

     It seems to me, at a certain point the man is better off teaching the woman how to take care of herself, whether through self defense, learning to manage finances, or even through learning to excel in her own personal interests with the encouragement of a spouse.   

     I always thought of myself as a hopeless romantic and yet the post is the ultimate in anti-romance.  I am destroying my own ideal as I write.  I have always been a strong believer in the man being incomplete without the woman and the woman incomplete without the man.  At some point our societies romantic ideal is a complete fallacy.  We become codependant.  We define ourselves by our relationship.  Pop music is all too full of this.  I could never live without you.  I need you to love me.  What am I without your love.  Why does loving someone else mean we have to demean and debase ourselves all the time?  Feeling needed feels great, but being needy, that’s just not as great. 

     I am learning that realizing this may at times we must let go of our advantage to strengthen the other.  It seems we may do more at times for each other by being needed less.  Love in this case becomes a matter of choice.  We aren’t dependant on each other, but actual full fledged human beings making a full fledged commitment to each other, by giving when needed yes.  More importantly, we also hold back when needed, in a spirit of love and encouragement rather than anger and derision of course. We expect more of the other and thus grow, rather than diminish as a couple.