Last night, I was flipping the channels between VH1 and E! on a quest to give my mind a break. Although I get easily annoyed by the privileged and spoiled, I decided to watch a couple of episodes of Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami, as well as Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch and The T.O. Show. Although I realize that these so-called reality shows are very much scripted, I was intrigued by the interwoven themes in these shows, especially between the Kardashians' and Terrell Owens' lives as played out for all of us to see. (My brain doesn't like to take long breaks, apparently.)
The ongoing saga of Kourtney Kardashian's relationship with Scott Disick (her "babydaddy") grew even more dramatic with his (self-)destructive actions, his admission of problems with alcohol and decision to seek therapy. Meanwhile, on VH1, T.O. discussed problems in his current relationship with his girlfriend Kari with his therapist. In both shows, the men seem to realize that their behavior is impacting their relationships negatively. They seem to value the women in their lives, but don't want these women to hold them accountable for their behavior. The women seem to put up with behavior that they know is unacceptable, and although Kari seems pretty firm with Terrell about ending their relationship, she's asserted herself before, only to find herself right back in the same situation. Same with Kourtney, who seems quite strong-willed and sometimes incapable of listening to others, yet she takes Scott back time after time with no real improvement. (So okay, I know a little more about these shows than I originally let on.)
Here's my question: Did these women realize the history and baggage these men have carried with them before getting involved? Was there no indication that these men are quite self-absorbed; no red flags, no doubts floating through these women's minds that these men were destined to bring pain along for the ride? Of course. Kourtney and Kari knew this. Who wouldn't know that someone like T.O., who's not a team player and can't stay committed to one football team, would have difficulty committing to one woman? Who wouldn't know that Scott, who didn't have a job before the Kardashian Konnection (sorry!) hooked him up, was basically sponging off of the fame and fortune of a family in the spotlight? These women have demonstrated that they are not stupid, and that they have respect for themselves, yet they expected more from these men than either of them have demonstrated they could do.
I'm not judging. Believe me, I am not one to judge. I've asked myself the same questions. I'm known to be strong-willed, intelligent, independent, and feisty. Yet, I have found myself wondering where that strong woman goes when the man in my life demonstrates behavior that I find unacceptable.
Here's my theory, though it's getting late and I haven't fully formed it: In our society, women have been conditioned to believe that men are to be loved, and not respected. Flow with me here. Mothers love their sons in ways that make it difficult for boys to understand that, if they want respect, it must be earned. For example, my mother did not require the males in the family to lift a finger to clean. The cleaning was done by my sisters and me. While my brothers participated in sports on Saturday mornings, I cleaned their rooms. There was no expectation that they should clean up the mess they made. Now, for the most part my brothers are good men. However, using the cleaning analogy, THE MEN DID NOT HAVE TO CLEAN UP THEIR MESS. THEIR MESS WAS CLEANED UP BY A WOMAN. Some men (I won't generalize) are raised to believe that they are not accountable for their actions. When men are not held accountable, they do not learn how to earn respect. In the Bible, in the book of Ephesians, chapter five, verse 33 says, "However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." While the Word of God admonishes men to love their wives as themselves (causing them to have to examine their own self-love and stepping out of themselves to love someone else), it admonishes women to RESPECT their husbands. Interesting, isn't it? How easy is it to respect someone who hasn't earned it? Not very.
A few months ago, I dreamt that I was surprising a man that I had been dating for awhile. I walked into his apartment, into his bedroom, and found another woman hiding in the room. In the dream, I proceeded to clean up after the other woman (right after I pulled her up by her hair and threw her out of the apartment, of course. I said I was feisty.) A couple more women came in, and I threw them out, cleaning up any traces of women who this man was carrying on with. Meanwhile, although in the dream he seemed fearful of the possibility of losing me, this man did nothing but stand by and watch. The dream ended when an older woman who seemed to have this man's respect came in and told him that he needed to stop messing around with so many women and look to God to fill the void in his life.
WOW. What did that dream symbolize? Aside from the fact that God symbolizes the ultimate authority who has expectations of us and holds us accountable for our actions, I believe it meant that I needed to stop "cleaning up" after the messes of the men in my life, whether they be a love interest, my brothers, even my male students. In my work, I need to make sure that I hold ALL of my students accountable to achieving their goals, but I notice that, while female students often come to me with specific goals and action steps in mind, male students might have one long-term goal (often to make money), but no clear and specific ways that they will achieve that goal. It will only benefit them if I ask them to make short term goals and objectives, and as they achieve short-term goals, express pride in, and respect for, their accomplishments. This will help them to "earn" the respect men truly desire from women.
Men are so lovable, and we can't help but to love them. But we really need to respect them. And the best way I believe I can genuinely respect a man is to demonstrate to him, in a loving but firm manner, that I have expectations of him that are realistic and achievable, and then to hold him accountable for meeting those expectations. And then, when those expectations are met or exceeded, I can shower him with the love and respect he truly deserves. Am I right or what?
To be continued...(or, on the next episode of...)