If you remember a while ago, I mentioned someone named Sarah Moon. She has been reviewing some dating books on Twitter. Her Twitter is @SarahNMoon. She is very passionate and cares very much about how this topic has impacted relationships.
There are some in Christian circles that believe that the man is the leader of the house. And that the woman has been made as the “helpmate”. Books have been written on this. Influential speakers like John Piper and Mark Driscoll and even Joshua Harris have mentioned this. This argument would be supported by many woman as well.
So, I have asked her to write a guest post on this topic. I think, and hope you might find her perspective interesting. You can also like her on Facebook as well under Sarah Moon.
Thank you Sarah.
When my last boyfriend and I started getting more serious about our relationship and were wondering “Where do we go from here?” we decided to seek some counsel from books. So I went to the Christian bookstore on my Christian college’s campus and picked up Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris.
Now, my ex and I had both grown up in fundamentalist-learning churches, so we’d heard the basics about gender roles before. But never had we heard about gender roles with an emphasis as strong as what we found in that book. So, thinking that we had been doing everything wrong for our entire relationship, we attempted to follow the rules that this book put forth.
He would be the strong, masculine leader.
I would be the vulnerable, feminine, helper.
Instead of being ourselves, instead of continuing the journey we’d already started toward learning who the other person was, we both tried to see the other (and ourselves) as Man or Woman, as defined by Joshua Harris.
Do gender roles cause unrealistic expectations in relationships? Though I can’t speak for everyone, based on my own relationships, I’d have to say that yes, yes they do.
Usually, dating is a period of time where two people get to know each other. But when one worships gender roles, there’s this idea that you can already know someone of the opposite sex just by knowing what a Man or a Woman is.
The idea is that all men are alike, all women are alike, but all men are completely different from all women. When I tried to model my relationship based on this, I had to throw out the things I already knew about my ex boyfriend that didn’t line up what Christian dating books told me about Men. I would just assume those “non-manly” characteristics were clever lies that he was using to get in my pants.
I became mistrustful of him when he was just being himself in ways that didn’t like up with “manliness.” At the same time, I became upset and disappointed when he didn’t live up to the “knight in shining armor” standard that I read men were supposed to me. I got to the point where I couldn’t see him or treat him like a human.
At the same time, I couldn’t see or treat myself as a human either. I tried to be submissive, to “guard my heart” instead of continuing the openness and honesty that had once marked our relationship. I tried to be quiet and gentle. But I was trying to be someone I could not be. I was trying to make my partner someone he could not be.
He wasn’t ready to “spiritually lead” another grown adult and I wasn’t about to follow the “spiritual leadership” of someone my own age who didn’t know anything more about our religion than I did. He wasn’t able to provide monetarily for a whole family by himself, and I wasn’t about to give up my career goals to “let him” do that. But we struggled, we tried for over a year.
That relationship ended for unrelated reasons, and I was left to evaluate everything that went wrong. In my next relationship (with a former Southern Baptist) it took a few weeks to work out the practical aspects of an egalitarian relationship, but it was worth it.
Instead of getting to know the definition of Man, I got to know a man. A human man who had his own talents, abilities, hopes, dreams, thoughts, personalities that were not inextricable tied to his gender or sex.
Instead of getting to know the definition of Woman, he got to know me. And I got to know me better too.
I think that getting to know a gender role keeps us from getting to know each other as people. Yes, I believe it sets up unrealistic expectations, unnecessary pressure, and often disappointment.