Let me start with a huge apology. I’m sincerely sorry guys for subtly calling you frogs. While I harbour no underlying resentment for men, I absolutely abhor frogs. The creatures are ugly, slimy and cold but trust me; there is some science to my comparison that has nothing to do with physical resemblance.
I’m sure that most of us are familiar with the numerous fairy-tales where the curse of the wicked witch turns a really wonderful man (usually a Prince) into a despicable frog. In the tradition of such stories, along would come a really divine Princess; a virtual paragon of virtue, flawlessly beautiful, who would love and see the beauty in the frog regardless. With her superior insight, unconditional love and that passionate lingering kiss, the hideous frog would then yield a handsome Prince. And boy would she count herself lucky! Of course to top things off, he would marry the waiting Princess and they would definitely live happily ever after.
Enter the real modern world of 2011 and not much has changed, except perhaps the order of these events. Is our man really a Prince or really a frog and does our love carry the power to change him? The writers of those stories just might have had a point; women have been in the business of trying to “fix’ men for centuries. Those of us, who have been around the same man for a while, if we’re honest, can testify to those moments where all we do see is the frog. In other words we’re faced with the reality of living with an imperfect man and boy do we know it!
Of course it’s not that we’re not imperfect ourselves but our emotional conditioning has wired us into expecting that the man we choose will be that perfect Prince who must solve a number of issues for us or fulfil our deepest desires and dreams. When his humanity becomes glaringly obvious, however, and he falls short of fulfilling all of our childhood fantasies, then we begin to question our own judgement and are quick to embrace unhappiness and discontent. But if “imperfect male” is here to stay, how should we then navigate this reality in our relationships?
The following represents a range of responses from which we can chose.
The response of lowered expectations suggests a particular relationship philosophy. Instead of a lady expecting her man to fulfil all of her emotional, and sexual needs she realistically embraces the idea that men are emotionally inadequate and sexually over-rated; in this way, she buffers herself against the pain of unmet needs. In other words, what she expects from her relationship should be pretty basic and definitely not over the moon (you know, occasional straight-up sex, no flowers, wining, dining or “I love You’s” written on blimps across the skies). While at surface value this take on things may make some sense, it is usually promoted by jaded women who have been repeatedly hurt by the men in their lives and is more of a defence mechanism to harden the heart as it were, against being hurt again. Its internal flaw is that it lumps all men into the same mould and doesn’t give a new guy the chance to prove himself.
The “Poor-Me-I-Deserve-It” Syndrome
This woman has definitely had her share of lofty expectations but her self-esteem is likely to be in the toilet or somewhere similar. Her life-script may have yielded repeated acts of disappointment or loss and she grows to believe that happiness is just outside the ambit of her experience. Not only has unfortunate or hurtful occurrences told her that she does not deserve happiness but she believes that she is powerless to change her circumstances. This woman puts up readily with all the “frog” antics of her guy. She closes her eyes readily when he hops to other ponds because deep down she doesn’t think she has what it takes to really keep him satisfied. Because she puts up with his low-life behaviour and loves him nonetheless, she has really elevated him to the stature of a Prince even though he will never live up to this name. In relationship terms, this is a definite lose-lose situation.
The Super-Woman-Super-Fixer Response
This woman truly believes that she is God’s gift to all mankind. She has a super-saviour complex and believes that she holds within the power of her feminine wiles, the ability to change any man who comes into her purview. This response shows a woman who is not fazed by imperfection. Of course like every woman out there she would love to have her needs met by the man of her dreams but she doesn’t plan to lose sleep over her partner’s failure to come to heel on several matters. In fact, she is enthused by the very relationship challenges which might make another woman cringe. You see, getting that Prince out of her frog becomes a pet-project which she takes on with all the relish and gusto of a red-caped bull-fighter. The more resistant to change her man is, the more eager she is to make that change happen. She may even stoop to using sex and other emotional manipulations to try to bring about change in her man but very often these character adjustments are superficial and temporary because he is not intimately involved in his own growth. In fact, because he is spoiled by such a woman, he may see genuine change as highly unnecessary. In another spin on this, the bad-boy ‘frog’ may be a huge turn-on for the girl who thrives and gets off on a little self-punishment.
Embrace the Martian
Like the Princesses in our fairy-tales, the woman who tables this response, believes that her unconditional love has power. She believes that it holds the power to unearth the real Prince who is hiding somewhere inside the unsightly frog and to some degree she might have a point. Real-life however does not work quite like the stories with which we are familiar. There is no instantaneous change. The realisation that your spouse or partner exhibits qualities that are less than desirable is good, normal and healthy; none of us is perfect. Embracing flaws and providing unconditional love is also good but should not be used as a point of reference to rubber-stamp abusive practices.
Embracing the Martian in your spouse speaks, therefore, of accepting to a reasonable degree, his idiosyncrasies or the strange habits which to you may have become endearing. A woman should however not tolerate emotional, physical, or sexual abuse or repeated acts of infidelity in the name of love. There is a very real sense in which love for another must begin with love for the self. The practice of unconditional love should not be used as an excuse to put all of one’s needs on the back-burner.
There is scope in a healthy relationship for expressing expectations, needs, hurts and disappointments but one’s sense of happiness or fulfilment should never be entirely hinged on another; no matter how cute or sexy he is. Women must value themselves and see themselves as deserving of happiness. At the same time, they must also accept the role they must play in their own sense of fulfilment. This is why it is advisable for women to pursue interests, hobbies and dreams which connect them to their inner self and personal needs. While sharing these with one’s partner is important by way of intimacy, this does not preclude a woman independently going after what she wants, as long as this does not compromise the integrity of the relationship.
By the same token, men must come to the point of realising that Princes are not born but are made. This involves a man assuming responsibility for his own personal growth and development so that he becomes the type of spouse of which his wife can truly be proud.
That being the case, they just might live happily ever after.