Valentine’s Day: Flowers Are Nice, But Dish Out the Respect!

February 14, 2011 Michael Kaufman

For those of us in many countries, February 14 comes sugar-coated with images of flowers and chocolates, romance and love.

Okay, it’s true: I’m a sucker for romance.  Romantic love can bring great delight.  Falling in love, itself, is a moment of such intensity that you simultaneously feel connected with every atom on the planet and yet are oblivious of everyone but one other.

I also know it can be a terrible trap.  Too many people buy into the notion that every one of our emotional and intellectual needs should get met with just this one other person.  Too many people hold the bizarre (and self-defeating) belief that they are incomplete until they meet their “other half.”  Too many people are trapped in destructive relationships because it is the place where they once felt love.  And too many people who aren’t romantically in love feel belittled in a culture that celebrates it at every turn.

So how can we liberate romantic love from itself?  I was recently asked that (more or less) at a university where I was speaking.

And (more or less) I said this to these students:

  • Whether you’re hooking up with someone for one night or the rest of your life, you got to treat that person with respect.  You hear that word all the time, but what does it really mean?  It means listening to their words, to their body language, to what they say and what they don’t say.  It means respect for their sexual desires and preferences.  It means knowing you deserve respect in return.
  • Value independence:  Both theirs and yours.  Paradoxically, two independent people can form a stronger bond and a healthier relationship than two people who stick to each other like barnacles to a ship.
  • Coercion, and physical, sexual and emotional violence, destroy relationships and destroy lives.  Learn about consent and make sure you have it.
  • Challenge gender roles that limit who you each are and how good a relationship can be.
  • And don’t worry.  When it comes to romantic love, no one actually knows how to run slow motion down a beach into someone else’s arms.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on romantic love.  Respect in relationships.   And what men can do to help redefine our relationships whether with women or other men.

3 Comments on “Valentine’s Day: Flowers Are Nice, But Dish Out the Respect!

  1. Dear Michael: informative topic as usual. One day, I watched a movie — “Christmas Man” — which was about a lady who found her real love when she was on her way to get married to another man. It reflected our search for real love as a fairy tale (as if we can’t be grateful for what we already and if that is never enough.) When we are in love our respect and loyalty to our partner is not questionable — it’s even unconscious So there is a real difference between respect as a conscious action, which reflect our commitment and morality, and the unconscious action of love, which reflects our natural response as lovers. I enjoyed the articles ..stay well

  2. I think that hope is associated with respect. There are lots of ways men can demonstrate hope in their relationships – hope for the present and hope for the future. Men can also demonstrate hope that the past, even if it has been contested, can contribute to a helpful future. Humour helps. Respectful humour, especially the kind where one laughs at oneself.

  3. Valentines Day is great for that special effort to show that special person they have special priority in your life, but real respect needs to be practiced the other 364 days of the year.

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