In this post, I'm going to explore what it means to me to be a man, and what I could do to be a better one.
To me, being a man means being a solid husband and father as well as doing what it takes to provide stability, both emotional and financial in my home. I often fall short of the expectations I have for myself and know I can do much better.
To add some fun into the mix and some insight into my relationship with Christina, I am going to prepare a test for her where she will grade my performance as a husband. This is probably a good thing for me to do before I go tooting my own horn about the things I think I'm doing well at. It will also give ME some insight into my relationship with Christina and will be a great starting place for connection this Valentine's day.
Here are the questions and I'll add her scores at the end. To be fair and to make sure the answers are as honest as possible, she will not know that they will be made public until after the test. (I'm kind of nervous actually! I know she'll take this very seriously and be brutally honest.)
Scoring is out of 10. A ten being 'strongly agree'. I'll be asking 10 questions so we'll see how I do out of 100.
I will do my best to share some of the conversations that result from the test.
1) I feel our friendship is strong and I enjoy being together as much as possible. - 10
2) I enjoy the amount of time I get to myself and feel it is adequate. - 6
3) I see my husband improving and pushing himself to be better for himself, me, and his kids. - 10
4) My husband makes me feel valued and heard when sharing ideas. - 10
5) I am confident my husband always takes good care of my children when I am absent. - 8
6) I am happy with the role model my spouse is for my children. - 8
7) I see my man exercising enough. - 4
8) I am happy with our ability to work as a team and our roles within our household. - 8
9) I feel safe to cry, share feelings, and feel validated when expressing my deepest emotions. - 8
10) No matter what the issue, I feel we have the tools to work through it as friends and as a couple. - 10
Bonus question: I am excited to talk about having a 6th child. - (No response, I'll translate that as a 0)
FINAL SCORE: 80/100 (B+)
MARRIAGE SPIRIT ANIMAL: WARTHOG (Just kidding)
Nice to pinpoint some areas for improvement...
Looks like I definitely need to do some more exercise and that she would love to see my work on stuff like keeping a tighter lid on the sugar jar with the kids when she's not around. (I love baking cookies and stuff like that with them. Then I use the treats as rewards to get the kids to clean and help out.) I asked what I could do to improve my 8 score to a 10 on question nine. She said that even though I have learned to hold the space for listening, I still sometimes do a sideways look when I disagree with something being said and that leads to invalidation of the way she is feeling.
One of the biggest things we've both been working on as a couple this year is holding space for listening without any kind of interruptions. Important to note that listening without interruptions does not imply you agree with everything being said. However, it does establish trust in the friendship and confidence that a safe place exists to talk through emotions.
I've chosen to reflect on listening this Valentine's day because, in our relationship, it is the greatest gift we can offer one another. To us, romance is not realized through gifts that set us back financially. (I actually remember how unimpressed Christina was the first time I bought her flowers at a flower shop. She has taught me that time is more important than money, and picking the flowers and arranging them myself or with the kids is far more impressive.)
In short, we all have different love languages and my partner has made hers well known to me. For her, time to chat and get to know one another is everything.
Everyone is unique. Learning your partner's love language takes years and a lot of hard work and practice. To us, it remains the key to the door of intimacy. Keys that can be quickly lost in the everyday hustle and bustle of life and take a lot to rediscover.
Final conclusion: being a man is the ability to engage in the hard work it takes for one's family and peers to feel loved while recognizing that this will be expressed differently depending on the person you are dealing with. Putting the 'man back into romance' is meeting your Valentine where she is at and allowing yourself the space to explore the selfless giving of the very things they need.