Men always want to be a woman’s first love.
Women have a more subtle instinct:
What they like is to be a man’s last romance.~ Oscar Wilde
With Valentine’s Day coming up this weekend, what better time to turn to the subject of romance, which men and women often view through different lenses. While we are all Earthlings it often seems as though we come from different planets, such as Mars and Venus, as John Gray asserted in his bestseller, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.
Perhaps drawing in part from the views of Oscar Wilde, Gray explains that, “while women fantasize about romance, men fantasize about powerful cars, faster computers, gadgets, gizmos….” But he also clarifies, “Deep inside, every man wants to be his woman’s hero or knight in shining armor.”
Thus, when Martians and Venusians meet on Earth, communication and understanding must ensue in order to produce romance and a relationship beyond moonlight and roses.
A Venusians’ View of Romance
There is a reason that millions of women of all ages and backgrounds have read The Twilight Saga, by Stephanie Meyer. It features Edward Cullen, a breathtakingly romantic teenage hero who — aside from the fact that he’s also a 104-year-old vampire — is handsome, talented and brilliant. Even more important, he is sensitive, passionate and doggedly devoted to just one woman for whom he would do anything. Women adore romantic heroes who are monogamous. And Edward follows in the footsteps and traditions of such romantic literary figures as Romeo, Mr. Darcy and Gilbert Blythe, as well as somewhat darker heroes such as Rhett Butler, Heathcliff and Mr. Rochester.
What’s interesting is that these towering romantic heroes of classic and modern literature were all created by women (Stephanie Meyer, Jane Austen, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Margaret Mitchell, Emily Brontë and Charlotte Brontë). The exception is William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet); however, some literary experts believe even The Bard of Avon might have been a she.
Then there are those sales of romance fiction. Women comprise 84% of romance novel purchasers in this billion dollar industry. These novels, as well, are written primarily by women, who know what other women want in the romance department. The stories are heavy on romance, suspense and sexual tension but often light on sex; for that aspect I suggest you check with Dr. Ruth! Romance fiction provides the thrill of deep attraction, fidelity, loyalty and commitment. And the really good ones are accompanied by a dash of mystery and pinch of danger.
Men take note: To learn the secrets of what gives a lady the vapors, read the great romantic classics and throw in a few mass market bodice rippers for good measure. For example, following are some famous lines from a few of the aforementioned literary heart throbs on which to model sweet nothings to whisper in her ear, or perhaps on bended knee:
“With love’s light wings did I o’er-perch these walls;
For stony limits cannot hold love out,
And what love can do, that dares love attempt.” Romeo, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2
“You must know… surely, you must know it was all for you…you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.” Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice
“I have a dream,” he said slowly. “I persist in dreaming it, although it has often seemed to me that it could never come true. I dream of a home with a hearth-fire in it, a cat and dog, the footsteps of friends – and you!” Gilbert Blythe, Anne of Green Gables
Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night… And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire; there was brilliancy, there was beauty. ~ Edward Cullen, The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Moreover, if you haven’t yet made plans with your lady love for Valentine’s Day, you might give them immediate thought. Chances are she’s expecting something, at the very least flowers, dinner, your undivided attention and some romantic words and gestures. But in addition to Valentine’s Day plans, something very important to know about a Venusian is that while she appreciates it when her Martian remembers dates of important occasions and makes grand gestures of his love, it’s really the little things every day that she truly cherishes — holding her hand, smiling just at her across a crowded room, surprising her by doing something thoughtful, knowing the color of her eyes.
A Martian’s View of Romance
If Venusians love stories about romantic heroes, what do Martians prefer? I believe the answer to that is men love action heroes, books that feature adventure, conflict and liaisons with no strings attached. And, while a man might prefer to be in a relationship, he often becomes conflicted between maintaining his independence and autonomy and sharing his deepest personal secrets and feelings, not to mention his income and other material possessions, with another person. And, unfortunately, he can feel less than confident uttering the romantic words that most women long to hear.
Men enjoy reading about and watching on the big screen (the bigger the better) heroes who don’t lack for encounters with the opposite sex but remain footloose and fancy free at the same time. They find entertaining and amusing such heroes — or in many cases anti-heroes — as rugged individualist Jack Reacher; entertaining con artists Henry Gondorff and Johnny Hooker in the movie, The Sting, based on the book, The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man, by David Maurer; and reprobate Sterling Archer, of the animated TV series, Archer.
It follows, then, that men likely are attracted to female action heroines who are attractive, independent, strong (internally as well as externally), such as Emma Peel, The Avengers, Katniss Everdeen, Hunger Games Trilogy; and Ellen Ripley, Alien.
Women, take note: To provide some insight on the flights of fancy on which the subjects of your affection could be embarking, following are a few “romantic” quotes from the aforementioned heroines:
“I’ve always rather fancied myself in one of these.“~ Emma Peel, commenting on Steed’s four-poster bed in The Avengers: Too Many Christmas Trees, December 23, 1965
“I’m trying to tell you I love you. God, Peeta Mellark, I am in love with you and I’m trying to show you that….I’m trying to show you that I want you to be mine.”~ Katniss Everdeen, Mockingjay
“Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?” ~ Ellen Ripley, Alien (That’s about as romantic as Ripley gets.)
Don’t be afraid to show your Emma- Katniss-Ellen side to him occasionally to remind him that you are an exciting, complex and playful Venusian. In addition, being open about your expectations for Valentine’s Day, as well as other special occasions, will help to avoid misunderstandings. Says John Gray, “When a man is stressed he will withdraw into the cave of his mind and focus on solving a problem.” And, we know that a man can become stressed if he thinks he is not living up to the expectations of his significant other. Giving him some space at these times can help to keep your love train from derailing.
Down to Earth
While the Mars-Venus analogy is clever and has the ring of reality in many cases, it should be taken with a jug of salt. Everyone is an individual and subject to the laws of both nature and nurture. Thus, men and women certainly will share some traits and in some cases the approaches to romance might be reversed. As well, romantic interplanetary issues can apply to both straight and gay couples. What is really important is that you know what makes your romantic partner happy, and act accordingly.
The Right Time and Place
It’s fine to hold hands in public places and show affection and consideration for your romantic partner; but good taste must always be observed. Anything that embarrasses others or makes them uncomfortable should be avoided.
And, now that we’ve addressed some of the etiquette, ethics and empathy of romantic relationships in life, please join me next week to address the complications that can occur when romance blossoms in the workplace!
Until next time,