* All men are insensitive.
* All women are emotional.
* All men think about sex twenty-four hours a day.
* All women are superficial and bad with money.
* All men like sports.
* All women talk incessantly.
Stereotypes are formed when a majority of people fit into a mold – at least, from the observer’s perspective. With our limited experience, we may think that all people from a particular country drink alcohol incessantly. Or, we may think all people from another country are deeply religious. It is not that everyone from that culture fits the mold in our minds, but that we have come to such understanding based on what we have experienced and on the behaviors exuded by a large portion of the culture (or at least the most visible portion – e.g., all Americans are materialistic, etc.).
He Will Be…
Before I met him, I knew my husband was going to be a sports fan. After all, “all men love sports.” Not only was he going to like sports, but specifically baseball, basketball, and football. He was going to enjoy sitting and watching television. When my car made a funny noise, the sink broke, or our grass got too tall, he was going to personally take care of it. He was going to be just like all men in my life (i.e., my dad, my uncles, my cousins).
Newsflash: None of those are true about Eric.
Chances are, you have always had a picture in your head of what your husband will be like. Maybe you do not know hair and eye color, height, or weight, but you probably have expectations of him interacting with you in a certain way. Your expectation is likely modeled after what you have come to know as “normal male behavior.” This is probably what you expect in a husband to a large degree, even if you are not necessarily happy with all the “normal” male characteristics.
She Will Be…
Before he met me, Eric’s wife was going to be a domestic extraordinaire… her kitchen spotless, her laundry perfectly folded, and her cooking spectacular. She was going to be bright, well educated, and love reading. She was going to be involved in church and ministry and have a stellar vocabulary. She was going to be like the primary woman in his life up to that point (i.e., his mother).
Newsflash: Though I do have some of those qualities, I do not have all of them. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which. ~smile~
Chances are, you have envisioned your future wife in some way. Even though you cannot be sure of her physical appearance, you have appearance preferences and most likely you have entertained some thoughts about her abilities and attributes. If the primary women in your life love to laugh and dance, chances are you will expect your future wife to love to laugh and dance. If the primary women in your life are serious and somewhat negative, you may expect your future wife to act the same… even if you hope she will not.
Avoid Depending on Stereotypes
When you read books such as Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus you can expect that most of the gender generalizations are true… on the grander scale. Most men are single-task oriented. Most women can multitask. Most men want to fix problems. Most women want to verbally process through problems. Most men think about sex more than women think about sex. Most women desire emotional closeness and cuddling more than they desire sex.
What is dangerous about assuming your future husband or wife will fit the male or female stereotype is that unmet expectations are bound to follow. If all men are supposed to like sports, what happens if your future husband does not care about football and cannot connect with the men in your family? If all women are supposed to enjoy baking, what is going to happen if the woman of your dreams does not know a cookie sheet from a cake pan?
Talk About It
Instead of avoiding books that deal with stereotypes of men and women, dive into them and discuss the generalizations. Talk about what is true of you and what is not. For example, even though I am a woman, I am not a multi-tasker. I keep trying to be and hoping that one day I will be able to pay attention to more than one conversation at a time – but, as of yet, that is not me. If you are ever talking to me and I begin to look glazed or distracted, please do not take offense. Either my daydreaming brain has decided to take me on a mini-vacation against my will, or someone near us is having another conversation that has stolen the show. Feel free to ask me if I am listening. ~smile~
Eric does not care much about sports. What is infuriating to me, however, is that he knows all the rules and can engage with others about sports when he is with the right company. When I was younger, I remember thinking that if I married a man who did not obsess about sports, I would not know what to do with him!
Read books such as Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerich and Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti by Bill and Pam Farrel and discuss how you relate to the gender specifics listed. Become aware of how you relate to the stereotypes and how you are different. It is so helpful to be aware of your similarities and differences to the “norm” so you minimize the arguments and disappointments that come with unmet expectations.
Your boyfriend may not be exactly like you expected him to be, but he is someone unique. Your girlfriend is probably not exactly like you envisioned her, but she has special qualities other women do not. He or she will fit some stereotypes… and there will be others to which he or she will not conform. In any case, enjoy getting to know each other thoroughly for who the person is and not what the generalities are. ~smile~
What stereotypes have you believed about all men and women?