Many guys have thought something like this at some point:
“She can carry those grocery bags herself.”
“We both have good jobs, we can split the check.”
“I don’t need to open the door for her. She’ll think I’m old-school.”
As a coach, I have conversations with lots of men and women about dating and chivalry. It’s fun. I love hearing the different ideas, desires and experiences. One debate that comes up rather frequently is the idea that a woman wants to be taken care of. This can trigger passionate responses from some women.
“I don’t need a man to take care of me!”
“We can take care of ourselves, thank you very much.”
And that’s totally valid and true. Women can cake care of themselves. The progress that women have made in the past several decades in politics, business, science, education and other areas is amazing. I celebrate all of that. And I want more.
Unlike previous eras, a woman can go her entire life without needing a man for her physical survival. She can work for herself, earn her own salary and build her own retirement savings. She can buy her own house and car. She can even raise children by herself if she chooses to.
And at the same time, in a romantic relationship, there are still some elements that can allow both the man and woman to feel more connected and good about themselves.
Many men—when they get to the core of what they want in a relationship—enjoy and want to do nice things for women.
I’ll use myself as an example: for the longest time I didn’t practice chivalrous things like opening the door for my girlfriend at the restaurant. Carrying her suitcase for her when I picked her up at the airport. Walking on the street-side of the sidewalk when we were walking side by side.
Why? I was scared.
I was afraid because I’d heard so much talk about women embracing their independence and strength. I assumed that if I started doing things to take care of my lady, that I would be called a chauvinist, infringing on her autonomy; that she would think that I saw her as weak and unable to handle things herself.
So I leaned back most of the time—and it always felt off to me.
Say picked her up at her house, waiting in the car. I would see her walking up and just click on the door unlock button. She’s get in. I’d kiss and greet her, but it always felt like I was being lazy, not showing her how much I care about her.
Then when making one of my trips to Brazil to visit family, I noticed men getting out of the car to open the door for their girlfriends. Like Driving Miss Daisy. I found it fun to watch.
So I started practicing that myself. And it felt great. Such a small gesture, but it felt damn good. Like I was Cary Grant in a three-piece suit even though I was in Levi’s and Chuck Taylors.
And I noticed that not one woman complained; most actually commented how much they appreciated it, how rare it was nowadays.
I think when it comes to taking care of the woman you love, it’s all about how you do it. The mindset you approach the situation from. Do you actually think of her as helpless and weak? Or do you think she is strong and capable? Either way, she’ll feel it underneath your actions.
And remember, it’s a dance. For giving and receiving to happen, it needs to be matched. If as a woman, you always reject assistance from a guy, you’re denying him the gift of feeling like a gentleman. And you’re denying yourself the gift of feeling seen and cared for, even if the guy is a neighbor helping you with your Whole Foods bags up the stairs.
This is not about right and wrong, this is about finding what feels good to you. If you’re dating right now, I invite you to try 90 days of letting men take care of you: let him pay for dinner; arrive at the door a little more slowly so he has a chance to open it for you. Just see how it feels. Maybe even spark a conversation on this topic with the men and women in your life. Experiment—keep what you like and toss the rest.[photo: via Paul Nicholson on flickr]