In college, when Jonathan and I were dating, we had an acquaintance who was always asking me questions about our relationship. I’d run into him coming out of the Beamer Center and he’d throw his arm over my shoulder and ask me, “Tell me, is Jonathan good to you? Does he treat you like a princess?” This made me really uncomfortable. Partly because it felt like a weird way of flirting when I was clearly not interested and partly because it seemed to suggest that maybe there was something wrong with our relationship.
Jonathan was my first boyfriend and I wasn’t totally sure what it was supposed to look like. Questions like that made me panicky. I thought things were going well, but what did I really know? Did I feel like a princess? Shouldn’t I?
Growing up in a conservative evangelical church and community I believed that the ideal husband was a man who treated his wife like a pristine jewel.* I imagined I would marry a man who admired me for my purity and my modesty and who considered it the great honor of his life to provide for me. This man would be captivated by my beauty and filled with gratitude and maybe even some disbelief that he had been entrusted with something as precious as me. I would be a companion to him, supporting him and taking care of all of his domestic needs** and he would dote on me.
When I pictured my husband in that abstract way of a teenage girl I imagined flowers every Friday and frequent serenades (sometimes featuring string quartets). I pictured picnics in the park and romantic dinners and moments where he stopped dead in his tracks, awe-struck by my beauty and maybe a little weepy.
If you know my husband, you know how funny this is.
Don’t get me wrong, my husband is a wonderful man. He is very gentle and tender towards me. He serves me in beautiful and humbling ways. But he is not a romantic in the conventional sense. He tells me that I’m beautiful, but I don’t think he’s ever stopped and stared at me in awe. He expresses appreciation for the things I do around the house, but he does not worship me as a domestic goddess. Once, I leaned over and whispered very sweetly in his ear, “I love you so much and I’m so glad that we’re together.” And he smiled and reached out and said, “Got your nose!” while joyfully tweaking my nose. My husband is unfailingly patient and kind to me. But does he treat me like a princess? No, he doesn’t. And I’ve come to realize that I’m glad about that.
See, the “princess” as we commonly envision her, rules from an ivory tower. She may be adored, but she isn’t really known. She is praised for her sweetness, her beauty, and her daintiness. She might be wise and may be present for important discussions, but she doesn’t make decisions. Her power is symbolic more than it is actualized. She can’t protect herself because she’s never been given the opportunity to develop her strength. She isn’t able to grow because she isn’t given the freedom to fail. Her value lies in her position and in everything that that symbolizes.
My husband doesn’t treat me like a princess. He treats me like I’m his favorite person in the world. He treats me like a woman whose ideas and opinions he respects and is influenced by. He tells me that I am capable and strong. He treats me like I am valuable, not for the role I play, but for who I am. I am not afraid to make mistakes because my husband treats me like a human being – he isn’t devastated when he discovers that I’m flawed, because he never expected me to be perfect.
So while the remnants of my younger self sometimes wish my husband lived in awe of my beauty, my current self is thankful that he doesn’t. I don’t need a husband who treats me like a princess. I need a husband who reminds me that I’m a warrior.
*Ok, part of that might also have come from an early obsession with Disney. But I don’t want to get into the whole Disney princess debate because they are really improving that lately. And also, Disney still added far more magic to my life than the damage done by limp-noodle heroines. In conclusion, I still love Disney and my children will know the words to every Disney song ever recorded by the time they are three, so help me God.
**I wasn’t raised in the kind of strict complementarian circles that would disapprove of a woman working outside of the home, but there was certainly the expectation that part of a wife’s role is to keep a nice home.
This is a very nice post. The sentiment beneath it has been very aptly put out there. I really like it.
Good job 🙂
i’d really appreciate if u could spare a few minutes and tell me what u feel about this –
It’s a very touching picture . I need more and more people to tell me what they feel about it .
Thanks for reading! And I will check that out! 🙂
I think you’re cool.
Haha. Thanks. 🙂
I like a husband who doesn’t make the other normal husbands look bad.
Haha. Sometimes love isn’t in the grand romantic gestures. It is in daily, self-sacrificing service and faithfulness. My husband is constantly helping around the house, running errands, telling me he loves me, and encouraging me to pursue my dreams and passions. And while I like getting flowers, I’d rather have that kind of love any day. 🙂
Got a link to this post in your email newsletter — love it. My husband never treated me like a princess either. He is from Germany, and I came from small town in Louisiana, where people have high, southern expectations in gentlemen. When he didn’t fulfill those expectations, people were very uncomfortable, but I realized that I loved being treated like an equal and a partner instead of fine china. A friend of ours told my husband that’s how he needed to treat me … like fine china … fragile and pretty and serving no real purpose? Yikes. I’m with you on this one!
And as a side, I agree that Disney has been doing better lately in moving away from limp-noodle ladies. I thought Frozen was phenomenal in that regard — people with depth and struggles and a hint of emotional and romantic realism? The ultimate saving moment doesn’t depend on a kiss from a dude? Wuuuuut?!
Anna, where in Louisiana are you from? I was born and raised in Lafayette until I went away to college. I’m actually headed there to visit my family in 2 weeks! 😉
No way! I always think of Lafayette as pure Cajun country. I’m from Covington/Mandeville, just on the north side of lake Pontchartrain; I was also born and raised there until I got married. Now I live near my husband’s hometown in Northern Bavaria. I’m hoping visit LA later this fall if we can find someone to babysit our cats!
Haha, that’s so crazy. I know the Covington/Mandeville area well. And you are right. Lafayette is pure Cajun country. But I somehow escaped with no accent. (Mainly because my parents are originally from there). Good luck with finding a cat-sitter! (Something else I can relate to. We have two cats that a friend is keeping while we’re living abroad). How do you like Bavaria? I imagine it being very hilly and with tons of forests, but maybe that’s not right at all, haha.