Dear Ms. Peirano,
To get to the point: I was raised as a conservative Catholic and I think that's a good thing. My friend is a radical feminist. Can this work well?
About my background: I come from a rather classic family. My mother is a housewife, my father is a police officer. At home, my mother is responsible for household chores, security and problem-solving. My father earns the money and takes care of the car, repairs and office work. Both are very happy with it and have a good relationship.
My friend's background: She grew up with her single mother, who was severely disappointed by my friend's father and other men. Her credo: A woman should not become dependent on a man and should not look for her value in a relationship, but should stand on her own two feet.
My girlfriend took over this from an early age and at the beginning of the relationship she “tested” me for a long time and also “re-educated” me to some extent. Of course, I now do half of the housework. But I'd rather do repairs than cook, my girlfriend likes cooking. But she doesn't allow me to pick up the drill more often than she does in order to abolish "old role models".
When I want to invite her to the restaurant, she pulls out her wallet in front of me. In general, she insists on separate cash registers and precise billing so that everyone always pays half. I find that a bit unromantic because I think it's nice to invite a woman out sometimes.
I also find it attractive when a woman dresses femininely and wears a low-cut blouse or a short skirt. My girlfriend, even though she has a great figure, always wears jeans or cargo pants and loose tops. If I ever look at a woman wearing high heels and tight skirts, I'm immediately told: "You're a chauvinist."
We were in the "Barbie" movie together and then we just argued. I didn't find it so funny that men made such a ridiculous figure, there are completely different ones too!
My friend triumphed over the independence of the Barbies, but for her the criticism of the patriarchy didn't go far enough. She often says that she could also imagine a world in which women hold all the positions and only look for a father for the children, aka a sperm donor, and then the men are obsolete. I find that hurtful because I'm a man too! And gladly. And I probably have a lot more to offer than she implies.
I just think that men and women are and should be equal, but different. Men are supposed to protect women, women can take care of men a little. I like leather jackets and a 3-day beard on myself, as well as long hair and feminine clothing on a woman. My girlfriend thinks it's sexist and accuses me of being stuck in the 1960s.
She is also completely against marriage because she believes that marriage is a method invented by the churches to oppress women. I think getting married is beautiful and romantic. Of course you can draw up a marriage contract and regulate how you want to live. But my wish (and my mother's hope for a wedding) is simply dismissed.
I don't want to portray everything negatively. My girlfriend is very interesting, kind and intelligent. We've done great things together (travelled through Latin America on a motorbike, we're both ski instructors) and we can also have a good time. But recently this feminist attitude has become too strong. This is also due to the two new (lesbian) friends she has. They influence her against me and after the meetings she comes home and checks carefully whether we really clean, work and talk on equal terms. And I often find myself accused of it and wonder why. Because I have nothing to blame myself for.
Do you have some food for thought for me?
Best regards, Johann T.
Dear Johann T.,
“Opposites attract,” goes an old saying. Couples researchers have studied this saying thoroughly and have come to the conclusion that it only applies to the early stages of a relationship. Afterwards, the differences often annoy or stress you out.
It sounds as if you, too, have sought a great challenge by being with a woman who has completely different opinions and beliefs than you in many important areas of the relationship. This is already clear from both of your life stories. It was probably hard for your partner's mother to be so disappointed and let down, and from this she developed the mantra of independence. She passed this on – and also a distrust of men – to her daughter.
I can imagine that it hurts you that your partner doesn't see you as an individual, but rather that she has reservations (perhaps prejudices) towards you because you belong to the group of "unreliable" and "disappointing" men. In a relationship, especially in a love relationship, it is essentially about seeing the other person as he/she is, with all the characteristics, experiences, preferences, wishes and longings and not putting him/her in a box. Because in a love relationship we want to be able to show ourselves openly and be accepted.
Being pigeonholed is the first violation.
The second violation is that in the Western world it is a maxim that each couple is allowed to negotiate the rules of the relationship for themselves. Do we want to be faithful or polyamorous? Do we go to the swingers club or is that out of the question? Should we get our whole body full of tattoos or is that a no-go?
Do we want children or pets? How tidy should we be? Do we live in a trailer or a loft? Who cooks for us, who manages the finances, who does the garden?
These and thousands of other issues are a matter for negotiation and that of the couple and, if possible, no one else. This achievement, that a couple decides everything themselves and amicably and does not let anyone talk them into it, is an extremely important basis of modern relationships.
Neither should the man's parents say whether, when or who gets married, nor should the religion/family/neighbours/state dictate whether the couple can live together or have children before marriage.
And now your girlfriend comes with beliefs that you don't share or only partially share and demands that you lead your relationship based on these beliefs. So give up marriage because that's not feminist in your girlfriend's eyes. Don't find short skirts and tight blouses attractive because that's sexist.
At this point I would say that there is now a consensus among feminists that there is no consensus on many issues.
Some women wear very skimpy, sexy clothing and call themselves feminists. Others wear loose dresses or dress in a style formerly known as “men’s clothing.” They also describe themselves as feminists. Feminism is as diverse as women themselves. The consensus is that every woman can decide for herself what she likes to wear and that other women (and of course all other people) should accept this decision.
My approach to changing these violations in your relationship would be to consistently move from the normative level (i.e. the level of rules and principles) to the personal level. For example, if your friend says that marriage is an institution of patriarchy, you might ask: How do we both want to regulate our lives together? What is important to you? Romance is important to me and I think a wedding is romantic. How do we want to deal with this?
Or: "Your friends think that women are better off without a man. What exactly do you want to tell me? How do you think I feel when I hear that from you?"
If your girlfriend calls you a chauvinist because you find certain clothes attractive, you could say: Let's see what's happening between the two of us and our idea of eroticism. This means that you verbally defend yourself against being put in a box and instead always go back to the “we” level. I would like to invite you to be seen in a short skirt and be respected as a man. How can we do this together in this situation?
I hope this painstaking, small-step work helps you both untie some of the knots that have arisen in your relationship.
Herzlich GrüßeJulia Peirano