Attention — 16 March 2004
The hero and the cherished

Do you feel that you are her hero? Do you feel cherished by him? If you do, you have achieved the essence of a happy, satisfying relationship.

All people are at least somewhat insecure. We need to know that we matter to others to reinforce our sense of worth. It is a major way of justifying our existence. If other people see our value, support and love us, then our presence in this world is worthwhile.

The opposite is seen sometimes by older lonely people who believe that their contributions to this world have ended and that they no longer matter to others, thus their continued presence here may be irrelevant. People who are depressed also share this tragic perception, at least temporarily until they recover.

Philosophers, spiritual leaders, thinkers and scholars have written many volumes about the meaning of life. Individuals also struggle with this issue to define their own reason for their existence.

Some people believe that they were put on this earth to improve the world, help others, produce, reproduce, and bring forth creativity, knowledge and wisdom. Others see their reason for existence in their mission to enlighten others, bring forth understanding, extend kindness, spread joy or reduce conflict and create a better world for all.

These and many other “tasks” we assign to ourselves as our mission in this world, must be accompanied by appreciation from others to become valid. We need to know that who we are
and what we do matters to at least one other person in the world. That person is often the partner.

So how do we know that we matter? In addition to our personal mission, we have the gender prescriptive patterns that dictate how we choose to be acknowledged. Men are socialized to see their personal worth through their doing and women get their value from pleasing others.

In relationships, men accept the role of providers and protectors of their mates, women take on the duties of caring and nurturing. Every person is capable of doing either or both, though society still traditionally promotes the stereotypical roles.

Men are assigned the role of primary breadwinners and are expected to physically and emotionally protect their females. Men for the most part are burdened by the responsibility of making a living to support the family. This is a daunting emotional burden knowing that one is charged with guaranteeing the survival of two or more human beings.

Though many couples today share the financial responsibility for providing for the family, it is still assumed that if either can reduce their workload, it is more likely to be the woman and not the man. The burden of assuring the financial survival of all family members, is a hardship of grave magnitude.

Protecting the family is another job usually assigned to men. If the family is awakened at night by noises, in most families, it is expected that the man will be the one to deal with the risk. Men protect their women from physical and emotional threats and may risk their safety in doing so. Old time chivalry has changed in style, but not in essence.

Men also protect women by doing the hard physical tasks such as: fixing things around the house, changing the oil in the car, carrying or lifting heavy objects, or by dealing with challenging or confrontational tasks that their wives prefer to avoid.

Women are more commonly designated as the primary nurturers of their partners and their young, as well as the facilitators of their men’s lives. In traditional families it is the woman, who attends the children, runs the home and provides for the husband’s every practical need. She facilitates his life by undertaking all possible tasks to free him to concentrate on his job. Even if the wife is employed outside the home, research indicates that women still perform 80% of household chores.
Women also provide emotional support, love, and nurturing and foster positive family interactions.

Once these roles are undertaken, individuals need the validation from the mates that they are performing well. Men seek admiration, appreciation and kudos for providing for the family and praise and adulation for protecting and keeping the wife and children safe. Women need to be affirmed for their caring, nurturing and pleasing characteristics. They need to be listened to, courted, complimented, pampered and adored. When both genders provide these needed responses the “hero” and the “cherished” thrive.

Your mate will feel as your hero when

  •  You understand the enormity of his burden as a provider and a protector.
  •  Express frequent appreciation for how hard he works for the family.
  • Model for the children regular thanks for the blessings you have due to his efforts.
  • Listen to his work woes and joys and be supportive and encouraging.
  • Tell him how lucky his boss and co-workers are to have the benefit of his gifts.
  • Appreciate his efforts to keep the family safe and protecting you physically and emotionally.
  • Thank him for doing the hard physical or emotional jobs.
  • Tell him he is your hero.

Your woman will feel cherished when you

  • Express your gratitude for all that she does to facilitate your life.
  • Tell her how loving, nurturing and kind she is.
  • Tell the kids how lucky they are to have such a wonderful mother.
  • Listen to her with patience and interest.
  • Admire her emotional side and list the ways in which it enriches all of you.
  • Tell her how much you appreciate her beauty, charm and warmth.

Keep the courtship behaviors alive. (Flowers, cards, gifts, romantic gestures).
Tell her often how much you adore her and how fortunate you are to have her as the love of your life.

March 14, 2004

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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