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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Of Husbands, Chick Flicks, and God

In Joker One, his memoir of the Iraq war, Donovan Campbell describes an evening when he entered his platoon's billet, and found them engrossed in a movie.

Porn, you think?

Maybe Gladiator?


Nice try. It was (drum roll, please) The Notebook.

Yes, that adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' sentimental novel about love lost and found in the South, in the years after World War Two.

Campbell entered the room close to the end of the movie, and his men were crying.

What gives? If you're a woman, you've probably had the experience of using bamboo slivers under your husband or boyfriend's fingernails to convince them to watch a 'chick flick' with you.

Society has made the process of damaging men's souls something of an institution, with the enthusiastic help of the victims themselves.

Men are supposed to be harsh and unsentimental, with a love for gadgets and sports and commitment-free sex. And beer. Can't forget the beer.

And male entertainment is assumed to be incomplete unless is includes cleavage and guns.

Can this be totally wrong? Could it be that men are really human, with yearnings toward romance and permanence, and possibly flower-arranging?

Okay, maybe we'll leave the flowers be. But as for the rest, the answer is a resounding yes.

Both men and women have, in their hearts, a pull toward the transcendent. As a flower turns to the sun, hearts turn toward God.

Romance, which is the basis for most 'chick flicks', has the ultimate aim of marriage and a stable, enduring love...and that relationship is, in Christian terms, sacramental. Which is a fifteen-dollar word for saying it's a representation of something divine.

God's love for us is something we don't need to doubt - He came to earth and died for us, after all. Doesn't get much more real than that.

But we can't see Him, we can't hold His hand when we walk through WalMart. We can't listen to music with Him.

But having a mate - we can do these things, and we can - ideally - experience the kind of love that says, No matter what, I am in your corner.

God's love is ultimately the only thing we really have. In a world of "you can't take it with you", this is one thing you can take. And yes, sometimes it feels far away, and aridly intellectual.

So we have marriage. Not the same thing, but a shadow, or a reflection. Something to hold onto when the night is long and dark and cold.

And that is what these films are really all about. Even if we're happy in our relationships, they reaffirm what we were looking for. They reaffirm that God was an is moving across the face of the dark waters of our darkest nights, and that He left a sign of His presence, that He would be there in the morning.

In the love we found.

Society doesn't particularly oppose this message, but it would have men see themselves as the brutish hunter, bloody handed and never introspective.  That model sells itself, because it plays to another set of primal forces; those that meet the lowest common denominator of animalism.

Being an unreconstructed caveman frees men from responsibility to the people around them, and to themselves. If little is expected, little is required beyond the unthinkingly violent, skirt-chasing, beer-swilling Action Man ideal.

Substitute martinis - shaken not stirred - for beer, and you've got James Bond.

Men have this side. There's no question about that. But they have so much more to offer.

Just like the members of Donovan Campbell's platoon in Ramadi, violent capitol of Anbar Province, they want to touch that which they can give.

If you're a woman - how can you help?

Make chick flicks accessible - You have them in the house, but what I mean is making watching them a part of your relationship. In most cases, this means trading off. This time we watch Notting Hill; next time, it's Iron Man 2.

Omit the shoulds - Don't make it an obligation - "you should watch this" brings up the response "oh, yeah?" Instead, just say, in the simplest terms, "Please watch this with me". Don't go past that; no "I want to share this with you". Let him be a giver of his time, and he'll get caught up in the story.

Don't talk about it afterwards - This may seem counterintuitive, but for most men discussion of a film is pretty intimidating. They feel they must have missed something, that the conversation becomes some sort of test.

If he wants to bring it up, fine, keep the conversational ball moving, but don't flood him with your thoughts. If he finds something to say - even if it sounds negative - let listening be your main goal.

And to set an overall tone in which he'll be receptive...never emasculate. Mot men are extremely proud of, and sensitive and insecure about, their manliness. Just getting older, they realize that their potency (and not just sexual) is slipping.

Never point this out. Never say, "act your age" or "you're not getting any younger" when he overreaches. Build him up, instead. That is, after all, what you signed on to do when you took the vows. You're not his teacher in life lessons - you';re his spouse.

And, yes, if you do these few small things, you can bring the most monosyllabic knuckledragging male to the point where he chooses to put Bridget Jones' Diary into the DVD player.

To watch with you.

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday on www.MessyMarriage.com. If you click on the link below, you can go there to find a great blog, and links to other bloggers who celebrate marriage...in all its beauty and banality.


  1. Wise advice, especially coming from the male perspective, Andrew. We need more men who blog about marriage and the differences that seem to divide us.

    I'm thankful for a husband who will go to many of the chick-flicks I want to see. He draws the line at musicals (although he did enjoy Fiddler on the Roof, when I asked him to watch it!). Now, to convince two out of three of my sons that having and expressing soft emotions can be just as manly as the expressing the harder ones! Thanks so much!

    1. One of the best examples of 'manly' men expressing soft emotions is showcased by the efforts to which American servicemen (and women) have gone to bring dogs they've adopted back from Iraq and Afghanistan. The dogs touch the gentle hearts of our warriors, and saving them is a top priority.

  2. A "should" is a gauntlet thrown down!!! In a house with 1 husband and 5 sons - I like to think of them as sword-wielding knights and knights in training:) One of our very favorite movies is "The Quiet Man" - best brawl ever! BTW - When I ask my guys - all of them - to do something - they wait like 20 minutes until they decide they own the idea and want to do it! If I ask twice, it's 40 minutes:)

    1. I love that description of a 'should'!

      Good point about stepping back to allow male 'ownership' of an idea. There's an old expression - "she stoops to conquer" - and I think this exemplifies it.