Kate and I were watching the Amazing Race last week. During a difficult stretch for one of the teams, one competitor remarked to her boyfriend, “I expect you to be gentlemanly!” (Or something like that — I’m paraphrasing).
I was immediately struck by the thought that Kate would never say something like that. Because, awesomely, she doesn’t have an expectation for me to “be gentlemanly”.
Of course I act with kindness, politeness, and respect towards her, but the difference is that I do it out of, well, respect. And love. I don’t “act like a gentleman” — that’s just going through the motions, doing what is expected, and being conscientious of neither the motivations for, nor the effects of, your actions.
If anything, the place for being a gentleman is outside of your relationship. When you’re with people with whom you don’t have strong ties, then “acting like a gentleman” is by far the best course of action. Those rules for interaction are an important shorthand for human relationships. But if you’re still using that shorthand to navigate your closest relationships, then something is missing.
It is wonderful to continue discovering ways in which our relationship is unique, powerful, and unconstrained.
(Kate would like to add that she is always lady-like.)