This paper is an attempt to review the points made about communication and relational interaction of men and women in the article, “How I fell for my Complete Opposite,” from Glamour Magazine’s February 2009 issue. The story was written by Stephen, an outdoorsman who has perennially thought of his wife-to-be as someone likened to him – a woman who shares his lifestyle of wanting to be in the wilderness and finding joy in the thrill of a Siberian life while cooking dinner he has just taken out alive from the waters.
He apparently finds himself to be a “dairy farmer who suddenly realizes he’s lactose-intolerant,” after falling for Katie who is a “complete opposite” – a confident woman who lives and enjoys the glamour and traffic of New York’s busy streets. Foremost, consider the title of the article, “How I fell for my complete opposite”. Any writer would know that a title should either capture the whole point made in the article, or should at least be interesting enough to encourage his audience to continue reading.
The title itself already presents a standpoint that would perhaps be seen by the majority as disagreeable to explore on the points made by the author. The title in this context presents an underlying concept that it is a generally accepted idea that attraction between couples is almost always founded in similarities, rather than differences. The reader’s attention is even more captured with the use of the terms ‘complete’ and ‘opposite’ to amplify this difference.
In the article, The Modern-Day Pursuit of Intimacy and Relational Memory Structures, courtship is thought to be a sort of a filtering step to determine a prospect partner’s compatibility with the self. (Honeycutt, J. M. and Cantril, J. G, 2001, p. 1). Munstein’s stimulus-value-role theory states that what starts as a simple rally of information may progress to a deeper examination of the other party’s values and beliefs about diverse topics that both may be interested in.
Progress of such a relationship may lead to a further consideration of each other’s potential to be a partner or a parent (cited in Honeycutt and Cantrill, 2001). This is perhaps the prevailing notion that subconsciously influenced Stephen into thinking that his partner-to-be should be someone that shared his lifestyle. This was further reflected in his accounts of dating women who may not have had an original inclination to live his ways, yet in the long run intentionally controlled circumstances for the woman to live a life like his.
This was not only seen in Stephen’s end, but from the women’s as well. The women he dated claimed to love the life he had, or at least maintained that they wanted to do so. However, in the end, such attempts and compromises didn’t seem to work to materialize the relationship. Katie’s strong will and independence is mentioned in the story as one of those intriguing reasons that has captivated Stephen’s attention. When a woman is portrayed as someone who stands strong in her choices, it seems to be exceptional. It is as if it is not expected of a woman to possess such a trait.
However, ascribing such a quality among men doesn’t appear to be as unexpected. It seems to be implied in this context that the perennial inequality among men and women in the society still exists. As discussed in “Gender and Emotion in the United States: Do Men and Women Differ in Self-Reports of Feelings and Expressive Behavior? ”, males are seen to have a higher position or status in the society, and females, a lower one. Kemper’s structural theory proposes that an individual’s tendency to experience positive and negative emotions is dependent on power and social status.
Given the premise that males seem to have a higher position than women in the society, it is implicated that men are more likely to experience positive emotions such as happiness. On the other hand, the women who has lesser status and power is said to experience negative emotions such as sadness and anger (Simon, 2004, n. p). In Stephen and Katie’s story, however, it is important to note that this inequality of the sexes did not exist, at least in the circumstances presented.
Given a changing view of what women can and cannot do in our society today, such a statement of Kemper does not necessarily generalize the status of women today. Contemporary women are more educated and in the recent years, have proven that top positions in a hierarchy are not exclusive to men anymore. Such is the case of Katie who lives an independent life in a city like New York, holding a position as a director. What this tries to suggest is that a man and a woman in a relationship does not automatically assume an inequality between the sexes, or that one necessarily feels more positive and happier than the other.
Instead, a man and a woman may assume the same social rank, mindless of the norms the society imposes, and thus may experience the same amount and frequency of positive emotions such as happiness and security. Stephen seems to have committed gender stereotyping. From a male perspective, it is perhaps seen that females are individuals who are to be dominated, or are those who are expected to please men by liking what men like, to conform to a living a man would direct the couple to have. Katie, getting to set herself apart and not meeting such gender role expectations, is perceived as someone different.
Such differences are magnified and tend to overshadows similarities. This tendency of the mind to have “illusory correlations” is an attempt to feed gender stereotypes by highlighting differences and ignoring similarities (Bailey, n. d). It is important to note however that the presence of such gender role expectations in the case of Stephen and Katie did not necessarily lead to a discord in the relationship. In fact, a woman who was portrayed to have stood out public expectations led to an eventual attraction and deepened relationship.
Defying gender role expectations in this context seem to have brought out the strength in women to stand for their own opinions and gain a man’s security, rather than to threaten it. Furthermore, in a study made by Levy and Davis, secure love is characterized as passionate and selfless. It is composed of high intimacy, passion and commitment. Furthermore, the involved individuals have high self-confidence, where they possess high self-esteem and lack self-conscious anxiety with partners. Such case of independence and selflessness are concepts claimed by the Stephen to be present in the Stephen-Katie relationship.
(Cassidy, J. and Shaver, P. , 2002, p. 354) Gender differences could be partly explained by gender role expectations. Literatures such as John Gray’s “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” and Deborah Tannen’s “You Just Don’t Understand” portray men and women as individuals who come from different worlds or cultures. As John Gray in 2004 states, there seem to be differences by which a man and a woman react in certain situations, and that expecting the other to react in manners similar to oneself may lead to misunderstandings.
(Gray, 2004, p. 2) Communication is seen to be an endeavor between sexes because of the differences by which messages are conveyed and interpreted. Furthermore, such differences are seen to be innate, already existent factor rather than a product of a specific man-woman interaction or relationship. (Gray, 2003, p. 6) Communication barriers are said to be evident between couples. In Wheeler’s “The workings of language: from prescriptions to perspectives,” for example, explains the differences of men and women in conversation.
Wheeler claims that while men are actually talkative in public situations, they appear to be less conversant when at home, because they feel that they don’t have to prove anything, and that they need not defend themselves against anyone at home. On the other hand, women feel it is freer to talk at home because of lesser risk of saying anything that may offend anyone, lesser chance of putting up any disagreement, thus women, as opposed to men, tend to talk more at home. (Wheeler, 1999) The existence and illumination of gender differences is seen to be detrimental to women’s struggle towards equality.
Recent years have shown how women have started being educated, fighting for their rights, and refusing to be seen as individuals weaker and inferior to the opposite sex. Despite such changes however, studies show that there have not been a consequential salary increase as compared to men, and that limitations are still existent in terms of career opportunities available for women. (Bailey) Literatures stressing gender differences may strengthen the already existing stereotypes among sexes, supporting a male-dominated society where women’s control is limited to house work and child rearing.
This article presents an important point: that although individuals are inclined to unconsciously stereotype and set gender expectations, an individual, and in this case, a woman still has the ability to stand out and refuse to conform to these, bearing in mind that independence and strength are not gender-specific. This refusal to conform leads to a fulfilling relationship where man learns to respect differences between sexes, and that a woman’s strength could actually be source of security, rather than a threat.
The seeming match between Stephen’s and Katie’s independence and strong-headedness, however, seem to have been overlooked as a similarity because of pre-existing notions on gender expectations. The lack of such similarity was explored only in the context of one’s career, lifestyle, or profession. The article failed to recognize that while one’s career or lifestyle may say much about the shared lives of couples, it is neither the primary nor the only gauge that will affect their relationship.
The article in review seem to have failed to explore more points which could have explained the success of their relationship despite the difference in lifestyle or profession. As Bartnett claimed, one’s social behavior, including his communication and relational patterns may be affected by an interplay of many different factors such as socioeconomic status, extent of scrutiny, amount of power or social rank. (Bartnett, 2004) Given the chance then to rewrite the article, things would probably be seen in a different angle.
The use of the phrase ‘complete opposite’, as stated earlier does not seem to be fully supported by the accounts given by the author. Although the phrase is catchy enough to maintain the reader’s attention, insufficient data is apparent to support that Stephen and Kate are indeed exact opposites. Such an issue may be resolved in two ways. One way is to describe more aspects of the relationship while including other pertinent things like communication styles, disagreements in the past and how these were resolved, things one would find in the other that would make the characters appear more humans than surrealistic gods.
Another way is presenting the concept of the individuals being ‘complete opposites’ as a mere prelude to the next point: that while the superficialities of the material world – of profession, lifestyle and the like may present differences among individuals, a deeper understanding of one’s values and interests may soon prove the nonexistence of such diversities. Similarities between the couple should be given equal importance in the article to demonstrate that differences could be reconciled and lead to a companionship that may prove to be beneficial to both parties.
Although it must have been the author’s style for the majority of the article to be taken from the man’s point of view, balancing the accounts by taking the perspective of the woman may add more strength to the absence or presence of the articulated differences. In which ever case, the relationship will not be presented as an unfounded, hyped case of unexpected love story that was to last as the reruns of the issue would permit; rather, it will be presented as a sincere, real-life story of a couple who have made both similarities and differences meet to form a fulfilling relationship. Bibliography Bailey, Justin P, Ph.
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