Years ago, I had a conversation with a gentleman I knew in college. He said to me “You know what I think the ultimate love story is? One where the guy dies for the girl.” Well, my knee jerk reaction was that I don’t find that romantic at all. They don’t get to live happily ever after or anything! But now I think I understand better.
I was talking to a particular Marine about what he calls his “death wish”. He was explaining to me how he joined the military with the full knowledge and acceptance of the fact that he may be called upon to lay down his life for his country… and he kind of likes that. For him, it was the fullest way he could think of to express love for his country, and ultimately his family and friends that live in this country. This baffled me. You see, I also serve our country and am willing to lay my life down for her. But if I’m truly honest with myself, I don’t really want to. I would see death as a side-effect, and not the climax of my service. In my mind, I’d rather be alive to continue serving. He doesn’t care one way or the other.
Upon further reflection, I realized there are very few things I would be willing to die for, and that my list was much shorter than this Marine’s. At first I honestly felt kind of selfish compared to him. But then I realized there was something deeper afoot. It occurred to me that perhaps we had touched on some greater reality about the difference between men and women.
In courtship, the archetype is that the man offers flowers, candy, rides in his cool car (or truck), and meals. The woman, however, does not express her affection for him in the same way. If she has feelings for the man, she expresses them by receiving his little gifts, not in giving her own. Think about it. When did they write a love song about a girl sending a guy a dozen roses? When has it ever been “cute” or “romantic” for a girl to pay for a date? (Practical, yes. Modern, yes. Equal-and-fair, yes. But never romantic.) If a couple finds themselves in a dangerous situation, is it not typically seen that the man throws himself in front of the woman, and that the woman hides her body behind the man? Men are wired to give, to lay down their lives, to fight and die for what they love. Women are wired to nurture, support, and receive life, which requires that she NOT die.
This all may seem very unbalanced. But I posit that it’s only unbalanced if you’re functioning from the viewpoint that mutual affection is the ultimate end of romantic relationships. If men and women had the same protective instinct, then they would run into each other trying to guard the other one from some impending danger, and they’d probably both die. So much for mutual affection.
Why would it be more beneficial for the woman to survive? Could it be because she has the potential to bear life within her? Think about it. In the most intimate act where man and woman do what they do to become mother and father, the man gives himself and the woman receives, quite literally. It is only when the man gives his life that the woman can give her life… but not back to the man. No, she, in turn, gives her life to his child. The pattern of giving and receiving is not circular, but linear. The man does not give so that he can receive. He gives so that the woman can also give. My Marine does not wish to die for the sake of dying. He wishes to die so that the lives of those he loves can continue.
It makes perfect sense in light of the fact that man and women were designed to complement one another. We weren’t made to be the same as the other, to act the same as the other, to love the same as the other, or even to die to ourselves in the same way as the other. Everyone dies. Real men die and real women die. The point is to help the other die well.