Tonight the latest episode of 19 Kids and Counting aired, and I remembered some thoughts I had had about last week’s episode, “Going the Distance for Love.” It focused mainly (as most episodes this season have) on the eldest two Duggar daughters’ relationships. And this without scripting it into a “reality” TV drama. Man I love the Duggars.
I’ll repeat that to make it clear: I have a very strong admiration for the Duggar family. It’s one thing to raise kids the way they have; it’s another entirely to raise 19 of them. All my respect goes out to Michelle and Jim-Bob Duggar, not only for the amazing people they are, but for the amazing people they have raised, and those they are still raising.
Yes, I’m leading up to a but, though rest assured it’s a very small but, more of a thought really. However, on this particular episode, Michelle Duggar said something that struck me very personally—and yet it was so wrong that I just had to write an article about it. Not that I mean to nitpick Ms. Duggar at all, not in the least; I’m not being critical at all, and besides, this isn’t something I would expect her to understand. And it’s not a vastly important matter, either. But it’s a point I gave a lot of thought, and knew I would have to share.
What She Said
Near the end of the episode, Jessa (second eldest of the Duggar daughters) and Michelle were discussing Jessa’s relationship with Ben Seewald. Jill spoke of the sweet nothings her beau often texts her, exempli gratia, something like: “If I had all the gardens of roses in the world, I would give them all to you.”
The response she gave him was priceless: “. . . Well, where would I put them?”
According to Jessa, Jill (her elder sister) had been stunned. “No way, you have to be kidding me, you did not say that.”
But she did. And I applaud her.
Michelle coached Jessa, the sweet prosaic practicalist, to be more sentimental, to offer the voice of love that Ben needed to hear. She told Jessa to respond to such sweet nothings by saying something like, “Awww, Ben! That’s so sweet! Thank you!”
Now, I see where she’s coming from. But to be honest, if I’d said something like what Ben said to the love of my life, and her response had been anything like Michelle’s suggestion, I would probably have regurgitated my lunch.
See, Jessa’s actual response was the one (if I had been Ben) that I would have anticipated, expected, and wanted. Her answer was sincere, practical, humorous, and in its own tacit way loving and grateful. It was her. It was so full of her personality, and of everything Ben loves about her.
What man would want the woman he loves to be anything other than exactly what she is, which is what he loves her for? Why would he want empty, insincere platitudes in place of an honest glimpse of her heart? If I know a thing about love, I can say for sure that Ben read each word of her response, laughed, and loved her more than ever.
But forced, empty flattery? Ladies, that is not how a man’s love works.
All Real Men Really Want
Ladies, if a man really loves you, he’ll love you for who you are, for the real you. He won’t love you for pretending to be someone you’re not (though he’ll love you anyway when you do, because trying to be someone else is part of who you are). He won’t love you for trying to be the woman you think he wants (though he’ll love you anyway when you do, because that’s part of why you already are). He won’t love you for flattering him (though he’ll love you anyway when you do, because it’s very sweet what you think you’re doing).
What a man really wants from you is the one thing that, I find, women are usually most reluctant to give: the truth.
Butter up his ego if you like, anyone appreciates that; manipulate him when he needs to be manipulated, anyone needs that sometimes. Treat him like a child, everyone’s a child until they’re a mother and most men never become mothers. I’m just saying, be dishonest sometimes, use him a little bit, that’s fine, he’s expecting that and he won’t mind it in the least. He’ll be glad you’re taking an interesting in him, especially if you’re trying to make him make himself a better person.
But sometimes, be sincere.
You’re you, and all he wants to hear from you is what you honestly think and feel, not what you think he wants to hear. Because if you be honest with him, if you thank him sincerely without forcing something too sappy, or if you tease him, he’ll see your heart, and he will fall in love with you all over again. I’ll bet that when Jessa said “Where would I put them?” that’s exactly what Ben did. All he would have heard was “I love you too.”
I’m not saying that Jessa’s relationship with Ben is poisoned forever because of some poor advice her mother gave her. Michelle may have had the wrong idea, but it’s also true that if Jessa made an effort to be more sympathetic and express the things she thinks he wants to hear, Ben would love her for that consideration.
If a man loves you, he loves everything about you, he loves you for who you are and nothing you do could change that. So don’t try too hard. The least effort will probably have the strongest effect. The harder you try to be someone you’re not, the more you’ll actually be pushing him away.