I was first introduced to the art of chivalry during my freshman year of college. As a northern girl (a “yankee” they called us), choosing a college in the South ushered me into a whole new definition of the word gentleman.
I remember conversations with my dorm-mates sitting in the hallway of our freshman dorm, describing with wide eyes and talking a mile-a-minute the interactions they had with these “incredible” men. The conversations usually went something like this:
“He is such a gentleman!! He opened my car door on the way to the movie, paid for my meal, and wouldn’t even let me carry my own bag. Then he walked me back to my dorm and gave me his jacket so I wouldn’t be cold. What a gentleman! I could marry him tomorrow!”
There is something inside the heart of every woman that longs to feel loved and taken care of. It’s no wonder that Hollywood films are filled with gorgeous men who swoop into the lives of these women– opening doors, ordering flowers, and saving the day.
It makes sense that chivalry inevitably melts our hearts and fogs our minds…
But should it?
I was recently asked by someone on Instagram if Chivalry is dead. Do women still want it?
If I’m completely honest with you, the definition and meaning of chivalry have been watered down by our society over the past few decades. The term was originally coined in Medieval times, describing a knight who followed a code of conduct. That code had far less to do with the doors he opened, the bills he paid, or the romantic words that gushed from his mouth–and far more to do with his character and his heart.
A true man of chivalry was a man who protected the rights of the weak and displayed strength, character, and courage. A man of chivalry was known for his integrity, his loyalty, his faith, and the way feared his God. A man of chivalry was defined by his respect and honor for women and his willingness to lay down his rights.
I’m sick and tired of the definition we’ve settled for when we talk about chivalry. I’ve learned to see past the superficiality of a man who can open a door or pay for a meal–and instead, learned to look into his heart. While all of those “chivalrist” things are kind and even desirable, they alone should never have the power to melt the heart of a woman- because a real man is defined by so much more than a simple gesture. Don’t get me wrong, these simple “chivalrist” gestures are all things I appreciate, as do most women. They are things I see displayed in my marriage and actions I want to pass down to my son.
But if these simple gestures are the only thing that define chivalry as we know it, I’ll be the very first to say that it should be dead. We, as women, need to stop swooning over the superficial culture that we’ve settled for and tune our hearts into things far more meaningful.
As I look at my marriage, I’m so glad that I didn’t just settle for the boy who opened my doors, paid for my meals, and offered me his coat in the cold. I looked for a man of character, a man of faith, and a man of honor.
A real man may open your door…but more importantly, he opens his heart, his feelings, and gives of his life.
A real man may pay for your meal…but he’s also willing to selflessly lay down his rights.
A real man may carry your bag…but more than that, he gently holds your heart.
A real man may offer you his coat in the cold…but ultimately, he offers you respect, honor, and loyalty that’s displayed in how he lives his life.
So many times as women, we insist on the first; and settle without the latter. This kind of chivalry, can die a thousand deaths- because standing alone it will never be enough.
So here’s to the opening of doors! But more importantly–to the opening of hearts and the laying down of rights. May we all seek this kind of chivalry in our lives and in the way that we love.
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Debra is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in dating, marriage, and relationship issues, along with a spectrum of mental health disorders and issues. She’s the author of True Love Dates, Choosing Marriage, Love in Every Season, Are You Really Ok?, and Married Sex. She’s also the host of the Love + Relationships Podcast, a hotline-style show where people call in to get their relationship questions answered!
Her popular relationship advice blog TrueLoveDates.com reaches millions of people each year with the message of healthy relationships! Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter!