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The Complementary Genius of Men and Women

Below is a short reflection piece I wrote; it’s not published anywhere, but I thought I would share in case it brightens someone’s day or resonates positively in some way.

The phrase “feminine genius” is attributed to John Paul II and further defined during the Second Vatican Council regarding the unique, life-giving gifts and qualities that women bring to the faith and to the world at large. As a woman, I appreciated emphasis on the gifts, worth and dignity of women, but in further reflections, I pondered a vision for how my “feminine genius” could work alongside a “masculine genius”. I wanted a “complementary genius” if you will, for how men and women can bring out the best in one another.

Complementary is defined as “combining in such a way as to enhance or emphasize the qualities of each other.”

The view of a woman is often of a gentle nurturer, good listener, one sensitive to the feelings and needs of others. The view of a man is often of a strong leader, protector and provider for his family.

But what does this look like in practice? Can men and women act within and even outside of these visions with one another? I do not pretend to be an expert on the matter, but I can speak form my own experience with myself and my now fiancé.

By nature, I am not an overly nurturing person. My fiancé is better at comforting and listening than I, while I am more actively-inclined and energetic than he.

We take turns cooking, but he is far more skilled, often reminding me of the proper way to wash the dishes. He takes care of a pet hamster, two bunnies, and a young dog, while I manage the finances.

On the surface, we don’t typically exhibit the predominant qualities for what it looks like to be a man or woman. And yet, we are a team, and while not always displayed on the surface, deep within us, our God-given gifts as men and women are there and they do come to light.

My fiancé is not afraid to show his emotions, and the times I have seen him cry have been moments in which I was given the opportunity to be a woman: comforter, consoler and supporter.

During the times when it was dark out, and he offered to walk me back to my car, were times in which he was given the opportunity to be a man: protector and provider. He told me once that if I were ever in danger, he would not hesitant to give his life to save mine.

He is a man when he offers to take my sister for a drive and buy her coffee to show her that he cares and is glad to become a part of the family. He is a man when he sews, mending a hole that has formed in the side of my dress. He is a man when he helps an older couple walk out to the center of a cemetery to place flowers on the grave of a loved one as rain pours down around them as I wait for him, toasty in the warm car. He is a man when he reminds me of my worth and strength as a woman.

I am a woman when I surprise him with his favorite drink or meal. I am a woman when I organize the rooms in his apartment, and write him thoughtful letters. I am a woman when I call him up on the phone just to check in, making sure he is eating, exercising, and sleeping well. I am a woman when I remind him of his worth and strength as a man.

I do believe that we are uniquely gifted as either men or women, and I think it is helpful to reflect on what men as men and women as women bring to the faith and to the world, but I think it is even more enriching to watch in action the “complementary genius” of men and women together; this dynamic to me, when at its best, is truly a beautiful gift.

Yes, I am marrying my fiancé because he is a man, but I am marrying him not just because he is a man, but because he complements me. For in being a man, he brings out the best in me as a woman.

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