Thursday, May 03, 2007
The Strong Silent Type...
In movies, particularly those that have a western or a romantic theme, the hero is often the strong, silent type. This is the man who is highly principled, but who doesn't talk about his convictions. Neither, does he talk about his deep feelings. He quietly holds to what is right without much regard to whether others approve of him or not. He may be peace-loving and, perhaps, easy-going. He may have never had the desire to push himself forward as a leader. Or, he may have been a heroic leader at one time, but, now, after some tragedy in his past, he wishes only to lead a quiet life.
In such movies, this hero is always called into action despite his reluctance. There is always some compelling reason why he and he alone is qualified to stand in the breech. His fellow townspeople or his fellow countrymen look to him for help against an evil antagonist. When thus propelled into leadership by the plot, the strong, silent type bravely stands his ground for goodness and truth against all enemies. He calmly solves crises where other characters in the movie have failed.
If a heroine is involved, she is usually spirited and vivacious. She may be slow to realize the worth of the strong, silent man, even if she has known him all of her life. In fact, she may barely realize that the strong, silent man is alive. She may initially be more drawn to a much more dashing character.
As we could have told our heroine from the beginning, the more dashing character invariably turns out not to be all that she thinks he is. At some point, the heroine begins to understand that the strong, silent hero has a greater depth of character than his flashier rival. She starts to fall in love with him. But, she is dismayed, because she cannot figure out if the strong, silent type loves her or not. After all, there is a reason why he is known as the silent type, especially when it comes to deep emotions.
Of course, as members of the audience, we have more insight into the strong, silent hero than the characters in the movie do. Perhaps, at the beginning of the story, few characters in the movie appreciate the hero. Maybe, no one predicts that he is just about to do something heroic. But, we in the audience know from the opening credits that this strong, silent type is going to prove his true worth.
How do we know this? The writers and directors give us visual and musical clues to what is really going on in the hero's heart. They give us hints about the character's back story. They instruct the actor to portray inner thoughts simply by the expression on his face. We glean much from the hero's interactions with the other characters.
We know, before the heroine does, that the strong, silent hero loves her to the point that he would give his life for her. We also know that the dashing character talks a good game, but actually has selfish motives for pursuing the heroine. We cringe every time the rival sweet talks the heroine, while the strong, silent type stands by with an expression of pain on his face. (Oh Marianne, why can't you see that Colonel Brandon is the man for you!)
Throughout the movie, we root for the strong, silent hero to save the day. We also want him to win the girl. We are relieved when he does solve the movie's crisis. We are even more relieved when he finally takes the heroine in hand and declares his love to her. We cheer when she agrees to marry him. This is usually when the movie ends.
The question is, what happens after the closing credits roll? What if we were to see a new movie featuring our couple a few years after they have married? What if the heroine remains by nature lively, outgoing, talkative, and energetic, while her hero is still quiet, thoughtful, introspective, and easy-going? What if she expects him to do something heroic and romantic every day, while he just wants to go back to his ranch or to whatever life he was leading at the beginning of the movie?
There's nothing wrong with either the hero's or the heroine's basic personality. In fact, her outgoing nature is what makes her an appealing heroine, and his deep, quiet nature is what makes him an appealing hero. However, the different temperaments of the hero and the heroine means that they see situations from different points of view. Even though they have ridden off into the sunset together, they still must deal with occasional misunderstandings. In fact, it may take our hero and heroine some time to learn how to work together in happy partnership.
Likely, we won't see a movie of how the hero and heroine go about the business of ordinary life. Hollywood focuses on drama and instant romance and seldom tackles the subject of how a great marriage is forged day by day, decision by decision, prayer by prayer.
I, personally, am married to an outgoing man. But, I know many women who are naturally very outgoing, while their husbands are real life strong, silent heros. A wife in this situation often wonders how her quiet husband can lead the family. She may mistakenly associate outspokenness with leadership, and she may wrongly assume that if her husband is slow to express his opinions that he is not leading. She may also may wrongly assume that just because he is not as vocal or argumentative as she is that he doesn't care. And, she may mistake his silence on a matter for agreement with her position, when, really, he may be going along to keep the peace in the marriage. Or, perhaps, he is still mulling a matter over in his mind and just hasn't weighed in on the matter, yet.
Spirited women who are married to quiet men can also become insecure if their husbands don't easily express affection. An extroverted woman can bowl over her more introverted husband, without even meaning to. She can unintentionally intimidate him into being even quieter than he might normally be.
An outgoing woman may try to push a strong, silent type into a mold that he doesn't really fit. She may compare him to men who take visible leadership roles in the church or in other realms, and berate him for not serving in exactly the same way they do. In the process, she may overlook the many ways that he serves behind-the-scenes.
Or, a vivacious wife may incorrectly imagine she needs to stifle everything about her own lively temperament in order to help her husband lead. She may try to push herself into a mold she doesn't really fit, either.
So, how does a woman with an outgoing temperament relate to a strong, silent man? First, she can learn to listen to him in the way she would absorb the characteristics of a movie hero. Oh, there's no musical sound track to life, so she won't here the orchestra come to a crescendo every time her hero's heart beats with love for her. But, a watchful wife can pick up on real life clues to her hero's heart.
While a wife's outgoing chatter may be very charming to a quiet husband, there may be times when she needs to refrain from talking in order to listen closely to him. Often quiet people need some moments of silence before they can put their thoughts into words. If someone else is constantly talking, they may never be able to break into the conversation.
The wife of a strong, silent man can pay attention not only to his words, but to the man himself. She can watch for visual cues from her husband's expressions, just as we all instinctively note the expressions on an actor's face. She can watch how he interacts with others. She can put together what she knows of his background with what she seems him do in the moment.
The outgoing wife can learn to appreciate the good qualities that go along with a strong, silent nature. Many strengths are typically associated with more introverted personalities. If the wife discovers which strengths are present in her husband's character, she will be better able to understand and to appreciate him.
Maybe, the strong, silent husband has a dry sense of humor. Maybe, he knows just the right quip to make to defuse a tense situation. Maybe, he keeps his head when everyone else around him panics. Maybe, his calm presence helps those who panic to calm down, too. Maybe, he has deep principles, even if he's shy about expressing them. Maybe, he is a man of perseverance and loyalty. Perhaps, he is able to analyze a situation and size up the essential considerations. Maybe, he's good with details, or, perhaps, he excels in math or music. Perhaps, he is diplomatic in nature, and he may be better suited to resolving conflicts between people than someone who comes on too strong. Maybe, he's the type who is always there when you really need him.
Most of all, the wife of a strong silent type must guard against becoming insecure. It will help her to remember that while the silent hero may not be very expressive, that is no indication that he has ceased to love her. It's often those who are quiet and thoughtful who love in the strongest and deepest way.
Perhaps, a strong, silent husband expresses his love in actions, rather than words, and she may have to learn to read those actions as signs of love for her. In time, as she encourages her husband to be more confident, he may learn to express his love more verbally.
It's important for the wife of a quiet man to listen even when he discusses topics that don't interest her. (Actually, this is important for all wives to do, but even more so for the wife of a a quiet man.) The wife of a silent-natured man may be the only person in the world who will love him enough to care about the things that matter to him. She may also be the only one who gives him a real listening ear. Simply by listening to him, she might be the only person who will draw out feelings that are locked deeply in his heart.
Extending a listening ear even when a man may be talking about something that we have no interest in is one way to practice the golden rule. After all, we all have subjects that we want to discuss, and we may wish for others to politely listen as we share, even if we talk about subjects that might not naturally interest them. (How many people are really fascinated with the stories we tell about our children and grandchildren! But, don't we bless them for giving us an opportunity to share, anyway!) I know how much I benefit when my husband encourages me to talk about my feelings for an hour or so. Many times, I have feelings that are hard for him to relate to. But, I so appreciate his willingness to listen.
A wife can help others pay attention to her silent man, as well. Certainly, she can train her children to listen to their father. She can point out his strengths to them so that they appreciate him. A wife can speak well of her husband to friends and acquaintances, so that they will understand the many hidden, wonderful qualities of her silent, strong husband. All of this will build up a quiet man's confidence.
I once read about a woman who concentrated so intently on her husband's conversation at a dinner party that everyone else at the table began to listen to him, as well. He was not an interesting talker, but the attention she paid him helped him find a place in the conversation.
Since opposites really do attract, the outgoing wife and the strong, silent man each have something that the other needs. When their strengths are combined, they can accomplish more together than either one could accomplish alone.
The outgoing wife should not feel that she has to throttle her entire personality in order for her strong, silent man to function as the leader of the family. But, she should study ways to express her nature in ways that encourage, rather than discourage, her husband. It is possible to be lively and outgoing and to have deep convictions and, yet, to also cultivate a gentle, calm, and respectful spirit. I have known many vivacious and spirited women who demonstrate obvious respect for their quieter husbands. And, I have known many such men who have been real leaders in their family, in the church, and in the business world.
Of course, the situation can be reversed. The woman may be deep and thoughtful, while the man is outgoing. Again, the outgoing man and the quieter wife will have to work at understanding each other. They will need to learn how to work together as a team that utlizes their combined strengths. But that's another topic for another day.