I was in grade school when the remake of The Parent Trap came out, so the extent of what I took away from it was that my life would henceforth be deficient until I owned a royal blue, one-piece Speedo like the one Lindsay Lohan dons as Annie (pretending to be Hallie) when she’s introduced to the malicious Meredith Blake.
Chestnut red hair would’ve been a major bonus, but I settled for the suit.
A couple decades later, and the scene that speaks most to me consists not of Lohan, but of hunky dad Nick, played by suave, squinty grinner Dennis Quaid, and mom, Elizabeth, the elegant British dove played by … well … the elegant British dove, Natasha Richardson.
So there they are once again sipping wine together after all those years apart, Nick gazing adoringly at Elizabeth, the one who got away. After she apologizes for hurling a hair dryer at him the day she left, Nick asks with soft sincerity, “About that day that you packed. … Why’d you do it?”
“Oh, Nick,” she sighs. “We were so young and we both had tempers. We said stupid things and so I packed.” She pauses and then hits him with, “And you didn’t come after me.”
Nick furls his rugged brow and stammers in shock, “I didn’t know that you wanted me to.”
Full disclosure: There have been heated arguments between my husband and me in which I’ve stormed out of the room up to our bedroom, hoping in my heart of hearts that he follows me. Once I’m alone up there, I feel vulnerable and somehow abandoned, even though I’m the one who walked away. Is that so absurd?
Probably yes, but in reality, it’s also an integral disposition of the female heart. Deeply planted within us is a longing to be pursued and fought for, even when our irrational emotions have us running away.
In their book Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul, John and Stasi Eldredge write, “A woman longs to be sought after … with the whole heart of her pursuer. … This is not some weakness or insecurity on the part of a woman.”
In fact, as they go on to explain, this desire to be pursued and fought for was intentionally planted within us by our Creator to reflect the very same yearning that he has to be sought by his people. It’s not a flaw or just the result of females being absolutely bananas. It’s a literal longing we get to share with the One who willed us into existence.
The pursuing doesn’t necessarily look like Nick following his runaway wife across the country, or even my husband coming after me up the stairs in the midst of an argument. More commonly, a guy pursues through bringing home flowers or sending an unexpected text just to tell her he feels like the luckiest man in the world to be hers. Wives, especially those of us entwined in the blessed messiness of motherhood, are yearning to know we’re worthy of these pursuits, especially when we’re rocking the same topknot and yoga pants for the third day in a row (guilty).
But sadly, especially nowadays, we’re made to think that longing for this effort – this chase – is a weakness, or worse, that we’re not worthy of it. It’s just expecting too much.
Things get even messier in marriage since instead of pursuing a woman nobly with respect for her and her dignity, most husbands tend toward one extreme or the other. They either attempt to possess her as their property, using aggression and even violence to mark their territory, jealousy flaring at every turn. Or, more commonly, they’re far too passive, not engaging in any pursuit whatsoever, simply remaining removed and dispassionate because they’re too afraid that if they do pursue, they’ll be met with rejection.
“Men sin through violence and through passivity,” the Eldredges write. “It’s that plain and simple … and ugly.”
Often, a guy quits pursuing his wife because she’s unintentionally shut him down so much, whether through criticism or sarcastic mockery, and he’s tired of putting himself out there only to face rejection. Nothing kills his drive to fight for his woman as much as an attitude from her that says, “you’re not enough.”
But I sometimes wonder how many marriages have dissolved, when all along, underneath her hardness, the wife was aching, like Elizabeth, to be chased and told that she’s worthy of the chase, despite the hurdles and heartache it entails. I wonder how she would’ve reacted if her husband had stood his ground, refusing to split, saying, “You are worth fighting for.”
Too often, after a couple ties the knot, the pursuing portion of the relationship fizzles. The husband ceases his attempts to woo his bride and we wives, in our failure to communicate or even recognize what we’re missing, distance ourselves, silencing that yearning to be pursued by distracting ourselves with other outlets.
As a result, the vast majority of marriages either fall apart or simply subsist in dull, passionless, more-like-roommates-than-lovers arrangements.
I’m not justifying my childish storming off when things get tense between my husband and me. And I’m not making excuses for any of the unkind, passive aggressive things women do in attempts to be pursued or fought for.
I’m just saying that — in my case anyway — since I find it pretty darn hard to simply tell my husband what I’m yearning for, many of the instances in which I act out or storm off in some way are just poorly communicated attempts to have him reassure me that I’m worth the fight, even when I’m the one with the boxing gloves on.
And believe me, we do put up a fight. We do run away or shut down out of fear and insecurity, just like Elizabeth does again at the end of the movie because she’s too afraid to surrender to Nick’s pursuits, re-enter their messy marriage and risk another heartbreak.
But this time, he doesn’t give up the fight and when she arrives back in London, he’s already there waiting. “I made the mistake of not coming after you once, Lizzie,” he declares, resolving not to let her go again.
Okay. I know. In real life, it’s messier. There’s less romance, more miscommunication, more misunderstandings deep-seated wounds standing between us. But I think movies speak volumes about the human condition and more than anything, this one reinforces for me chapter five of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. In his love for the Church, he pursued it, even when it wanted nothing to do with him, even when it slaughtered him on a cross. He still came back for it.
And we wives need to submit to our husbands’ love; submit to their pursuits without opposition or hostility; and surrender to their attempts to love and fight for us, even when it requires swallowing our pride and maybe some vulnerable, ugly crying.
I mean, when Elizabeth asks, “And I suppose you just expect me to go weak at the knees and fall into your arms, and cry hysterically?” Nick says yes, and she lets go and does just that.
Copyright 2018 Elizabeth Pardi