First of all, please note that this page is not titled “How to ACT more chivalrous”. This was intentionally done because you should not ACT chivalrous, you should BE chivalrous. Granted, we are not knights and the time when the code of chivalry is far removed from the modern day we live in; but that does not mean it cannot be tweaked.
Most of us regard chivalry as serving or being kind to ladies. While that is a part of being chivalrous, there are other aspects to the code of chivalry. Much of it is what I would call “being a man”, but a great deal of it has been lost over the years as we have grown complacent because we have armies to protect us and we no longer have to wield our own swords. I could go into many other ways we have culturally lost our way, but I would rather simply focus on getting better one small step at a time. For historical reference, the original code of chivalry was based on traits every man should possess:
Courage / Bravery – Taking action in the presence of your fears. Predominantly in battle.
Most of us will not be required to show our courage or bravery as was the case in medieval times, but we can show courage in other ways more appropriate to our time. Coming to the rescue of a lady cornered in the bathroom by a spider can be one way we are viewed as brave. You may be scared to death of them as well, but you have to take action in the face of your fears. In this day and age this could also mean simply having an uncomfortable conversation. While Sir Lancelot may laugh at our modern bravery, it is what the women of our lives want from us.
Honor / Integrity – Holding ones self and being held in high respect. Being honest and having high moral standards.
Talk about something that is out of practice in the world today. While this one is important in being a romantic and chivalrous man for your lady, it is perhaps more important in your daily activities with the general public and even to yourself. C.S. Lewis was quoted as saying that “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching”. This starts with self respect. If you cannot honor yourself, then how can you possibly have honor in the eyes of someone else?
Loyalty / Service – An allegiance or devotion to someone. Helping someone or acts of kindness.
It seems as time has gone by that these terms have been treated as being negative as opposed to positive. No one wants to think of themselves as “serving” someone and loyalty has been more synonymous with a good dog than a good person. The fact of the matter is that by being loyal and serving those we care about, we are in the position of power because we act from a position of strength (kindness) as opposed to allowing ourselves to be treated as servants. You can do the dishes on your own on occasion because your lady is stressed, had a bad day, or perhaps because you somehow made a giant mess while burning a grilled cheese; or you can do the dishes begrudgingly because they piled up and you got into a ridiculous argument over who should be doing them. You can view either scenario as service. One is positive and will win you millions of brownie points and the other is negative and unless you are going to try to play the make up sex card, probably just a bad idea altogether.
With divorce rates at 50%, I am not even going to go too much into loyalty other than to say it should go without saying that you should stand by your lady and never stray. If you do, please refer back to the dog comment above, as that is better than you can hope to be at that point.
Now that we have the basics of the code defined, let’s look at how to put it into practice every day so that our actions allow us to become more chivalrous and in turn, a better partner. Generally, most of the items discussed will fall under the “service / loyalty” area from above, but they bleed into the other areas as well. The more you do them, and with the right reasons in mind, the more that the three areas will become one.
Some of the more common acts of chivalry that you can immediately change in your everyday life are as follows.
Opening doors. If you asked someone to tell you what chivalry is, this most likely the example that they would give you. It is something that is such a simple sign of respect for another human being. I would describe it as a must do when you are out with your lady, but it is also something you should do when you are with colleagues and even for total strangers. Beyond the simple act of grabbing the handle and pulling the door, then holding it as people pass, you should also use this opportunity to showcase your strength. I do not mean rip the door off its hinges in a fit of ‘roid rage. I mean as the door swings open you should turn your body square to the people you are opening the door for and make eye contact. You can then control the person or people by simply making a head or arm motion for them to enter. In this act of “service”, you have actually taken the first steps toward being the dominant person and gained respect of the people you have allowed to pass. If done with a smile, you have even created a feeling of loyalty inside them towards you. In a one time interaction, this may not mean anything, but perhaps you are heading to a meeting with a potential new business partner and they just happen to be the one you let in. You already are one step ahead.
Opening and holding the door for a lady gives you the opportunity to take the lead and look ahead for anything she may need to watch for. A wrinkled up rug can make for a bad night if she trips on it. But if you are paying attention and warn her of impending danger, you are a modern day dragon slayer. I know, you are thinking that I am full of crap, but every little mental note counts. Even if there is no danger, as you transition from walking on the street to entering a room, you should allow her to be the center of attention, so holding the door for her gives you the opportunity to place your hand on her back as she passes so you can gently guide her in the room. You assert a subtle dominance and protection role without being overt about it. You also put yourself in the position to take her coat if she is wearing one. We will touch on that one in a minute.
As you can see, there is much more to opening and holding a door than you might think. Just note that you should not be the annoying guy who leaps past a line of people just to grab the door. There are times to let someone else be the person who lets you in. That is ok too. Deferring to leadership is also a trait that you need to have. Just take the opportunity to sincerely thank the person for holding the door for you. As a side note, I like to respond with “My pleasure” when someone thanks me. Phrases like “No problem” and “Anytime” can be used, but reserve those for very casual situations like holding the door to the crapper for your buddy.
We are not done with opening doors yet. In large buildings with revolving doors you can go first so your lady does not have to touch the door to get it to move. She can walk in the next place behind you. Just make sure to push it all the way so she can get out of it without having to touch it. Elevator doors are also tricky. If you are on the outside wanting in, make sure the people inside exit before you try to enter. If there is a group of you, don’t do the door cha cha dance with them. If you are first in line, walk in, turn to the side, and reach around the door to hold it open as the others enter. If you are on the side where the buttons are, you become the default button pusher. Push yours, then just make an open request for the other floor numbers when everyone is in. When exiting, try to let everyone else out first, but remember that elevator doors like to close so you have to poop or get off the pot quickly.
Jeez, it seems as if doors are everywhere. Do not let technology be your enemy. This little guy to the left is just another way that the changing times can kill the old school rules of chivalry. It is so easy just to push the little button and have the car be unlocked for you both as you walk back to it. But fight the urge to just push the button and get in. Wait a few seconds later to push the button than you normally would and push it as you both approach her door. Then grab and open her door for her. I have never really stood there to also close the door unless her hands were totally full. I think this gives the feminist side of her the ability to still feel in control while still “allowing me” to open the door for her. If this is awkward because you have been together for a while, no problem. Just make an arm motion towards the inside of the car as you hold the door and say “My Lady” as you bow to her. It will break the awkwardness. Plus, you will have something to talk about when you get in the car. If she asks what that was all about, you can tell her (in a serious tone) you want to make sure she knows you appreciate her as your lady and that you don’t take her for granted or treat her like she is just a friend. She will feel like royalty. At some point in life she will tell you that you don’t have to do it anymore. Just say that you enjoy it.
Getting out of the car is a different story. On a daily basis if she wants to get out of the car on her own, then let her. Again, her inner feminist has to have some power. But if you are on a date of any sort, if it is raining, etc. then as soon as you put the car in park, let her know to hold on a second and you will come get the door for her (even if you are dropping her off at the door). This is especially nice when during the holidays when she is holding seventeen casseroles and a plate of deviled eggs in her lap as you arrive for dinner with her family. And if her Dad sees you do it, you will get all kinds of man points from him and asking him for permission to marry her will be much easier since he knows you will take care of her.
Finally we can close the door on opening doors. I hope you can see the importance of something so simple. All you have to do now is make it a point to start doing it.
Sitting down and standing up. These seem like simple tasks as well but there is some science to them as well. Let’s start off with arriving at dinner (these tips really work most anywhere). When you get to your table and she has decided which chair she wants, you should help her take off her coat (if you did not do that in the lobby) and then pull her chair out. I personally think that is enough. Trying to scoot it back in with her in it is just too much. Ladies of the past were instructed how to help this happen. Today’s woman has no idea and you will just end up looking like some pervert humping the back of her chair or worse yet, dumping her out of it. Then you sit down. If you are at a really snazzy place, then the waiter may take care of pulling her chair out. If that is the case, then you should stand beside your chair watching her until she has settled. Then you sit. By watching her, she will notice that you are being courteous and waiting for her.
Inevitably, she is going to have to pee or powder her nose at some point during the evening. As soon as she motions to stand up, then you should also stand. You don’t have to get all the way to the position of attention, but an acknowledgement that there is a lady standing is all you need to do. This one is particularly tricky because it has been on life support for a long time and most people have never seen it happen outside the movie Titanic. So I would only need to do it for potty breaks when at a fancy place. Otherwise, you will just want to make sure that you stand when any person arrives at the table for the first time or leaves for the evening.
More chivalrous acts…
I could have put this part in the door section as well, but to be honest, I was just tired of talking about doors. When you are on a date, make sure to walk to the door when you arrive to her house (Stop by your local grocery store, or ditch on the side of the road, and get her one small cut flower as a gift when she answers the door). Sitting in the driveway is just plain rude, and you also need an excuse to be able to show off your car door opening skills. The same applies when you take her home. Unless the date was so bad she does a tuck and roll from the moving car, then you will want to walk her back to her door to make sure she gets there safely. There is always the opportunity for a kiss goodnight, and if you made a great impression on her with your chivalry skills throughout the night, she may even ask you to come in.
If you are walking from a parking lot / garage to your destination, make sure to always walk closest to the road and allow her to walk in front if there are obstacles (grates, light poles, etc). If it is cold and she decided a coat would ruin her look, give her yours while you are walking so she does not freeze. If it is warm out and she is carrying a coat, then offer to carry it for her. You should also make it a point to carry anything for her that she may be carrying…except for her purse. I would only ask to hold her purse if she is going somewhere and you are waiting for her. Other than that, she can carry it. If you are feeling extra snazzy, offer her your arm. For my taste, this is way better than holding hands.
Showing your feelings.
I am not talking about being all sappy or breaking the crying in baseball rule. What I am talking about is showing your lady how much she means to you. There are times when you can show this with gifts (flowers, candy, lingerie, etc), but most of the time you can show it in the most simple of ways. Words. Tell her you like her or love her as often as you think about her. Chances are you have your phone with you 24-7, so why not send her a text that simply says you miss her, or that you wish she was with you. Maybe you could say “psst” and upon her reply “I love you”. You most likely cannot afford to buy her something every time you think about her, but your supply of words will last until you quit breathing. So use them and she will love you for it.
As a side note, these traits can carry over into your everyday life. If you become the guy at work that is polite and courteous, it will start to show in your professional relationships. Being thoughtful is something that is a lost art and you can really stand out in a crowd by being that person. Even if you don’t have a girlfriend or wife, simply being the chivalrous guy in the office, or at the gym, or in your circle of friends can eventually pay off because you will land a lady who truly appreciates you.