Men Are Emotionally Stranded on Their Emotional Islands
I’m writing this article in response to a thought-provoking article on the Harpers Bazaar website, I guess it’s a magazine and I read the article online. The article is titled “Men Have No Friends and Women Bear the Burden.” I have a lot of disagreements with some of the few basic premises of this article even though it redeems itself later by making some good points, I’ll get to them but I naturally need to go after my dislikes first.
Women are the Victims
This article asserts that women bear the burden when men don’t have friends when most of the friendless men that I have worked with have abandoned friendships in an attempt to please their female partners. I’m really big on accountability and women can control their jealousy and territorial natures if they decided to do so and if you ask me, this is partially why men don’t pursue friendships, men have a low threshold for an angry girlfriend or wife and lately women seem to discourage their partners from having any relationships outside of theirs, including friendships.
The general idea that I see so many men hold is to just give her what she wants so she won’t be upset. But that’s on us, guys, we don’t have to let the anger of others, including our partners, control us. Her anger can’t actually hurt you, you choose to let her anger control you. We give our power away and we need to learn to not do so which is one of our main messages of personal empowerment at Orion. Stop giving away your power. If women are really burdened by their male partners being so dependent on them then perhaps it would help if they would stop seeing themselves as victims and take some of their own accountability. If they managed their jealousy and anger they’d be less likely to have a clingy male partner. They helped create this monster. While I’m heavy on personal accountability and empowerment I’m really over it when it comes to men being blamed for everything and women always being the victims. It’s seriously getting old.
Toxic Masculinity Discouraging Emotional Expression
Men weren’t always this clingy and emotionally isolated and yet, according to this article, we are lead to believe that this emotional isolation is to be blamed on toxic masculinity. All the burdens being placed on men and women are the fault of, guess who, men. I’m having a hard time making this stretch simply because men are far less macho than they ever have been and yet they are more emotionally isolated and clingy. Everywhere we turn we hear how bad toxic masculinity or machismo is, and now this article is complaining about clingy men. Which is it, ladies? Do you want less emotionally clingy men or do you want less machismo because you can’t have both? I’m not actually asking what the women what they want, we have tried giving them what they want and no matter what men do, women blame us and I just really believe that we, as males, need to figure out what is good for ourselves and support each other in that. Women can figure themselves out.
I agree that traditional male roles have been too rigid and unforgiving but history has also put men in situations where this rigidity helped men to survive. We have been the ones that have run into danger to uphold our values and protect those that we love and it’s pretty easy to criticize male rigidity and stoicism when you’re safely hiding back at camp. Male machismo has been slowly fading and the female equivalent, feminism, has overrun everything like a tsunami and we’re blaming toxic masculinity for our emotional isolation? Feminists pretend to be the heroes of male emotional expression but what happens when we, express any kind of distress or problems? Feminists tell us to suck it up because men don’t have problems and yet we’re supposed to believe that toxic masculinity is the problem? Feminists will throw us under the bus over the tiniest infractions and we’re blaming toxic masculinity for the lack of emotional safety?
The article in Harpers Bazaar once again cites toxic masculinity for the issue of men not being able to lean on men when feminists have demonstrated coordinated efforts to disperse males in the name of equality and anti-discrimination. They got rid of the boy scouts and other male orientated spaces while telling us that men are evil and oppressive and then complain about men not leaning on other men. If women want us to not lean on them than they need to allow us to have our sacred guy spaces. Honestly, I could do this all day but I refuse. Enough of us see the double standards and the hypocrisy, it’s just time to do something different.
Now that I’ve gotten those things out of my system, this article does make some great points about emotional isolation. Men are in emotional prisons, they have no safe outlets. They are walled off in all directions. We’ve been taught that male spaces are the enemy for emotional expression and while I won’t dispute that to an extent, that is true, there’s a greater truth here. Males bond well together and when they do, they create their own emotional safety and strength. There are a lot of people out there that will exploit your emotional vulnerability; some of them are men and some of them are women. This idea that women are safe and men are not is completely bogus. It’s okay and even healthy to lean on women but it’s not healthy to lean on them exclusively or without being discerning. Feminism has lied to us in many ways but it particularly bugs me that we are supposed to assume that all women are harmonious and sanctimonious just because they are women. Right, and the moon is made out of cheese.
We are emotionally isolated but it’s certainly not entirely the fault of rigid male roles, I won’t dispute that’s part of the picture but I strongly believe that we have become emotionally stranded because of feminism. Feminists will tell you to suck it up because you’re a man just as fast as macho men. Our modern world is dominated by feminist narratives and so it’s not macho men making the world emotionally unsafe.
The Missing Piece
At the end of the day, I’m beyond happy that I found this article, proving that it’s ideal to have a sharing of ideas and that profound personal truths can be found even in tiresome anti-male rhetoric. For years I’ve struggled to understand why men run, did I say run, I mean sprint towards women and bad relationships. Even many of my close friends have run back into burning barns and I’ve struggled to understand why they keep clinging to dysfunctional and abusive women as though they have the sacred and magical key to something. What I’m realizing is that for many males, the women in their lives have probably only been their only emotional lifeline and they cling to these lifelines, desperately, perhaps because it’s the only glimmer of light in the dark of their emotional isolation. Women are simply their perceived emotional saviors.
This is the piece of the puzzle that I feel like I have been missing for years. I have struggled to really understand why men do this and as a therapist, I’m supposed to be the dude that gets this stuff. I’m glad that some women spoke up and said that men were burdening them with their emotional neediness even though I’m beyond tired of hearing about how women are the victim in every situation. Are men clingy to their women because this is their only safe place and potential vehicle to emotional safety? Do women and relationships with women provide men with the only hope for emotional salvation? It sure seems that way.
Unfortunately, I think it can end up being a bait and switch. Men often dive, emotionally, into a relationship only to find themselves in a worse position than they were before. Even this article wisely identifies that men are emotionally isolated before they blow it by showing compassion for the women who are in these horrible, oppressive situations. Because God forbid that, for once, women admit that maybe men have some problems and are deserving of some help or compassion.
Male Expression of Emotion
As a man, I am very emotional. I experience the entire spectrum of emotions and sometimes at intense levels. I have a big heart, I’m compassionate and empathic. I experience joy, pleasure, contentment and the full span of the happy side of things. I allow myself to feel sad when sad things happen and I have moments of intense anger. However. I DO NOT express or process my emotions the way that women do. I’m stoic, composed and I know how to direct intense emotions into the things that I’m passionate about. I don’t hold my emotions in, I harness them and direct them. I weaponize my emotions in good ways.
I’ve walked my own path in this regard and walked much of it alone. There are so few good examples and role models in the male arenas for positive masculine expressions of emotion. Yeah, I’m bugged by those guys that put down other guys because you express emotions but I almost never encounter those guys. It’s far more common for me to encounter people, male and female, that make believe that because I’m a white male, I can’t possibly know hardship or negative emotion.
Men do need to express emotions in healthy ways and I agree with the Harpers Bazaar article that says that men need to stop leaning entirely on their female partners. Women aren’t going to understand certain aspects of the male emotional experience. That’s not to say that we can’t lean on them, confide in them or seek help from them. I do, I just don’t do it recklessly. I confide in women sparingly, after I believe that she deserves my vulnerability and won’t use it for leverage. There are amazing women out there and I know many of them, I just know how to spot them.
Guys, we need to take back our spaces and stop waiting for women to give us permission to do so. We need to support each other and be willing to be vulnerable with each other and seek to regain that male expression of emotion and stop trying to emulate women when we do so. We also need to be discerning about which women are going to provide us those emotional supports and stop assuming that they are trustworthy just because of the type of plumbing they were born with.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, we invite open ideas and expression and also invite you to consider new ways of doing things. At Orion, we’re going to give you the road maps and the support along the way. It’s time to put our heads together and bring about some real change. Join our community and join our conversations.