A little kid mumbled to his mother in between sobs that his friend had hit him.
“sh…shh!!! You are a boy, you are strong, ‘boys don’t cry”, that’s all his mother replied.
The little kid wiped his eyes, stood up, ready to man up for the rest of his life.
“Why are you crying, be a man!”, “You are wearing pink; what are you, a girl?”, “Get a good job; you have to earn for your family”………If a male reader is reading this, these questions are for you. Aren’t you tired of listening to these gender stereotypes? I bet a million bucks, most of you are. Well, these are few of the many things that a man has to face from a very tender age. Children learn what they hear and these repeatedly spoken phrases get indoctrinated in their minds for a lifetime and it becomes very difficult for them to unlearn these stereotypes. With all due respect to the women out there, it is quite insensitive to say that ‘it’s easy for a man’. But it is always not so.
Men’s lives are not so easygoing as they are considered to be. It is the facade that men have to wear because of the societal dogmas and mental health negligence which makes their lives seem untroubled. Men do have emotions, they don’t express it; Men do have mental trauma, they don’t discuss it; Men are vulnerable, they don’t show it; Men do crave for love, they don’t ask for it; and Men are emotionally available; most of them don’t know it.
With this, let’s come to the prime topic of discussion for today- Why most of the time men struggle in relationships? And by relationship, I mean literally all types of relationships- be it romance or bromance. But let’s start with guys in relationships. Here are some reasons as to why men suffer in a heterosexual relationship –
Depending on every culture around the world, there are certain sets of rules and expectations that are set for men. There are differences in those cultural norms. However, most of the time the expectations and norms fall under the same melting pot. And it becomes hard to keep up with such expectations. Things like expressing emotions or being vulnerable or wearing a certain color or doing something ‘un-masculine’ that they enjoy etc, all serve as nonsense standards that make a man incapable or irrational or feminine in the eyes of conservative society.
In a traditional sense, a man serves as the head of the household and the burden of earning and keeping up with the financial demands of the household lies within him. This standard is unrealistic and backward in every sense of the word. Keeping the image of an emotionless, powerful, and unrealistic man on a pedestal has been a norm in our society for too long. And every male child has to mold themselves in that shape to become what the society considers a perfect man.
If the women earn and men choose to stay home, such relationships ruffle the society in a wrong way. This has to be changed because such expectations set on men and women create a world that is misogynistic, unfair, and cruel to both men and women. The lack of empathy and serious concern to men’s mental health also serves as a factor behind the growing issue of depression, anxiety, insecurity, suicide, and mental health disorders among men.
Fear of Rejection
What is a man who gets rejected and just accepts it without any qualms? A mature adult who knows how to take no for an answer. However, in traditional cultures and norms, men are the epitome of winners. Failure or rejections are seen as marks that scar and brand men as inferiors. We cannot stress enough on how bad this mentality is for men, women, and for society as a whole. This mentality screws tighten this thought in men that if you fail at something, you are worthless, and to rectify that, you must fight to get what you want. This creates situations where women fear to say no and men struggle to take no for an answer.
Men in relationships struggle with performance anxiety which falls under masculine norms. It acts as the worth factor behind a man’s masculine presence and emphasizes on his sexual identity. In simpler terms, all these negative thoughts and pressure on men make them want to give their best at everything to win society’s approval. This includes intimacy and sex. All such pressure and lack of proper education about mental health, libido, and sex stress out men. Therefore causing erectile dysfunction, low libido, discomfort, insecurity, etc.
When we think about gender stereotypes, the problems of women are the first to surface. However, gender stereotypes and inequality are multi-dimensional. They are not one-sided. Here is how they affect guys in relationships.
Several psychological studies, research, and articles have spoken out about the harms of negative gender roles which still have our modern society in a chokehold. They include – having to shoulder all burdens in a relationship, fix all issues within family or relationship, take the blame for all issues, hide emotional distress, etc. These lead to harmful coping mechanisms which may affect women, children, elderly, and the men themselves.
Issues like drinking to mask or drown the emotional hurt and mental distress, repressing emotions resulting in emotional outbursts and anger disorders, suicidal thoughts, depression, etc. These factors all lead to emotional immaturity in men who become incapable of recognizing and dealing with problems, trauma, emotions, and vulnerability.
Due to such problems, they become emotionally distant or inexpressive, leading to an ultimate breakup over time. And even then, gender stereotypes push on men to not show their hurt and just move on.
Normative Male Alexithymia-
It is one thing to take the problem of emotional distress in men as a theory. But it is not just a theory. The term normative male alexithymia refers to a psychological disorder which arises from suppressed emotions and feelings in men. This phenomenon is almost similar to clinical alexithymia and is pathological. The incapability of men to put their emotions in words or to show their emotions in healthy ways is not normalized by societal gender role expectations. Their innate desire to be more tough and strong to fit in the mould of a perfect man results in such psychological distress.
Men after breakup-
Cutting loose from a bond is hard, even harder when it has been an emotional and long-termed one. People often break down mentally after a breakup but when it comes to men, “just get over it”. The continuous downplay of men’s emotional capacity damages their capability to express and deal with pain in healthy and safer ways. Men breakup after feeling the surges of frustrations and lack of empathy that are the results of toxic masculinity and gender roles.
Even when it comes to showing you care about anyone close to you, the affection dubs you as weak or sensitive. None of which makes a man less worthy but are judged because of it anyways. It causes guys to push away objects of their affection. Be it their own siblings, or pets, or friends.
Now, finally coming to the bromance part mentioned earlier. We see when women are in a friend-ship, it is often close, intimate and emotionally bonded, which the society approves of, yet again, when men are in this same category of relationship, and if they are intimate and emotionally bonded, they are regarded as gay.
But why this bias?
Answer is simple. Men are not expected to be emotional or vulnerable. Men are not expected to get into any intimacy other than a sexual relationship with his female partner. That’s another reason why they suffer because they don’t have a friend close enough who will be there through his thick and thin.
Also, men’s relation with his family members be it with his parents or children is never that strong. Rather it is not considered masculine enough for a man to be close and be emotionally available to his loved ones.
So the question lies in how do we rectify this struggle? Attention and empathy must be given upon little boys who are learning and developing. It is important to show them that there is no shame in expressing or understanding or accepting what you desire and what hurts you.
It is alright to be said no and rejected. It does not make you a failure. And if you are struggling to understand what you are going through, it is alright to take medical help through therapy. Surround yourself with uplifting people who do not diminish your existence, your struggles, and all that affects you. Nothing about taking care of yourself makes you less of a man.
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