One of the things that I’ll always hang my hat on is that women are always much more equipped to deal with heartache than men. Most men are in a position where they’ll never have to experience being turned down or dumped, that’s typically a woman’s cross to bear. With the many tragic stories that have hit our news feed recently, we asked ourselves if men are really dealing with anger or do they suppress their feelings only to have them surface at an inopportune time.
Here’s what’s really going on in our community: most men will never have to experience the heartache that will make them better for society and teach them to react better to disappointment. Thus what happens is that men react horribly to the event. They will scream, they will act irrationally, or they will not know what to do and be drawn to acting out of the norm. Women grow up, they meet a guy they like, they express interest and the guy says, “Nah not really.” They learn at a young age to deal with rejection, but men, we don’t. The defense mechanism for most men is dismissal and not understanding or coping.
For men, we have to understand this flaw in our development and begin to grow. We’ve got to realize that we can’t act out when things are not going our way. It’s not impossible, but it’s difficult. I, personally, had to learn to communicate anger and to be able to tell those people who have disappointed me that I was upset. Men aren’t put in a position where they are accepted enough to say to a woman, “You’ve hurt me and it’s not okay.” To say that, you’ll likely be looked at as a lesser man. To be quite frank, as men, we’ve got to just get over that.
There’s three things that men can do, and three that women can do to aide in the process of helping men to cope better.
- Stop thinking that expressing your feelings is a sign of weakness. It’s holding you back when you think that way and it pushes you back further to the times of cavemen rather than forward to the current 21st Century man. Heck if Obama can cry on TV then we can surely open up to our loved ones.
- Learn how to effectively communicate. Most men are manipulative in the way they communicate. They will choose silence over a conversation, or choose to teach a lesson rather than simply tell someone what they did and how it needs to improve in the future.
- Refuse to interact with people who you can’t open up to. THIS, took me a long time to realize and was critical for me. I would deal with people who I couldn’t open up to because I feared they may attack me or dismiss me. When we get dismissed early on, sometimes it leads to us not wanting to speak up later. If you make sure that not only you are committed to healthy communication but the other person is too, you’ll find things will go a lot smoother.
- Create a safe space for men to open up to you. Everything isn’t a battle, everything isn’t a competition, and learn that discourse and arguments are not the same thing. A lot of us have gotten so used to thinking that arguing can be good for a relationship that we neglect to understand that discourse is a healthy disagreement, not an argument.
- Ask your man what’s going on. You shouldn’t have to babysit a man, he should be man enough to step up and speak for himself, right? Yeah, you’re right, but that’s just not the reality that we’re living in today. You’ll likely need to pry a little to make him speak up. You don’t have to instigate, but you can ask maybe once or twice more than you usually would, “hey what’s going on?”
- Proactively communicate yourselves. Proactively communicating is thinking about how you communicate and its effect on others around you. It’s a little different than the safe space. The safe space just means you won’t snap at him when he comes to you wanting to talk. Proactively communicating means that before you say something you’ve thought about what’s the likely outcome of the situation. Kicking a man when he’s down is not going to make him open up to you.
We’ve got to do better. Men and women are in this together. Men have some things they just have to get over and women have to create opportunities for us to do better. One of my favorite quotes is, “If we’re going to be here, then let’s be here.” That means a lot. It means that no matter how we got here or how crazy our circumstance, we’re here and we’ve got to figure out where we go from here. We’re looking forward to a day when men and women both are able to deal with heartache in a healthy manner. We’re looking for a day when men will feel comfortable enough speaking up about being broken or disappointed. We’re not there today, but we can soon end up there if we work together.
Dr. J is a writer for the men’s blog Single Black Male. Dr. J’s inspiration and motivation for writing comes from a desire to provide real and honest advice to all. His approach is no nonsense and rarely sugarcoated. Follow him on twitter @DrJayJack.