|Courtesy of goodmenproject.com|
There's a lot that I do really well. The people I interact with on a daily basis see it, point it out, and sometimes get sick of it. The energy and passion with which I live practically every aspect of my life wears me out sometimes. I'm happy with who I am and how I live my life, for the most part.
The area where I find myself not as successful is in romantic relationships. I don't seem to be able to connect well with men romantically, though I do connect very well with men as a friend. There are a few men in my life who I would consider to be very good friends, men with whom I have no problem communicating, and who seem to be open to communicating with me. One of these men holds the title of "Best Guy Friend", and he and I have a very easy, open, loving, funny and sarcastic communication style. I don't have to hide anything from him, and I don't feel judged by him, and I would dare to say he feels the same way. When I have one on one time with the male students where I work, it is the same - easy, open, nonjudgmental - and they seem to have no problem opening up to me and being vulnerable and even crying at times. I have held many a young man in my arms as he's cried and just let out his pain. (These are the times when I'm most grateful for my assignment.) I have a communication style that is very direct and straightforward, which often works well with the other gender in platonic relationships.
I can easily point out my flaws when it comes to developing a romantic relationship. I am so afraid of getting hurt that I often put up this protective shield that can push men away. I have a sharp tongue, and I'm not afraid to use it. Additionally, whereas I am warm in most of my interactions with others, I can be distant with potential mates. And let's not even talk about trust. I try to be trusting, but I've been lied to and betrayed enough to know that trust really does have to be built. But honestly, most of these flaws do not present themselves without some kind of action that sends up red flags in my mind. The point is, I know that I am not perfect, so I cannot expect perfection, and I know what kinds of "issues" I bring to the table and where they come from.
There was a three-week period last month where I was told by two different men, "You have deep-seated issues with men." The first time I heard it, I could understand why that person mentioned it. We were in a situation where he had done something so wrong to me that I could have pursued actions that would have led to life-changing consequences for him. He was in a position to lose a lot, but was trying to hold on for dear life by telling me what he thought was wrong with me to deflect what he had done. He had previously heard about some of my romantic relationship concerns, and thought this could be a good time to bring up an area where I was most vulnerable, because he was very vulnerable.
The second time I heard it, though, I started to wonder. Do I have "deep-seated" issues with men? Having heard this twice in three weeks, I had to ask myself if I was the reason why I was having issues with these two men. However, the second time I heard it, it was from someone with whom I'd been in a romantic relationship. We had just had a conversation where I made it clear that I was moving on, and that included dating again. After receiving that information, he spent a lot of time telling me where my future relationships with men would fail, and that my "deep-seated issues" wouldn't allow me to have a healthy, long-term relationship with another man. At first, I was scared that he was right. But then I realized that this is what someone says when they are afraid of losing you. Just like an emotional abuser will tell you that no one will love you the way he or she does, he was telling me that any of my future relationships would fail because of ME.
I'm divorced. I already know what one failed relationship looks like. And yes, it is part of the reason why I'm afraid to fully open up, because I don't want to fail again. But this guy, this one who told me my issues were the reason my relationships would fail, has issues that would take years upon years of psychotherapy, or a miracle from God, to heal. His way of dealing with emotions is to ignore them. His way of dealing with me is to hurt me and push me away. So, while I'm fully aware that we all do have issues, I realized that some people are willing to be honest and up front about what theirs are, while others are far too happy to project theirs on to me.
The first man was angry with me and blamed me for "not letting him be a man", when in reality he had put himself in a position to lose his personality to a woman he chose to be with, someone who did not want him to have any other "single, beautiful women" in his life (quotes are his words). The second man was angry at me and blamed me for our unhealthy relationship, when in reality his lack of self-love and his own unwillingness to grow and face his personal demons had caused him to reject the love of the very person he's claimed to love since we met thirty years ago.
In the days following those two incidents when I was told that I have "deep-seated issues" with men, I reflected and came to the realization that I don't have deep-seated issues with men. I have issues with men who have issues. And the main issue that I have with men who have issues is that they choose not to deal with them. While I have taken the time to seek help regarding my issues stemming from the death of my father and my divorce, these men have not even admitted their issues (the first did when he realized his livelihood was being threatened; the second, who knows if he ever will). Not only have they not come to terms with their issues, but they blamed me for what was missing in their lives. They made me the recipient of their feelings of loss or rejection, and proceeded to take actions that would cause me to feel rejected. For a minute I did feel that way. However, since there is absolutely nothing I could do to change their lives and the way they choose to live them, I have removed myself from those situations and removed those people from my life, and I've come to the realization that I lack nothing. I am whole and complete as I am, and I am not responsible for the way others choose to live.
As a society, we haven't provided a space for men to come to terms with the feelings of loss and rejection they may be living with. We haven't said to men that it's okay to talk, to cry, to express emotions, or to even identify the myriad of emotions there are to experience. We have told little boys that "boys don't cry", and that when they are hurt, they need to "suck it up". We even have derogatory names for boys and men that cry and share their emotions. How many times have you heard a little boy called a sissy if he cried, or told that he "hits like a girl" if he's not good at sports? Boys and men walk around carrying within themselves pain that turns into anger; anger that lashes out in violent ways sometimes. Anger that stems from a loss of a sense of power that then leads some of them to seek that power by violating a woman's body, or by ending the lives of innocent people. Without a space to express every aspect of themselves, men will continue to have deep-seated issues. You'll just never know it until you are the recipient of their pain.