Laying in bed, trying to peel back the layers to get through the wall that is shutting me out I, I say to him “you seem very uncomfortable talking about what is going on with you”, surprisingly he agrees. Maybe I’m surprised too. I don’t know what it is about being a woman and feeling like you can fix a man, trying to help because maybe deep down you know there is nothing you can say or do that would make everything ok. Or maybe selfishly enough I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t the problem and I could fix whatever was causing him to be so distant , blowing hot and cold. The truth is there is no harder door to get through than the one of a man who refuses to open it. We seemed to be bickering constantly as I was trying to explain how his actions were affecting me given how much I had grown to care about him. Essentially the lack of effective communication or him not dealing with his past traumas lead me to be affected by his behaviour. It was gutting to realise I had maybe fallen into the deep pits of fuckboy territory. After all we always think we’ve finally met a decent one.
Now the reason I speak on this particular situation is because I want to highlight that toxic masculinity not only harms men’s mental health but how it also harms women. I hope speaking about this from a woman’s perspective the fellas who read this blog will heed my words and take them seriously. I would like to put a disclaimer out there that is there is nothing wrong with masculinity in its self, but there is a harmful aspect to it.
Toxic Masculinity, now that’s a phrase that has been doing the rounds in terms of today’s cultural awareness. In its simplicity as Alex so rightly put.. boys are taught from a very young age to not show any weakness ,building them in to men who reject what is inherently human in them. I am talking standard human traits such as talking about feelings, showing emotion, empathy, crying or even sometimes openly allowing themselves to love and be loved. It is almost ridiculous because men, like women are humans, so how on earth are they meant to shut off from their humanity and expect to navigate healthy relationships. The reason why this is so important to me is because far too many men bottle up their emotions and end up taking drastic measures such as self–medicating with alcohol, drugs and sex leaving behind them a trail of destruction that sometimes push the people closest to them away.
As someone who can speak on first hand experience (as many women who navigate through modern dating can) I’ve come to find that toxic masculinity can ruin relationships. Men who fall into the trap of this certain mindset end up causing irreparable damage to the relationships with the people that love them. In a culture where they are programmed to be so shut off what tends to happen are arguments end with no rational, solid healthy emotional response. I have learnt that myself like most women I am very emotional and I need to be able to talk through what is going on in order to gain anunderstanding of situations. But often I have found myself frustrated from to get nothing back or responses that brush off any issues, or being told I am being irrational and acting crazy. Side bar -never call a woman crazy cause that’s exactly the response you end up getting.
I had a conversation with my friend Steph (who is currently in a relationship) a few weeks ago as I was struggling to communicate with the person I was dealing with, where she said “I can never go back to dating because of the lack of effective communication”. She was right. Communication is the bread and butter of any healthy, solid relationship and dealing with anyone stubborn who refuses to hear an opinion because it requires them to take ownership is not only hurtful but unfair.
So to all my fella’s out there I want to just point exactly the harm that this causes emotional and mental women you are interacting with. It is demeaning to someone who cares about you and their feelings because you feel your masculinity is threatened. I also feel one of the worst things any human can deny themselves is affection. I have been met with aggression because of the concept that men can’t somehow show any emotions. When you refuse to acknowledge someone else it feeling as though you are rendering them irrelevant (in such a condescending manner), because you refuse to exhibit vulnerability which by the way is not always a bad thing.
So what can you do address your Toxic Masculinity?
Learn more about it by taking into account your own life and challenging your own self-identity. I am not saying judge yourself, but be real with who you are and how your behaviour affects the woman you are with. If its because you are struggling with your own demons ask for help. As hard as it may seem, therapy is one of the healthiest things I have ever done for myself. It’s lead to a greater understanding of myself, recognising my behaviours, my triggers and how to deal with them. The biggest factor for me which I find most men struggle with is taking accountability. Women are not here for your emotional labour. People make mistakes, we are all human . If a women in your life tells you, you have hurt them, do not become defensive, take it seriously, listen with an open mind and make no excuses. Being accountable is not only healing but it is the best way to move forward.
As Reina Guttuso so rightly put “ Women’s rights and dignity are enough of a reason for men to be self-critical and pledge to encourage healthier forms of masculinity”. By rejecting the harmful notions of masculinity you will find you gain deeper human understanding , increased relationship satisfaction and intimacy, and healthier relationships with yourself and your loved ones.
~ Andile Diloris
(Part 1 by: Alex J Hickey)