How I Learned to Trust Men
After a lifetime of feeling mistreated by males, I finally faced the truth: they weren’t to blame. Here’s why.
It was a safe way for me to keep the focus off of myself.
It took me years of blaming the opposite sex to realize, they weren’t at fault, I was.
Let me explain.
I’ve been hurt by a lot of men. I’ve been abused physically and emotionally. But what human hasn’t been hurt by another human?
I’m not trying to downplay my own trauma. It just doesn’t hold the emotional charge it once did, because I’ve processed the pain. Or have I?
When we can dive deeply inward and do the emotional digging necessary to not only heal the anger, sadness, and even rage associated with abuse, we can get to the root question our psyches crave an answer to:
Why did this happen to me?
The answer to “Why did this happen to me?” isn’t black and white. It’s multi-layered. Perhaps even beyond our personal narrative. The answer lies deep within our DNA (epigenetics anyone?). It lies within our cultural conditioning. Family values. Our relationships (or lack thereof) with our parents. Societal norms. Social constructs. And our own child-like craving to just be loved.
My yearning for love led me from one emotionally walled-off male to the next. Was I attracting my emotionally distant father? In some ways, perhaps. Was I attracting the addictive characteristics of my mother — the stronger figure in my family — perhaps?
My background in psychology has pushed me to dig deep into the pages of self-help book after self-help book. My desire to heal my seemingly wounded heart goaded me to the couch of therapist after therapist on and off for decades. It even encouraged me to seek out my own training as a therapist in order to explore my desire, not only to help others but to be an expert in my own healing journey.
Much to my disappointment, books, therapists, and academia only put a slight dent in my quest to heal my relationship with a gender I was raised to distrust.
I mean, hearing my own mother make statements like, “All men are pigs” from a young age didn't necessarily bolster my opinion of a gender I thought had cooties until I was a pre-teen! (Where did that whole cooties thing come from anyway?)
Sometimes all we need is one twisted belief to set us up for a life-time (if we don’t choose to the work to unravel said belief) of distrust.
All men are pigs? Really, mom?
Being raised to think that all men want is sex and a lear at your ass in those skinny jeans. Or if they're a leg man, a luscious perusing of your gams in those yoga leggings. Or if they’re a breast man — a glance (or if he’s ballsy, a grab) at your cleavage in that low-cut top he thinks you wore just for him.
I spent years letting that unconscious belief have a rather annoying tennis match in my brain. I think that belief might just be what stunted my dating life. In my high school and college years, I questioned every guy that asked me out so deeply, I always ended up saying no. Until my early 20s, it seemed the all men are pigs side was winning the match — 40–0. And how ironic was it that the love side was the one that desperately wanted nothing more than to trust, love, and be loved by a man who wasn’t a pig?
Guys, I’m sorry that pig statement exists.
A few of you have told me you actually agree with it — and realize that male libidos can sometimes be so overpowering it takes years of mastery to control them. It was you — the few sacred guys I was able to call my platonic friends that finally helped me unravel the belief that men were not pigs; they just have libidos (and sometimes ridiculously strong ones). But guess what, so do women? What a novel concept — two genders with libidos? Sexes that want sex? — but also intimacy, companionship, friendship, and acceptance.
How interesting to think that men might want exactly what women want. My question in my 40s has become, why is this a novel concept?
Unraveling our conditioning isn’t a straight and narrow process.
My learning process has perhaps been a lot like yours. Messy. Unpredictable. Tumultuous at times. Romantic as all get out. And full of lots and lots of heartache. Oh, and lots of heartaches. (Oops, did I say that one already?)
As a former therapist and mindfulness teacher, I wish I could guarantee that the road to healing our tortured and twisted up selves is easy. Sadly, it’s messier than a hoarder’s house.
The only consistent element in our own desire to heal a relationship with the opposite sex is the intention to do so.
The intention is everything.
Want to heal your relationship with the opposite sex? Simply intend to. Well, simple is a bit of a poor word choice. I
Mean making the statement is simple; the unraveling work is the hard part.
An intention can be as simple as, “I want to heal my relationship with men.”
You ask for something with all of your heart and life will give it to you — in full, hurricane force. So, prepare your storm cellar and layer up!
Prepare for a storm!
A little caveat here, you can never, ever be fully prepared for the storm of your psyche. Like, never.
Before I got into one of the most intense relationship experiences of my life, I think my unconscious felt ready to face the inner storm. It had read books, gone to therapy, did a ton of yoga, and stocked my inner pantry with coping skills up the wazoo. It was only when I felt I was most prepared that my psyche had asked:
“Let me learn to love and trust men. Let it start with one man.”
The unraveling started with, “Sarah, will you marry me.”
After 5 months of dating, I accepted the proposal of a man I thought I loved.
Despite some wavering feelings, I said yes.
A month later, my fiance came down with a horrible flu. It was the kind of flu that left you not only with a high fever that caused hallucinations but purging out of both ends. We lived in a cabin on a mountain in New Mexico. It was the dead of winter. Snowdrifts were up to 5 feet high. Even though I had (but who doesn’t?) an extreme aversion to vomiting, I stepped in to nurse and nurture the man I loved. Much to my dismay, my fiance got extremely grumpy and defensive when I offered to take care of him. He told me not to bother him, so I stayed away for most of the day.
24 hours later and I was feverish. Then I was vomiting. Then I was shitting out every last bit of food my system had ever eaten. And unlike my fiance, I liked to be taken care of. But somewhere in the middle of my feverish sleep he packed up a backpack and walked out, leaving his commitment ring on the nightstand.
A decade later I can chalk-up what happened up to miscommunication. A non-lucid person trying and failing to communicate his needs to someone with a fear of sickness and the inability to read between the lines. But this clear understanding only happened after all of that trauma was processed.
Being the sickest you’ve ever been, alone in a cabin in the middle of winter is downright scary. See, the thing is, you need firewood to heat a cabin, otherwise you freeze to death. This is what my fiance didn’t think about when he left me. Alone. Not for one day, but for three whole days.
I could have frozen to death. But I didn’t. Because grace had my back, as it always has. There were enough kindling and large logs outside to get by. But I had to muster the sick strength to pile them on a sled and bring them inside. And then light them. And if you’ve been deathly ill, you know that everything just feels like a mountainous task, especially when your body is unable to hold anything down for more than 10 minutes before the purging gods ask for it back.
Needless to say, I had a bit of hatred towards this man for quite a long time. When I left him and the community we lived in, I struggled with insomnia. I struggled with trust. I isolated myself. My anxiety was through the roof. I struggled with being alone, especially at night. A therapist might say I had the symptoms of PTSD. And I did.
But I wasn’t going to let one awful event keep me from living my life.
Red flags are your intuition telling you to STOP! LISTEN! RE-ASSESS!
Before I got engaged red flags ran through my psyche — almost daily. Before I even lived with the man I thought I was going to marry those red flags were waving their crimson selves at me left and right.
I used to see red flags as a nasty symbol of my own fears. And as a strong-willed woman, I’ve been raised to push through my fears with the courage of a thousand roaring lionesses. So I did what I thought was right and ignored those mother-fuckers. Red was always my least favorite color anyways.
Has ignoring a red flag ever worked for you? Has it ever worked for any pioneer in history?
Sometimes our instinctual responses are the most trustworthy. Red flags are instincts. Trust them. Even if they piss you the hell off.
Just after my ex-fiance proposed I invited him to come home with me for Christmas. “You’ll get to meet my family, they are wonderful people. They will love you.” He politely declined the invitation with the statement, “I don’t like family. Mine screwed me over. I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable being a part of someone’s family.” Can we say a glaring red flag? At that moment a flipping red banner ran across my mind with the words, “Dump his ass, honey, he ain’t the one for you.”
But denial is a symptom of the red-flag hating part of ourselves. Perhaps he needed more time, I thought. I was patient. I could wait. He would come around eventually.
In my extreme story, I put my life on the line because I ignored the red flags (aka my intuition) thinking he would come around (aka my fantasy mind).
I haven't distrusted men, I’ve distrusted my own intuition.
If I made this statement even a year ago I would have reeled in discomfort. Why? Because it makes me take the blame.
Sometimes it’s more comfortable to project your own shortcomings onto a person, place, or thing. “All men are pigs” was my mom stating, “I haven’t listened to my intuition around men and I’ve been hurt a lot.” Guess what, Mom? Me too!
Every wrong boyfriend I ever had came with a red flag warning that I carefully folded neatly into a box and tucked into a drawer along with my vibrators in hopes that I would never have to see it — not ever again.
I needed one good man to help me trust my intuition again.
I’ve already told you that I spent countless hours with my nose in books and my bum on therapists’ couches with very little growth or change in the male trust issues department.
But, life, that grand ole’ trickster is sly. Life hears even the faintest whisper of n intention and presents us what we need to make it a reality — in its own timing of course. Life has this thing about its own time. Sometimes life’s timeframe is a heck of a lot slower than yours or mine, wouldn’t you agree?
Marching to the beat of life’s perfectly imperfect timing, along came Covid-19 — and the oh so famous mandated quarantine. Being newly single during quarantine left me with a longing for male companionship. And I don’t know about you, but when I feel deep longings, I act on them!
In my search for connection during the lonely quarantine months, I joined a Zoom group run by a few local life coaches looking to connect like-minded people. I met a man in this group that piqued my curiosity. He offered me some insight into a meditation vision I’d had via chat. He signed off before I could thank him, so I found him on Facebook and sent him a thank you. There was a little exchange but nothing more. A month later he posted about taking part in a new men’s group. I messaged him to ask about it. Men’s groups have always intrigued me. As a therapist, I noticed males were always a minority in groups. My desire to connect with emotionally open males pushed me to reach out to this guy.
“How was your men’s group?”
“It was very feminine,” he said. I laughed. Then he wrote back with a more serious answer. Thus began our friendship.
Over the past several months this kind-hearted man and I have offered each other emotional support. The pandemic and what’s happening in our personal lives has left us both with a deep need for supportive friends.
I’ve always struggled to have platonic male friends, especially when I’m single. I think it’s because of a simple social psychology fact: we are attracted to our friends.
If you look around at your friend group wouldn’t you say that you are attracted to each and every one of your friends for various reasons? And I think physical attraction plays a role in friendships as much as it does romantic relationships.
Thus, I’ve had to set boundaries at some point or another with each of my single male friends. Yes, I tried to date a few, only to realize my intuition was right off the bat: we were meant to be friends. With others, (including the guy I met in the Zoom group) there have been moments of sexual tension where a conversation needed to be had. And those, “Hey I think you’re attractive, but I’m really wanting to keep this as a platonic friendship because I know you’re not my person” conversations always draw us closer together rather than farther apart (that is, assuming we are both on the same page).
I’m at a point in my life where I don’t want to flirt just to flirt. I don’t want to sext just to sext. I don’t crave male attention in the form of empty, meaningless interactions. I want intimacy. Real intimacy with a male whose flags are only green — and maybe sometimes yellow (because who’s right on target all the time?).
My new friend — let’s call him my pandemic buddy — has offered me a gift: the reminder that men are beautiful, open, honest, loving souls that have the same wants and desires as women do.
My pandemic buddy has bared his heart and soul to me — and he’s let me bare mine without an ounce of judgment on his part. “You’ve been through more than any woman I’ve known — and I’ve known a lot of women,” he said to me after I share the cabin tale, among a few other tales in one messaging session. This guy’s got a good sense of humor and a heart of gold.
My pandemic buddy considers himself to be a transformed Cassanova. And I love that about him. He lived the life of a pig for a long time and will admit that with an open heart. “When I was in the navy my focus was on meeting women and finding a piano wherever we docked.” But now he wants one woman. And he found her. This man believes in true love. The Princess Bride kind of love. And honestly, he opened my wounded heart to the possibility of that kind of love. In our hours of texts and voice messages and calls, my pandemic buddy made me realize that I was holding all that resentment not towards men, but towards myself.
“Sarah, you have done the work needed to heal yourself. Maybe now you just need to trust that he’s out there, and you two will find each other when it’s the right time.”
My pandemic buddy considers himself a highly sexual man, but his dedication to the woman he knew was his person completely shattered all of the projections towards men that I’d stacked around me like arrows awaiting an attack.
When my pandemic buddy spoke of the magical moment when the laugh of the woman he had known as a casual friend bolted through him like a jolt of lightning that suddenly made him feel more connected to life than he ever had — I wept. “It was like a God moment,” he said with a twinkle in his voice. He told me to watch The Lakehouse to get a better understanding of what he was talking about. So I did, and once again, I wept — not because of Sandra and Keanu’s love, but because I met a man who got the depth of intimate connection. I wept because I had finally met someone that had no qualms about intimacy — a male that didn’t need a sword to stand up to vulnerability.
I think trust is an inside job.
For years I looked outward. I wanted men to prove something to me. I wanted to prove to them that I could continue to see them for who I wanted them to be, instead of who they were in the here and now.
For years I felt like my intuition was a curse. I mean if I’d heeded the red flag warnings — I might still be a 42-year-old virgin!
The sweet, open authenticity of my pandemic buddy has made me look inward. If good men existed and men weren’t to blame, then who was?
I was all that was left. And I needed to sit myself down for a good old fashioned conflict resolution session, complete with a bear hug, a glass of bubbly, and topped off with a warm bubble bath.
I didn’t have to forgive myself for dating the wrong guys, I had to thank myself. I had to make peace with my past by accepting it — traumatic situations and all.
Perhaps without attracting the wrong guy on repeat, I wouldn’t be able to recognize the right guy when he came along. And he will come along. I kn0w that deep in my heart.
Trust isn’t something you do, it’s something you are.
It takes courage to live an intuitive-based life. It takes gall to listen to every little whisper of your very ballsy heart and say, “Okay, I hear you, buddy. You want me to take a step back and re-assess this relationship? Wait? You’re giving me the green light — like GO FOR IT?!”
I love it when my heart gives me a green light, but I’m learning to love the red lights just as much. Trust is a relationship between you and your intuition. And all relationships take work.
I’m finally willing to commit to doing the life-long work needed to trust my intuition. You could say I found my true love — and it ain’t a man!
As I learn to love and trust my intuitive leanings, I’m learning to love men more and more.
Men are not to blame. They were never to blame. There was really no one to blame but the fear in my heart — the fear of my own intuition.
Now, whenever I notice myself blaming another for my state of misery, I take that courageous leap and dive inward. What am I ignoring? What red flags am I running from? What inklings am I shutting out?
That deep dive inward spirals me into a place of self-acceptance. I know I can’t go back and end the relationship with the man who left me sick and alone in a cabin for 3 days, but I can find some love for the woman who lay there feverish and frightened. I can learn from her. I can love her. And I can apply that same courage to all of my other traumatic relationship tales.
Accepting my past has empowered my present; it has helped me realize that the only person I ever lost faith in was myself.
And lucky for me, I know I’m anything but a lost cause.
And neither are you, even if you don’t believe that to be true in this moment.
If you distrust the opposite sex as much as I have, there is hope for you yet. Call a loving friend and pour your heart out to them. Find just one person who can say, “What you went through was absolutely horrendous. You are strong. You are brave. You are my hero.”
Somewhere in that validation, you might muster up some of that faith you lost along the way. That faith in yourself. It’s the invisible superpower that will save the world.
Sarah shares her story to inspire the sometimes lost, wounded, and weary souls yearning to remember their authentic beauty. You can stay connected with Sarah via her website.
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