“I WANT HIM TO FEEL WHAT I FEEL.”
Many women have stated that they would like to understand the mindset of men. This is my attempt to better understand men.
“I want him to feel what I feel. I want him to hurt like I hurt.” Those were some of the words uttered by a young girl in my office as she sobbed and wondered aloud why “he” no longer cared for her. In that moment, I completely empathized with her. My heart broke for her. As I saw the tears cascading down her face, I wished in that moment I had a magic wand that would instantly remove the need she had to be validated by the man who broke her heart.
As a therapist, I have witnessed this type of situation in my office more than once. Through my training and experience, many times I have been able to work with my clients as they process their feelings and eventually gather up the strength to move on. However, as I looked at this young girl, appearing both broken and defeated, I wondered why this situation felt different. It was nothing new to me. What was different?
Then it hit me. I was going through something similar. And I wanted him “to feel what I feel… to hurt like I hurt…” As much as I hate this answer… The answer truly is that it takes time to get over heartbreak.
But I wanted to take it a step further, so I interviewed twenty-four men from different age ranges and stages of life to bring some light to what women seem to not grasp. We often feel that men tend to move on from relationships without a scratch. Which in turn causes many women to wonder why they were so affected and their counterpart was not.
I asked these men the same eight questions in order to gain an understanding of how they view relationships and how they cope when a relationship has ended. I did this in the hopes that this would bring some comfort and understanding to women that are currently going through a breakup.
Most women report that they are frightened to be in a relationship due to fearing the possible demise of it. Often times, instead of being in the relationship, they tend to focus on the “what if” factor. Ryan G., age 31, was able to empathize with the “what if” factor and reported that he has steered away from relationships due to the fear of being cheated on. Jack S., age 39, stated that although he does not shy away from relationships, he fears being vulnerable in the relationship. Jackson R., age 34, reported that he is most fearful of having to be responsible for another person’s emotions, as he stated, “It’s no longer just me that I have to be mindful about.” As I continued to interview more men in regards to what they are fearful of in relationships, the majority reported that they did not want to invest more into the relationship than their counterpart.
It was enlightening to hear these men talk about their fears in regards to relationships, as they did not just provide one-word answers, but the majority elaborated on how they tend to wonder the same thing about women. Corey L., 32, went on to report that he often has been misunderstood by his hesitation in a relationship that he is pursuing due to, “me giving it my all and worrying that she is not taking me seriously.” He went on to state, “I have been burned in the past, and it’s hard for me to not think of all women as the same.” Drew S., age 35, added, “Women tend to be more vocal about how bad they have been hurt, while I think most men feel like they are expected to be strong and act like they don’t care, when in reality they do. I, personally, would never be in a relationship and when it ended not care. I don’t think anyone could claim that. They wouldn’t be human.”
In listening to the fears of this group of men in regards to being in a relationship, it led me to my next question that I often hear from women in both personal and professional settings, “Do men actually put thought into ending a relationship or do they just one day decide that it’s over?” Ryan G. took a moment to mull over the question before responding with, “I would say I have always put thought into ending a relationship. I think my younger self was more emotional in making the decision to end the relationship, while my current self is more logical in the sense of thinking is this actually the right person?” Levi M., age 36, reported that he has always been very calculated in making his decision in regards to ending a relationship, “I am very afraid of making impulsive decisions, simply because I wouldn’t want to be judged instantaneously.” Michael D., age 42, recalled how in his twenties he felt that he may have ended a relationship in the heat of the moment because, “I did not want to take the time to talk it through, I was impatient then and more about self-gratification. But as I get older, I am aware of the error of my ways as a young man. I now take time to even think it through before I pursue the relationship and probably even more time to ponder the ending of a relationship.” Jimmy S., age 51, stated that he also felt that when he was, “in my twenties and even my thirties, I didn’t give the thought of ending a relationship the time it needed, as I thought more of how I felt rather than her. “ Jimmy continued to report, with a chuckle, that as he got older and “experienced more, I have became aware that the world does not revolve around me and I had to get my head out of my ass.” Joe T. stated that he felt that when you have convinced yourself that the relationship no longer works it may seem instantaneous, but you have actually subconsciously decided this prior to the actual decision. Jackson R. claimed that he always has put thought into ending a relationship, “I want to think of her wellbeing too.” So although some of the men admitted that they might have been quick to end a relationship without giving much thought at some point in their lives, they also reported that they should have handled those situations better in hindsight. And still the majority of men reported that they did take the time to think their decision through.
Many women, including myself, often wonder when they are going through the aftermath of breakup, “Does he regret his decision?” Henry G., age 31, said that he had regretted ending a relationship in the past. He reported that the woman he was dating was moving out of state. He reported that he had a long distance relationship in the past and it did not go so well so he agreed to “play it by ear.” He said he went on to date another woman. “It didn’t work out and I realized just how compatible me and the other woman were.” He continued on to state that the relationship was about three months long and after two years he still has regret about how he treated the relationship. Jackson R. agreed that he has “definitely regretted ending a relationship,” but continued on to say that although he missed certain things about the person that he never tried to pursue the relationship again. Ryan G. was confident in his answer in saying that he has never regretted ending a relationship, “although there may be immediate regret. If the relationship ended, she was not the right one. And looking back at one relationship in particular, I know now that there was no way that it would have lasted.” Anthony T., age 31, also stated that he had never pursued a relationship again after the breakup, “because I already thought of the reasons for breaking up with that individual in the first place.” So although not all the men had regrets about ending a relationship, many of them did. However I think it is important to point out that women are very similar in that there are times when we do not regret ending a relationship and may feel utter relief when it’s over. It is unrealistic for us to want every man that breaks our heart to have pure regret and come begging for forgiveness.
In my personal and professional experience women tend to be more vocal about the breakup than men. We want to talk about it. Sometimes we talk about it so much, we make ourselves sick. We cry, we wonder what they’re doing; we stalk their social media. We work at convincing ourselves that we are better off without them. And then for a moment we feel relief. And then it’s back to square one. It is a vicious cycle. So this leads to my next question, “How do men cope after a breakup?” The four main answers I got from about seventy-nine percent of these men was meet other women, drink alcohol, be with friends and exercise. So rest assure, they are also doing things to get over us. We may not like the answers, but the purpose of this line of questioning is for women to gain some understanding. It is appalling to hear that the ex we are longing for may be with another woman, but at the same time he is human and like you he is trying to get through the breakup anyway he knows how.
So we have somewhat of an idea of what men do to cope when going through a breakup. Another question that tends to come up is, “How come men tend to disappear after a breakup?” I have experienced this, along with many other women who have reported it to me. Break up happens… Then radio silence… Brian R., age 62, reported that for him personally, “it was just easier for me to stay away, if we broke up then I did not want to hurt more by continuing to talk to her. That is just torture.” Drew S. agreed and stated, “I just don’t see the point of continuing to see each other when there is no future.” Ryan G. continued in agreement with the others and stated, “If we were never friends before, I don’t see the reason we should be friends. There is always going to be that history. It would cause conflict in future relationships. And I also want to have respect for the other person that she inevitably will date.” Levi M. reported that he felt that he chose to end the relationship because he no longer wanted that person in his life, “For example, if she was clingy, then I would want to eliminate the clingy. If I stuck around it would be counterproductive.” Edward H., age 35, seem to continue with the pattern of answers and bluntly stated, “You really have to rip off the band aid. It is hard for me to stay away, but I have to ask myself if I want to come back because I truly want to be with her or is it just comfortable? And almost always, it’s the latter.” Henry G. disagreed in stating that he didn’t disappear when a relationship ended, it was just more of, “It just didn’t work and I truly want her to be well.” Jackson R. stated that he felt that he tended to not contact the woman after a breakup because it was easier. “I think that both parties need time away and then later on they can possibly maintain a friendship.” Anthony T. stated that he believed that most guys tend to disappear because “they were either in the relationship for self-pleasure and want nothing else to do with that person or don’t want to see how bad they hurt the other person.” Joe T. summed it up in stating that he believed that “men are stereotyped to get over it quicker.” So although we as women may feel that men get over it quicker, they seem to also have the pressure of how they should respond to a breakup. So is it possible that they have not disappeared, but are less vocal about the breakup because of society’s embedded expectations of how they should respond to a break up?
As a woman after a breakup have you ever made that dreaded call or sent that text that you immediately regret? If you have read my past blogs, I am completely guilty of that. You are high on emotions and you want him to know exactly how he hurt you and you con yourself into believing that you are doing it for closure. I know through having sisters and girlfriends that closure is a big deal for women. I wanted to get men’s opinions on closure. When I asked Victor S., age 62, this question I saw a bit of confusion in his eyes and then he finally asked, “Isn’t the breakup the closure?” Jess P., age 29, stated, “I don’t think it’s closure, I think if you are trying to contact the other person, you are trying to pursue the relationship again.” Ryan G. agreed with that line of answering, “Closure does not accomplish anything at all. If you truly want to be done with that relationship, it is a waste of time.” Jackson R. also stated that he didn’t require closure, “It is important for you to communicate to the person when you break up as to why it’s over so that there is a mutual respect.” Fin S. age 33, answered a bit different in saying that he feels that he requires closure, as he would like to know why the relationship ended. “I have just had girls break up with me with no explanation. But I also think me trying to get closure is more trying to save the relationship.” So maybe the breakup is the closure? And maybe it is important to be truthful with your intentions? Is it closure you are seeking or reconciliation? You are hurting and you feel rejected, you tell yourself you are seeking closure, but maybe what you are seeking is comfort?
Which leads me to the next question, “When you are aware you have hurt the woman you were dating do you care? And how would she know you cared?” Jackson R. stated that he does care if he knows that he hurt the woman he was dating, “It hurts me to know that I hurt her.” Gerald S., age 38, also reported that he did care, “if I knew it hurt her more than me, but I also think that women expect too much from us in that sense. They want to be comforted, and maybe we aren’t tearing up, but we are hurting too.” Fin S. admitted that he does not always care right away, he stated that he once used another girl “as bait to get another girl back. It was horrible. I later apologized, but if I’m being honest, it didn’t work with the other girl so I was trying to make it work with her again. It didn’t work.” Levi S. stated that he has not always cared how the girl felt after the breakup when he was younger, but stated that as he got older he felt bad about the way he treated two women specifically and stated that he reached out to them many years later to apologize for his past behaviors. Henry G. eloquently put it, “Of course I care if I hurt her, I wouldn’t have been in the relationship if I didn’t care. A part of me will always care about her wellbeing. It is impossible for me not care, as every relationship that I have been in has contributed to who I am as a person.”
My final question, which almost every man who answered this questioned this question hesitated at first before answering, “Of all the relationships you have been in, do you have any regrets of how you have treated women?” Levi M. reported that he does have regrets on how he treated women in the past, “I prioritized physical pleasure and getting my needs met rather than tending to her needs.” Fin S. stated, “I have been selfish, I was not worried about her needs. I was more worried about myself.” Joe T. believes that there are always regrets in failed relationships, “I regret not showing I cared enough in the past and learning from those mistakes I have made a concerted effort to show I do in my current relationship.” Ryan G. answered this question with, “Yes and no. I never hit a girl, so no regrets like that. There were a couple relationships that I was really immature in. I cared more about friends and partying. I didn’t really care about a stable relationship.” Mark G., age 28, reported that he felt that he was reckless in the past, “ I would lay it on thick. I thought I meant what I said, but most of the time it was the thrill of a new relationship. She would fall for me and then I would change my mind. I am more careful not to speak with just my emotions and make sure there is logic there.”
Brad M, age 70, appeared a bit teary-eyed in answering this question, “I am on my second marriage now. I have had many relationships throughout my life. I believe we all have regrets as men of how we are currently treating women or have treated women, whether we are willing to admit it or not. I can only speak from my experience. I have been immature; I have put my needs above hers. I have done the bare minimum in an attempt to get by. I am ashamed to admit that I would purchase jewelry or flowers in an attempt to gain points or ease my guilty conscience. As a young man, I’m not sure I would have listened if someone gave me the advice I am giving now, but I am hopeful that I can enlighten at least one mind. We have all heard that life is short. It is true. You think you have all the time in the world to be a better man. You tell yourself that it is okay for you to be selfish right now whether it’s for your career or asking yourself if there is somebody better than her. But I promise you, one day if you do not change your ways, you will look in the mirror and ask yourself, “What the hell have I been doing?” You may have climbed up the corporate ladder and have impressed a twenty-something gal with your money, but you will find that you are not truly happy if you just focused on yourself and your own needs. It took a failed marriage and an almost failed second marriage for me to realize that in the process of me being selfish, I was a lonely man. I remember asking myself, “When was the last time you smiled?” I could recall the superficial smiles for colleagues and family photos, but could not recall a genuine smile. It took that look in the mirror to change it up. At that point I was sixty-one years old. I wasted a lot of years chasing an illusion. I had what I needed all along, but failed to see it. I am grateful that I still have life in me, but as we all have said before at least once, “I wish I would have known then what I know now.” Men and even women, your time is precious. Use it wisely. If you are always looking at what you do not have or you are allowing your work or another distraction to encompass your life, you will have regret. I am seventy years old and I can tell you this is the happiest I have ever been in my life. I used to be a man of making sure all the boxes were checked: wife; children; promotion; money; church; and property. Now I am a man that has a wife and children who are happy to see me, I use my money to take my family on vacations and I am spiritual, the church is no longer a building, but it is within me.”
I began this blog with the hopes of getting a better understanding of how men think. I will be honest, I wanted this to not only help women in general understand men’s mindset, but I wanted it to help me personally. And in asking these questions, it helped me understand that we are all mere humans. We cope with heartbreak the best way we know how. None of us are immune from making mistakes. So instead of me wanting him to “hurt like I hurt,” rather I want him to “learn and do better, as I am learning and am doing better.”
I said it at the beginning of this writing; it takes time to heal from heartbreak. I wanted to know why a two-month relationship caused me so much turmoil. In my journey of wanting to know why, it caused me to hold on longer than I think I would have if I allowed myself to grieve and accept the reality that it was over. I have said and I have heard other women say it, “if I had closure it would be easier… if I knew he was hurting too, it would be easier.” That is not true, we were created with a spectrum of emotions for a reason. It seems to be embedded into our minds that when we feel hurt there is something wrong and we must find a remedy to fix it, when in reality we need to allow ourselves to feel the hurt. I have tried as many quick fixes that I could think of and the reality of it is, the quick fixes more often than not contribute to feeling even more hurt.
I have chosen to not go for the quick fix very recently. I had the opportunity to put another distraction in my life. It was a distraction in the form of a man who hurt me once before. I tried to convince myself that I needed to give this distraction a chance, because maybe he changed. I even tried to convince my sister and a close friend. My sister immediately reminded me “the snakes will always resurface.” And in an attempt to convince my close friend that I was merely meeting up with him to catch up, he stated, “You dated him for a month, what do you need to catch up with?” So if you are in a similar situation, I challenge you to feel the hurt and have healthy people in your life hold you accountable for your actions.
In completing this writing, I have come to the conclusion that it is a waste of time to ponder why a relationship ended. The harsh truth is that person does not want to be with you anymore and more importantly, “Why would you want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with you?” I had to ask myself that question along with, “Is it better to be alone or in a bad relationship?” I know I am going to stumble in this journey of getting to know myself and will need those close to me to hold me accountable, but I know that at this point it is healthier for me to be single than trying to convince any man of my worth.
There are good men that exist. There are men that are currently making bad choices who will hopefully learn from their mistakes. Just as there are good women that exist. And there are women that are currently making bad choices who will hopefully learn from their mistakes.
I am a work in progress and I will continue to write about my life’s journey and hopefully my good and bad choices will help some not have to take the hard way, however, some of us, including me sometimes need to slam our heads repeatedly before we have realized that we have hit rock bottom and need to find another way.
So if you take anything from this, know that we are all learning. There is not a single one of us that has it completely figured out. Let us learn from each other. And even more importantly let us forgive each other. Without that forgiveness, we can never reach acceptance.
“I forgive you. I am letting go and moving on. Be well. And please be better.”