We all cope with the news differently. Maybe things have ended and you can say, “Bye!” Or maybe you weren’t that into them either, but they had the guts to stop it and you didn’t.
We all cope with the news differently. Maybe things have ended and you can say, “Bye!” Or maybe you weren’t that into them either, but they had the guts to stop it and you didn’t. And as a result, you’re pissed because you’ve wanted to do that for awhile. So why didn’t you?
At first it may seem like both parties are really into each other. Then, it goes from being really intense to one person just not being interested anymore. An out-of-the-blue revelation like that makes anyone feel “crazy”. Going from one extreme to the other is a difficult jump to make emotionally, and there are a lot of things in our society that fuel those feelings.
Regardless of the relationship, the key to getting over it is usually distance. But when you live in Richmond, Virginia, avoiding someone can be really difficult. It’s a city where everyone knows everybody, and social circles frequently overlap. We’ll run into people and are subsequently forced into a conversation that we don’t want to have. Mutual friends can remind us of the other person, and even if we don’t try to quiz them, we might pay specific attention in order to hear some tidbit of information. The only way there’s no chance of running into people is to stay in; but then you end up alone with your thoughts and they start to wander. It’s ironic because people say that you need to go out, but then you can’t go to the places you normally go and you’re not going to some shitty bar. There’s no place to hide in Richmond!
In some ways, though, it’s socially acceptable for women to go through all of this, to feel “crazy” emotionally. For men, there are other gender expectations to fulfill. When a girl breaks up with a guy, it’s a serious challenge to his masculinity. He’s going to try to hold on to that sense of entitlement as much as possible, which is where stalking and protective orders come in – guys who can’t let go. Traditionally, guys are supposed break up with girls, or guys cheat on girls, and not the other way around. So, we have to talk to men about that. We have to make sure that our guy friends are coping when they are cut off. Men are socialized to exert their manhood at all times, so even typically progressive men will have insecurities that may not manifest until they are dumped.
More importantly, we need to give men credit in terms of their feelings because love is not a one way street. Men try to hide their pain and can bottle it up, only to have it come out in self-destructive ways. We’ve all seen our friends react by drinking more or becoming anti-social. Yet women are allowed to talk about the end of a relationship more than men are. It’s hard to imagine guys feeling comfortable enough to say they feel like crying, especially to other men.
There are these two extremes: For guys, they feel like they can’t talk about it, there’s not a safe space for them to talk about it, and so they don’t. However, women are encouraged to share, share, share, and sometimes it’s too much sharing. Emotions can be discussed too much! This is where we feed the myth of the “crazy girl”. At some point, getting your emotions in check has to come into play. It is not okay to let them run your life, but for some reason, we allow it in women. There is this ongoing romantic fascination in the media with tragic and crazy women. A woman is expected to go from one heartbreak to another until she’s swept off her feet by the dude she marries. It’s very idealized – searching for the one man who’s not going to break your heart.
But when is it too much talking? We have to be able to be honest with our friends and stop being enablers. There comes a time to take control of your emotions. It may be awkward to make that judgment for your friends, but we have to be honest. The belief that if you talk about something long enough it will eventually make sense is not necessarily true. Besides, nobody wants to seriously date the sad girl at the bar who just had her heart broken and can’t stop talking about the last guy she dated.
For men, self-destruction has been historically romanticized. Humphrey Bogart never waited for the next lady to sweep him off his feet. And the only way you’d ever know he was struggling with his emotions would be because he was drowning his sorrows in alcohol and cigarettes. A man will likely be way more cautious about future dalliances, since it’s not very masculine to have your heart broken. For women, broken hearts have been ingrained in femininity.
We’re not saying women should completely tune out their emotions or that men need to turn into emotional wrecks. However, in 2009, it’s not romantic for guys to drink themselves to death or for women to cry themselves to death. We need to find a balance and we need to help our friends find that balance. Part of that means ripping the band-aid off and being completely honest. Sure, we must support and empathize with our girl-friends through tough times, but they WILL get over getting dumped. Don’t hesitate to tell them. There have to be limits so that women are not encouraged by being constantly asked to talk about it. Just let it go. It’s as simple as making a rule – tonight we’re not talking about it. Or, make the decision after a period of time that you just aren’t going to engage them in that conversation anymore. We may seem like heartless fuckers at the time, but unless there’s something more going on psychologically, let’s encourage her strength.
Since men aren’t encouraged to talk about emotions, we not only need to watch for signs of self-destruction, we also need to give them that safe space to feel upset. If he doesn’t exhibit sad behavior, it’s easy to forget that there’s inner turmoil. Ask if he’s okay. You don’t have to ask all the time, but once in awhile, even if he seems fine, even if you ask and he doesn’t want to talk about it, and maybe he never will, it’s still nice to know that there’s that option out there. Men must support other men in this, even though it may be uncomfortable to talk about “unmanly” things. Every man should have someone to confide in. We need to be a little bit more real about all of this so that there is a balance – it’s okay for guys to cry and let it out, and it’s okay for girls to live it up and not talk about it.
We’re all too scared and selfish to communicate our true feelings once a connection has been established. All of us have to be better about expressing what we want, what we like, and at what level. Our intentions have to be true, so let’s stop saying things we don’t really mean. People take words at face value. If you say you only want sex, then mean that, and don’t expect a phone call the next day. If you say you want something more, don’t be surprised when it happens.
When feelings and intentions do change, that’s the most important time for communication. We might feel awful about what we’re telling the person we’re dating, hooking up with, whatever, but we have to make conscious decisions to be brutally honest. Dragging things out only makes them worse in the end. We all know this, but it happens all the time. We rely on comfort, instead of giving the other person an opportunity to understand and respond. When someone is led to believe by our actions and words that things are going strong, when in reality they haven’t been for awhile, feeling “crazy” is inevitable. And thus, the cycle continues.
With this column, we strive to be completely open, honest, and as objective as possible in our sociological exploration of sexuality. We acknowledge a heterosexual bias, since that is our area of “expertise.” If you would like to respond to any of our columns or offer additional insight, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.