To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.”
― Criss Jami
It’s not cool to be vulnerable. It’s not manly to show weakness, or even hint that you don’t know what you want. Weakness is the least attractive trait a man can have, and opening up some of your wounds and becoming openly vulnerable in the process is the last thing a woman wants to see. Far, far better to deflect it, hide away those things and wait until you reach a stage where you no longer feel vulnerable at all than to risk pain and ridicule at the hands of another.
Such is the wisdom handed down from generations of men to generations of men since the dawn of time. Men are told that real men are not weak. They don’t let their emotions out too strongly, unless it’s related to sport or fighting, and they certainly don’t talk about their weaknesses with women, however well they know them. At most they are allowed a short conversation with each other over a pint in the pub, before rolling back to the world of sport and cars and beer and work.
It is all too easy to fall into this trap to one degree or another. Too easy to lock away your real emotions for fear of what others will make of them, or worse for fear of getting hurt again. Because despite what common knowledge would have many believe, men get hurt. Regularly.
It is accepted that in the dating world people get hurt, but when you think of someone sitting alone after a date, upset at how it went or why the other person just sent them the text to say “thanks, had a great night but no spark for me, good luck with dating!” most people automatically picture a woman reaching for the tub of ice cream.
In an unsurprising twist, men feel all that too. Men aren’t always the ones ghosting, breadcrumbing, hobbing, benching and partaking in all the nefarious dark arts of the modern dating world; women do it all too. It’s impossible to know who does it more, but all we know is that women are far more willing to share this online and seek support for how they feel as a result, leading to the preconception that it doesn’t happen to men, or that if it does that they just brush it off and start swiping once more.
Men hide their emotions behind a veil of secrecy fortified by hundreds or even thousands of years of societal pressure. Keeping it bottled up is unwritten advice that is commonly accepted, which is why suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45. In the UK men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women, rising to four times as many in Ireland and just shy of 70% of suicides in the US.
When faced with this history and societal pressure it is no wonder that men don’t want to make themselves vulnerable when it comes to opening up around dating and finding love. The pressure on men isn’t to find love, after all, it’s to have sex. To be seen as a stud, to be the man that women flock to and other men want to be. It is rare that men who show themselves as vulnerable are seen as sexy; think to all of the iconic sexy men and they are confident, suave and sophisticated. Those who talk about their feelings are seen as beta men, forever in the shadow of their alpha counterparts.
Of course, society is evolving. Men are slowly being encouraged to open up and show their feelings. Organisations such as the Good Men Project are trying to support men as they get to grips with their emotional side and work out how to share it without feeling less of a man or scaring off women. Women are saying that they want a man who shows their emotions, though it is difficult for men to both believe this and know when and how to express the things that will potentially hurt them the most.
A friend recently shared a tale on twitter of when he opened up to a girl he was dating and instantly regretted it. She apparently found it awkward and full-on, and didn’t know how to process it. They nearly broke up over it. No wonder in these situations that a man faced with that would next time second guess whether or not to do that again. Open up and risk her backing away, or keep it hidden and carry on as before? From his perspective it’s an easy decision.
This writer has been challenged on it recently too. During an incredible Staycation organised by the amazing My Friend Charlie he was asked why his online dating profile was witty, well written and sharp but showed no vulnerability. In the past he has lost out on a relationship when someone felt that he used humour to hide his pain rather than opening up about it with them (despite the fact they’d only spend a couple of days together). This was true, but he never got the chance to share that all he was waiting for was someone he could trust with those deeper emotions, as when he finally opens up it’ll be a sign that things are deeper than a merely casual relationship.
Many men are willing to open up over time, but need that trust to be earned and proved before they feel ready to do so. Men will open up and share thoughts, feelings, ambitions and fears, as well as intimate and painful elements of their past, but only when they feel sure that it will be appropriately received and won’t negatively impact upon the relationship. Even if women generally all say they want a man to share things with them, the guy has to feel this is true, which can only come over time.
Boy Scouts shake hands with their left hands for a reason. In their early days, the founder of the movement, then-Colonel Baden-Powell, saluted the Ashanti tribe he was meeting with his right hand, but the Ashanti chiefs offered their left hands and said, “In our land only the bravest of the brave shake hands with the left hand, because to do so we must drop our shields and our protection.” Men will shake with their left hand more in the generations to come, as long as they are confident their shields will not be needed for their own protection.