Strong, powerful, without regret—why have we delegated these characteristics to men (and only men) after a breakup? James Gummer gets us off the couch.
“Men don’t hurt,” she said as she took a long pull from her coffee.
She was preparing to break up with her boyfriend. She was just getting too busy, she said, and felt like she was being spread too thin. She has kids, and a husband, and the energy it took to keep the husband from finding out about the boyfriend, whilst also still maintaining the affair, was getting to be too much.
Plus, she really wanted to take a yoga class.
So the boyfriend had to go.
“Do you think this’ll be upsetting to him?” I asked. “Do you think he’ll be sad or miss you?”
“He’s a guy,” she shrugged.
Despite all of the progress that men and women have made in terms of accepting and understanding each other, this is still a common misconception. That after a romance ends, a woman is devastated, eating gallons of ice cream on her couch as she retraces every step of the relationship, or crying to her girlfriends over brunch. Meanwhile, the man is out at the strip clubs, pounding beers with his buddies and hooking up for casual sex with the first woman he can find.
I think quite a few women believe that men don’t feel a sense of connection, that we don’t sit around reminiscing about the first date, the first awkward attempt at a kiss. Probably because a lot of times we hide it. To seem strong. To seem powerful. We’re so very good at hiding it.
But that simply isn’t true.
He does remember. And it does hurt. You weren’t just a “thing.”
He remembers the time the two of went to the pond to feed the ducks, and the way you squealed with delight when a duckling ate from your hand for the first time. He remembers spending an entire rainy Sunday on your couch holding you while your bunnies hopped around the room and welcomed him as one of their own. He remembers that when your blood sugar drops you become a cranky rage monster and must be taken to dinner immediately.
He remembers the tears in your eyes when the two of you broke up. Through sobs you told him you loved him, but the distance, the geography was the villain.
The ending of the Skype call filled the room with a silence that still haunts you.
It haunts him too.
And like you, men move on—as battered, broken, and battle damaged as The Millennium Falcon. Still functional, but showing some wear.
Held together by hope and duct tape. Just like you.
Then after some time you start dating someone new, to discover them, and list the things you like about them. You feel fear. Not so much a fear of the person you’ve met, but a fear that if you get too close, if you like them too much, it will hurt all the more when this thing ends.
Just like last time.
And new guy might feel that fear too, because he’s also fed the ducks with someone else.
And he’s not calling or texting as much as you thought he might if he was really interested.
And sometimes it starts to feel like he’s playing games, doesn’t it?
I know. It sucks.
But I want to introduce the doubt here, because it might not be a game at all. It might be the fact that men get scared too. It might be that he does really like you, but he’s taking his time. Watching things develop, just like you’ve probably done at some point. Maybe that’s why your phone isn’t ringing.
Certainly, it’s up to you to decide how much energy you want to expend figuring it out. There’s no shame in bailing if it feels like too much work too soon in a relationship. Because not everyone is worth it. That’s just a sad truth. And sometimes people are just too damaged.
Certainly men do that as well. Sometimes fear itself is a deal breaker. That’s fine too.
I just wanted you to know that it’s not always men playing games.
I mean sometimes it is. And some women like games too.
But not always.
Sometimes they just need space in their life for a yoga class.
Photo: Jon Lucas/Flickr
And read James here and here: