My mother always used to say, ‘To a man you will be a: mother, lover, friend, ego-boost, sounding board, outlet and servant. But to you he will only ever be a partner.’
What she meant was that men rely on women to do a lot of the emotional labour that either they are not conditioned to be able to do or that they don’t have the same outlets we do, that can do it for them. What she also meant was that women love men in a more unselfish way – it’s not what they do for us but who they are that we love.
Whilst I don’t wholly agree with what she said (mainly it as a broad, sweeping and general statement), some of it does ring true and it leads me to ask the question in the title of this post.
In previous relationships I held a lot of roles. Both (serious boyfriend) men suffered with severe insecurity over their manliness. This manifested in not having secure male friendships as a place where they could go for advice, work rants or could discuss their innermost feelings because it somehow meant admitting that they were less manly. That meant they looked to me for a safe haven for that.
Luckily, I had a group of girlfriends. Women I could tell my darkest worries and bleakest memories too. Who encouraged me to open up, share and work it through. That meant I did not look to my partner for that. And even at points felt like I was burdening them with my emotions. Probably because I myself had been conditioned to think that I was the shoulder to lean on, not the other way round.
In previous relationships I was in charge of carrying the emotional baggage. I’d remember all of the birthdays. Speak to their Mum’s when they were having a tough time. Worry about the relationship and where it was going. Or even feel the sadness for them when things weren’t going right in their lives.
As a woman, I have been conditioned to be an expert at that. Preparation for motherhood I’ve been told. But actually is it just that women are encouraged to be nurturing from the early years? To look after the baby doll? To brush the pony’s hair? To cry it all out when things are tough?*
But men have not had the same lessons in emotional labour that we have. They have been conditioned to hunt, gather, build, fight, be strong – to one extreme or another. From construction games in the early years to video games of brutality marketed at them to being exposed to football chants taunting other men for their weaknesses.*
(*Generalization klaxon I KNOW)
In some way, men see their women as their emotional outlet. The space where they feel safe to be tender and show weakness. Does this mean then that the love they have for women is more selfish? A more ‘this is what you do for me’ kind of appreciation?
Women, in a lot of ways, do not need men as an emotional outlet. We are better equipped to deal with our emotions or we have outlets ourselves. (*klaxon).
Does this mean then that the love we feel for them is based more on who they are as people as opposed to what they do for us?
I want to know your thoughts.
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