Let’s talk about emotional support for men.
At various times in my life, I have experienced situations that seemed obviously traumatic or distressing for my partner, where sympathy is shown towards her, and less attention is paid to me; case in point, miscarriage. Of course, in all ways, she’s bearing the majority of the experience, but I’m not invisible. I am engaged, and I daresay I’m more invested than anyone else. While there’s no need to rank my experience over anyone else’s, I have hopes and dreams for another child. I, too, lose when things don’t work out.
In the past, I wouldn’t have cared, because I wanted my partner to get the care that she needed. What was also true is that I was not admitting to myself my own experiences of discomfort and trauma. I’ve come to understand that many men can relate to not wanting to show signs of weakness, especially when our partners are needing strength and comfort.
I’ve also come to realize how destructive this idea is to men. It’s an old, and horrifically dysfunctional set of values that we’ve perpetuated amongst men, the idea being that men can’t show vulnerability, and must show up in only certain, socially acceptable, ways to our partners.
I’m painting with broad strokes here, and of course life is far more complex than I’m describing here, but perhaps you can relate, and, if not, perhaps you can tell me what I’m missing? In the meantime…
I’m saying all of this because our family just went through a miscarriage. This was in fact the second miscarriage of 2017, and while that might have made the process of recovering from this experience a bit easier and more familiar, this experience itself has been deeper, more thoughtful, and rich in ways for us to experience life, death, love, and loss.
So, how am I lucky? The thing that I wanted to talk about is how much support I have been getting. To be clear, the support I’m getting hasn’t taken away at all from the support that my partner has received, and it absolutely has helped me with my experience and has helped me be more available and present to my partner and my son and all the other people that have been affected by this experience. The people I have in my life have been adjusting their values, and their ways of relating, such that I don’t have to struggle with that old, outdated paradigm of “staying strong for her”, not at all.
Again, though, the point is that I _can_ stay strong, in addition to feeling weak, afraid, angry, frustrated, confused… all those and more have come up, and, because of my support system, I could have all those emotional responses without fear of guilt, shame, or embarrassment.
So when it comes to “doing it all”, I say that as a man today, in addition to providing and protecting my family, I want to be able to be present for my partner and family, and I want to be able to have all of my emotional experiences, with all the highs and lows.
In fact, I insist on it. I insist that this is a life worth living, not just for myself, but for all those in life; this is a core value of our family. Furthermore, I suggest that when we do this with each other, we create connection, intimacy, and community.
So, I ask you, do you have enough support? Are you supported by like minded people, people that honor you and your experiences? People who, themselves, have developed their support systems, so that they can be present to you? If not, are you willing? Do you know how?
If not, open the conversation with people you do know, with friends and family. You might be surprised at how common a desire it is amongst the people you’ve already brought around you.