My two cents on toxic masculinity
Earlier this week I was having a cup of tea with my mentor who introduced me to the world of relationship management.
We sat in a cafeteria facing the harbour on a grey windy rainy and chilly typical Wellington day. We were having a warm conversation about the past years and what we have become. We were sharing about life in general, families, COVID of course, work, politics and many other things. We also talked about kids and the challenges that come with having teenagers at home.
As I was looking at the harbour (I hate that industrial view by the way), I was thinking about my father.
My parents divorced when I was 14 y.o., but that didn’t matter much to me at the time, because at 14 y.o. I was very much detached from them, and at 16 y.o. I already became financially independent.
That said, my father took an active part in my upbringing when I was a toddler. In fact, when my mother started work, my father was still at university and looked after me. That, coupled with some lessons from my father, gave me confidence to build healthy relationships with partners later in life.
My father was a very tall, strong, confident and handsome man, with fiery temper and aristocratic manners that his mother taught him (my grandma was of aristocratic descent). He worked as a police officer undercover and I remember sometimes seeing him armed with a pistol which he wore in a holster under his jacket. He was adrenalin driven, loved danger and a good fight. He also loved cooking to relax.
Long story short, that’s what I learnt from my father.
Loving confident men are emotionally available.
They’re always there to nurture, guide and protect. If they aren’t emotionally available, they aren’t loving. Period. There’re no ‘buts’ and ‘ifs’ and ‘what ifs’.
I won’t stick around an unloving man who continuously shows me that he isn’t emotionally available to find out why he’s unloving. I’m not a therapist and my wellbeing is more important than someone’s psychological issues, because my children’s wellbeing depends on my emotional wellbeing (or in the pre-kids era, my future children’s wellbeing).
Loving confident men don’t avoid relationship problems and emotional dramas.
They may not talk much about feelings and all that soft stuff but they are very stable emotionally. And even if they feel somewhat shaken by the emotional dramas in the family, they’re strong and confident enough to pull themselves together and help the family through the crisis.
The last thing I want is a grown up strong man throwing an equivalent of a temper tantrum because they suddenly felt jealous or their ego shaken, or because their kids threw a temper tantrum. Or running away from an upset partner because they want to avoid discussing relationship problems at all cost.
Loving confident men are open to communication.
They may not be talkative, but they can admit they were wrong or talk about problems in the family, or explain what they don’t like. Maybe because they know that women and kids can sense feel insincere behaviour very well. Or maybe because they feel in control (not pretend to be in control) and have nothing to fear.
Loving confident men want you to succeed.
They’re driven by the desire to see you grow, become confident and strong. They want you to succeed in life, not fail. Any type of overbearing dominant behaviour does exactly the opposite – it brings your confidence down and helps you fail in life. Instead of being overbearing they’re patient and guiding.
They don’t want you to depend on them too much because they realise that if you depend on them now, you’ll be in trouble when they’re gone. You’ll then find someone else to depend on and what if that guy turns out an asshole?
Loving confident men are gentle.
They don’t go into arguments just to prove they’re right. They aren’t offended if their partner is better in something. They don’t use mental, psychological or physical force to influence their family. They don’t need to compete with women and kids, they satisfy their urge to compete and dominate outside of their family, and in a healthy way.
Any type of violence breeds fear and hate, and leads to lost trust and peace of mind in the family. Absolutely all family members lose in this battle.
I was very lucky to see an example of a loving and confident man since I was very young, and for me it was natural to choose partners of the same calibre. In my dating days if I picked up even tiny signs of the so called ‘toxic masculinity’, the guy was going into my black list. Not that I stopped dating him immediately, but he wasn’t a candidate for anything serious or long-term.
Signs of ‘toxic masculinity’ that should ring the alarm bell early in dating:
Asks gloomily why that guy looked at me ‘that way’. Do I know him? Is he my ex?
Imagine having to explain yourself every time a stranger looks at you 'that way', which will inevitably happen especially if you're pretty. Two options here: either become ugly or dump your date.
Talks about how we’ll live together.
Forgetting that he never asked me if I wanted to move in with him in the first place. Might sound flattering but it's not, he just thinks you'll eat whatever he serves you.
Shows signs of impatience and short temperament with little things.
Like slightly pushing your hand away if it takes you too long to open the door. These things seem so minor, but are so telling. Remember the guy is trying to impress you and he still can't hold his temper. This will escalate when he stops trying to impress you and will definitely turn ugly when tension grows in difficult relationship times.
Interrupts often, forgets to listen, dismisses my opinion.
And generally behaves in a way that doesn’t encourage conversation. Seeing this type of behaviour in a guy who is apparently trying to show his best is alarming. If he's not showing his best while dating me, I'm not sure why I'm even dating him. In fact I'm not clear why I need this type of person around in any capacity at all.
Gets visibly upset if I show I’m better at something.
Remember that thing about not competing? Exactly. I don't want to end up in a relationship with a rival or an opponent. It's not a survival game, it's supposed to be a partnership where I feel safe.
Deliberately demonstrates physical force.
A bit too much and a bit too often. Even when in a good mood and the relationship goes well. Probably so that I remember who will be the boss when things don't go to plan. His plan.
Says things that show he has toxic biases.
A couple of real-life examples from my dating life. I watched the guys closely and could clearly see that they spoke their minds without meaning to offend: ‘I never thought women could truly love’ (after reading a novel by W.S. Maugham), ‘Why can’t you just have sex with me, it doesn’t matter for a woman who to sleep with’, ‘You have a career? Ha’.
These are some signs that are very telling even very early in dating. Our minds register these signals, but many women tend brush them aside or explain them away. Some women actually enjoy some of these things, e.g. if he shows jealousy, he surely loves me. Yet, think about what these signs will turn into when you start living together.