When I was a little girl my grandfather told me never to break a man’s heart. He claimed that a man’s heart is nearly impossible to mend once broken, and I could potentially damage him for life. These words stuck with me throughout my childhood but I never really understood what they meant. How was a man’s heart different than a woman’s heart? Would I be damaged for life if a guy broke my heart? How does a relationship end without someone getting hurt?
Unfortunately, my grandfather’s words came true at the end of my first relationship. We were 16 years old and each other’s first love. He was a liar, a cheater, a master manipulator and a control freak. After year one, I attempted to end the relationship and in return was dealt a series of suicide threats. I spent the next year of my life trapped in a toxic relationship, fearing I’d be responsible for his death if I left him. I had to give up my happiness and freedom to save someone who had psychologically controlled me.
The final straw was his attempt to kill us both by driving his car off a 30-foot bridge into a rain gutter. I was finally able to get away with the help of family, friends and threats of a restraining order. I promised myself I would never allow anyone to manipulate me like that again. My well being is more important than the well being of someone who hurts, destroys and controls me. I am not responsible for keeping unstable people alive. I’m responsible for keeping myself alive, maintaining my own happiness and protecting myself from the poison of an unhealthy relationship.
10 years later and my grandfather’s words came full circle once again. My recent relationship ended and now I’ve been accused of destroying someone’s life, and putting them through emotional trauma resulting in psychiatric care. My recent ex attempted to guilt trip me into “aiding him” through his recovery process, since I was the cause of his psychological downfall. I ended a relationship that wasn’t working, and he expects me to to see him, be with him, talk to him and save him instead of moving on with my life and reclaiming my freedom and happiness. Once again, another man attempting to manipulate me through means of fear, sympathy and guilt.
After reaching out to some of my friends I’ve discovered it’s not just me. Threats of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, drunken antics resulting in self-inflicted pain, excessive drug use as a means of self medicating, fake suicide attempts and driving cars into walls are some of the other methods that men take to trap their girlfriends. Sure, there are millions of men who would never go to such lengths in the name of “love.” But what about the guys who lose their sanity with the loss of a girlfriend? How do they get the point where they’re willing to threaten someone in order to keep them?
Colin Tate, a relationship expert, speaker and the author of Is This Your Man, has some insight.
“I understand what your grandfather is saying. Men are not equipped to handle 10% of the crap we put our women through,” he explained. “Another thing about men is that we would not tolerate any of the crap that we put our women through. A man would be gone because we know we can do better and deserve better.”
These words really resonated with me and got me to thinking about gender expectations within a relationship. Do some men feel that they should have total control of a relationship due to their masculinity and ego? Does a woman on their arm boost their social standing and self worth? Is becoming vulnerable to a woman and a relationship the biggest threat to their identity? And finally, is a women ending a relationship an automatic attack on their masculinity and pride? Is it less about losing love and more about losing themselves? I’m not sure, but maybe this is what my grandfather was talking about.