Men, Stop Convincing Yourselves It’ll Work if the Relationship Isn’t Meant to Be
People get into relationships because the experience of spending a lot of intimate, romantic time with someone else is a fantastic feeling.
But sometimes, the idea of the relationship starts being more compelling than the relationship itself. Good times can evolve into drawn-out fights, personality differences can become more pronounced, your priorities can start to look different, and the relationship can become more an obstacle to your happiness rather than a source of it.
But even with clear, telltale signs that this partnership just isn’t working. it can be difficult to confront that fact and admit it to yourself.
Lots of guys are afraid of acknowledging that their relationship is on its last leg and would rather try to plough through with their heads down — all in the name of love — instead of addressing the issue through difficult conversations, relationship therapy, or even a breakup.
Below, you’ll find AskMen in conversation with several experts in order to get a sense of some of the rationales the guys use for staying in struggling relationships.
5 Lies Guys Tell Themselves in the Name of Love
1. “The emotional ups and downs don’t bother me.”
If you didn’t already know this, being emotionally distant is stereotypically considered a male habit.
“Guys often like to think that they are immune to anything and everything,” says psychologist Shagoon Maurya, founder of ursafespace.com. “Immune to mental illness, immune to stereotyping, immune to insecurity, and the list goes on.”
When you’re in a relationship, you’re bound to encounter difficulties in navigating the differences between you and your partner. Sometimes this gulf is wider than you’d expect, notes Maurya, “in which case it might start affecting you physically, emotionally and mentally.”
“Instead of brushing it off by saying that it doesn’t bother you, what you can instead do is either talk about it with a close friend, a family member or a professional, who would help you process these emotions and provide them a suitable outlet,” he adds.
Many men expect themselves to ‘man up’ and keep quiet about things, whether it’s a physical injury or an emotional blow. But keeping quiet about what the relationship is making you feel is bad for the long term, and lying to yourself about them is unlikely to solve the situation.
It might, in fact, only make things worse as you bury your head in the sand while a pattern of conflict or emotional pain only becomes more entrenched.
2. “My partner’s feelings are my responsibility.”
Does the phrase “happy wife, happy life” sound familiar?
“Guys often use this phrase when their opinion has been dismissed in favor of their wife’s,” says Ray Sadoun, a London-based mental health specialist currently working with OK Rehab. “When we care so much for someone, it’s easy to take on their feelings as our own. If they come home after a hard day at work and bring all their stress with them, we may feel responsible for easing their stress and putting them in a better mood.”
However, contrary to the mantra, he says that “your partner’s feelings are never your responsibility.”
“This does not mean that you should dismiss their feelings, but rather that you should help them work through their emotions without adopting the emotions for yourself,” notes Sadoun. “If your partner is stressed all evening, you don’t have to take on that stress for them.”
This also goes for who gets their way in disagreements.
“I would argue that compromise is what brings contentment to both members of a couple,” explains Sadoun, which means both partners need to take turns making decisions. “When you let your partner make all of the decisions, you are often left feeling as though your opinion is worthless.”
3. “I won’t find someone like this ever again.”
As many cultures value relationships so highly, that can lead some men to cling to bad relationships. They might tell themselves that they don’t have a shot at happiness with anyone but their current partner as a justification for staying with someone they don’t love.
“It’s normal to think something like this when you love your partner,” says Maurya. “We, as humans, desire to be loved and when your partner provides you that love, you start thinking, ‘This person is all I’ll ever want, need and have.’ This might cause you to overlook unhealthy and toxic behavior patterns from your partner.”
But if you’re at a point where you’re ignoring obvious red flags or minimizing genuinely hurtful behavior because “in order to maintain that belief of ‘this relationship is everything I have ever wanted, and I won’t let it end in any way,’” says Maurya, then you’re in trouble.
“Letting this belief hold you back from being happy isn’t the right way to be in a relationship,” he continues.”Instead, bring toxic patterns to the table, discuss them, give them a chance to improve and if they don’t, then calling it quits isn’t a bad thing.”
Like so many lies we tell ourselves, this one might help you in the short term, but could be the main thing holding you back from genuine happiness.
4. “I should hide how I feel so I don’t rock the boat.”
If a guy’s stopped telling himself that the issues in the relationship don’t bother him, he may replace that lie by deciding there’s no real need to address said issues.
In a situation like this, a guy “could be struggling with a decision made by his partner, but acts as if nothing’s wrong to avoid conflict,” says Dr. Debanjan Banerjee, a consultant geriatric psychiatrist at Doctor Spring. “This is counterproductive, because it will only build up inside and the conflict becomes massive once he lets go of everything. In the end, this will be more harmful to the relationship because his partner is kept in the dark and has no way of knowing what he truly feels.”
Maybe he’s afraid that expressing his feelings will mark him as weak and thus less attractive, or maybe he’s afraid that his partner won’t be willing to hear him out. Either way, he bottles things up and tells himself that’s the best (or only) course to take.
“A guy could lie about being angry to avoid an argument with his partner,” says Banerjee. “But anger can boil deep inside and will be more difficult to handle once it can no longer be contained. Anger should be acknowledged and communicated properly, not kept inside.”
Maurya agrees, adding that “anything that bothers you, regardless of how menial you consider it, is big enough to [be worth talking] about.
If you’re reticent to talk, he suggests writing down what you’re feeling first and using that as a sort of trial stage before bringing these feelings up.
“Go and talk to your partner, even if it’s scary,” notes Maurya. “They’d rather listen to you than see you being distant.”
5. “Getting married will fix our issues.”
If you’ve been with someone for a few years and aren’t feeling happy, there may be a temptation to part ways. For others, however, the temptation might be to do the total opposite and get more serious. Moving in together, getting a pet, having a kid, or getting married are all actions that take a relationship to the next level, which in your mind, might just fix what’s wrong with it.
For instance, men who struggle not to cheat on their partners might “tell themselves that if they get married all that will stop, as if marriage is the magic answer to infidelity,” says Tatyana Dyachenko, sex therapist, relationship expert and psychologist with Peaches and Screams.
However, as she notes, “Marriage does not solve lust, and certainly doesn’t stop infidelity.”“In some cases marriage can make it worse,” she argues, since “the stakes are higher which makes it more risky — and some people crave that feeling.”
Whatever your relationship issues are, trying to address them by taking a big step together is faulty thinking. Instead, you should try address them by talking about them together, either just the two of you, or with a relationship therapist or counselor.
“If a man recognizes that he is telling himself any of these things, it’s a call to acknowledge how he feels about himself,” says Elise Micheals, a trauma-therapy, relationship science, and REBT trained coach specifically for men. “What has he been taught?” He must reanalyze what a healthy relationship does and should look like, seeking help from a non-judgmental third party, specifically from a professional who can give valid advice and perspective on his relationship.”