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The Hero Complex, can Women Cope With the Vulnerabilities of Men?

The Woman Worries

It was late. I lay in bed thinking about how tired he must feel. He left before the sun rose and it’s now long past sunset.

My emotions got the best of me, and I worried, not that he had gotten hurt or that he was out doing something he shouldn’t be. Those thoughts never crossed my mind.

I worried about his health, one person can only take so much, but he managed to do this every day. From dawn til dusk and then some, he worked. He provided for his family so that I didn’t have to worry. He did all of this so that I could sleep at night.

I heard the key turn in the door, he went to the kitchen and sat there unwinding as I lie in bed missing him, worrying about him. He takes out the trash before bed then he lays next to me and falls asleep. I worry.

The Man Provides

My husband is a workaholic. Not because he loves being at work, he is a workaholic because he can’t fail his family. He craves having everything under control.

He doesn’t cry. He doesn’t get worried, at least not that I’ve seen. He works. There are times I’ve pleaded for time with him. My husband always replies, “I need to make sure you and the girls are taken care of so that you don’t worry. I want my girls to have the best.” So we go on living, most of the time without him. Stealing time and cherishing those fleeting moments we have together.

The Heartbreak

“Before you say anything about those mean coaches, bosses, brothers and fathers being the only ones…” He pointed toward the back of the room where his wife was standing and said, “My wife and daughters the ones you signed all those books for, they’d rather see me die on top of my white horse than watch me fall off. You [women] say you want us to be vulnerable and real, but c’mon. You can’t stand it. It makes you sick to see us like that.”

The quote above is a passage from Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly. This book is profound and hits right at the heart of emotion on so many levels. This particular passage gave me a whole new perspective on why my husband works as hard as he does.

It broke my heart.

The Questions

For a moment I was in this man’s shoes, I felt empathy. We as women talk about our emotions all the time; this is acceptable. We talk, we feel, we hurt. Now I was left with a sleuth of unanswered questions.

  • What about the men in our lives, how do they deal with negative emotion?
  • Are they as confident and assured as they portray themselves to be?
  • As women, do we want to see them break down in front of us? If he does show emotion, does this make him less of a man in our eyes?
  • Would we rather see him die on his white horse than lose the night in shining armor we’ve built him up to be?
  • Do men think that we as women are so indulgent in our feelings that they can’t afford even to have feelings?

Modern society still holds a stigma against men who show vulnerability. This stigma leaves them in a high stakes game of win or lose.

My Hero

I love my husband. I do everything I can to be there for him, but he’s living up to a standard we’ve all set for him. In all honesty, he’s my rock. I’m ashamed to say, I’ve made him my hero, my daughters and his mother have all made him a hero.

What a burden men carry, to be Superman to the women he loves. Until now, I never stopped to think about what it would be like if he showed his emotions in the same way I do.

Yes, he gets emotional now and then, but the expressions of emotion are few and far between. These moments are “justified” by the highest forms of loss. They are reserved for mourning others but never for mourning his internal losses.

The Line in the Sand

Crying and emotional vulnerability due to the everyday stresses of life is not common in most men. Men are too busy fixing everything for us, the wives, the sisters, the daughters, the mothers.

They’ve somehow accepted that their emotions are second to ours. I suspect this is a learned perception, a man who cries is less of a man. Emotional vulnerability holds a stigma. This expression portrays him as weak. Society will portray him as incapable of playing the instinctive role that men play. Worse still, the women that he loves may lose respect for him.

The Protector

Men can’t always be strong but when they are weak who takes care of them? Take a look at your husbands, brothers, fathers and your sons. How do they cope with the complicated issues of life?

How are we showing up for them?

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