I’ve been considering writing about the horrors of online dating, specifically after 40 in Iowa, for a while now. I almost had the whole blog post written in my head but it occurred to me that so many of these issues would be solved with one thing: therapy.
Then I realized May is Mental Health Awareness Month! So now I can write about important things along with not-so-important things. Don’t be too disappointed. My future blog post entitled, “An Open Letter to Iowa’s Single Men,” is going to happen someday.
Since my divorce, I haven’t dated very much. The main reason was that I really wanted to make sure I wasn’t adding any unnecessary stress to my life that would hinder my ability to be the best mom possible. I knew my kids were going through a major transition and I needed to be fully present for them. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to allow anyone else in. I was a well that was going dry and every drop of strength, compassion, and love had to be available for my kiddos who were hurting desperately.
I dove into therapy. I wanted to work through EVERYTHING. The grief that comes with divorce, the trauma, the insecurities that made me marry the wrong person in the first place. All the things. I wanted to be the absolute best version of myself.
A couple months ago, I felt like I was finally in a good place to date. Not “date”, but actually date. With the hopes of developing an actual relationship with another human being that I enjoy being around and thinks I’m pretty.
I want to preface this by saying that I am a treasure. I won’t go into why. IYKYK. So I thought this wouldn’t be an impossible task. However, it is. It’s awful. My future post will go into specifics, but the underlying issue, across the board, is that these men are not healthy.
Even if we take out the narcissists, of which there are plenty, there are a lot of men who have experienced a lot of trauma that they’ve never dealt with. You can only beat a feeling down for so long before it explodes into something that no one wants to be around. Co-dependency, abandonment issues, insecure attachment styles abound. Communication is almost non-existent and heaven forbid they should start to feel a feeling that isn’t anger. So many of these men have such obvious and deep-seated issues but the mention of therapy sends their toxic masculinity spiraling. Talk about my feelings? The issues I have with my mother? The concept of therapy is so offensive to them that they would rather spend their entire lives bouncing from one unhealthy relationship to another (if they even get that far) than acknowledge perhaps they have some things they need some help working through.
The stigma, which seems especially strong in the Midwest, of therapy or even talking about mental health in general is a tragedy.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has worked so hard to reduce this stigma. They have a great article on the things we can do to help people feel more comfortable reaching out. ManTherapy.org is also working to reduce the stigma and provide early interventions for men experiencing depression or other mental health issues. Before they become a crisis.
Ladies, as mothers, we have a ridiculous amount of power and influence over how our boys turn out. It’s becoming pretty apparent that the women who came before us did not do a great job preparing their sons to be grown-ups. They lack communication skills, the ability to clearly communicate their feelings, and some even the basic ability to adult. *insert eye roll here*
We can do better. Let your sons cry. Talk to them about their feelings and let them openly express themselves however they feel most comfortable. Let them help! Teach them how to cook and clean and take care of a home. Let them do art and play with dolls. And if someone shames them for any of these things, tell that person to shove it because you don’t want your son to end up alone, with bad facial hair, and pictures of dead animals on his Tinder profile someday.