What would you say if someone asked you what it means to be a good man? Some may say it’s caring, others would say it’s about being honest. But what if the question were a little different—what does it mean to be a real man? Taking charge and risks, suppressing weaknesses, and talking like a man may pop into your mind.
This is in fact the real test Prof. Michael Kimmel, a leading scholar on masculinity, runs on his students when the classes start. The simple warm-up activity shows how confusing the messages that boys get from society about manhood are. And it’s not just boys, the notion of masculinity in our society often represses men, claiming that strength is manly, and emotions are weak.
In order to see how truly damaging these narrow cultural ideals of manliness can be, we have to look at the real-life stories from men who experienced it firsthand. So when someone asked on r/AskMen “What was the worst reaction to letting down your emotional shield?” the unsettling responses came in one after another, as they shed light on just how lonely and misunderstood some men really are.
You guys must have pretty terrible girlfriends. My wife and I share most things we feel vulnerable about. I am not going out of my way to be emotional, but I'm not hiding it behind some shield either.
If you show your true colors to a partner and she breaks up with you, it wasn't meant to last anyway.
In college a couple friends (both f) noticed I (m) was having a bad week and insisted I tell them what was going on.
After 15 minutes of me ranting about my grades, professors, my job, my family, I was starting to feel better getting it all off my chest. But then one of them, making no attempt to hide it, leans to the other and says “damn I wish we never asked” and they both start laughing with each other about how much they didn’t want to be there listening to me.
Now whenever people ask how I’m doing I just say I’m fine or I’m tired to save the time and energy.
I don’t like opening up to anyone even today, after two years of anti depressants and six months of therapy. I can’t open up to my mom because she would end up using it against me, maybe immediately, maybe later. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom. She’s been through a great deal and tried her level best to not let that [stuff] reach us ( my brother and I),but to err is human. My dad is what your typical Indian dad is, a stoic guy, not expressing himself( kind of like the meme of that dog sitting in a room on fire). Add to that his emotionally distant parents and him joining the army at 17 to become an officer and you have this absolutely thick exterior that doesn’t let anything through. I work as a doctor in Delhi. Everyone around is dying. Bright eyed juniors I knew, people I said goodbye to not knowing it would be the last opportunity I’d get, patients and their hapless families, grieving mothers/ fathers/ wives/ husbands/ parents/ children. None of them deserved it and I feel that somehow I’m to blame. I can’t just man up every time. Sorry I started this diatribe. Had to get it out somewhere.
In my family I - as the father - am the rock and immovable point where everything hinges on. The stoic calm eye of the storm.
I once started to open up to my wife about what worries me and she almost had a nervous breakdown and I ended up consoling her for an hour. And it was some of the rather tame [stuff] I deal with all the time.
I stopped opening up about my worries towards her after that. I have a friend or two I can share heavy stuff with, but not with my partner. I tell her about stuff once it is solved.
"You should open up to me more!"
Example of something current? The smell of desinfectant triggers painful memories of the death of my first daughter (NICU, 27 days old). Luckily you can't see my face under the mask in public, where there is a desinfectant station at every shop. I barely flinch at the pain anymore.
"You look grumpy today?"
"Grocery shopping was... exhausting. Everything is fine."
Told my dad I was on brain meds for anxiety.
“Mental weakling” were the words I believe.
I went to therapy and my therapist advised me to let down my guard to my girlfriend. She lost all attraction to me, shared my issues with her whole friend group for “her support”, and then broke up with me. Life will teach you lessons the hard way whenever possible.
I opened up to my mother twice about how I feel about my life and she is still using it against me 5 years later. I’ll never forgive her for that
I opened up about my home situation in primary school to my teachers. it was about how my dad has a fuse the size of a microbe and can be verbally..abusive. my teacher told my parents what I told her. needless to say my dad was pissed and I didnt dare to talk about this stuff to “trust persons” till last year (16 years later)
My mother passed when I was 15, cried my eyes out to my girlfriend at the time – she called me a little b**** and said she didn’t get why I was crying – behind my back to her group of friends, and my best friend, who told me. So I broke up with her, then she spread a bunch of rumors about me. Yep, Teenagers are [messed] up
The one person I looked up to and wanted to be proud of me told me how worthless I was to him in a way that left no room for doubt.
My ex never reacted well to me opening up to her. I think it scared her or something. Getting a real, raw glimpse inside someone who is struggling with mental health issues can really freak people out, especially when they have this idea of who their partner should be or, how they want their life to be.
My biological father is a [jerk], and a lot of my depression and self esteem issues stem from my relationship with him. I tried opening up to a college girlfriend about it, and she called me “Captain Daddy Issues” and laughed at me. I laughed it off at the time, but it seriously broke my heart and led to me shutting down emotionally until I met the women I wound up marrying.
Grew up in the hood. Lost friends to violence or prison, lost people to drugs, saw some [stuff] that really [messed] me up.
Met a girl who told me I could tell her anything and she was always there if I needed to talk. One night it got to me and I opened up to her and you could just see all the attraction leave her face. She ended up distancing herself from me afterwards and we lost contact.
Learned a harsh but blunt truth that night. When women say they want you to open up, what they really mean is the romanticized version their favorite romance flicks show, not what it actually looks like to open up.
My wife started sleeping with someone else. Lesson learned.
My grandfather who was like my father died. Then for the next 3 weeks I was very sad and aloof. My girlfriend at the time just found another guy because I couldn't be fun.
For me, it was when I needed her to be the strong one. Got super stressed out from first deployment, expressed that I needed a day or two of my own time to chill out from my gf at the time due to her insatiable desire to either be horny or problematic or how she would constantly express her horniness and then dump a really tough conversation on me (she was very back and forth about wanting kids, huge topic for me). Like she’d butter me up and then mention her mother wants us to date for 7 years before marriage and that’s the only way it could happen like wHAT. So. During the time I needed to clear my head, I didn’t do anything that’d hurt her I just went to work and focused on me and coping. Turns out, she lost interest in me pretty much immediately and then left me the two days later once I felt okay again because I wasn’t good enough. It’s cool, I was fine all alone out there and I learned that I am not dating a manipulative wreck who uses relationships to feel better about themself and uses me as a therapist. I’m a grown ass man and sometimes if I’m really stressed I need space away from the stress and not more crying or problems or complicated shenanigans.
I found out the person I wanted to be proud of me was just using me for their own personal gain. It was one of two people I fully let my guard down and man it stung.
A friend of mine told me I should open up more, and to share more with her. She promptly decided to drop all her problems on me, while also telling me to [sod] off when I had my own problems because “you should go deal with your problems yourself, I’m not your therapist”. She then used my issues to try and gaslight me into thinking I was insane. Nice gal, we ain’t friends anymore.134
My wife asked me what I said at counselling and I told her about my suicidal thoughts. She wondered aloud what else I hadn’t told her, and why I was keeping secrets, and does she really know me, and how can she trust me…
When I've opened up to women about my abusive childhood (because they ask me to "open up more"), they 9/10 times attempt to win gold in the "Victim Olympics". They compare traumas and somehow make it about them. Yet when they tell me about their struggles/traumas I always listen, show compassion, and validate them if applicable. I never compare.
My ex even got mad at me after I opened up. Not in the moment. It was about 3 weeks later. She said "I feel like I can't even open up to you anymore". When I asked why? she said "When I think about what you've been through, I feel like I can't complain about my situation". She was upset at me for this and wanted me to apologize for having "worse" (it's all subjective) trauma than her own.
I've found that many women want more for you to communicate how something made you feel. As opposed to hearing what actually happened. I've had the most success when I omit details and only discuss the feeling. For example "Childhood I felt helpless and alone but I'm good now". Rather than "When I was 11 my brother held a metal fork to the stove and branded me with it for fun".
Less details the better. Oh and for the record, you'll never out victim them.
I got my ass beat for trying to talk to my mom about being abused. Then getting s**t on every time I’ve tried to relate to someone since. I don’t really want to live in a world like this but I guess I don’t have a choice.
Once, I told my friends about my high insecurities regarding my physical appearance and my “attractivness” (or lack of thereof in my case), and they laughed at me and made joke about it not being a “big deal” and implying that I was acting/thinking like a girl. I never shared anything more with those friends lol.
The number of times I’ve been told “Ah you’re like a girl” and ignored is pathetic.
Opened up about how I felt about being dumped to a close friend that I was there for when they were in the same situation. My feelings and emotions were dismissed. The conversation left me feeling like an idiot for having these perfectly normal post break up feelings.
My ex GF,I was going through a rough patch slight depression. Told her I was looking to improve our relationship and understanding. She decided to break up with me.
Even if I was the rock, helped her earn some money, drove her everywhere. Helped her sister when she got beat up by exhusband (yeah awful). Helped her sister with the kids by finding them diapers and food. Helped the dad find oil and gasoline (my country for a moment there was none). And drove her to medical school when she couldn’t find transport. Paid for a trip to another country when our country was failing so we could be safer (later returned).
I said “you know i was not in a good place, i have not been my best for like 3 months. Ive supported you in everything, just give me a small chance”.
She responded “ don’t kill yourself, if you feel bad call your best friend”. “ you dont deserve this”.
Found out she cheated and the new boyfriend appeared a month later. Still hurts even after a year.
I’m still awestruck the way she did everything, a 3 year relationship meant that little.... but i have been better.
That was my experience with my first girlfriend. She was really pushy about knowing my deepest, most irrational feelings, but got insecure, defensive and hurt over them when I shared instead of being remotely supportive.
I tested the waters with my old college friends by telling them how sad I’ve been lately, but I was ignored.
It just hurt and made my feelings invalid. So, I pretended I was super chill, like I’ve always been doing and everything was ok again. Not really
Edit: This doesn’t sound so bad compared to everyone else, but I never share my feelings. I thought it might be a time where I can come out and try to share my emotions with people I thought would understand, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Went through an ugly domestic violence experience and relationship breakdown. Restraining order. Divorce. Whole shebang.
Tried to reach out to my only family member. Was told "I don't have the emotional capacity to support you".
K. Thx. [screw] me right.
I was honest with friends when I was younger and it just made me a target. If you show weakness you open yourself up to abuse. I think there's only 3 options really.
Therapy. Find an outside person with no social connection to you.
Work out to burn off those emotions.
Take ecstasy and overshare with people who are also on ecstasy. It's the only time in my life I've been able to do that and not be judged for it.