Friday, April 20, 2007

Dear Prudence, Off Base?

Every week I get sent this advice column. I don't know why but I find the stories quirky and yet compelling. Often I agree with the columnist, but not this time:

Dear Prudence,
I have been dating this guy for about three months. When we first met, I was struck by his gentleness and kindness. The sex is great. I can express myself, all my quirky idiosyncrasies included, and not fear judgment or ridicule. He understands me and accepts me as I am. Which is why I'm having such a hard time with this dilemma: I've never dated anyone so sensitive before. He has his bad days, as we all do, but his bad days make him cry. His mood spirals down into an abyss of self-hatred and emotional despair. I try to talk him out of it, and often I'm successful. He says that just seeing me and holding me boosts his mood considerably. I've tried to help him figure out how something like a tiff with his boss can make him feel like the world is ending. I've suggested therapy, but he gets defensive, and I don't want to shatter the tiny bit of ego he has. The other (bigger) part of me just wants to yell, "For God's sake, grow some balls!" When we started dating, I had the "wow, he could be the one" thoughts. Now, I can't imagine spending my life with this man, having kids, etc., because I feel he's weak and it disgusts me. It's infuriating because the rest of him is so great. I love him and want to see where this can possibly go, but if I can't find a way to overcome this, then I may as well end it now.


Dear Distressed,
Talk about spiraling down. You start your letter rhapsodizing about this wonderful new guy and end it describing your fury and disgust. You love that you've found someone so sensitive to you, but can't stand that he's so sensitive. Your guy already has balls—as you note in your third sentence. Being supported and understood, and giving that in return, is the magical part of a relationship, but I agree that feeling you also need to be your partner's therapist isn't. Your boyfriend needs a therapist, because what he's experiencing is crippling emotional distress. I've recommended it before, but he sounds as if cognitive behavioral therapy could help him to reorder his reactions to the world and give him some much-needed ballast. It could also be that he could benefit from short- or even long-term medication for relief from his frequent downward spirals. You say you love him, so when you talk to him about this, be gentle, but don't dance around it. There's nothing embarrassing or ego-shattering about needing help to make your life function better. Explain to him that you want to be the love in his life, but you can't be his doctor. If he refuses to get help, then your relationship is doomed—feelings of contempt will poison even the best sex life. But if he does get help, then you have to see if you can get past your own restrictive notions of masculinity so that you can fully understand and accept him.


In my twenties I tried to fit into the mold of what many women said they wanted in a man: A Sensitive New Age Guy. Then I learned, for the first of many times, that women often lie! Okay, I'll be more politically correct: Some women periodically misconstrue what they're actually looking for with what they think they're looking for.

It finally took a few more direct women - one ex-girlfriend and one adopted sister - to point out to me that no woman I'd ever want to be with wants a guy who cries or is too sensitive or generally isn't someone that she can depend on when she needs support.

The columnist here just take the standard New Age approach of saying that he needs medication and/or therapy. Maybe he just needs a swift kick in the ass by the woman in his life or a male figure he respects and told to buck up and act more like a cowboy from an old Western than one from Brokeback Mountain!

P.S. I realize that this entire posting may offend some. Not my deliberate intention but do try removing your PC blinders for a second and take some time to think about how the real world works.


nachtwache said...

Well, maybe a combination of kick in the ass and meds. Depression can be a chemical imbalance in the brain, so it's a physical problem, that creates a mental problem and there are medications that help.
Like someone with diabetes can't just say, I'm going to be healthy, they need insulin, or control what they eat, or both....depending what type they have.
I think women like guys that are sensitive in that they respect women, aren't pigs and chauvinists, that treat a woman decent, crying is ok, as long as it's not pathological, women need to feel loved and cherished, cared about.

PelaLusa said...

Interesting comments, my friend. I am not saying that no one needs meds, but I am saying that not everyone does. It seems like the "modern" solution to all ailments is akin to a large square peg. Well, as we all know, it doesn't fit properly in all holes!

As what women want, clearly I'm not going to tell you! But I've never forgotten something a female psychologist friend once said to me: "ALL women are looking for security in a man. 'Security' may be defined in different ways but they're all looking for it nonetheless."