I read this interesting article this week in Bazaar magazine, which talks about the unfair emotional load that women carry from men. In it, it identifies this idea of an “emotional gold digger”, something that was coined in 2006, and speaks to the fact that men tend to over rely on women for their own emotional needs, at the expense of women.
I thought this was right on. The article seemed to imply that in this post-“me too“ era, it’s women that are becoming hyperaware of how they are being taken advantage of and used by the male partners, in this case emotionally.
Women And Emotional Caretaking of Men
The idea is that women are working too hard to support men emotionally, because men have not learned the skills to help identify their emotions, talk about them, or work through them. It also talks about how men have failed to seek out therapy, usually opting to stuff their emotions or “handle it themselves.” It makes sense that women become mens’ therapists, adding another job that women may feel obligation or guilt around doing.
I also think also contributes to a lack of sex generally, as intimacy has plummeted among certain demographics, such as millennials. I think when women feel that the disproportionate burden or responsibility of caretaking their children, working, cleaning, and meeting their spouses needs, they end up feeling drained. For women, sexual connection is highly related to emotional connection, and if they feel burdened by their partners emotional needs, this will also have an effect. Lack of sex creates other problems, such as men emotionally withdrawing, and this ends up in a vicious cycle.
The author points out that “most of the women I spoke to for this piece believe that their ego and self worth or off and wrapped up in being a man’s crutch. But the older women get, the less willing they seem to be a man’s everything…”
Men and Friendships
The problem that is pointed out is that men have not only failed to deal with their emotional needs, but have also failed to develop friendships that could take off some of the burden from their relationship partners.
I do think that this is accurate, because a lot of men that I talk with in therapy have a hard time keeping and maintaining male friendships.
After one’s 20s and 30s, when life really settles in, including work, family, etc., a lot of guys lose touch or don’t have the staying power to keep friendships going. Also, male friendships typically revolve around external things such as sports, drinking, children, or hobbies. It’s not typical for men to connect emotionally with other men, usually due to the fear or the stigma of doing so, but I think that there is a huge amount of untapped value in this.
I do think men are being challenged in a number of ways now, and if you have the emotional skillset to be able to know how to navigate these newly charted waters these days, you’re setting yourself up for a better life in many ways: in relationships, in work, in self-esteem, and in navigating the world in a more confident way.
I have personally valued the male friendships over the years that have been emotionally connective, and had allowed me to be myself, sometimes being vulnerable with other guys. I never really felt the stigma of this, but I have run into plenty of walls with other guys who cannot go there themselves. It is limiting, but I do really value that aspect of my friendships, and I do think that men generally could benefit from taking the risk and either deepening existing relationships or creating new ones with guys that they could connect with in an emotional way.
I think that developing these friendships, even if they’re not emotionally-based, does take some of the burden off of your primary relationship partner.
An Emotional Burden on Marriage
With all of that burden, what typically happens is that women end up feeling resentful towards their spouses or partners, and this affects their relationship in a number of ways. I mention sex earlier, and sex could definitely take a hit if there is built up resentment, or a sense of duty that women are carrying that spills out into other parts of their relationship.
I think it could also set up this parent-child dynamic, where the wife or girlfriend ends up turning into the parent, by taking care of all of their boyfriend or husband’s needs. The man, in this case, ends up turning into the “child.“ I think this has very negative effects on one’s marriage, as well, including relationship codependency, taking your wife for granted, resentment, and other problems.
Breaking the stigma that emotions are in the realm of women needs to be the first step in terms of dealing directly with men’s emotional lives. Taking responsibility for them, which often involves getting therapy, is another step. Finding other sources of emotional support, such as siblings, friends, or others, is another.
I do think younger men are destigmatizing therapy, and are coming in and working on and taking responsibility for a lot of their personal issues. This will definitely help alleviate the undue burden that is put on their partner.
Until men can start to take more responsibility for their emotional lives, and women allow them to do that, the problem of emotional burdening or gold digging will continue.
What do you think? Has this been an issue for you in your relationships? Do you know others who have dealt with this?