Friday 13 July 2018

Men’s Mental Health: Difficulties Opening up about Mental Health in Relationships

Ethan shares his difficulties of opening up about mental health when in a relationship, due to the expectations society places on men.
- Ethan

As a student, it is clear to see that our generation are spearheading the effort to create a more equal and accepting society for ourselves, and recognising and combating issues with the way that we treat each other as humans. Coming to University, I feel that this appreciation for each other and our differences is more prominent than anywhere else, and it is becoming much easier for individuals to express themselves however they please.
Of course, society is not perfect, and gender roles still prove to be instilled in the minds of even young people, such as ourselves and can be hard to let go of. At University, where sex becomes a priority for many people for the first times, women can feel that it is expected of them to be elegantly feminine and men, aggressively masculine.

While there is clearly an issue with the expectations that society places on women, it is the pressures that men are held under which I would like to discuss. In societies of the not-so-distant past, men were expected to be the breadwinner of the family; going out to work, providing for and protecting his family, and never making a fuss about it. This has recognisably changed, and women more than ever are building successful careers of their own. Domestic life is also changing, and women are no longer expected to assume complete responsibility of household tasks as well as raising children by herself.

Having been in two relationships myself, I am more than happy to take responsibility of previously ‘womanly’ tasks, and take pride in supporting my partner in their individual achievements and career advancements; solely because I see no reason why I should be any superior, or my partner inferior, within a relationship.

Despite my efforts to avoid excessively typical gender expectations within my relationships, it is hard to battle the expectation I place on myself to protect and remain strong for my partner. It is not through doubt that my partner can’t take care of herself, but instinctively I feel the need to always be on the lookout, ready to protect her at all times.

To convince myself and my partner of this strength, I also feel the need to shelter certain emotions, or signs of instability or unpredictability. Having struggled with mental health difficulties in the past, and these experiences having been so formative of my character, I have discussed this past with my partners. However, I feel the need to keep it as just that, my past. If I ever feel a turbulence striking up again, I concern myself that I would worry my partner, that they would no longer see me as the stable rock that they need to support them when facing their own struggles.

For this reason, I feel it can be very difficult for men to feel comfortable when opening up about struggles that they are facing, through fear of showing cracks in the continually strong persona that we attempt to represent ourselves as. Despite this, the reality is that many women do want a partner that isn’t afraid to show these cracks, and that in some ways is conveying a courage of its own. I myself attempt in little ways to share my feelings in comfortable bursts, as it is important to remind ourselves that our partners and our friends really do care about us and want us to recognise struggles that we’re facing, in order to help ourselves and to help them help us.

Hey, I'm Ethan! Having not found the past few years a breeze, as few people do, and struggling along the journey to know myself and where I'd like for my life to take me, I thought I'd share my experiences and the lessons I've learnt from for others going through similar struggles, in hope that you also get a better idea of how you want to experience life. 
I'm currently studying Philosophy and Politics at UEA

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