Many men simply leave.
No, they don’t necessarily leave physically. Rather, they leave emotionally.
I recently heard a friend of mine talk about this as he reflected upon a very difficult time in his life. I could identify.
Many men have learned that the safest place to take one’s pain is within. While withdrawing may be one’s default for dealing with pain, it is not conducive to connecting with another. In fact, to family members and friends it can feel like the person has “gone away.”
Most men who leave emotionally do not do so maliciously. I don’t believe most have the intention of being difficult or hurting their family and friends. Rather, this may be the comfortable default that has been a part of one’s life for many years.
So when we leave one another emotionally, where do we go?
- Some of us just stay very, very busy. We lose ourselves in our work. Maybe we can stay so busy that we are not preoccupied with the pain we feel.
- Some of us look for substitutes. Alcohol. Drugs. Pornography. Or, a man may lose himself in his children so he doesn’t have to address the issues of his marriage. Or, he can volunteer for numerous activities at church. It may be hard to argue with someone who is heavily involved at church. Yet, this can be a way of not dealing with pain.
- Some of us retreat to a room within ourselves which may seem safe but actually serves to disconnect us from the people we love most. This “man cave” might be a place where we occasionally revisit the moments of shame, humiliation, and disappointments in our lives. Perhaps it is the place where we house the pain we experienced as children. Or, it may be the place where we occasionally sift through the ashes of our hurts and resentments.
As a result, many men live with an anger that quite often comes to the surface. Or, such men can experience depression.