One of the things i do as a therapist is work with single women who are interested in finding lasting love and partnership—for many the holy grail of the dating quest. Of course, dating can be fun and rewarding, but my clients often describe it as an arduous experience that can go on for months—or years—leaving them no closer to their ultimate goal. (Please note that I’ve chosen to use the word “women” to describe partners in men, but it can be replaced to include all potential partners regardless of gender or sexual preference.)
What I’ve found in my work with women is this: Waiting for your man to appear can be a crapshoot. Settling with the wrong man breeds resentment, an urge to change that man or yourself, and the consequences of these choices strain true connection.
Women who actively say no to the men (and the characteristics in those men) they know they don’t want, rather than clinging in fear or insecurity or unconscious patterning, find what they are looking far more quickly and effectively.
Conversely, women who actively say no to the men (and the characteristics in those men) they know they don’t want, rather than clinging in fear or insecurity or unconscious patterning, find what they are looking far more quickly and effectively.
Many articles have been written by women who describe how they should be loved, and the signs of a keeper.
Less has been written by men who understand the red flags of their gender.
The following includes a list of cautionary signs that, with the help of your “no,” can part the clouds and open the view to the whole partner you’ve been seeking.
To be clear, there is a difference between a man who can recognize and work on his shortcomings, and one mired in his own illusions, incapable of little change. Should a man take responsibility for his defects, making visible steps to improve, please exempt him from the following list—except in the case of abuse of any kind.
So here are 10 powerful signs its time to show your man the door. Choosing to ignore them is, in effect, choosing not to find the loving partner you are looking for.
1) If he stops doing what he needs to create his own happiness and fulfillment and places that responsibility on you, you deserve to be more than a distraction. You deserve the joy he derives from his life which overflows toward you, of which there is most often an excess. Men who derive their complete happiness from their partner may be fun, even flattering for a short while, but in the long haul you will suffer his dependency.
2) His personal time is consistently more important than your concerns and frustrations. He tries to downplay your grievances through avoidance. Men who seek their own space, with little room for yours, have deep-seated challenges with intimacy. This is not something you can fix for them. Granted, alone time is essential for healthy relationships, but not at the expense of being heard, validated, and considered.
3) He is unable to take responsibility for his actions and blames you for his shortcomings and faults. He has chosen to be a victim, rather than a lover capable of spontaneous and creative change. Victims tend to do worse in life when they have someone to scapegoat and project their undesirable traits toward. Let them go so both of you can blossom.
4) He disappears for periods of time. Whether it be on the weekends or evenings or while he’s in the house but emotionally removed. A man who is sincerely into his partner will go out of his way to let her know what he is doing. If he needs space to process, he asks for it, and returns when he’s had his fill. Unpredictable men are hard on your emotional life.
5) He lives off your finances and becomes mean or removes love when you suggest he gets a job, finance himself, or at least contribute. There are exceptions, but in general, if a passionless man lives under your roof and he’s looking for excuses to work less and sloth more, chances are you are being leeched. Yes he’s had a hard life, a tough family, and he’s easy to feel sorry for, but you deserve to have a functioning teammate who thrives with you during the long haul of life.
6) He spends more time with his family, or talks to them, more than with you. Often, in these cases, the family unconsciously or covertly undermines the relationship. A man who has not yet spread his wings won’t have the breadth to cover you in times of need.
7) He tries to convince you that you could never be better off without him. A man’s actions and spirit should be enough to convince you to stay. You stay because you want to, not out of any sense of lack. Love is not a game of supply and demand; it is something else altogether. A good man wants you to stay if you compliment him, and builds his life intricately, giving himself an optimal chance of fulfillment. In such situations, staying is second nature. If you don’t, then he is confident you and he will find a better match.
8) He enables your addictions, stays quiet when others disrespect you, or agrees to have children with you when he has stated that he doesn’t want them. A man worth keeping respects you by respecting himself. He knows that good relationships take two healthy partners and holds that standard until it falls. If he can’t stand by what is healthy for him, even if you test him, then what can he stand for?
9) After several trial conversations, he still tries to fix rather than listen, or turns the conversation to his own struggles without first acknowledging yours.
10) Physical abuse of any kind. Mental abuse of any kind (gaslighting). Emotional abuse of any kind.
Learn to say no to these constraints early on. Use them as a field guide. Celebrate them, because they are working with you. The more nos you give, the greater probability you’re providing for a yes to arrive. Try it out!
Whether it be a stream of men walking the streets of my home city, some bearded and muscular in suits, others in tattered clothes pushing shopping carts, or those in NorthFace jackets driving family SUV’s, smiling at long coated women wearing faux fur hats breathing mist into sunshine and snowy air, keen, or simple, I am deeply appreciative of the masculine.
Truth be told, a short time ago I was vastly unaware of any concept related to manhood above wage earning, loyalty, and being strong/hard, until an ex-partner of mine quite viciously informed me that I was not a man. “What does that even mean?” I asked myself earnestly, biting back the pain of those icy bullets. In the wake of what obviously became a dismantled marriage, the question still burns in my heart, but it’s lighter, tender, and more fertile than before. Most significantly, I’ve learned that the answers emerge most effectively through self-compassion and care.
As a therapist in the mental health industry, it is easy to see that a strong world current is driving an imperative toward new definitions of masculine, whether we like it or not. In a sense, my ex was right, I had no idea what this new version of manhood really meant. I had long been miring in a limited male-dominated worldview, and I owe the intense search to her prodding. For the solutions and will to continue, however, I am indebted to the world of male interaction, my men’s group (Prometheus), and my male clients who never cease their march toward mature masculinity.
Repositories of information surrounding healthy masculinity are streaming out of the collective and men are waking up. Conscious men are surfacing from the deep, and here are some ways to recognize one:
-Conscious men smile, but not in an attempt to hide some inner malady. They smile because their actions in life, their very breath, fulfill who they dream to be.
-Conscious men do not give objects to gain affection. They give in order to shed an excess. They give of themselves, their fears, their bondage, and their hopes, for they know in sharing these they are set free to smile deeper and cleaner. They buy flowers to add to their internal love reservoir, and out of their self-love arises spontaneous gifts that surprise even themselves. Smiles follow them.
-Conscious men hold space for those around them. Behind their eyes one might see the comforting strands of a nebula of stars and the knowing that there is always space for the vulnerable, the hopeless, and the afraid.
-Conscious men breathe to the bottom. They are not afraid to take life in, and constantly live on the edge of their experience—when they are not resting or performing great acts of physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual acts of self-care.
-Conscious men have deeply tread the trenches of give and take, and as a result are gaining mastery in the world of business, relationships, and intimacy.
-Conscious men hold dear the company of other men. They know that despite their sexual orientation, spending time with the same sex evaporates isolation and excess emotional cargo.
-Conscious men play. They do things that are fun for no reason at all. Without direction or goals, they dance, sing, make love, and watch sunsets like Ganymede on the wings of Zeus’s eagle, en route to becoming the cup-bearer of pleasure for the gods.
-Conscious men dress well, eat healthy food, shy not from difficult emotions, entertain expanding thoughts, and exercise.
-Conscious men have a method of connecting to the great mystery of life, and do so, on a regular basis. Out of this connection, they marvel at the way life contributes and condones their desires. They see challenges as growth-inspiring messages from levels of life beyond normal comprehension. They know that the outer world is simply a tool for inner transformation and the inner world a source of love and charity for outer change.
These men can be found in all paths of life. They are not limited to spiritual circles or secret societies. A conscious man is as much a father as he is a woodsman, shaman, teacher, painter, or mailman. Irrelevant of title, race, sexual orientation, class, or cultural, a conscious man transforms his intimate relationships in the non-exhaustive following ways:
-He puts his own health, happiness, and livelihood first. Without these he cannot give the gift of conscious attention. He provides his battery with ample charge, able to pierce the wildest storms of relating with attention, humour, and love. His method is self-care, and his gift is wise, kind-loving action.
-He delivers his word on a platter of tempered steel. Like a pyramid he is grounded through the interconnectedness of thoughts, actions, words, and intention, yet is crowned with a sharp and one-pointed devotion to his dreams and the sustainability of his relationships. Within this temple his partner may grow through limitless expression and fluidity.
-He knows what he wants and will not tolerate his desires being attacked or undermined, but his stance is one of cooperation and mutuality when his desires clash with his partner’s. In this way he protects and respects his dreams, yet selflessly yearns to have those dreams come to fruition in the vestibule of relationship.
-He is responsible for his own sexual pleasure, and he takes this with gratitude, as with all good things in life, yet on the edge of pleasure and bliss, his eyes are open, and his fingers work across the skin and through the hair of his lover, because he has received and cannot help but give. His kiss will write you a novel.
-A conscious man will choose a partner who is willing to take responsibility for their happiness, emotions, and pleasure. If you are with such a man, it is a compliment to you!
Now I turn it to you. How do you recognize a conscious man? A man who is awake and steps through fear? What is it like for all you lovers out there to be in relationship with one (or not)?
I want to emphatically state that breaking up with your parents, also known as detaching physically, mentally, and emotionally from the people who made your bodily life possible (or raised you), is a terrible endeavour. One only hopes(at least) for a set of familiar older bodies who know you and validate you as your shadow and light unfold well into your adult years. Not having that in your life is dreadful.
I also want to affirm that in the infinite expansion of each individual life on the planet, not all parent-child relationships are going to be healthy and validating. Call it ill fate, or shit luck, but poisonous environments and their legions are not above choosing parents or siblings to set siege upon.
Life is irrevocably about living one’s full potential, and sometimes that means parting ways with acrimony and toxicity, even when all the “shoulds” you’ve ever been given on what relationships are “supposed to be” say otherwise. Simply put, venom is venom and should be avoided despite its outward appearance or the input of others.
Note: Breakups with parents can be permanent, but they do not have to be permanent, and they can also involve contact but in varying degrees. There is no right way to break up with a parent, and each situation is different.
Here are five scenarios where splitting off from your acorn tree, and rolling far, far, and perhaps farther down the hill, may prove beneficial for all.
1. You shrink in their presence.
You’re all grown up and you’re on your way. Perhaps your parents have gone through their own transformations, and may have responded in ways that are helpful and encouraging. Yet in their very presence your heart and spirit shrink a size. You hesitate to tell them all the really exciting things in your life (even though you want to), because it is not met with the same praise as in the company of friends or colleagues. You may find their shortcomings or defects hard to digest. Being with them for more than a couple hours leaves you tired, confused, and disoriented. Especially if dissociation occurs, and even looking in their eyes brings deep but subtle drums of panic, you may want to consider a break up plan. These are most likely moments when you are spreading your wings and taking flight into your own path. It’s not about them being “bad” per se, but about you maximally thriving. Respect your wing space—make a break.
2. Conversations involve substances not substance.
If you have a parent who is a heavy drinker, narcotic user, or even a chain smoker, there is a good chance they will have difficulty seeing you for who you really are. This doesn’t mean they don’t love you, but use of substances is a good sign that your parent is hiding from some serious pain. If you try to bring your pain to them, which is a beautiful and enlivening thing to do in healthy situations, the addicted parent will most likely avoid the pain they see in you, beat themselves up for seeing you in pain, or invalidate you outright in an attempt to ward off any distress. After all, they’ve invested so much in their sedation that breaking it would be intense.
If your parent was an addict while growing up, but has since recovered, you may still suffer from the first reason (above) and it may be wise to break up as much as you need in order to feel safe in the world again. You’ve probably invested a lot in finding out what that safety means and how that works for you—keep it up.
3. Your parent(s) wants to spend more time with you than their spouse.
If you haven’t read up on what it means to be a people pleaser, or to be in a codependent/narcissistic relationship, and you are reading this article, then it is time to do so. If your parent depends on you for emotional support, in any way gets upset when you put your immediate family or personal needs ahead of theirs, threatens to get worse if you are not around, or blames your other parent (behind their back) for all their problems, to you, then it is reasonable to say you may have a narcissistic or codependent parent. I knew someone once whose mother actually gave them a ring that looked like an engagement ring. Do not let your parents marry you. When you have a parent who has or does live their emotional life through you, the apron strings must be severed.
4. They are, in any way, abusive.
If you’ve ever been beaten by a parent, molested, berated through the use of manipulative and violent words, or been used as a cerebral punching bag, you may always suffer from #1 above. This is a difficult scenario to make a recovery from if this parent is always in your life. Cutting ties with murky water, as far as I know, has never been an unhealthy endeavour, so long as there are fresh fountains coming from elsewhere. Abuse is the clearest exit sign we can find in the world of relating.
5. They are unable to see the impact of their words or actions, even though you’ve thoroughly, or even tearfully explained it to them.
“How could that upset you?”
“No I saw you, you weren’t sad, you were angry.”
“Yeah well if you would see it from my way you’d understand.”
“You’re scary/strange/messed up etc.”
Imagine yourself expressing a vulnerable state just before you hear any of the above statements from a parent. They may have recently just co-signed a loan on your first house, helped you get that car, or drove several miles to help you out with your newborn, and yet … this is what you experience. This is a tough place to be in. If you try to explain to a parent how their actions and words hurt you, and they cannot, for whatever reason, see where you are coming from, then distance is necessary. If you grew up in this environment, chances are you may have found/find yourself in an abusive relationship (see my previous article for how men experience abuse). Your parent may then focus more on what they have already done for you, rather than realize their impact despite their intention. They remain blind to the rupture in the relational fabric, despite its staring them in the face. If this dynamic continues, you may find your resentment levels piqued, and an odd sense that you are not quite right at your core. This is the stuff that destroys dreams. You deserve better.
Sometimes, breaking away from toxicity heals the toxic source.
If you are considering breaking up with a parent, struggling with any of these issues above, or are a parent who has had a child break up with you and want to find repair, I would be happy to consult with you on your road back to personal and relational health. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.