Over the past ten years I’ve noticed a trend that doesn’t seem to be diminishing and it’s played on my mind. I’ve tried to twist my perspective this way and that and I still haven’t come up with a definitive answer.
So today I thought I’d write about it and see if you had thoughts to share on the matter.
As a divorced woman in my 40s I’ve watched the relationships of numerous friends and acquaintances break-up. And it’s what has happened next that has me most perplexed.
Invariably the men move on to other relationships quickly while the women generally spend more time in recovery before even dipping their toe in the water again. Most men seem to barely draw breath before launching into something new. They can be emerging from a 10-year relationship or an intense affair and just a few weeks later they’re out there again, ready to repeat the experience. And they do. Within a very short space of time (often weeks or months) they’ll be ensconced in another relationship.
Most women on the other hand seem to take time for more self-reflection. They allow themselves the space to heal and are, often, not the least bit interested in trying on someone new until they’ve sorted through the mess of the old.
When I see this happening time and time again, I find it a little disconcerting.
Is it that men simply don’t need to process what went wrong? Do they truly have the capacity to just compartmentalise their past, stick it in a box and get on with it? Or are women just more inclined to navel-gaze and mull things over for extended periods of time?
As a woman, I can’t claim to know what goes on inside a man’s head when it comes to these things. However I can’t help but think it’s not a healthy pattern to simply go from one relationship into the next without giving yourself the space to think about what went wrong. I also wonder why many men appear to find this type of self-contemplation so hard to do.
Is it that men can’t be alone? Or are they conditioned through our culture and societal expectations that they must have a partner to be considered successful? And so their first thought is they must find someone new and simply forget what came before – they just have to ‘get on with it’ because there are ‘plenty more fish in the sea’.
Now, I’m not advocating that humans are meant to live without companionship. As a wise man once told me, ‘No one really wants to be alone and if they say otherwise they are lying.’ Relationships with other human beings with the accompaniments of companionship, acceptance and physical touch are a vital part of our existence. And like all human beings, I desire that for myself too.
But surely there is more room for the self-awareness that comes from being alone, outside a relationship. And why do most women seem more willing to have that experience and to grant themselves the space to do so?
Are women more adaptable? Can they more easily fill their own inner well? Have many men not been taught how to do this and instead look to have it filled by women?
One of my male friends would tell me it’s all about the male ‘lizard brain’ that is purely motivated by sex and not much else. But I know many women who also value sex highly as a vital way to connect with their partners, so it can’t all be about that.
Like I said at the start of this post, I don’t have an answer to all this. But I do question the behaviour when I see it time and time again. I also know that those emotions that have been shoveled under the carpet will eventually re-surface in a not-so-healthy way in a later relationship and the new partner will have to deal with the male’s unresolved issues from the past.
And, as a woman who’s been on the receiving end of that experience, I have to tell you it’s no fun.