“It’s not your job to fix men” doesn’t mean “men don’t deserve support and care”.
Men can have injuries. Men can be stressed from work. They can struggle with mental illness, or be overwhelmed by social changes, or feel angry and hurt. They can be confused and upset. Men can be depressed or anxious, and they can have complicated family problems. They can be grad students. Men can be sad.
For all of those reasons and more, men deserve support and care from their loved ones, exactly as women and non-binary folks do. There are a lot of problems caring for men, due to toxic masculinity, but I certainly believe that they deserve it.
When I say “it’s not your job to fix men,” I mean this:
Don’t date someone who’s “a bit of a fixer-upper.”
Do you feel like you need to “train” your partner to do chores, be thoughtful, carry half the burden of a relationship? Eff that. You deserve a partner who recognizes the value of a partnership, and puts in effort to maintain it.
Don’t pursue someone who can’t pursue you back.
Do you have to do a large majority of the running around (scheduling dates, initiating texts, organizing the logistics of a burgeoning relationship) to even start the relationship? Eff that. You deserve someone who is motivated to begin this relationship.
Don’t enable unhealthy behaviors.
Do you take on all of the work in the relationship, so your partner can continue to date you, effort-free? Eff that. You deserve someone who is willing to work to be in a relationship.
Don’t neglect yourself.
Do you find yourself struggling to muster up the energy to care for your partner, when your needs are unmet? Eff that. You deserve a partner who sees when you are struggling, and tries to help you meet your needs as well.
Don’t be his therapist.
Does your partner have a mental illness? Does he have a licensed professional helping him with it? If not, do you carry the burden of dealing with anxiety and depression? Eff that. Mental illness is the fucking worst, and you can’t deal with it alone. Neither is he. Psychologists and psychiatrists exist for a reason*.
Don’t be a support team of one person.
Does your partner do all of his emotional processing with you, when you spread out yours among your friends and loved ones? Eff that. Toxic masculinity be damned – men can have feelings around their friends, and it’s not your job to walk them through the baby steps of each of their emotional difficulties.
Don’t change yourself to make his life easier.
Does your partner have difficult emotions when you express yourself (Like jealousy when you go out, or unhappiness when you are away from him), leading you to change those behaviors? Eff that. His emotions are valid, but they don’t obligate you to change what makes you happy. He can be sad, and he can process it with someone else.
Don’t take on his baggage.
Has your partner been hurt in a previous relationship, and expects you to deal with his insecurities and irrational behavior as a result? Eff that. He’s entitled to those insecurities and irrational behavior, but it’s not your job to deal with them. You get to work together to find a happy medium where he can grow and flourish in a healthy and loving relationship, without you having to tie yourself in a pretzel to avoid stepping on landmines.**
This is a fraught topic – it was tough to write this without looking like I’m punishing men for experiencing trauma or pain or mental illness. That is NOT my intent. What I want to highlight is that it is usually women and femmes who have to do all of the emotional labor, who have to jump through all of the hoops, just to stop their partners from experiencing pain or doing hard work. And more than that, it seems natural to do that. Women and femmes have enough to deal with, and a relationship shouldn’t be one-sided. If your partner needs help, he should be getting professional help, or asking for help from friends, or giving back in some other way (even if he can’t deal with social events due to anxiety, he can get the kids ready for school and organize the bills).
There are ways to split emotional labor that allows each person to give input that they feel they are capable of. And if it’s easier for women to give that labor, is it maybe because they’ve been raised to do it? Is it only easier because they’ve spent their whole lives pushing themselves extra hard to make the lives of men more comfortable? It feels natural for women to do all of the work because *they always have*. It IS fair to ask your partner to stretch more than you, because he never has before.
* I’m not saying that you shouldn’t support your partner through their mental illness, especially if they’re struggling with medication balances, insurance, finding a good therapist, the inevitable problems that crop up when dealing wth mental illness, etc. But you CANNOT be expected to do that alone, and they must take steps to get help. The status is not quo, and it’s unfair to take on the entire burden of care because they don’t want to even look for professional help.
** trauma is real, y’all. I am not saying that you can’t be trauma aware and considerate, or even that you shouldn’t be mindful of what makes your partner upset or scared or hurt. I’m saying that they can’t make you do all of the emotional work to avoid triggers without you giving input for compromises or slow repair.