After The Pain – How Black Men Deal with Break Ups
By Maco L. Faniel
It has been said that real men don’t cry, yet author Michael Baidsen contends that Men Cry in the Dark. There are some things that will bring a man to his knees with tears welling from his eyes, and to protect his masculinity he will suffer in silence. One of the catalysts to men’s tears is a break up. When a man really loves a woman and has given his all, a breakup can be really hard.
Many women do not believe that men experience pain as a result of a break up. One female on Facebook said, “that's a new one...guys feeling pain after a break up, classic.” Maybe she thought that men deal with break ups the same way that women deal with break ups. But, men and women are different and deal with pain in different ways.
It takes a lot for some men to commit and finally stop playing little boy games, and when a man decides to face all of his caspers and commit fully –he goes full steam ahead like the love for that woman is a job at which he cannot fail. So dealing with a break up is hard, because it presents a man with some major cognitive dissonance and grief that he is not equipped to fix.
“Women are emotional creatures so they are accustomed to dealing with their emotions. Most men don’t deal in that emotional realm, we are logical. When we do feel pain, it is very new and we are not used to dealing with pain. As a man, we are used to maintaining this false front of being masculine, our society has warped our thoughts to make us think that we should not cry and feel. We are taught to be this tough macho persona. As a grown and mature man that is the antithesis of what I believe a real man is. I think it takes a real man to feel pain and cry,” says Larry a software salesperson.
One of my friends tells the story of when he walked in on his dad laying on the bed crying, brown liquor in hand, and Phil Perry singing in the background, “It takes a fool to learn that love don’t love no body.” His dad was obviously hurt and lamenting the loss of the woman who he loved with all of his heart. He could not understand what happened and brown liquor was his medicine for dealing with the break up.
But how do you deal with a break up, especially when you thought you did everything right?
Jonathan, a 26-year-old student and mentor at a treatment facility in Houston explains his personal story of dealing with a break up.
His wounds are still fresh. Four months ago his girlfriend of one year absconded in the middle of the night. He had just given her the proposal of her dreams. There was no note, or any other type of explanation given. Despite the normal disagreements that a couple faces when trying to merge their lives, Jonathan to this day does not know what happened. He feels that he did everything right. He says that, “it was devastating.”
“I had suicidal thoughts. My friends had to come to my house and get me because I locked myself up. I wanted to deal with it by myself. I was building a wall. I had placed so much into that woman that I was honestly not able to nor did I desire anybody else’s word. I made her my God. And my God left me, so I was empty. I gave her my all. I surprised her with the stuff that she mentioned that she wanted. I protected her from the pains of her past relationships by not doing those things. She had already been broken down so much. I sacrificed. I did everything; I did not know what else to do.”
Larry says that the first time he and his fiancé broke up that he “could not function.”
“I was depressed. I was sitting on my bed in a dark room. I did not want to be around people. I thought it was normal. I was sick. I could not get any sleep. I could not work. It was affecting my performance on the job. I am in sales. My job is 100 percent interaction, so it had an impact on my money. I would sit sometimes at my computer for hours. I would call people for encouraging words.”
Willie, a 49-year-old truck driver, said that he felt like “he was one step from homelessness.”
“I felt like I had been knocked all the way down in life. I had nothing – no clothes, no pictures, nothing. I thank God that I had a family, other than that I would have been homeless. After 14 years of being married, I felt betrayed. Fifteen years later I still feel the pain.”
These three brothers definitely felt the pain of dealing with a break up, but they also realized that they would have to accept the reality that the relationship was over. There came a point when they had to do like Teddy Pendergrass and “let it go” because they experienced a “love TKO.”
Some men, like Larry, deal with their pain by jumping to another woman. “In my past life I surrounded myself with female company. Not being promiscuous. I was just covering myself with the attention of other women.” Now that he is more mature and has a deeper spiritual relationship he is able to accept his current break up better. Larry says that “[this time] I buried myself in the Word, connected with friends and family-people that I know that have my back no matter what. I got really focused.”
Though Jonathan is still accepting his break up, he decided to seek mental health help and also begin working out more. He says that “working out is the best medicine”. Jonathan says that his ex fiancé “ran back to the things that made her comfortable – the night scene.”
“I ran to Christ and to the men and women of God who had wisdom to help. I did some of the hardest things that I have ever had to do in my life. I had to step away from my family. I walked into a therapist office. I became a man when I walked into my therapist’s office, and that is how I am dealing with my pain. I have begun to accept some things about me,” says Jonathan.
Willie’s acceptance came in a moment of silence through divine revelation. He says that, “I had to realize that it was partly my fault.”
“I was not abiding by the rules, and I felt God telling me this when I was quiet one night reading my Bible. After accepting, I began to join the men’s group at church, I got three jobs to recover all of the stuff that I lost,” says Willie.
The trauma experienced as a result of a break up can sometimes lead men to become cold hearted, and turn their backs on love. But after the pain of their breaks ups, these guys still believe in love in some form.
Larry says that he “absolutely still believes in love”
“I don’t think love is enough. Before I thought it was enough. If two people just love each other it was good. But through experience I have learned that you have to have some fundamental things lined up. Relationship with God, finances, etc. You have to have some strong foundations and not build your house on sand. Love is not enough to make the relationship last. You have to have trust. I have to trust your relationship with God, and that you are in it for the long run.”
Jonathan still believes in love and feels that it is still the ultimate form of expression. Though he is still grieving, he said that he would “definitely” be engaged again. He believes that he has so much to offer.
Willie has been remarried for nine years and though he does not believe in love in the common since of the word, he knows that God sent the right woman for him.
“When I went through the whole divorce situation, I realized that the only person that loves me is God and that is the only being that I love. If I trust you, then I can learn to love you. I don’t believe in love, I believe in trust. I was never getting married again. But God sent the right one in my life and after nine years we are still together. We don’t argue and we trust each other.”
When little boys are told to stop crying after they fall off a bike, they are being taught then to cover up their pain. And men go through life covering up their pain so much that women don’t believe that men experience pain. But men’s stories of pain are being told, just not in the way that women would expect. Yes men are strong, but if you watch them you will see how men deal with the pain of a break up.
Faniel is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men's Magazine.