MEN ARE LIKE THAT! MY COMMENT ON THIS MYTHOLOGY; MENTAL HEALTH, AND POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS MEN.

If I hear this statement once more I think I will go beserk!

In the last nine months I have heard more spoken on the subject than I ever have – and my conclusion – a mythology! A chanted ‘Mantra’ of unsupported beliefs – and mostly chanted by women. Let me explain. A young relation of mine, who has an 18 month old baby, decided to leave her husband. I explained this – in passing – to various friends, relations and acquaintances. It was a piece of family news. To my astonishment I and my young relation – in her absence – became the target of astonishment and anger, with lectures on marriage and the repeated ‘Mantra’ ‘Men are Like That!’ The first puzzling aspect of this for me was that since I have been married for 44 years I might be expected to know what men are like. I also had a father and three brothers, and a number of male colleagues and friends. So why does it have to be so insistently told to me that ‘Men are Like That!’ Of course it could be suggested that all the men I have known – including my husband – are different but then an admission of difference would cause the collapse of the mantra. So, according to what I am told, what are men like? Apparently

1) They cannot cope with young babies – and prefer older children
2) Are jealous of new babies
3) Feel they are being neglected when the new baby arrives
4) Feel they are no longer important when the new baby arrives
5) Need their own space
6) Have to follow their own interests
7) Never grow up.

Of my young relation the comments and negative advice included

1) She might lose the house
2) He might divorce her
3) She should have marriage counselling
4) She has post natal depression
5) She has to communicate better
6) She has to negotiate and compromise

In relation to 1) Would someone really want to remain with a man for 40 years in a miserable situation rather than lose a house!! 2) And would someone want to live in such a situation with a man who might divorce them – an affectionate character that! 3) The premise here is that she should have counselling because, as she wants to leave her husband, there must be something wrong with her. 4) This comment came from someone who had never set eyes on either party – but who felt that of course this must be the explanation. 5) This advice seems to depend on an assumption that she isn’t communicating simply because if she was it would all be sorted out and she’d be back home. 6) This is an assumption that she must be being unreasonable and has to change her ways i.e. negotiating and compromising. And since ‘MEN ARE LIKE THAT!’ as the mantra says – no change by the male partner is possible!!

In relation to mental health two issues strike me and the first one relates to post natal depression. This is now engraved in stone – so even if a new mother is just feeling a bit tired and waspish this has to be the diagnosis. In fact post natal depression is a serious condition and, in my limited experience, occurs in women who have had previous problems. I was once informed by a friend of mine that her daughter – who was being detained in hospital – just had ‘baby blues’. I didn’t know what to say – being aware that the daughter had been suffering from depression for years and had made two or three suicide attempts – albeit not very serious ones. No, I thought, she definitely couldn’t cope with another life – she could barely cope with her own! However, if the first four items on my ‘Men are Like That’ chart are correct it could explain what might be happening. A woman has had a nine month pregnancy – which may have included problems – she has gone through a birth which may have been traumatic – she is trying to recover from these experiences whilst maybe establishing breast feeding – she is having to get up several times a night to do the feeding – she is tired! And then she is faced with a man who cannot cope with small babies, is jealous of the baby, is angry because he no longer feels important, feels he isn’t getting his own space etc So what is he actually doing? Is he expressing his anger? Sulking? Refusing to help (because he can’t cope with small babies) Bullying her? At this point does a terrible possibility occur to this woman in the middle of her now exhausting life? Does this man – by whom she has just had a child – actually love her? Could he possibly treat her and his child like this if he did? She might then get quite miserable and the chorus is waiting – Ah! Post Natal Depression!!! In fact my young relation’s health visitor told her that she sees many cases of the man behaving in this way and one bit of the chorus told me ‘It always happens,’ and instanced a case of a man who demanded that when he arrived home all traces of his children should be removed from the living room in which he would be seated – which of course had to be perfectly tidied and cleaned by his wife. BECAUSE MEN ARE LIKE THAT. So when we jump to diagnose post natal depression – without any medical expertise – are we perhaps looking at the wrong reason – and the wrong person?

My second issue: In the wake of the dreadful case of Baby P and of the others in Doncaster should we start to silence the mythology and the chorus and consider that we might be missing something? We have a massive problem with men. Of the 80.000 or so people in prison in the UK only about 4,000 are women. Murder is substantially a male crime. On average two women a week are killed by domestic violence – the comparable figure for men killed by domestic violence is thirty a year. As is evident from the size of the male prison population many more crimes are committed by men than women. The rarest criminal in the world is a woman serial killer – whereas in America there are roughly two hundred male serial killers being hunted at any one time. More men commit suicide than woman. The conclusion has to be that many men suffer from mental health and personality problems. And I wonder – is this what the mythology is really about – that the women who chant it know the problem and are commenting on its hopelessness and therefore demand that all women cope with it as the only option? Or are they dealing with the problem by transferring the blame to women – as it’s easier to deal with it that way round? But in relation to Baby P and the others – is it possible that the MEN ARE LIKE THAT chart could actually be an indication that a woman or child might be in danger rather than an eternal absolute about all men? Luckily many of these problems may be relatively mild and are managed by women who can put up with them – to a certain extent, rather than challenging them. But, my point is, are we defining mental health issues in some men as a norm? There are many men who do not conform to the mythology – there are men who are wonderful husbands and fathers – who do not sulk, get angry, bully their wives and neglect them and their children. In fact I think the whole mythology is an insult to good men! So should health professionals, relations, friends and neighbours flag up a danger signal when they hear that a man is being ‘Like That’? And should mental health professionals, working with women said to be suffering with PND spend some of their time carrying out a thorough assessment of the male partner?

Anonymous and Furious.

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