For over seventeen years, I’ve written about relationships and seen a lot of things online. I’ve always been fascinated by how men can talk about their painful breakups and receive empathy, sympathy, and new romantic perspectives. Your DMs fill up, fast. Empathy for women’s breakup experiences, on the other hand, has a limited lifespan. People make fun of it to talk about it or start referring to “bunny boiler” and “Betty Broderick”. They quickly get tired of “airing their dirty clothes.” Other women wonder what she was doing wrong to “make” her partner or spouse cheat or leave. They think she is not meeting their needs.
Last week, Alice Evans, actress and wife of actor Ioan Gruffudd, expressed her understandable pain and outrage on Twitter after discovering her new relationship through social media. I won’t go into details, it’s all over the internet, but supposedly, it’s an old story. You know, the one where the man can see someone else or open his way out, but he doesn’t want to be honest about it. Instead, they act because they want women to take the track and end it. Either they are not there much, they choose faults with their partner or spouse, or they deny that there is anything. Yes, they are all gas lights.
With intentions or not, and really, impact matters more than intentions, he distorts his reality to preserve his self-image.
It may be to avoid conflict; it could be to cover his bets, to build what he sees as a strong argument to explain why he’s leaving, but it’s still a gas.
Then the relationship ends without ceremonies, and they often refuse to talk about it or invent a lot of BS. It can be emphasized that the woman “makes sympathetic” and “makes no fuss” or presents a single forehead. And sometimes she still holds out hope for a reconciliation or wants to look like the right kind of woman. So she agrees.
The man then goes on with someone else, possibly claiming that he is new when they are likely to be superimposed. They hope to post it on social media and keep the façade that they are a man standing. Meanwhile, society expects the woman to crawl under a dignified rock without complaining.
In the past, when this happened, society told us not to, you know, “air our dirty clothes.” This is the code for “Put on a brave face and cover up other people’s grim mistakes.”
It’s also the code “Don’t talk about it because it will only make people realize you’ve obviously fucked up.” It’s like talking about abuse is an invitation for people to ask for the equivalent of, Well, what were you wearing?
Society expects women to maintain dignity while picking up the pieces. This could, by the way, mean single parenting or having to restart a career they abandoned in support of the relationship or raising children. He, on the other hand, could live with few responsibilities or consequences of his actions.
Keeping our silence increases the social pattern of shame i patriarchy, but also facilitates gas lighting. So they experience gasoline and abuse, and then everyone, from randos on the internet to family and friends, expects them to “love” each other and act like the worthy woman left behind. Meanwhile, the man waits to come out smelling of roses without detriment of the truth.
Society simply has a history of avoiding vulnerability and not sharing information.
Talking about painful experiences of abuse and neglect is often considered more problematic than the abuse itself. This is very scary, and it is not uncommon for us to have the problems we have as a society. No wonder we are barely scratching the surface of the abuse many of us have suffered.
If we had been allowed to talk more openly about unhealthy behaviors and patterns, more women could have left abusive relationships. Or stop letting your future killer get back into their lives. We would have a higher standard for our relationships instead of letting ourselves be charmed and deceived into believing that someone else’s gas lighter is our prince.
It’s not that we have to go into the details of our breakup on social media or whatever, but we they are allowed to talk about it. Women can talk about their pain. It is by letting ourselves be seen and giving voice to painful experiences that others see themselves as well. Why should men be free to do whatever they want while women continue to do so?
However, we can also feel uncomfortable with sharing. We are. That it doesn’t it means that we should silence the person in question. However, it will not hurt to check with ourselves the source of this discomfort. It may reflect where we shut up and tell ourselves to “get up” when we shouldn’t.
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