“Kylie-Anne Kelly can’t remember the exact moment she became her boyfriend’s one and only, his what would I do without you, but she does remember neglecting her own needs to the point of hospitalization. “I talked him through his aspirations, validated his opinions, and supported his career. I had to be his emotional guru because he was too afraid to admit he had any emotions at all,” recalls the 24-year-old English teacher, who was studying for her PhD at the time. Kelly’s boyfriend refused to talk to other men or a therapist about his feelings, so he’d often get into “funks,” picking pointless fights when something was bothering him. Eventually, Kelly became his default therapist, soothing his anxieties as he fretted over work or family problems. After three years together, when exhaustion and anxiety landed her in the hospital and her boyfriend claimed he was “too busy” to visit, they broke up.
Kelly’s story, though extreme, is a common example of modern American relationships. Women continue to bear the burden of men’s emotional lives, and why wouldn’t they? For generations, men have been taught to reject traits like gentleness and sensitivity, leaving them without the tools to deal with internalized anger and frustration. Meanwhile, the female savior trope continues to be romanticized on the silver screen (thanks Disney!), making it seem totally normal—even ideal—to find the man within the beast.”
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