The Myth of the Strong and Silent Boyfriend

Shannon Ashley

This one is getting really old. by Quin Stevenson on Unsplash

There are countless tropes in dating. The idea that good girls go for bad boys. The expression that nice guys finish last. There’s also the elevation of men who are tall, dark, and handsome, aka broody dudes. And finally, the strong, silent archetype of a good boyfriend.

Our culture and the media has done a lot to perpetuate the myth of the strong and silent man. And it hasn’t exactly been to anyone’s benefit.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that men who happen to be the strong and silent type are wrong. I’m saying that it’s wrong to expect men to fall in line with this persona.

I can see why many girls find the strong silent boyfriend so appealing, especially when they’re new to the notion of love and dating. It feeds into the whole myth of a soulmate. One person with whom we’re supposedly meant to be.

Many girls who love the soulmate story want a strong and silent type of guy, just because they like the idea of being the only person who really knows their sensitive and sweet side.

In other words, they want to feel like they’re the only person who can “unlock” their strong and silent man.

This is problematic for so many reasons, but at its core, it means that most women looking for a strong and silent boyfriend are actually only looking for a man who will appear to be strong and silent.

In reality, they want a man who will reveal himself to be something totally different, but just for them.

It’s really not fair to carry such unrealistic expectations of someone. And it’s not as if men like this don’t exist. Sure, they do. But it’s not all men, or even most men.

Besides, if we embrace this idea that men are supposed to be wired this way, we’re essentially saying that men have split personalities like Jekyll and Hyde. And we’re insinuating that men need women to be fully themselves.

We have so many fairy tales which rely upon the transformation of the burly, brooding, beast into a charming, sensitive, and kind prince. We buy into it because it’s indulgent in a familiar way.

Of course, it’s dangerous too. It conditions many men to behave like beasts, while many women are conditioned to expect that beastly men will eventually turn into good ones with just a bit of love.

It’s a cultural myth that helps keep abusive relationships alive.

The strong and silent boyfriend myth also puts a huge amount of undue pressure upon men to hide their feelings or more vulnerable sides. It’s not so different from the way pockets of our culture expect women to be totally chaste before marriage and then experts in bed.

In both cases, there’s this enormous disconnect which benefits no one aside from the myth itself, and of course, the patriarchy.

The patriarchy doesn’t know what to do with men who are strong and expressive. Masculine and emotional. The patriarchy can’t wrap its little finger around the notion that people are more than one thing or another. That’s because its rooted in dualism, as most injustices are.

Men are allowed to be more than one thing. Nobody needs to put them into a box. And a healthy romantic relationship between a man and a woman isn’t based upon soulmates or playing into the roles society has whittled down for us. Healthy relationships can only happen when all parties are free to express themselves fully without shame or guilt.

Too much dating advice keeps peddling an archaic and dualistic set of archetypes. As if all men should act like this and want that. Or, as if all women are drawn to this and should act like that.

We don’t need to keep confusing ourselves and each other. We don’t need to go looking for a man who doesn’t feel free enough to express himself honestly with anyone but us. All relationships naturally bring out different parts of ourselves.

Love isn’t a competition.

You need to be secure enough in your relationship to not demand that your boyfriend only confide in you. You need more self-assurance than to expect that he hide his true self from the rest of the word.

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Matters of the heart which intersect with cultural expectations are rarely easy. But I am saying that it’s worth it.

Of course, it’s up to you to find that out. Try it out for yourself and quit feeding into the myth that you need a strong and silent guy.

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Single mama, full-time writer, ex-vangelical. It's not about being flawless, it's about being honest. I cover real-life issues, like family, parenting, relationships, and spiritual abuse.

Cleveland, TN

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