Why Are There No Men in My Group Therapy?

Vanessa Torre

Your absence is conspicuous and I’m losing faith in you.

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Last Saturday I sat in a small darkened room, nervous, waiting for others to arrive. There was only one person there on a couch adjacent to the one I was sitting on. She was a little older than me.

I knew the program had a cap of ten people and the room seemed small for that number. One by one people filed in until there were five of us. I looked around the room. Five women. All between the ages of 35 and 60.

There were no men. Not one.

The reason we’re here is not centered around anything gender-specific. We’re here to learn how to heal from loss and grief. This is a human condition, not a women's’ issue.

I asked my therapist, “Where are the men?”

She told me that she had several men she’s working with that really should be there but decided against it. All men who have suffered great losses in one way or another. Death, divorce, heartbreak, and estrangement do not discriminate.

This is incredibly concerning to me and raised the temperature of my blood a few degrees. Here we have a clear case of men who are told they should be involved in this, offered a space, understand they need it, and yet don’t go.

I’m not surprised. Only one-third of the people seeking assistance for mental health issues are men. Conversations with friends demonstrate this. My female friends, after suffering a major life event, often ask about how to get help. When I ask my male friends if they’re seeking help after a major life event, they tell me no.

In part, I blame generations of dads who taught their sons how to do all the “boy” things but never taught them how to understand their feelings. As a result, they just don’t. Of course, those dads don’t understand their feelings, either, so what’s to teach?

It’s great that men learned how to take care of things and fix stuff but it’s not what makes a man a man. Yet, this is what is taught. Be tough. Be strong. Have tools.

I have been living on my own for a while now. I am pretty proficient at taking care of my house, my car, and my life in general. Despite not being a man, I manage.

My dad never took me out to the garage to show me how to change a flat tire. I figured it out by actually getting a flat tire, grabbing my Chevy S-10’s manual, and reading how to do it.

We can’t do this with our feelings. There is no owner’s manual. We have spent unnecessary time preparing men for things any human being can figure out, especially now with the existence of Google.

The men of Generation X are a broken group of men. I feel like I have some talking space here after having gone on dates with almost four dozen of them.

Of the few men that I have dated for more than a couple of dates, everything goes swimmingly until it bubbles up to the service that they have serious unresolved issues and the relationship can’t move forward because of them. Well, fuck. Where does that leave me? The woman who has done the work?

I joked around with a friend of mine that I am going to remain single and lonely until such a time as there is a massive overhauling of men’s culture that shuffles all the broken men in their 40s into therapy. I laughed it off but there’s some truth there.

I am angry because I have spent years and probably thousands of dollars on copays at this point to fix all the things about me I need to. When men don’t do this it is a disservice to themselves and the women in their lives. I feel disappointed. I am losing faith that I will find a man who has his proverbial crap together.

Women do not see men in therapy as weak. The converse is actually true. We see it as strength. We see it as courageous. It’s admirable.

If a woman is going to make a man feel like less of a man for meeting his issues head-on, she’s not worth investing any time in her opinion. I don’t know many women like this. She is a paper tiger.

Men, we need you to go to therapy. We need you to fix your shit. Now. Not next month. Not when things slow down at work. Not when your son’s soccer season is over. Now. Right now.

Moreover, you need to do it for you so you can build a happier life. There is a world of women out there that are willing to stand with you in that space, support you, love you, help you, and not judge you. But we’re not going to wait forever for you. We’re not going to meet you on that road unless you start walking.

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Flaming pinball, nerd, music lover, wine snob, horrible violin player. No, she won’t stop taking pictures of her drinks. vanessaltorre@gmail.com IG: vanessaltorre Twitter: @vanessaltorre

Phoenix, AZ

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