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“The guys at work are the only people other than me that my husband even talks to, so when some of these men retire, they expect their wives to be their source of entertainment and even get jealous that they have a life.” Johnson jokes that women her mom’s age seem to be waiting for their husbands to die so they can finally start their life.“I’ll get a call saying so-and-so kicked the bucket and sure enough, his widow is on a cruise around the world a week later with her girlfriends.” But unlike women in our mothers’ generation, Gen X’ers and millennials are starting to hold their partners accountable—or they’re simply leaving.“They can get a lot of insight from this process.”But individual therapy—which can cost upwards of and is rarely covered by insurance—isn’t financially viable for everyone.Group therapy is an accessible alternative (ranging from - per session), but the practice faces added stigma because of its association with inpatient psychiatric hospitals and rehab facilities, as well as court-ordered treatments for anger, domestic violence, sex offenses, and substance abuse.All the retired women I know are busier than ever, taking care of spouses, ailing friends, grandchildren, and parents, then doing some volunteering on the side.
Unlike women, who are encouraged to foster deep platonic intimacy from a young age, American men—with their puffed up chests, fist bumps, and awkward side hugs—grow up believing that they should not only behave like stoic robots in front of other men, but that women are the only people they are allowed to turn to for emotional support—if anyone at all.“I’m tired of having to replace another broken bedside table because he didn’t realize he needed to talk about his feelings,” she admits. The persistent idea that seeking therapy is a has produced a generation of men suffering from symptoms like anger, irritability, and aggressiveness, because not only are they less likely than women to pursue mental health help, but once they do, they have a hard time expressing their emotions.(This is so common there’s even a technical term for it: “.”) For millennial men in particular, a major challenge is understanding they need help in the first place.“It’s a catch 22, eventually it becomes too much and I end up exhausted and resentful.”Like Johnson, most of the women I spoke to for this piece believe that their ego and self-worth are often wrapped up in being a man’s crutch.But the older women get, the less willing they seem to be a man’s everything—not only because we become more confident, wise, and, well, with age, but because our responsibilities pile up with each passing year.