Let me tell you the truth about boys and their hearts – and what to do when relationships get rocky
Dear Future Heartbreaker,
We haven’t met yet – but somewhere out there you’re living your life, learning about relationships and at some undefined point your path is going to cross that of one of my sons. And I want you to know right from the very bottom of my mama’s heart the truth about boys and love and the ways that they want and need to be loved, and the ways that they express their love too.
So, there are some things that I want you to know – that perhaps you don’t know about boys and their hearts because, as a society, we pigeon-hole boys. The bad and over-sexualised behaviour of some boys and some men is put front and centre in the news (you have a lot to answer for the Harvey Weinstein’s of this world) – and somehow it filters into our thinking about all boys and men. It’s not true – and it’s certainly not true of my sons.
Lesson # 1 – Little boys are the most affectionate creatures – I know this because my son who will one day give you his heart gave me his heart first. He was so eager to please, to be noticed, to be loved – to be at the very centre of my world. He loved a snuggle, he wanted me to laugh with and at him and he went to all sorts of crazy lengths to make that happen. Help my son to show you affection in ways that sit well with you because he’s mostly likely going to want to fix things and do things – and he might not be all that good at reading your language of affection. My little boys expressed their love by sharing noisy wind on my lap (very gross but the boy gift that keeps on giving), flowers from the tops of weeds on the way to school, a very special rock and a prize stick. This was their language of love. It can get messy, noisy and sometimes a little boisterous but the intention is to show you just how deserving you are of their love and affection. Help my sons to shape this so that they continue to grow into good and respectful men.
Lesson #2 – Be gentle with his heart – if you find that your paths diverge, as sometimes paths do, please remember that what might look together on the outside is crying and wounded on the inside. Please don’t use on-again-off-again manipulations to push him away and then draw him in. He’s fragile on the inside – far more fragile than you know. The heart of a boy once given is as vulnerable as any heart that risks love. So, when it gets bruised or even broken try to remember that healing takes time. All of the signals you might have given him about not feeling the same way – the ones you thought he might be reading which might help him prepare for the end – let me tell you this – he missed them all. No, not because he’s silly but because he’s a boy and boys don’t read those subtle emotional messages very well (or often at all). So, when he looks surprised and takes time to process his hurt – give him space to do it. It might take some time to be friends again – and that’s going to depend on just how long it takes his heart to heal.
Lesson #3 – Subtlety doesn’t work. The passive aggressive moves meant to communicate being unhappy, feeling let down, not getting what you need will almost always be misread by each one of my sons. When you say, “I need some space – leave me alone.” – that’s what’s going to happen. Now, if you mean ‘try harder and pay me more attention’ simply say that. When you ask, “How does this top look?” and you get the response, “Like a pumpkin,” be prepared that he’s saying what he thinks – sometimes without having considered how hurtful it might sound (yes, this is right from the mouth of one of my sons). I asked for an opinion and it was given – no hurt intended – just missing some grey, some massaging of the truth to make it softer and acceptable.
The truth about most boys is that they struggle to read us girls. “Why don’t you just say what you mean?” – heard that before – accompanied by a look of genuine confusion, a feeling of great frustration and a deep desire to be able to interpret the secret language of girls. I sure have – even when I’ve been certain that my demeanour has communicated my unhappiness. Sigh. When there’s the choice between subtle and sledgehammer – choose the latter.
So, future heartbreakers of my sons, learn well the secrets of boys and their hearts. Let go of those cliched notions of boys being less sensitive and less emotional – they’re simply not true. One day, when my son gives you his heart, hold it gently, know that you will become his world and even though he may not always speak or understand your language of affection – he will do anything to see you smile and to know that he is loved. It’s a heart that has been loved and shaped and although it might be housed in the body of a brawny and deceptively tough body – it is infinitely breakable.