Recently, an article featured in Psychology Today gained a lot of social media, and particularly TikTok, traction. Titled What's Behind the Rise of Lonely, Single Men, the author Greg Matos, PsyD, addresses a few studies that have uncovered some unsettling trends regarding loneliness and singlehood for men.
Basically, what he lays out is that heterosexual men, primarily those who are younger and middle-aged, are experiencing high rates of loneliness and singleness. He links this to the fact that women’s expectations for partners have gotten higher, especially in regard to emotional intelligence and availability. Women would rather be single than be in a bad partnership.
This caught a lot of attention on social media, with many creators begging men to go to therapy if they want to end the trend.
However, the loneliness being experienced by men has serious repercussions beyond the dating world. Due to the fact men have been taught that being in touch with their emotions is unmanly or even emasculating, many men feel lost in the emotional sphere. Because of this, many men lack deep emotional connections with other men. Instead, they rely solely on their romantic partners for support. This can be exhausting for their partner, who is expected to manage their emotions as well as their own. Understandably, if they lose their partner, their mental health takes a decline that would be cushioned by other social supports.
If they lack a partner, it can be easy to feed their loneliness with anger—the only acceptable “male” emotion. With this we see a pipeline to extremist thinking with men looking for an outlet for their frustrations and emotions that is socially acceptable. The more extreme (and most likely misogynistic) they become, the less likely they are to find a partner. This reinforces the cycle. In some cases, it has led to acts of violence. Of course, that is only one case-scenario. But the “Loneliness Epidemic” being experienced by men is also linked to higher rates of suicide; loneliness is a danger to men as well as women.
Matos is correct when he urges men to seek therapy. But as a therapist, I also think its important women be on the lookout for and encourage emotional wellness in the men in their lives. Obviously, it's not a woman's job to be their partner, friend, brother, or dad's therapist, but they can point out discrepancies and encourage them to seek help. Women often take on the brunt of emotional work, which is ultimately detrimental to relationships. By encouraging the men in our lives to seek help, and by women refusing to date those who won't, hopefully what has started as a funny TikTok trend can become a push for awareness and change.