How To Love A Broken Man: 7 Key Things To Think About

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The word “broken” has been used to label people a lot more often lately, hasn’t it?

In fact, it seems to be particularly popular when it comes to people in relationships.

Especially men.

But just because someone has a lot to work through doesn’t mean that they aren’t worthy or deserving of love and companionship.

In fact, partners that others may consider to be “broken” may turn out to be the most amazing people you’ve ever met. They’ve just been carrying a heavy load for a long time, and may need some help learning how to set that down.

So, how do you love a broken man? Here are 7 things you need to consider carefully.

1. What does “a broken man” mean, exactly?

If you feel that you’re dating a man who you’d consider “broken,” try to define exactly why you think that’s the case.

For example, there’s often a double standard when it comes to men and women and what we consider to be emotional strength.

In our society, it’s much more socially acceptable for women to express emotions like depression and anxiety. But if a man admits to experiencing the same, that behavior only seems to be acceptable if it has a just cause.

A war veteran with PTSD is a good example of a man who’s “allowed” to have emotional baggage or issues. But a man who has had a calm, gentle life and nurturing upbringing isn’t really allowed to have those same issues, is he? He would need an excuse for being fragile.

So the question is, what constitutes “broken” in your eyes?

Are you dealing with a man who’s very hesitant to open up to you emotionally?

Does he need to spend a great deal of time alone?

What about sexually? Does he have difficulty with intimacy? Or does he have quirks and boundaries that you don’t understand, such as only having sex in the dark, or keeping his shirt on during sex?

If you feel that the person you’re involved with and care for is somehow broken, it’s important to take a look at your own parameters and expectations of what you think he should be like instead.

2. What has he been through? What “broke” him?

Each of us has a story to tell, and it often takes a while for people to open up about what they’ve been through.

Men in particular often aren’t that open about all their personal issues and traumas, specifically because of the expectations and social taboos mentioned above.

Besides, getting to know another person takes time. How would you feel if, on a first date, the guy you’re out with goes on for hours about all the horrible crap he’s been through?

Chances are you’d run the other way and never look back. Helping someone heal from past hurts and traumas is great, but when all of that is spilled out in a single go, it can be terrifying and daunting for a potential partner.

If the broken man you are dating has been through some serious hell, then it’s likely he’ll need some professional counselling.

Unless you have real training and experience in psychotherapy and various types of behavioural therapy, you may end up doing more harm than good whenever you try to help him.

Certain types of trauma can actually be exacerbated by with well-intentioned yet untrained aid.

If he’s willing to get therapy, then that’s wonderful. Perhaps, if and when he’s comfortable opening up to you more, you can do some therapy together.

3. How should you approach a relationship with a broken man?

The same way you would approach any other relationship, only with the realization that things may evolve much more slowly than they would with someone who doesn’t carry quite as much baggage.

Understand that you may not receive texts or calls as often as you might like, and it may take them significantly longer to open up to you about their life.

They’ve likely been damaged quite badly any time they’ve allowed themselves to be vulnerable, so their shields are set to maximum.

If you’re able to do so without feeling immense anxiety yourself, try to leave the ball in his court as far as allowing the relationship to progress.

Don’t put any pressure on him to meet his friends or family, and don’t try to ply him for information about his past. An emotionally broken man will open up to you bit by bit if and when he feels comfortable enough to do so. Prying will likely encourage him to flee in the opposite direction, so let this unfold over time.

Most importantly, learn to care about him as he is, rather than for the potential you may see in him, especially if you have history as a “helper” or “fixer.”

4. Ask yourself why you’re drawn to this man.

What is it about this broken man that you love?

How did you meet? What is it about him that makes you care about him so much?

Do you have shared interests? Or perhaps he fits the profile of the type of person who interests you?

The dark, brooding types can really keep life interesting, and fragile souls often bring out people’s nurturing instincts.

But in all honesty – does this person embody everything you want and respect in a life partner?

Consider your dating patterns.

Do you tend to be drawn to people who you feel need “fixing”? If so, are you doing that to compensate for your own past hurts? Or are you immersing yourself in helping him so you don’t have to deal with your own problems?

In turn, are you dealing with a kind of Munchausen by proxy situation? Namely, do you like the fact that he’s broken because tending to him gives you purpose? Is your love language “acts of service,” and in tending this man, do you feel fulfilled?

Why have you chosen him above all others?

5. Love is patient; love is kind.

If the man you love is really an amazing person, but has been through a lot and will need time to lower his defenses and heal, then it will be incredibly important for you to be patient, kind, and understanding as he does so.

Recognize that for every few steps a broken man makes in opening up to you, he may withdraw and/or lash out. He’s been hurting for a long time, and it’ll likely take him a while to realize that he’s safe with you.

A wild creature that has been hurt by a fire will wince, hiss, and run away from a candle flame, even if it’s offering light and gentle warmth rather than hurt.

Similarly, people who have been mistreated by others will often have an instant defensive reaction if and when someone else says or does anything that reminds them of another’s bad behavior toward them.

Maintain your calm, and communicate with him once you’re both in a space where this can be done without elevated emotions. Talking things through will do a world of good, as you can glean a better understanding of where these responses are coming from.

In turn, he can learn that just because you said or did something that reminded him of a previous experience, you’re not the same person who hurt him, and your choice of words/actions wasn’t intended to harm.

6. Help him reignite his passions.

Many men are considered “broken” because they’ve been kept from immersing themselves in what they truly love.

Your guy could have spent the past couple of decades dreaming about a career in martial arts, but is dealing with crippling depression because his family railroaded him into being an accountant. Because that’s practical.

People who are kept from doing what they love inevitably end up suffering. Ask any artist who doesn’t have the time nor funds to be able to create art, or a nature lover who’s stuck living in the middle of a city and never sees trees or birds.

What inspires him? What fills him with excitement and enthusiasm? Encourage him to pursue that which actually fulfills him and you’re likely to see him transform into the best version of himself possible.

Do your interests and passions match up? Then ask him if he’d be interested in the two of you taking part in them together. Respect his boundaries if he’d prefer to fly solo in his personal pursuits and hobbies, but definitely join in enthusiastically if he loves the idea of you being by his side in this.

Just please, don’t fake enthusiasm or interest if it isn’t there.

Be honest and supportive, but let him do his own thing. He’ll soon figure out that you’re pretending to be keen on his passions when you really aren’t, and that can damage trust (and dampen his love for them) faster than you can imagine.

7. Does he want a partner or a mother?

One thing you really need to look at honestly is whether this broken man you love is willing to do the work needed to get past his own issues, or if he’s content with stagnation and maintaining the status quo.

If he wants to let go of the various issues plaguing him, then it will be wonderful for you to stand by his side while he evolves.

He will likely falter at times, which is absolutely understandable and very human. But if he can pick himself up and move forward again when he’s able to, then that says a lot about the future of your relationship.

On the other hand, if he seems content to keep ruminating and wallowing instead of doing anything to help himself, then you may have to face the reality that your partnership may consist of you caring for him and mothering him, while he doesn’t do anything to reciprocate.

Does that appeal to you?

If you’re contending with this as a possibility, ask yourself these questions and answer them honestly:

  • Is he dealing with depression but refuses any kind of therapy or medication?
  • Or perhaps he’s overweight and miserable about it, but refuses to alter his diet, nor do any exercise?
  • Does he do his part around the house? Or is he content to sit back and let you do all the cooking, cleaning, etc. 
  • Is he capable of working to earn money for the household, but prefers not to?
  • Does he pull his own weight in any regard? Or does he just sit and watch TV or play video games while you wait on him hand and foot?

Be honest, without making any excuses for his behavior. If you’re saying that he can’t do any of those things because of prior traumas etc., that’s enabling him, and creating an unhealthy codependency that’s very difficult to break.

Furthermore, it may hinder potential growth on both your parts. He will never heal past his own issues, and you’ll resent him for increasing yours.

If you answered yes to more than one of those questions, then you’re likely catching a strong glimpse of what the rest of your life with this person will be like.

Whatever he’s not changing, he is choosing. And that goes for both of you.

We all have baggage. What you need to determine is whether you’re able to help one another carry yours, and hopefully lessen the load over time… or if you’re going to end up as a pack mule, carrying both loads, with no end in sight.

Still not sure what to do about the broken man you’re dating? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.

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About Author

Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais region. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.