Our generation has become accustomed to the idea that we will marry and start a family much later than our parents did.
If you live in a big city or have an unconventional job (i.e., anything artistic or one that requires you to travel a lot), that timeline often gets pushed back even further.
It doesn't mean we don't have relationships.
However, since taking the ultimate plunge of marriage doesn't register on the radar as quickly or as easily, it often means those relationships just don't stand the test of time.
So, you break up. You have to start the emotional cycle all over again with a different person.
The older you get, the more people you add to the list. More promises get broken, more hearts get shattered and more baggage piles on.
Since our parents married young, they didn't have to experience so many adult relationships not working out.
They may be unhappy or disappointed with who or what they chose, but they don't know what multiple losses feels like.
It does something to you. It changes you.
It makes you a bit harder and more cynical.
In my opinion, this toll weighs heavier on men than it does on women.
Women don't hurt any less than men, but our hearts are generally more open. We are naturally more vulnerable, so it's often easier for us to start over once we have healed.
Men, on the other hand, take these losses like deaths they never fully recover from.
They can move on, but a piece of their heart is always missing. If you add multiple loves over the course of multiple years, they can become broken men.
They are shells of the people they once were.
A broken man is just a person who can't trust as easily, can't give as much and can't open his heart as fully anymore, no matter how badly he wants to.
I have dated a lot of these broken men. I see a similar pattern.
Most are in their mid-to-late 30s or older, and are finally ready to settle down.
Most want healthy, long-term relationships.
But they end up making their partners so unhappy with their inability to really love, they can't reach the end goal.
He forever uses caution.
One of the most prominent features of a broken man is the ability to take everything at a glacial pace.
Going slow when it comes to relationships is always a solid choice, but when it's been 10 months and he still refers to you as “the girl I'm dating,” it starts to become tiresome.
The broken man wants to go slow because he's been burned so many times in the past. He wants to be sure he doesn't make the same mistakes and have regrets later.
We all get it. We want to make sure it's real before we jump into the deep end too.
But at a certain point in life, women don't want to casually date forever. We have a biological clock that ticks aggressively.
We would never want to rush into anything or marry someone who isn't right for us, but at a certain point, we need to know if we're wasting our time or not.
I'm not just talking about marriage and children.
Broken men are slow to make anything about the relationship official.
Meeting the family, moving in together, celebrating holidays, going on trips, showing investment in the future -- all of these things count.
They can't seem to get over their fear and resistance, and they can't give the new person a new beginning.
He misses important events.
Broken men have already been through several holidays, birthdays and special occasions with girls in the past.
So when it comes time to treat you like you're special, they completely drop the ball. It does a good bit of damage, leaving the current love feeling confused and unappreciated.
Guys in general don't really get all worked up about special occasions, but they make an effort because they know it will make the girl happy.
But if a broken man was not appreciated in the past, he will stop the gifts altogether in his future.
When these men are confronted with disappointment by their girlfriends, they really have no explanation for their actions.
This leads to a vicious cycle, as the girlfriend does not want to do anything special anymore either.
It's a lose-lose situation for everyone.
He seems void of emotion.
I dated a broken man once.
I now lovingly refer to him as the “old, emotionless robot.”
Broken men are a strange, complicated breed. They will go through the motions of wanting to be in a relationship, but without any zest or enthusiasm.
They are careful with their affection, and they only get mushy when they're really pushed or possibly drunk.
This strong poker face causes the girlfriend to doubt the entire relationship. She questions whether he's into her at all, let alone sees a future with her.
This leads to a lot of tearful conversations, like “Where is this going?” and “What do you want?”
These conversations rarely end well.
The man starts pulling away.
“Do I really want this?” he will ask himself.
He will struggle with his true feelings and with letting someone in.
It's a really sad state of affairs.
We all know how this story with the broken man ends.
The girl gives everything she has until she's at her breaking point, and she leaves the broken man.
The broken man is in absolute shambles. He knows he has lost something valuable to him, and it is solely his fault.
He will try and get the girl back, but she will have moved on. She knows she can find someone who will love her better.
I hope all the broken men out there find a way to release their pasts before it's too late.
Otherwise, they will be eternal bachelors. They will miss the boat of opportunity when there is still a chance.
Maybe the last loss will be the wake-up call. Maybe they will settle.
Whatever the case may be, I hope they all find happiness eventually.