Love Better

Do Men Actually Talk to Each Other About Break-Ups?

Break-ups are never a simple thing to deal with, and discussing them with your friends is a different beast entirely.
Two guys chatting
Getty Images / VICE 

You’ve likely had someone come to you to ask for a shoulder to cry on, or perhaps, you’ve been the one wanting that shoulder yourself. 

As a man, these conversations tend to be pretty one note. A pat on the shoulder and a beer in the hand might mean a job well done on the surface, but it doesn’t always give you the real connection that you’re looking for. 

Break-ups are never a simple thing to deal with, and discussing them with your friends is a different beast entirely. Men have bred a culture of quickly moving past the meat of their emotions surrounding relationships, preferring to lean into a focus on “cheering each other up.”


VICE NZ spoke to several young men about how their break-ups affected them:


“I spent a long time chronically tired and unable to sleep properly.” 


“Most of my guy friends wanted to help me ‘fix’ it. Sometimes I got frustrated because I thought they wanted me to be over it already. In hindsight, they never, ever belittled my feelings or said anything hurtful, I think it was just a combination of them not knowing how to offer emotional support and wanting to reduce my pain as much as they could.” 


“There was a I’ll never be enough feeling. This was a very heavy, long lasting state that I personally believe will affect you the rest of your life… these feelings turned into anger and self hatred, and a lack of humility and care.” 


“Overall I hadn’t had the personal support that I needed, but that’s partly due to my own doings of keeping things to myself. I feel as a male there’s self-induced pressure to make it out that it’s no big deal and or leave out key details to benefit your appearance in the situation due to pride or ego etc.”

So why do we struggle to talk to other men about our feelings? 

Terms like toxic masculinity are ingrained in our culture these days, but nowhere does it stand more prominent than the ways men interact with each other. This tends to manifest in a focus on logic, and how you can “fix” a break-up. 

Men are set on finding solutions, not willing to dwell in the emotion. It might feel like wasted time for you to not move on from any issue as quickly as possible, or maybe it just makes you uncomfortable. 


If you’re the one who is going through the break-up, having a friend seem so dismissive of your emotions — even if that’s not their intention — can be frustrating. And as a friend, the last thing you want to do is give your grieving friend the idea that you are tired of their wallowing.

Many young men are never given the tools or opportunities to listen and be supportive, and are put into a role that emphasises protection, strength, and making sure everyone is okay.

In many ways, finding the root of an issue and removing it makes minor problems relatively simple to deal with, allowing you to move with the things in life that make you happy. It can be easy to forget that sometimes your emotions need to be addressed. 

Understanding the post-colonial construct.

One of the many layers of traditional thoughts on masculinity here in Aotearoa are ideas around Māori men being the strong “she’ll be right” type.

Colonial ideas have fuelled people’s perceptions of Māori as physical and passionate, and many of these ideas became adopted and accepted. This bled into ideas around relationships as well, both with romantic partners, and with those around us, locking our tāne into roles that prevent them from reaching out, and in. 

Post break-up, you tend to be left in quite a vulnerable state, but because of these subconscious ideas you might assume your friend is okay simply because he appears to be. 


This notion of masculinity has facilitated an environment where men believe success and happiness is through looking and acting tough, and suppressing emotions in order to be strong and look after your loved ones. 

Many men will only allow themselves to open up once they’ve reached a breaking point; a moment when they have nothing left but to be emotional. And that is when the anger takes precedence. 

How can we talk to each other? 

So… what can we do? It’s not just about waiting for that bro of yours to reach out to you. That’s the assumption that keeps this cycle going. 

If you know a man close to you has recently had a breakup, reach out and ask him how everything is. Get him in an environment he finds comfortable. That could be the front seat of his car, his bedroom, or even up on a hill. Do things at his pace, and accept that sometimes a solution will not present itself, or is not needed. 

That being said, maybe a distraction is what that person wants. Perhaps you have a mutual understanding that in order to create a safe space, you need to do something you both enjoy. Playing a video game, watching a movie, it could be anything. 

Ben* told us that sometimes "some cheering up and distractions was exactly what was needed. “I could hang out and do nothing,” he said. “I didn’t have to pretend to be happy, but I also didn’t have to be alone.” 

On the flip side, it can be important to keep pushing to have those hard conversations.

As Joel* shared with VICE: “A lot of the conversations were frustrated or angry and were usually about their ex. It was only when my mates got pushed to a breaking point that they cried and talked about their pain.” 

If you are the one who finds themselves in an emotionally compromised position after a break-up, don’t be afraid to open up to someone close to you. Just don’t expect there to be a moment that solves the problem because the real problem is you not allowing yourself to be upset. 


Overcoming the embarrassment and expectations is difficult, but necessary, to break the norm.

We all have the same needs and desires as each other, and it’s about time that we understand that. As a man, it’s crucial to reach out, both if you’re in need of an ear, or you want to let your friends know that you have one they can use to express how they feel. And if that dialogue is opened up, not everything has the capacity to be “fixed’” 

Ideas around masculinity are more regularly broken down these days thanks to honest and insightful conversations about the role of masculinity in recent years. The healing will come in time, but first, you have to start with admitting that everything might not be okay. And as a friend, it is vital that you allow yourself to be known as someone they can rely on to lend an ear, and just listen.

Ryland Hutana is a writer and creator who currently lives in Auckland, Aotearoa.

Own the Feels is brought to you by #LoveBetter, a campaign funded by the Ministry for Social Development.

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