- Toxic masculinity is the idea men or masc people have to act unemotional, in-control, and dominant in order to be considered valid in their gender.
- While overt acts of sexism can be easy to spot, it can bleeding into our relationships subtly.
- Here are four ways toxic masculinity shows up in your relationships, according to a therapist.
- If your partner who is a man or masc is controlling your finances, plans, and you’re doing more emotional and household-related labor, it might be time for a conversation.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Toxic masculinity is the idea that men need to be dominant, unemotional, and strong to be deemed “a man.”
It sat at the heart of the #MeToo movement, which forced a conversation about sexual harassment and violence committed by powerful men.
But toxic masculinity doesn’t always lead to violence; it can show up in subtle ways in everyday interactions, even in ostensibly loving relationships.
It’s not necessarily intentional. Men and masc people can exhibit these traits without realizing, since these toxic standards of masculinity are so deeply ingrained in the way we perceive “masculinity” in the US.
Jacqueline Mendez, a family and sex therapist based in Los Angeles, told Insider four ways to identify whether toxic masculinity is showing up in a relationship, so you can work on it with your partner.
Controlling decisions around finances
According to Mendez, one of the telltale signs toxic masculinity might be weaseling its way into your relationship is in relation to finances.
Oftentimes, men or masc people in dynamics will control the financial decisions a house needs to make, whether it is intentional or not.
“If he wants to go buy a motorcycle, well, he goes out and buys a motorcycle,” Mendez told Insider. “But if she wants to buy herself something first, she has to make sure the kids are fed, that the house has been taken care of, and then whatever’s leftover, she may go buy for herself.”
Sometimes, this can be an internalized rule women or femmes enforce on themselves as a “mother’s” sacrifice even if it isn’t explicitly stated by their masc partner.
Look out for statements or actions from your partner like:
- “It’s my money, so I don’t feel comfortable with you spending it.”
- They themselves something fun (a PS5), but make comments about you spending on your hobbies before essential needs are met.
- You buy them treats and they rarely, if ever, reciprocate.
- Taking care of all of the bills and taxes and telling you “don’t worry about it.” It can seem nice, but it can cut you out of knowing exactly what your financial status is.
You do more of the housework (even if you both work)
Classic gender roles dictate the woman or femme person in a relationship do the housework like cooking, cleaning, and childcare. This easily is a sign of toxic masculinity making its way into your relationship.
“Rescheduling our appointments, rescheduling our work so that there’s time for home,” Mendez said.
Mendez says if you see the labor in your house is split up along gender lines, even if you have a full-time job, you might want to consider talking to your partner.
Be wary if:
- You do all of the dishes and cook most days even though you both have full-time jobs.
- You are expected to handle all the childcare.
- You clean the house consistently, and they do not.
- They offer to do chores, but you carry the emotional labor of having to tell them what to do and when to do them.
Their needs come first
Toxic masculinity stems from the long-standing sexist dynamic in relationships that men’s needs come first.
This could show up in your relationship as cancelling hangouts with your friends to take care of your partner’s needs, prioritizing their comfort over your work, or putting their career first.
Oftentimes, men and masc people may not realize they’re doing these subtle things that have been so deeply ingrained in how they perceive gender roles.
Look out for things like:
- They ask you to cancel plans with friends to spend time together or do housework, but they never cancel their plans for you.
- You always have time to listen to their emotions but they don’t seem to have the same energy for you.
- You ask about their work and their day but they don’t reciprocate with the same energy.
- You make them a plate at family cookouts but they never make you one.
Your body belongs to your partner, not yourself
A more drastic way toxic masculinity can show up in our relationships is over bodily autonomy.
If you make any decisions about your body — what you wear, your tattoos and piercings, your weight, what you eat — primarily with your partner’s views in mind, this is a major red flag.
“There are women [and femmes] out there who still feel that her body isn’t hers. It belongs to her husband and it’s up to his discretion to do whatever it is that she wants to do,” Mendez told Insider.
Look out for subtle things your partner does or says like:
- Making negative or dismissive comments about what you wear before you leave the house.
- Expressing disdain for you getting piercings, tattoos, or other body modifications — or, encouraging you to get some, even though you don’t want to.
- Telling you what kind of birth control options you should be on.
- Commenting on the amount of food you eat and/or the amount of exercise you do.
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