Signs You Are Dating a Broken Man
Everybody comes with a little baggage. Some men, naturally, come with more than others. And that doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker! A person can overcome their baggage, particularly when they have the help of a healthy, mutually-supportive relationship.
But some baggage is borderline irreparable. Some men are simply emotionally broken. No matter how in love two partners are, if a person is broken like that, it can take an extraordinary amount of work for the relationship to be salvaged—if it’s salvageable at all.
Your relationship probably has plenty of good times. And during those good times, it’s easy to convince yourself that your problems are easily manageable. But if he’s showing more and more signs of struggle, and ordinary measures aren’t making things better, there’s a chance he’s emotionally broken.
If you’re reading this, that probably means you’re worried your partner is broken. But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Here are the signs that your man is emotionally broken—and what to do about it if so.
On “Fixing” Guys
If you’re dating a broken guy, odds are you want to “fix” him. It’s a very romantic idea, finding a tough, distant guy with a heart of gold and making him a better person all by yourself. That’s a classic idea. But unfortunately, it’s also a myth.
What does it mean to “fix” someone? We need to re-frame the way we look at this entire phenomenon fundamentally. We are not the ones fixing our partners. We’re along for the ride while they fix themselves. We can support them through the journey—and that’s a critical role—but ultimately, the journey is theirs.
A person cannot be fixed by someone else. You can nudge them in the right direction and support them throughout the process, but ultimately, that’s all you can do. Sometimes that’s an incredibly valuable role because some journeys towards growth and improvement are exceedingly painful. And this is particularly true at the beginning of those journeys. So your partner might not be able to do it without your support.
But in the end, if he’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to him. They have to fix themselves. If you want to “fix him,” what that truly means is being there for him and supporting him on his journey. And there’s nothing you can do that will guarantee that he will be successful.
Signs That You’re Dating a Broken Man
Being emotionally broken can mean a lot of different things, and can take many various forms. Two comparably broken men could look and act entirely differently. Some of the signs are obvious, but others are more subtle. Here are the signs to look for that might indicate you’re dating a broken man.
He Doesn’t Open Up
Let’s start with the most obvious sign. Being able to open one’s self up to someone you care about is a sign of an emotionally healthy person. It shows that they’re able to put themselves out there and be vulnerable, and able to connect with their loved ones on a deeper level.
Conversely, if a man is unwilling or unable to open up to you, that’s a clear sign that he’s carrying around some emotional baggage.
If you sought out this article, you might already be experiencing something like this. But here are the top things to look for that will tell you if a guy isn’t able to open up.
He Can’t or Won’t Say I Love You
You’ve been in a relationship for a long time now. The two of you have fallen in love, but only you have said it out loud.
Maybe he shows you that he loves you with his actions. And he says things like, “I really care about you.” But he has a big hangup when it comes to that specific phrase. That can have very deep roots. It could mean that he didn’t have a very loving childhood, and he was never taught how to express his love. That means he has to learn this incredibly difficult trait, on the fly, as an adult.
Another possibility is that he has said I love you to someone else in the past and got his heart broken. He put himself out there, and he got hurt because of it. So now he’s particularly cautious.
Regardless, he has something from his past that he’s going to need to work through to move forward in your relationship.
He Never Talks About His Feelings
Similar conceptually to saying, “I love you,” but on a much larger scale—open, honest communication is key to any healthy relationship. It’s essential to share your feelings about positive things and negative things, as well. Otherwise, resentment will naturally build up.
Emotionally broken men typically have a lot of trouble with this. That requires vulnerability, which can be very daunting for broken people. But there’s more. He may struggle even being able to articulate and understand his feelings to himself.
Emotional intelligence is a learned skill. If your man is emotionally broken, sharing his feelings isn’t just a matter of choosing to do so. He needs first to be able to get in touch with his own emotions before he is even able to share them with you.
He Regularly Distances Himself from You
A broken man is likely to distance himself from you frequently (likely without even realizing he’s doing so).
Pay close attention to how he reacts to adversity. It’s okay—and can even a good thing—to be independent when you’re in a relationship. But at the same time, it’s a partnership. And when you’re in pain, you should feel comfortable leaning on your partner.
Many broken people won’t do this. When they are hurting, they’ll likely want to be alone. And they may even push you away if you try to comfort him. He probably doesn’t even realize he’s pushing you away. He’s just more comfortable being alone when he is handling a problem. Many broken people have never known another way.
It’s okay if he does this now and then. Being alone can be healthy in moderation. But if he consistently pushes you away when he’s struggling, that’s a sign that he could be emotionally broken.
He’s Very Controlling
While it’s very intuitive that an emotionally broken person would struggle with being open, a broken person being very controlling might be less expected. But this can be a sign as well.
Broken people often feel like they have no control over their own lives. They feel lost and adrift, trying to grasp onto anything they can. So if they can’t control themselves, they project by attempting to control you instead.
Of course, there are plenty of men who are controlling for all kinds of reasons other than being emotionally broken. And either way, a controlling partner can lead to a very unhealthy and potentially dangerous relationship. But keep an eye out for the following signs; if they’re present along with a few of the others, that’s an indication that you’re dating a broken man.
He Always Needs to Know Where You Are
It’s good that he cares about you and wants to know that you’re safe. But he shouldn’t need to know where you are at every single moment. That is a sign that he wants to control you and your life—particularly so if he gets upset if you go somewhere without telling him.
Each member of a relationship must have robust individual lives in addition to their lives as halves of a relationship—otherwise, you risk codependence. And if he doesn’t trust you live your life without knowing exactly where you are, he’s preventing that from happening.
If you’ve been in this relationship for a long time (or if you’ve been in others like it), this probably feels normal, and perhaps even healthy. But it’s not. That is a definite sign of control and may be indicative of a broken man.
He Tells You You Can’t Spend Time With Certain People
Don’t get me wrong; he doesn’t need to like every single one of your friends. And if he expresses that he doesn’t think one of your friends is right for you, that’s alright too.
But if he tries to flat out tell you that you can’t hang out with someone anymore, that’s not okay. He is allowed to form his own opinions and to give input. But when he tries to make demands like that, he’s crossing a line. It’s your life, and you should spend that life with whomever you choose.
If he has a problem with that, too bad. That’s controlling behavior, and you shouldn’t accept it.
He’s Constantly Making You Feel Guilty
Guilt and shame are compelling manipulative tools. If he’s always making you feel guilty—implying, perhaps, that his pain is somehow your fault—that’s a way of trying to control you. And that’s true even if it’s not intentional.
The worst is if he threatens to hurt himself based on something you’ve done, or might choose to do. That effectively makes your decision for you—you care about him, and you’re not going to do anything that would contribute to him hurting yourself. And it’s unacceptable that he would put you in that position.
When this happens, he is effectively holding you emotionally hostage. That is incredibly controlling behavior. It may also mean he’s emotionally broken. But that’s not an excuse.
He’s Very Guarded
If he seems like he always has high walls up, that’s a definite sign that someone is emotionally broken. Broken men are often very guarded in their love lives. That can be a sign of unresolved emotional trauma. This trauma, meanwhile, might be the reason he’s broken in the first place.
Look for the following, as they are signs that he is overly guarded.
He Doesn’t Talk About His Past
Our pasts shape the people we become. It’s natural not to share every aspect of our childhood or our previous relationships with new partners. But as time goes by, talking about one’s past can be a crucial part of getting to know one another on a deeper level.
If your boyfriend never talks about his past, this is a red flag. It’s a sign that there’s something he may be repressing, that could be contributing to his current problems.
Past trauma is never easy to work through. But the one way to guarantee he will never get through it is if he pushes it down and never talks about it. Don’t try to force it out of him—this will likely make him upset—but make it clear you are always willing to listen.
It Takes a Long Time for Him to Trust
Trust is something that someone needs to earn, and that takes time. And it can be lost in an instant. So it’s okay if he isn’t wholeheartedly trusting at the outset of your relationship.
But trust is one of the most critical factors in any healthy relationship. You should notice it steadily increasing as time goes by. If you’ve been together for a long time, and it still feels like your boyfriend is wary about fully trusting you, this is a sign he could be emotionally broken.
That could be another sign of unresolved trauma. Perhaps he was hurt by someone he trusted in the past, and he still hasn’t gotten over it. But he needs to know that you’re not the person that hurt him. If he won’t give you a chance because of something that someone else did, that’s a sign of a broken man.
He Gives Up Very Easily
One pattern that may not be obvious if you’re not looking for it, but can nonetheless be indicative of someone who is emotionally broken, is the propensity to give up on things very quickly.
It could be things as significant as other friendships, or as small as hobbies. But if your boyfriend regularly gives up on things at the first sign of adversity, this raises several red flags. It’s a sign that he has low self-esteem, as he easily feels defeated.
It’s a sign that he doesn’t have the patience and persistence necessary to sustain a healthy long term relationship. And most of all, it’s a warning sign that he may give up on you at the first sign of trouble in your relationship.
The Biggest Sign of All
There is a fine line between someone who requires growth in life and someone who is truly broken. Any of the signs above could be indicative of a broken man, or they could just be someone who needs to work on themselves a bit (and don’t we all). So how do you tell the difference?
Well, severity is one way to tell—the more extreme an ailment is, the more of a problem it will be. But the biggest signifier is if he doesn’t make any effort to address what he’s struggling with.
Remember that in the end, the only person that can make him better is him. If he won’t even make an effort to do so, that tells you a lot. It could mean that he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the way he’s acting. Or conversely, it could mean that he believes this is his lot in life. He doesn’t think he deserves any better in life; he’s resigned himself to never growing past the things he’s suffering from.
That is a widespread characteristic among broken men. They don’t consider that things should or even could ever be better for them. If your guy doesn’t work to get better, that’s a clear sign that he’s emotionally broken—and you’ll have a lot of work ahead of you if you want to preserve the relationship.
What to Do
If you’re dating a broken man, it can be incredibly frustrating. The good times are excellent, but they’re growing fewer and farther between. He’s suffering, and you’re hurting too—both by having to watch his pain, and as a result of his action.
If you want to salvage the relationship, it’s not hopeless. But it’s not going to be easy either. It’s going to take a lot of hard work from both of you. Here are some paths to consider.
Get Him to Acknowledge the Situation
Nothing is going to change until he decides to change. So, the first step is to get him to realize that he has a problem. He probably already realizes this is the case. The other (and arguably more important) side of that coin, though, is getting him to realize that a solution exists as well.
He’s probably resigned himself to living the rest of his life this way. He needs to acknowledge that he has a problem and that the problem can be fixed. But it will take a lot of effort.
When I say that he has to be the one to fix his problems, that doesn’t mean he has to do it alone. One of the most effective—and most challenging—ways to address emotional health is to seek therapy.
Therapists are professionals for a reason. They are experts when it comes to mental and emotional health. Therapy could be just what your partner needs to finally identify and address the past trauma, or stunted growth, that has caused him to become emotionally broken.
But going to therapy can be a very daunting prospect, especially for the people that need it the most. Your boyfriend has trouble opening up to the people with whom he is the closest; it will be a significant challenge for him to be able to do so with someone he barely knows.
That is one of the most significant ways you can help him. You need to encourage him to follow through and fully support him throughout the process. Hold his hand as he takes the leap. Progress won’t come in a straight line, but as long as he knows he has you to lean on, he may be more willing to put in the work.
Take a Break—and Accept the Fact That it Might be Permanent
If you’ve done all the above to try to help your boyfriend, but he hasn’t put in the effort to get better himself, it may be time for more drastic measures. No matter how much you care about him, you need to value yourself as well.
If you expend all your energy trying to lift him up, but he doesn’t reciprocate, he could wind up dragging you down. Before you even realize it, you could wind up emotionally broken yourself. And then you won’t be able to help him at all.
It might be painful, but at a certain point, the only thing you can do is to go on a break. And you have to make peace with the fact that this break might be forever. Don’t just take him back after a certain amount of time has passed—do so only if he’s clearly demonstrated to you that he’s making an effort to change, and to get better.
Ultimately, he needs to be the one to fix himself. If you’ve reached this point, he’s effectively made it clear that as long as you’re around to take care of him, he’s not going to make that effort. And as much as you may be willing to be there for him to lean on, that’s not fair to either one of you. Take a break and tell him to come back to you once he’s put in the work to deal with his baggage.
That may be painful, but it’s what’s best for both of you. If he doesn’t change, you need to hold firm. As much as it may hurt in the short term, it saves you from a toxic relationship in the long term. But conversely, this might be the push he needed to finally take the leap, and start doing the work necessary to address his emotional health. When your relationship resumes, it will be healthier than ever.