“Even in a world encouraging open conversations around mental health, many men still fall silent. Pride stands in their way, intensifying the challenges of fatherhood.”

Aidan, Founder of TMFC

Barriers to Opening Up - A Man's View

The power of vulnerability and the struggles men face in opening up about their emotions.

My own story points to plenty of obstacles to opening up and as I’ve researched this piece and talked to dads and read posts, questions and dived deeper it’s clear the list is not exhaustive. For me these themes are ever present.

The Weight of Pride.

The blocker to many men is pride. There’s a shame attached to tackling your true feelings. Nobody wants to feel inferior to another. At our core, we’re problem solvers and by internalising a problem we are protecting others from the issue. It’s our way of coping.

The problem, as I see it, is that we get too invested in the solution and fail to understand how we got to where we are in the first place. It’s not always straightforward, but in my experience, it was how I got there that was the problem and not the fact that once I was there, I was unable to articulate it.  I’d ignored everything and everyone around me, and despite the solution hiding in plain sight, I chose to ignore it. I didn’t want to be perceived as weak. I certainly wasn’t prepared to admit my struggle to my colleagues or my boss. I didn’t want Teri, my partner to see just how far I’d fallen.

It was my resilience that got me in trouble. I was able to bounce back from setback and moments where I felt completely lost. I believed hiding it was better for my career and for everyone around me. Too proud and too stubborn, I had conditioned myself to push through the pain barrier. What I failed to realise was failing to deal with things was leaving me fatigued. It was the fatigue that caught me out.

Your pride will leave you isolated and disconnected from those you love. As you continue to put up barriers you will drive a wedge between you and them and erode their trust and empathy.

The Cost of Silence.

It’s many things. At times I just want you to leave me the f*$K alone. You have to accept that I’m okay with silence; there's a peace to it. I know that you might not see it, but from time to time, I like a little space. My wife gets it, and she respects it.

In a world that is trying to adapt and encourage open and honest debates and conversation around mental health, a man will still fall silent. Yes, there are a few that challenge the norm, but most of us, dads included will ignore the signs and fail to seek support. For many the silence is an escape. I found I wasn’t comfortable with the silence. On the outside everything looked calm, but my mind was raging a war against my confidence and self-worth.

As a new father you’re often isolated from friends, family and even colleagues. As you adjust to a new world you want to invest your time and energy in protecting your family and supporting your partner. The loneliness can be overwhelming and biting down on the gum shield and moving forward is exhausting. At times I found the silence deafening. I would lie in the darkness wide awake and with my mind working in overdrive I’d burn myself out and finally fall asleep. Every morning I’d wake up after just a few hours sleep and drive to work on autopilot. In the lead up to April 2020 I was pushing hard at work, I didn’t have time to think about anything else or start to prepare for our youngest’s arrival. You can hide in the workplace, nobody needs to see the real you, but at home with few places to hide and with a new baby filling you and your partners time, you can’t hide, only retreat into the shadows. 

For some, the silence is tearing them apart. I was uncomfortable in my own company. The voice inside my head wanted to destroy what confidence I had left. I thought I was resilient, and I think I was, but my resilience, my ability to push on had left me fatigued. I was fatigued from carrying the weight of my past failure, past mistakes, those things that as a father you need to process, so that you can navigate the relentlessness of fatherhood with confidence. Honestly speaking my coping mechanisms were not set up to help me deal with the pressures of early fatherhood, a toddler and lockdown.

There is a sense of failure, of hopelessness attached to the dialogue around talking about how you’re feeling to those closest to you. I think that’s why we often find solace in our solitude. I opened up to my wife… for a moment I was frozen in time. I watched the words tear across the room and descend on her. They tore at her very existence. I’d been backed into a corner, and at the moment when I had to leave my pride at the door, I lashed out with words that I’ll never be able to take back. I needed help…. But I’d refused it for so long that I’d become numb. I liken it to callouses building up around your heart. The emotions that you want to express are blocked and replaced with anger and frustration and the longer you bottle it up, the tougher the layers that build up. For some taking this step is too much. Your partner has built this picture up of you, a strong, confident, resilient, problem solver, the man she fell in love with. A fleeting moment of vulnerability may destroy that image forever. You fear that she may fall out of love with you or look for strength in another. To take that all important first step you must believe two things:

A)      That she will listen to you, and I mean really listen to what is actually being said.

B)      That what you say won’t be used again you.

For many the latter is their biggest fear.

To the partner reading this – His words might be barbed, but it’s the shame and torture of the silence that has left him crippled. If you repeatedly ask him what’s up the moment, he does might just be his moment to escape the darkness. It might hurt, but it was necessary. He needs you to trust him and he will need your support to get back on track. However, I’m afraid that getting back on track is up to him. You cannot fix him and nor should you try. His willingness to share his pain is the first step and he must now find the motivation to move forward. Your role is to encourage, but failing to appreciate the effort expended in getting this far will erode the relationship between the two of you.   

The Burden of Fatherhood.

For 3 months straight, I thought about the alternative. What was my exit strategy? What impact would it have? A selfish act that would destroy everyone around me and worst of all leave my beautiful family with so many unanswered questions. There was a heaviness that consumed me at all times. I sought solace in the silence as I retreated inward and pushed everyone close to me away. The pandemic actually made it easier to push family away. However, under the bright lights of the hospital room where Max was born, I knew I was on the edge. I should have been looking forward, but I was filled with regret, anger, and frustration.

At the time, all I wanted to do was scream. I, like many, was on the very edge of my limits. Regardless of your gender and life experience, you carry a heavy load, but as a man, I think it intensifies the moment you’re exposed to fatherhood. I remember talking to myself and telling myself over and over to get my s*$t together. The thing is getting your s*$t together starts before you have a baby. Call it a lack of preparation or perhaps a lack of opportunity to educate yourself. In my experience, it’s ignorance. You think it’s going to be the same as it always was, that you’ll be able to utilise the same strategies that have served you so well in the past, and hey, if it doesn’t work out, you can always throw yourself into work and avoid the reality of modern parenting altogether. It’s hard to take, but ultimately, you’re responsible for making changes and sacrifices. The issue is we’re not willing to sacrifice the things that add little value to our lives. We’d rather sacrifice our health, happiness, our diet, and our sleep. I say this because it’s true. This isn’t designed to upset or discourage you. This is the reality of parenthood…. S*$t gets real, real fast and before you know it you’re knee deep in dirty diapers and struggling to find a moment to breathe.

I’ve said it before – Fatherhood wasn’t the issue. For me it was the way I handled everything else. 

A failure to appreciate the seismic shift.

I think we all get caught out here. We have this expectation of what our parenting experience will be like and I’m sure you did your best to predict how the early days would play out. The biggest issue I think facing modern fathers is that we take this in our stride and adapt as we go. The problem lies in the preparation – Not the preparation needed to become a dad, anyone can change a nappy, warm a bottle, and adjust to the unique challenges a new baby brings to the family unit. It’s the mental resilience needed to survive the early years. It’s relentless, not just for but for her too and the first thing to go is the connection between you both, that thing that kept you together before baby arrived. For some you both become like ships passing in the night. You hand baby over as one of you gets some much-needed rest and then you hand baby back, so you can get some shut eye too.

We fail to appreciate how our relationship is impacted and that can lead to poor communication, habits, and a lack of time to maintain and tend to the relationship that you both worked hard to create. This lack of time can drive a wedge between you and whilst not consciously, you accept it for what it is and that results in feeling isolated. 

Breaking Down Barriers.

Our notion as parents is to protect our children at all costs, but at what cost to our health and our resilience. As a dad, you carry it. You can’t turn to your partner and go: “s*$t, this is hard… I can’t imagine how you’re coping”. You are either a natural or someone that needs encouragement. If the encouragement isn’t forthcoming, you find alternatives, things you know you’re good at, and by doing so, you create barriers that harden over time. Mum, I’m sure you’re seeing it. He’s carrying something, he’s distracted and distant. He’s slowly retreating into himself; he’s stopped trying, stopped communicating, and his engagement levels have dropped. For him, it’s all-consuming. He can’t put his finger on it, but the light is slowly dimming. At times he’s preoccupied, working late, and his willingness to help appears to be less forthcoming.

As a man, he’s struggling to move from acceptance to admission. That, for some, is a step too far. As a routine problem solver, not understanding the root of the issue stops him from taking that step. You push the wrong button, and he’ll retreat further. Ask yourself this… Are you really paying attention? Have you overlooked something simple that’s causing him to lose confidence in his role as a dad and as a man? He’s looking for reassurance, but he’s also looking for the right words. He accepted the pain. What he can’t figure out is the fix. Instead of trying to make it better, he’s trying to cover it up, and he’s relying on the coping mechanisms that failed him in the past. That triggers you. His selfish behaviour starts to drive a wedge between you, and before you know it, what you had is slowly disintegrating.

What used to be simple, free flowing conversation is replaced by short, misdirected frustration and irritation. As a result, you both feel conflicted, no longer fully confident in the direction you’re collectively taking you might begin to clash more often. Those clashes, that demand to feel valued and validation you both crave might push him further away. You’ll rightly want to question him, demand more from him, but what he needs is understanding, space and someone prepared to listen. It’s a difficult balance to strike. Do you wait around for him to finally hit the bottom, or do you force him into a corner, hoping he’ll respond positively. The wrong move and he will shut down.

I’m grateful for the Teri’s willingness to challenge my behaviour. I needed to be held accountable and she needed me to step up and support her and our two young sons. In my experience if you get this right, it will bring you closer together and strengthen the bond between you both. Your communication, honesty, and willingness to listen to the other person will improve and you might just fall for one another all over again.


In my own experience, admitting I needed help stopped the cycle of torment and the dialogue that I’d allowed to cloud my decision making. It allowed me to focus on a future with my kids and my incredible partner. I’m lucky; she’s patient, resilient, and as the father to her children, she’s always had my back. Our relationship is built differently from many dads I’ve encountered, perhaps in part because we’ve grown up together. That said, my failure to open up saw her finally lose her patience, and despite everything we’d been through, I almost lost it all. Like a lot of dads, I looked outside the window and saw nothing in my local community to support me. I’m stubborn, call it resilient, but once I was free from the burden of carrying the dead weight around with me for so long, I quickly realised that my GP wasn’t an option. I had to do it myself, and because I’d opened up, I was accountable to my wife, my kids, and importantly, to me.

Everything points to overcoming your own objections. Your vulnerability is your strength. To carry the weight of your own expectation takes grit and determination. By sharing your story, talking through the challenges you face you are choosing to bring your partner closer to you and creating a deeper connection. Of course, there will always be risks associated with taking the first step and admitting that you’re struggling, but in my experience the darkness lifted. That first step will help you think more clearly. The most important step is asking for help. I can guarantee you’ve been weighed down by the stress and strain of whatever it is you’ve been carrying and by the time you challenge yourself to admit that you need help you’ll be exhausted and looking for an out.

Shame and pride act as the gatekeeper to you finding your feet and finding a solution. The day I opened up my whole outlook shifted and most important of all, I was able to clearly identify what was important to me and why. That simple connection has allowed me to stay on track, silence the inner voice and today I feel no shame, do I regret not opening up sooner, hell yeah! Was I ready? No. Frankly speaking I needed to hit the bottom to discover the motivation needed to make changes and have a positive impact on my young family. The final piece of the jigsaw is accountability and by clearly identifying what was important and why I have all the motivation I need to give my children what they need.    

“We condition ourselves to believe it'll pass, but the reality of parenthood hits hard. We sacrifice our health, happiness, diet, and sleep.”

Aidan, Founder of TMFC


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