The Man in Her Head: A Barrier or Motivation to Be Better (Part 1 of 2)

No relationship is just comprised of two people. If you’re in a relationship, I bet you thought it was just you and the other person you’re dating. It turns out that there are fifty-leven people inside the relationship. Here’s a discussion about some of those people, from two people who have been there.

A “He Said”/”She Said” Analysis on Dating, Love and Relationships
By Rahiel Tesfamariam (Urban Cusp) and Panama Jackson (Very Smart Brothas)

Warning: This ain’t politically correct; this might offend our personal connects

The Man in Her Head

Rahiel: As a woman, do you have The MITH (Man In The Head) Syndrome? Diagnosis is made when you realize (or are repeatedly told) that you’re madly in love with and dating a man you’ve never actually met (no, not Idris Elba), but the Weird Science figment of your imagination you crafted out of snippets of your favorite movies, songs, books, sermons, and romantic stories. You know who I’m talking about – the Ossie to your Ruby, the Clyde to your Bonnie, and the Barack to your Michelle. The man who has 24.5 items out of the 25 on your front and back list.

The MITH is a manufactured ideal that feeds into unrealistic fantasies of what love and marriage are all about. Where did The MITH come from? This varies based on a multitude of factors – family, class, culture, environment, education, religion, values, etc. Some might argue that he’s a manifestation of the father figure that was or wasn’t in the picture during childhood. Others would say that he’s an aggregate of every man ever encountered in life. Why is it difficult to be cured of The MITH? Because denial has become viral and old habits die hard.

At the age of 30, I know now that The MITH is not our fault. I instead blame Jem (I was never big on Barbie) for convincing us that we can be the star of our own shows as our supportive partners stand in the sidelines catering to our every need. I fault Dirty Dancing for leading us to believe that Nobody-Puts-Baby-In-The-Corner men with checkered pasts best know how to sweep good girls off of their feet.  Beyond pop culture (R&B, Hip-Hop, and The Notebook particularly), I also point the finger at Black churches and our sista-girls.

Those influences combined lead so many of us to believe that one man can and should embody all of the following traits all of the time: protective/ sensitive, spontaneous/ calculated, charismatic/ humble, passionate/ laid back, sensual/ reserved, spiritual/ grounded , serious/ silly, feminist/ a man’s man, and faithful/ desired-by-all-other-women-on-earth. We end up believing that the knight in shining armor we read about in Disney books (or saw in Tyler Perry films) may make a special appearance in not only our classrooms, corporate offices, and churches, but perhaps even in the clubs and hoods of America. While millions of women remain unaffected by The MITH, I’m convinced that this plague has become pandemic, crossing all racial, cultural and class boundaries.

The Man He Ain’t

Panama: For all of the great things that men bring to the table – the table, for instance – one of our biggest faults in relationships is our resistance to change unless it’s on our own terms. Of course, it would be easier if our women didn’t constantly view us through the paradigm of the man in her head and expect him to show up instead of the man she’s dating, but that’s just the price of doing business. But change is a part of life. It’s a part of growing. So we tend to stand in our own way by constantly reminding, and simultaneously pissing off our women by telling them who we ain’t. Which is the lose-lose for everybody.

“Baby, you knew when we met I didn’t pick up my socks. Why are you complaining now? I’m not a clean dude.” Or “I’m not the call you all day guy.” Or “I’m not the guy who is going to be that sympathetic ear. I’m a fixer, not a listener! Period.” That last one is a big problem. But it seems like men, as a species, like to change and evolve on our own time and of our own doing. I mean, we want our woman to be the same woman we fell in love with, why can’t I be the same too? Why do we have to do all this changing? I ain’t that dude anyway. I’m me. And I’m gonna stay me. Stupidity, thy name is single man.

The funny thing is that there’s a long held secret amongst most men. We actually want to be the man our women want us to be. For one, it would make our lives easier (or so we think…and actually so SHE thinks), and two, we realize we could be better men. But it’s hard being yourself, by yourself, for so long successfully and then having to completely uproot who you are to make somebody else happy, especially when that person seems to go so far to point out your flaws as opposed to what you do right. It’s all in the delivery. We’d be more inclined to make some of those changes if it didn’t feel like our every move was an affront to your sanity, peace on Earth, and goodwill towards men. Real talk. The Civil War claimed a lot of lives, why bring it home and let it claim our relationship? The answer can’t ALWAYS be, “well if you’d just do xyz…” can it?

The Woman She Thinks She Is

Rahiel: Worse than believing that The MITH exists is believing that we deserve him. This is where we must be brutally honest with ourselves. If there really was a man alive who embodied the creativity of Langston Hughes, the charisma of Malcolm X, the brilliance of DuBois, the enterprise of Reginald Lewis, the athleticism of Jordan, the passion of Tupac, the looks of Denzel, and the moral perfection and self-sacrifice of Jesus, then what in the world would he want with you and I? Even on our best days – we’re no match for The MITH.

But there’s a woman who is, and that’s “the ideal woman” that so many of us convince ourselves that we are. Truth be told, we can possess a lot of non-negotiables, but still wrestle with basics such as an understanding and love of self, trust and communication. While we would all like to think that we’re the “sure you can spend this weekend kicking it with your boys without worrying about me” type, the reality is that a lot of us seek constant validation from our lovers. And as Panama Jackson (perhaps inspired by his church going days) says, “It’s not a man’s job to make you whole.” In short, what a man says and does should never define who you are in the relationship.

Who She Is For Real For Real

Panama: It’s funny. If a woman tells a man who he really is (i.e. lazy, inconsiderate, selfish, etc.), he’s just supposed to take it, acknowledge it (because she can’t be wrong), fix it, and make her happy. But if a man tells a woman about herself, it’s akin to kicking her down a flight of stairs. “How could he? That’s not me!” Plus she hasn’t consulted her homegirls who will likely tell her that she’s not a nag or a complainer or overly negative or passive aggressive or rude or a malcontent and hard to be around. Of course, she’ll never get the truth because the people that don’t like her for those reasons have removed themselves from her life anyway.

So she’s surrounded by a bunch of people who are just like her and who also don’t see it as a problem. Everybody else is the problem. Most people are intimately familiar with who they think they are, but when faced with the truth, it’s hard to acknowledge. You ever notice in most movies that it’s the men who have the come to Jesus “I’m gonna do right” moments? Women are always fine just the way that they are. Yeah. Bull malarkey. Most women aren’t the image they portray themselves to be. Most women are the exact opposite of who they proclaim to be. Put simply: if she tells you she’d never do it, she’s going to do it as soon as she gets home. So long as nobody’s looking. Women are the living manifestation of plausible deniability.

Do you agree or disagree? Have these people been in your relationships?

Rahiel Tesfamariam is the Founder / Editorial Director of, a cutting-edge online magazine highlighting progressive urban culture, faith, social change and global awareness. In her spare time, she thinks, dreams, believes and loves deeply. You can follow her on Twitter at @RahielT. Follow Urban Cusp at @UrbanCusp and LIKE Urban Cusp on their Facebook fan page.


Check for Part 2 of this series on tomorrow!