Guest Blogger, Theory & Essay

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!

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at

  • Iamnotakata

    Interesting post and I can agree with the person in your head theory…..
    SN:Am I the only one getting the basic HTML version?

  • Malik

    A good portion of this is already along my thought process. Rahiel’s second part being the one thing that I opine/whine about the most. If someone was really the perfect man/woman, why would they chose you other everything else? One thing I observe a lot from women is that they want the men to be attracted to them based on the reasons they would hypothetically be attracted to themselves if they were a man. I can’t quite wrap my head around that line of thinking. Men have been brought up in a completely different life than yours, why in the world would you expect random people to hold the exact same values and virtues you have about yourself just because they make you want to slide your panties into their briefcase with your number on them?

  • Lola’s Mambo

    @Iamnotakata – I’m getting plain html too. This site just doesn’t let the content be great.

    I would honestly like to know how to approach a man when you (as a female partner) have an issue. This site gives plenty of examples about women who are really abrasive in their approach “you need to do x,y,z…” but no concrete examples about what the right approach is.

    I think men are overly sensitive when certain negative things are highlighted. I concede that all people are. But being nice and taking baby steps doesn’t necessarily achieve the desired result… In fact, after months of nice and pleasant versions all I have is wasted time, patience, and breath.

    Why is it that women have to put up with everything a man does or dance around real issues to spare his feelings?

  • 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

    *Deep Sigh*
    I am getting so much bitterness here…

    So what I am to ascertain from this groundbreaking dialogue, is that women are not only totally unrealistic and in denial about the men they have, but also the men they deserve, AND the women they REALLY are.
    Jesus Christ, between Champs bemoaning of orgasms and this yet again less than glowing depiction of women as irrational, creatures totally devoid of the capabilities of self-reflection and compromise, I’m beginning to wonder why y’all even fux with the fairer sex, not saying you should switch teams, but maybe sit this game out.

    Maybe because I am keenly aware of my own ain’t shytness qualities I cannot relate to these women of which you all speak, maybe because in my own life I see my friends and family accept their husbands for the loud, crass, sometimes irresponsible, video gaming mofos, they are, and have long since given up on the fantasies of this Denzel/Jesus/2Pac combo bout 4 score and 4 kids ago, I find this whole “revelation” to be negro internet fodder, and the basis for the infallible “Denzel Principle” but I realize the world is much bigger than my meager sliver of personal experiences, So I will just watch and observe the happenings, ….Yuuuup.

  • AI

    This is a human thing. Men want the model type chick who can cook like a chef, freak like a porn star, and play ball/video games with them. Women want the Prince Charming with bad boy sensibilities. (Adjust as you will to remove the heteronormative assumptions). We want whatever media tells us is the ideal and we believe we can have it all. (Hopefully) we grow up and realize no person can be everything we want but find the person who makes us so happy we’re willing to deal with their flaws (and who is willing to deal with ours). *shrug*

  • Tes

    The Man in my head has gotten simpler and simpler the more time goes on and the more I realize who I am and being able to differentiate between what I want and what I need. From ages five to fifteen he was this thing, an idea; he was perfect and thought I was perfect for being imperfect. Around 16 I realized that you never fall in love with perfect people, and perfect people (sadly? thankfully?) don’t exist. For a few years I gave up on the idea of perfection and the man in my head became a dark, brooding, mysterious type. And now, at 21, he’s the simplest he’s ever been; he’s just a man that wants to be with me who is patient and sincere, kind and willing to show me a little attention a lot of the time.

    As for my role in all of it, the creation of this man, it comes from understanding more who I am right now than who I want to be. Right now, I’m a girl who needs to be treated more gently than I was in the past, and I need to learn to trust myself fully before trusting other people. That being said, as I evolve, the man in my head evolves too, but not in the monster man (when a woman mashes up celebrities and men she’s met into this impossible standard) kind of way, but more in a general characteristic sort of way.

    In general, I agree that for some the man in the head is an excuse to not try with average joes, and to not go out and risk being hurt. And for others, it’s more of a lighthouse for when we find ourselves falling with guys not remotely what we say or think we need or want.

    …and now I feel incredibly long-winded. *walks off*

  • Lola’s Mambo

    Who She Is For Real For Real

    @Panama – I don’t fully agree with this. Don’t rag on homegirls. Most women have at least one good friend that will tell it like it is. But if the girl is looking for someone to validate her own feelings, it doesn’t matter if there’s a whole gang of girls giving solid advice – she’ll listen to that one chick who validates her logic. Men do it too. There was at least one homie who warned you not to get back with your crazy baby momma… Two stabbings later, you finally come ’round.

    “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.”

    How do men not follow this too (generally speaking): He doesn’t cook. His friends don’t cook. They don’t see this as a problem. WOMEN should cook. WOMEN don’t cook. THEY [WOMEN] are the problem.

    For the record, I do think women don’t handle criticism in the best way… men don’t either, they just react to it in a different way… only because they’re faced with it so often they’re used to dealing with it.

  • Namia

    ..interesting take..the evidence of most hetro relationships will show that women put up with a lot..which translates into they hook up and go for the long haul with mean who in general polite society would not be spouse worthy. So i cant really be of that women in general are looking this Mr perfect or assume that there is one.

    For one am not perfect and do not expect my dude to be though i have my limits and do not expect to get with some one lacking(in my perception) and expect them to change for me,people generally change for them selves and me assuming i can tell some one to be something stretching it. The only MEN I try to encourage positive change are my younger brothers, otherwise i dont care..

    Personally i like a man who is truly kind and gives me loads of a giver so cant get with non givers

  • 51/50

    Patching together attributes from different people to create an “ideal” companion model may be only the surface issue. The principle working below it, is that “righteously,” only one person (soulmate husband, wife) is supposed to be responsible for & provide all of your intimate, sexual, emotional needs etc. maybe this one relationship model (monagomy, matrimony) doesn’t fit all. Society also teaches us that we are not complete without this 1 person.Living long enough teaches us that 1 person has never provided all the things we need or want in one person for a lifetime. We should try applying the same (sole source) principle, with the same fervor as we do romantic relationships with other needs like work, food etc. Well whatever you believe or do I hope that’s working out for you.

  • Sigma_Since 93

    “one of our biggest faults in relationships is our resistance to change unless it’s on our own terms.”

    This is right here is so true. Too often you hear of stories of men and women who lose themselves just to be with this person. Where’s the happy medium to judge that yes I’ve matured / grown in my ways,likes, tastes, etc. and who gets to judge measure said growth?

    If there was a manual that explained how one can continue to evolve and co-exist with his / her partner it would be a best seller.

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