Avoid the Minefields and Save the Village
If you walk into a bookstore and find the section about repairing marital relationships, most of the titles will be directed at the female partner. Why is this? After decades of experience practicing family law, my belief is either partner is fully capable of taking constructive action during turbulent times. Today, I will present some observations into the male thought process – behaviors that I have witnessed many times during my career. No one gets married expecting the happiness to end, but as we know, all too frequently, that’s precisely what happens. With any luck, sharing my experiences as an interested third party will help some couples get back on a healthy marriage track.
The Anchor of Divorce
The weeks and months preceding and following a divorce can be a terrible time for many reasons, some more obvious than others. But consider this – if your partner threw an anchor at you and you caught it, what happens? Everything in your life changes because you are struggling to handle this enormous weight that wasn’t there previously. Your marriage may be ending, but that’s not the only impact. Males suddenly find themselves living in a strange social limbo, not able to seek out many former friends and acquaintances because (in their words) they were “our” friends. For those considered “safe,” there is the problem of how to answer questions. Often (because they are men), honest communication is extremely painful, so they close up and avoid nearly everyone. Work suffers, too – someone this unhappy and introverted can’t possibly perform their professional responsibilities at the same level. Even areas where there might be instinctual expertise (like being a father) can become problematic, as formerly natural manners and activities are re-analyzed and second-guessed. And no, the vast majority of men in this position don’t even consider dating, given how overwhelming and foreign everything else in their world has become.
Losing Your Best Friend
For a married man, his spouse is always his best friend and vice versa. If a marriage is to be (and remain) successful, it has to be this way. As couples separate and begin the slow descent into divorce proceedings, the man loses his best friend and generally has no adequate replacement. Women seem to rebound faster in this situation and often have one or more people who can assume the best friend role. Men don’t, possibly due in large part to being men and therefore lacking skill in the ability to communicate personal feelings. One of the most valuable acts a man can do before and after a divorce is seek out a men’s group. All churches have them, and these groups meet in the evening after work hours. For many, these groups become the man’s new best friend and can shed light not only on poor behaviors contributing to current problems but how to self-correct.
It’s What Happened that Matters
One statement that I’ve heard husbands say over and over again is, “that’s not what I meant to have happen.” Maybe so, but the problem is it did happen, and now one must be accountable. What someone tries to do does have some value, but how it turns out is what matters. If it turns out badly with hurt feelings and worse, the damage must be acknowledged. For example, we talked about social interactions earlier. Most husbands will freely admit that their wives are totally in control of all aspects of their joint social lives. They will also admit that they follow the wife’s lead in running the house, planning activities, arranging vacations, etc. For the men reading today, please believe that while women might assume these responsibilities willingly, it is a burden. As time goes on, this burden can become weaponized. Wives can begin seeing this lack of engagement as disinterest and feel neglected and unvalued. Men, there is more to marriage than just showing up. Sometimes you have to grab the baton and lead the parade. An equal 50/50 split is not necessarily the answer, but appreciation and some participation will go a long way toward reestablishing the feel of “we’re in this together.”
When Is It Too Late?
In the words of the famous philosopher and performer Lenny Kravitz, it ain’t over ‘till it’s over. Husbands are often hindered by their inability to communicate in a timely, effective, and empathetic manner, but recognizing these issues can help them demonstrate the sincerity they feel in their hearts. Many times, in my experience, this can be a breakthrough for couples in crisis. If you have any questions or want more information, please feel free to contact The Essex Firm for an in-person or virtual consultation.