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The hidden half of domestic violence

How to have eternal life

Men After Divorce

It seems that someone finally gets it!

Susan N. Wolpin
Fathers & Children's Equality

ABC News
March 13, 2002

[Photo caption: Downtown spoke with a group of divorced men about their
experiences. (]

Men After Divorce
Getting in Touch With Their Feelings
by Bill Ritter

March 13 - It's the typical Hollywood view of men and divorce: The guy
trades in the old wife for a new, younger model and a really cool life in
the fast lane.

We know the stereotype, and it's what a lot of men and women think
actually happens. But we went in search of the truth, and found that it's
not even close to the myth.

Here's a painful sampling of the eight divorced men we brought together:

"I was so lost in myself after divorce, I didn't know who the hell I was,"
said John Heany, a salesman from St. Louis.

"I was terrified of it. I was terrified of being alone actually," offered
Scott Bolden, a Washington lawyer.

"It was a death of dreams . a death of hopes and wishes," moaned Joe
Thompson, a twice-divorced banker.

Crushing the Myth

The myth is so easily shattered. For starters, it's not usually the men who
leave the women - and certainly not the movie-version of the guy
leaving for a prettier and younger female. Instead, statistics show that in
two-thirds of all American divorces, it's the women who file for divorce.

And while men usually fare better financially than women in a divorce,
experts say it's the men who are much more likely to come unglued
emotionally - seriously unglued.

Eugene Palmore, a musician and seminary student in New York, told me
that when his marriage ended more than 10 years ago, he spent weeks
"not just crying .. I was wailing, and beating my pillow, just wondering, why?"

I asked the men in our group if they agreed with Palmore that it was far
harder, emotionally, than they thought it would be. All raised their hands.

Most striking was Jim Martin, a purchasing manager from Connecticut.
After his second divorce, he ended up in a three-room apartment in an attic.
He couldn't bring himself to furnish it. In fact, he told me those first few
months were so dark that he contemplated suicide. His family, he thought,
would be better off.

The truth is that men don't do well alone. Some statistics show divorced
men are eight times more likely than divorced women to commit suicide.
And men without wives are twice as likely to suffer depression and heart
attacks. (Could it be a sign of my drive for self-preservation that I've
been married three times?)

Typically, a man's first reaction to a marriage ending is anger. And it can
be self-directed. Lots of divorced guys start smoking and drinking more.
And many jump way too quickly into new relationships - relationships
that are usually doomed.

"I was totally devastated at the time of my first marriage going bad, and
ended up marrying practically the first girl I dated thereafter," said
Thompson. Not surprisingly, the second marriage didn't last that long.

Eventually, all of the men in our group went into counseling. None of them
ever expected that being alone could feel as bad as it did.

A Code of Masculinity

Terry Real, a psychologist and author of How Can I Get Through to You?
Reconnecting Men and Women, says our culture's masculine code dictates
that "men don't need relationships, men don't need to be connected, men
don't need to be heartfelt. And it's simply a lie."

As I listened to our group of guys, I couldn't help but wonder why it took
a crisis for them to get in touch with their feelings. Hadn't they been
exposed to the women's movement, or the men's movement, for that matter?
Hadn't they heard of Mars and Venus? Or Oprah and Dr. Phil?

No, they probably haven't, according to Real. "I think we like to think
that there's a lot more movement in men than there actually is.
Oftentimes, I'll say, 'Would you treat a colleague or a supervisor the way
you're treating your wife?'"

The answer, says Real, is no, because they'd get fired. Part of the
masculine code, he says, is a sense of entitlement, a sense that men can
"go home, rip open our belts, pop open a beer, belch and be loved. And
we just don't get away with that anymore."

And thank goodness for that.

Moving Forward

My sense is that the guys in our group, while remaining immune to change
for so many years, are no longer in that state. In fact, they said several
things that will stay with me.

First, they said if only their wives could see them now - if only they had
changed while they were married - then perhaps their unions might have

"I needed to be more attentive and I needed to do more listening, and I
needed to pay more attention to my family than all the external success
out there," said Bolden.

Second, they have high hopes for future relationships. Changing their ways
may have come too late to save their last marriages, but maybe not their
next ones. Someday, they said they hope to remarry.

Copyright 2002 ABC News Internet Ventures.
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