Should I get divorced?

I am writing this because I wish I had read it 7 years ago. That’s all. So should you get divorced? Are you feelings valid?

It is written to all, but I am writing it as a man and it will be male biased, for those who are considering separation and divorce but it equally applies to anyone who has divorced or going through one. We can only hope others read it to gain some insight into the feelings many men have mid and post divorce. We are not blaming anyone for a relationship ending. No one sex or person is to blame. You both are.

The Patriarchy & Divorce

Let’s encourage the discussion firstly around the ‘patriarchy’, a term used by many to condemn the supposed male dominance in society, mostly by ‘radical’ feminists, so we all get to express our frustrations and help the healing for men (and women). The assumption is stated that this ‘Western patriarchy’ is oppressive and disadvantaging women who subsequently are destined to underachieve because men are essentially promoted over them, favour other men and do not recruit women. Many women choose (with their partner) to have a family and this invariably takes them out the employment market, some permanently. Men are not forcing this dynamic on their partners. The belief is the system is rigged against women and men are the reason.

Men are shamed into believing we hold women back, essentially in the media. There is no nuance, no balancing support of male role models, those men that have supported equality, mentors or balanced appraisal of male contribution or support for women. To some in society, men are sexist, misogynistic, toxic and unsupportive. How many times do we read the phrase ” the boardroom is full of old white men” in the media? This is acceptable apparently. The fact that they may have worked a lifetime, taking considerable personal risks, endured huge pressures, sacrificed time in fatherhood and relationships and perhaps be the most experienced and well equipped people to run a company is ignored, and not even considered. They are there because they held women back is the underlying assumption, by many.

How do you think men feel when we see daily assaults on gender regardless of how we try and support our partners and our families? We are not victims, and men have a ‘tendency’ not to moan, but at the same time most men are the not the enemy here, quite the opposite. We want our partner and daughters to achieve their dreams and goals. This is by far the view shared by men we engage with. We accept men can do more to change and elevate more women but that’s not the same as a wall of condemnation of an entire sex that many seem to engage in.

Divorce – the great equaliser 

Nobody gets married expecting divorce. It’s tragic for all in many ways but it’s not the end of the world. Our culture makes us feel however it’s the equivalent of some horrific failing and let’s be honest the concept of divorce is questionable in the first place. That’s another blog.

The divorce system is set to divide assets and ensure the wellbeing of children. The very same resentment some women feel at leaving the employment market to have children is felt by some men on divorce but has little to no voice. Huge amounts of men are finding it difficult to achieve joint custody (particularly acute in the USA) or are simply unable to provide it due to work commitments. Arguably, it is not entirely positive for children to be shipped between two homes every week. How does that assist stability? I would argue it is the antithesis of it.

Further, I would argue it is usually the man who has, and decides for the benefit of the children, to leave the family home and often remain on the back foot from there on in, with little control over parenting decisions.  Yet female financial equality on divorce is given regardless of who bought what into the marriage with most men remaining the main financial provider post divorce, via spousal and child maintenance. So this system appears more than ‘fair’. Yes, men can achieve joint custody, but what is actually achievable and best for the family and the children?

The financial remedy appears more than equitable in this ‘patriarchical’ system but where do men express this. Where is this represented in the media? Short answer is men are shamed into expressing it. In a world where expressing male failures and ‘toxic masculinity’ is acceptable in today’s culture there appears little positivity around men. Is it a wonder so many men are struggling in this landscape?

There are hundreds of groups, celebration days, charities, networking, support workshops, social media pages all championing women. For men – de minimus. Does anyone consider the mental health impacts on men of this? Simple answer is no. Why do we even need such gender divisiveness? Is this helping society and men/women come closer together? I doubt it. Is it encouraging dialogue? Not from what we see.

I am generalising of course but I am also talking about real experiences many men have shared, as it is seen as politically incorrect to share these feelings in public. Men internalise a huge loss and sadness at only getting to see their children ‘every other Wednesday and alternate weekends’, often to be used a financial bargaining pawn in settlements and because they have no choice but to work and commute. Changing jobs will often cause financial hardship to the whole family so simply put unless you want your children picked up by strangers or you can afford after school childcare, it’s most practical for the children to remain in the marital home with mum who is compensated by the father. Of course many men don’t want joint custody and many women work full time and bring up families as single parents. This is hugely impressive. Many men are also incompetent and selfish. Further, there seems to be an acceptable tide of men being branded narcissistic on social media because they left a relationship and social media is full of pages branding men narcissists. Just google ‘Narcissist’ on Instagram Pages and read through who is making the comments if you doubt this assumption. The hate is real and it’s coming from women to men and not the other way round. Relationships end. It doesn’t mean you are a narcissist for leaving an unhappy marriage. Quite the opposite.

 Just as feminism strives to equalise opportunities for women, and rightly so, it should not be at the cost of penalising men for wanting to provide, build a career and being fathers, when these decisions were made between the couples before they decided to have a family. The patriarchy is as much a function of reproduction and women’s life choices as it is the perception that all men are somehow abusing their positions to frustrate female progress. The divorce system does more than address the imbalance to the point where it often makes more sense for women to file for divorce now when the marriage falters as there is no change in their parenting role but financially autonomy is often achieved, regardless of where that income came from. 

My relationship is falling apart. Tips – 

  • Therapy, Therapy, Therapy (Together and alone)
  • Talk regularly but ARRANGE to talk. Set an hour aside twice a week. 
  • Focus on being good parents, in any matter. 
  • Don’t bad mouth your ex. Kids see through it.
  • Don’t drink, go out drinking and be transparent with where you are.
  • Stay healthy and focus on your self development 
  • Say positive things to each other, remembering what’s good about your partner even if you can’t currently abide them. That act alone helps respect and kindness
  • Express how you FEEL and what you NEED to change.
  • When your partner says the same HEAR them and acknowledge to them you have HEARD them and agree what you are going to change
  • BE HONEST – If you are carrying issues express them, doubts, fears, pain, unfulfilled desires, all of it. Get it out! 
  • Take ownership and responsibility for your behaviour.
  • Both of you need a GROWTH mindset. If one of you doesn’t it won’t work.

” What’s better? Uncomfortable Truths or Comfortable Lies” – Mark Groves

Should I get divorced?

You should agree to a separation for a period of time pre divorce and give some breathing space. This can be informal or formal. I would always recommend time apart before making any permanent decisions and one of you should go and stay with a friend or relative whilst trying to maintain normality in the life of the children. 

During separation and leading into divorce we are all dealing with feelings of failure, self loathing, guilt, shame and loneliness. Here are some coping mechanisms – 

  • Many men (and women) despair and some lose all hope. Call someone, call the doctor, the Samaritans, call the milkman, your best mate, anyone….just CALL! Things do get better but you HAVE to share your pain until it passes and you regulate your emotions
  • Marriages and relationships end and sometimes it’s actually the best course of action. Nobody wishes that, especially with children, so show some love and kindness to your ex. Bitterness hurts the kids and you. Don’t be bitter. 
  • Adjust your mindset to divorce being an opportunity for both of you. 50% of marriages end in divorce. It’s normal. It happens. It’s ok. You both might be happier and probably will be.
  • I realise now after 6 years of self development and some therapy that I carried around of lot of hurt and unresolved issues relating my childhood. So take responsibility and unpack your inner child.
  • My ex-wife is a good mother and I am grateful for her sacrifices to nurture two simply wonderful children. Tell your partner this regardless. 
  • Limit communication to be solely around the children and use email.
  • However hard it is the main consideration is to think of the wellbeing of the children, not what your ego demands. Don’t force them to jump between houses because you don’t want to lose the battle. Decide between you what is best for all of you and try and COMPROMISE.
  • There is clearly nothing wrong with splitting childcare but let’s be frank, some people (and many men and women who work) can’t physically be home at 3pm to collect the kids from school. One of you will need to make sacrifices and that will be reflected in the time you see your kids and financial settlements and that is fair. It also needs to be acknowledged in your mind. However, hurt and aggrieved you feel I am sure your partner feels the same, even for reasons you can’t fathom.
  • You become a different person after divorce. The pain of it, the loss of dreams and the concern for your children change you both. 
  • It is a wonderful chance to reinvent yourself and grow. Sure, we let ourselves down sometimes but at the centre of it all is a desire from both of you to not let the children down, be there when you are meant to be there and to talk and listen to them.
  • Your relationship and the love you can develop outside a marriage can be just, if not more, a wonderful reflection of the powerful bond between parents and children, that is probably the most meaningful thing in life. You can earn £1,000,000 a year but if you mess up being an authentic parent it will burn you eventually. Know that many married parents are not parenting well because of the poor state of the marriage.
  • Being divorced is not a failing, kids don’t judge you as long as you are honest, you show up, you say sorry when you need to and you action your love to them and yourself.
  • Regardless of how you ended up here be the most amazing parent you can be for them, but also for yourself. Let love do the talking and build your life around who you can be not what you left behind. Be kind to yourself, know that being a single parent doesn’t make you a worse parent, you will still mess up and with any luck I believe your children will actually become extremely resilient, thoughtful, kind and emotionally mature.
  • Being married is not a badge worth having any more than being single is. It’s hard to let go of that comparison but in a way it’s just a social stigma you need to let go of. In a way it’s a positive that your children know you are self aware enough to change your life for the better.

Live with integrity, forgiveness and compassion as it’s your values that you live with everyday you go home from work and your values you will take to your grave. Your legacy drives a constant in your behaviour so centre on what you do for others not around your own self. It’s a powerful way to try and live and a good example to try to give to your children.

Let’s stop judging each other as a gender. Show a little compassion, but the children first and maximise our personal growth to be the best parents and individuals we can be

Good luck

USEFUL LINKS

The Samaritans

Relate Marriage Guidance

Find a UK councellor

 


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