Being a Man, especially the worlds view of what a “modern man” is these days, frankly can be confusing.
Be strong but be sensitive. Be a rock for everyone (yourself included) but open up. Be the best at X,Y,Z (career, earning power, parenting, buy a big house, get flash car, show the world how successful you are!) but you can’t be seen to fail or struggle. It is hard to be a everything and anything whilst feeling like you are nothing! Believe me, I’ve been there!
You only have to look at the utterly scary statistics out there surrounding Men’s mental health, suicide rates and more to realise, we as “Men” are in the midst of our own Man-Demic! So, what is it like being a Man in your divorce?
Well I’m not going to lie to you, it can be utterly shit! There I said it. But it doesn’t have to be. There are many things you can work on around your perspective, building coping strategies, the right support resources (not always your friends and family I hasten to add) and many other things. Above all it’s about taking action for change, what you can change, how you approach situations, what is and also what is not in your control. But where to start? Well typically, it starts with actually talking. Creating your understanding, so you can evolve and make the changes you need thus improving you.
So “let’s talk Men”!?
To all the men out there reading this, don’t man-hate me for this next part… We are the weaker beings in this respect!
Sorry fellas but it’s true, it pains me to say it. And ladies the best part for your team is that us men (yes pretty much most of us deep down) already knew it, we just don’t want to admit it (insert eek emoji here).
Now before the lynching of the author begins and hordes of strapping gents turn up at my door with pitchforks, let me just say this, I’m not against you gentlemen, I’m with you, hell I am YOU!
I’m a divorced man in his late 30’s, living in the Home Counties of modern suburbia, I have an ex-wife who once-upon-a-time wouldn’t pee on me if I were on fire! In short, I’ve been there bought the t-shirt only for said t-shirt to be unequally divided and I’m left with crappy end 30% of it! That’s not anger or resentment talking there, it’s just a fact.
As men, we don’t talk!
The reason, in this instance that we are weaker, why we have such unbelievably even disgustingly high statistics around our mental health, etc, is that we do not talk. Not properly anyway for the most part, not as we should, not honestly with what we are feeling and thinking, what we’re struggling with.
We tell or project this frankly B*llsh!t view that we’ve got this, we’re not affected, we’re fine! The fairer sex are several times more likely to seek out professional help than we are! Did you know that? Not only that, but they are also conditioned from an early age that it is ok to have and acknowledge feelings (good and bad), that it’s good to talk about them with your fellow female counterpart.
It’s part of womanhood, it’s invited and taught, that this is ok. And my point is that they’re right (again!) It IS ok to talk (or as the late and great Bob Hoskins said “It’s Good To Talk”), it IS “ok not to be ok”, it IS ok to acknowledge your feelings, to process them, to understand them, how you have acted on them.
We as men don’t talk, we’re getting better, absolutely but there is a long way to go.
So what can us men do?
And I’m not plugging my services here, not at all, I’m talking about speaking to your nearest and dearest if needed (so long as they’re a positive outlet). Talk to your friend(s), if that’s another guy, then you both need to help each other to demystify this scenario that we don’t talk or listen. If you know your buddy is going through something and you ask if he’s ok and he says “yeah I’m fine”, “I’m alright”, “bearing up”, “I’ll be fine”. Challenge it, nicely of course, but ask “are you really ok”, “tell me whats going on?”, “Cut the crap, what’s the truth/part of the story you’re not saying”.
Just offering that space for someone to open up is enough to get the conversation flowing and release some of those emotions. If it were your dad, brother, son, best mate, wouldn’t you want to help? Wouldn’t you rather they spoke to you honestly than decided on another outlet that didn’t help? So it’s time to speak up and speak out.
Why don’t we talk?
So why don’t we talk? Well, we’re supposed to be strong aren’t we guys! A rock. Big boys don’t cry (bullshit!). We aren’t supposed to show weakness!? Well who decided that? It’s from this so called position of “weakness” and reaching out for support that we can actually learn and evolve. Where we find out more about ourselves than we do just putting on a brave face. Where our challenges and how we overcome them make us stronger. It’s why the ladies manage to overcome divorce/separation quicker, and what looks like from an outsiders view, easier than we do.
Typically men are again several times more likely to turn to drink or drugs than our female counterparts. Why? It’s an easy “go to” coping mechanism we’ve again been taught from our younger years, via media, tv, etc. Men don’t talk, they drink themselves into oblivion. We actually suffer more than the ladies do with weight fluctuation after a divorce (bet you didn’t know that either!), and also things like insomnia. Why? Again because we don’t deal with our divorce as well. Because we bottle it up, we don’t face the issue, we would rather stick our heads in the sand, ignore it or worst of all…give up!
I see it all the time with fathers who feel they can’t “win” when it comes to seeing their children (I will come back to the so called “Winners & Losers” in another article). These people I do see improve, because they’ve come to me to talk about it, to get help figuring it out. Not the legal situation but the communicative one, the emotional one, the understanding what needs to be done to stay focussed and become the parent they’ve always wanted to be, whether that is 50% of the time or even every other weekend.
We also rush into new relationships quicker than women do!. Why? Well guess what, we don’t talk about what we’re going through (as we maybe once did with our wives) so we find that 1 person (a new partner typically) to rebuild our lives with quite quickly and thus have that magic number of 1 person to actually open up to, if we do at all that is! Ladies, however, take their time before moving into a new relationship. For many reasons, but among them are protection (themselves and their children) and even financial protection come to think of it. They get to know themselves again, what they want out of life, what it looks, feels and sounds like. Men’s new/next relationships following a divorce/separation, are again several times more likely to fail compared to the ladies next relationship!
So what’s the answer I hear you say?…. Slow the F down guys! Talk, seek outside impartial input and support. Figure out what went wrong, what contributed to the breakdown (from you not just them! This isn’t blame at all, it’s “Cause & Effect”). What do you really want? Why, what’s the root cause and/or value behind it? How do you want this to pan out longer term? Who can help you, positively? Who can you be 100% brutally honest with, warts and all?
Men typically feel they’ve lost a huge part of their identity when going through a divorce/separation, as do women of course. We think about what made us a Man in the first place! The provider. The Hunter. The Gatherer. The Strong One. Fearless. THE Male role model. We lose all of that in a divorce. So we need to start again, hit the minds reset button and start to find our new and true identity. Who we really are and want to be.
How do you get to know all this, simple… Talk!!, Open Up, Be vulnerable! Be honest, let it out! Learn about you, reflect on yourself? What can you do differently? Better than you did before? How can you become the best version of yourself?
The writer, speaker and modern day philosopher Alan Watts, once said:
“Waking up to who you really are, requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be”