Nothing I had ever experienced prepared me for what came after my divorce. The only thing about myself that was clear to me was that I was angry. Not just angry, but outraged. My ex-wife was an alcoholic who insisted at the end of our marriage that I was 100% responsible for the divorce. She insisted she had done nothing wrong.
I didn’t focus on the obvious, which was that it takes two to make a marriage work or end in divorce. I was focused on the notion that a woman had hurt me and done me wrong. My outrage was being left with children to raise and no acknowledgement that was going to prove difficult. I think I hated women with such passion and resolve that I dated for a long while as a way to get back at women. Sex became angry sex, and my out of control anger infested each relationship I became involved in until it spun out of orbit and crashed on the trash heap.
Sadly, what I’ve noticed over twenty years working with men is that few travel a different road than the one I chose. It’s easy to see how another man is ruining his life by allowing his divorce to influence every relationship after his divorce.
I remember vividly a time soon after my divorce when I met a woman and after a while asked her out. She said as kindly as possible, but firmly, “Call me in a year when you’re over your divorce.” That statement made me feel awful enough to consider its validity. Of course, she was right not to want to be with an angry man who was living in the past and couldn’t let go. But I also wondered where that left me in the dating world.
I brought my dilemma to my men’s group to discuss and found that every single man who had gotten divorced, behaved similarly. All of the men talked about angry sex and the desire to punish women for what they felt their ex-wives had done to them. But each man had figured out that his temporary blindness towards women was just that, temporary. A few of the wiser men decided to take a time out from dating until they’d struggled with their divorce demons and won.
I had always had a woman in my life since I was a teenager. I’d never taken a break from dating or being in a relationship. So I decided to follow what appeared to be wisdom, and stayed home until I no longer felt I was on a mission to take revenge on womanhood. It took several months to become self-aware regarding my “issue” with women, and a few months more to realize how wrong I’d been about any woman being responsible for my anger or grief.
I’ve written many blogs about angry men and men who seem oblivious to the emotional aspect of relationships. I’ve read many responses to my blogs from men who contend that women don’t deserve or need any emotional connection because all they want is sex too. They further contend that if and when a woman mentions the word emotional, that they want to run away as fast as they can. This type of disrespect for women is pervasive and troubling. That’s fact. What’s not written yet is whether or not enough men will take the bull that is their issue with women, by the horns, and wrestle with it sufficient to let go of their anger.
There’s another aspect of divorce that seems to throw a steady stream of gasoline onto an already raging blaze. It’s about children, child support, custody, and visitation rights. For many men, not paying child support is a method for getting back at an ex-wife. I understand that feeling of being seen as just a checkbook and not a man. But the child support a man pays to his ex-wife typically doesn’t begin to cover the true cost of raising children. I have rarely met a woman who was living high on the hog because she received child support.
Those children are the product of a man’s best intentions gone astray. A man who can let go of the notion that he can get back at his ex-wife by denying her child support is a man who will rapidly let go of his anger and move on. While I was mostly a single dad, there were times when my children lived with my ex-wife, and I recall how used and abused I felt writing her a check each month, and being asked to buy my boys new sneakers or clothing on top of what I sent.
These are your children, guys, and the more involved you remain, the better your relationship will be with them as they grow up. Write the check each month, mail it, and let your anger go at the mailbox. Don’t remain angry because it will preclude you from ever being in a good relationship again. Look at your anger and the causes for it, preferably with other men who’ve gone through your drama and come out the other side intact. A man doesn’t punish his children through his ex-wife. He recognizes his part of the fiasco and tries to do better the next time. An angry man who marries while still angry will only inflict pain on his new wife and himself.
The woman who declined dating me until I’d spent a year working through my divorce was right on the money. A woman who dates a man who recently divorced is only going to get his leftover anger and disappointment, not his heart.
Act like a man!