March 1, 1998

Men Behaving Badly – A Divorce Book for Men

Filed under: Fatherhood — schroder @ 12:00 pm

Every few weeks, I tear a three- or four-paragraph story out of the daily newspaper and toss it in a box in my closet. The stories have datelines from towns all over America, each having its own tragic ending. Inevitably, it involves police surrounding somebody who recently broke up with a spouse or significant other and who, a few months later, gotten frustrated beyond control and decided to take the whole matter into their own hands.

The sad incidents usually involve a gun or a knife. They occurs at either the victim’s place of work or, worse yet, at home in front of their kids. It rarely ends well. I’ve been reading the paper all my life, but I don’t ever remember seeing a story in which the person who has gone mad and performs these crimes of jealous rage on their own family is anything other than a man.

If I ever take a break from the newspaper business, I hope to gather all these yellowed clippings and write a book or organize seminars for men who don’t know how to separate well. Then I would host groups where men would discuss – hold on here, I know this sounds revolutionary – our feelings. Men are not always comfortable doing that. It’s really not in our nature: our heritage is as hunters and gatherers, not as nurturers. Our modern childhood sport and games and adult career goals are all about winning, achieving, conquering, taking – and, yes, possessing. We don’t spend any time teaching or encouraging our boys and men about the proper way to lose. About admitting failure, apologizing, accepting our just punishment for our own misdeeds. We haven’t explained to men what to do when something that we think once belonged to us is now somebody else’s. Nevermind trying to make us understand that it never “belonged” to us in the first place.

Not that I’m any great example. I’ve done my share of stupid things. I’ve just had the good fortune of never doing anything stupid enough to generate a news story. And I spent a good amount of time exploring the separation process. And now, thanks to friends, family and to God, I have learned my lessons and been healed.

The problem occurs when men don’t understand that there even is a process. Women generally do. They retreat, cloister themselves, grieve, get depressed, angry and seek support in other women. Men usually don’t allow themselves to ever enter the grieving process. They just stuff those strange things called emotions. They just pass by grieving, avoid depression and go right to anger. The anger takes over and gets mixed up with those other emotions and men don’t know how to deal with it. So they drink too much or begin to date with a frenzy or they overindulge in work. Eventually, the distractions don’t work anymore and the anger returns and this time it’s not controllable.

That’s when men do stupid things. They begin to focus on the person who made them feel these emotions in the first place. They stalk, they threaten, they go into jealous rages. The men behave badly. And when they do this in front of their children, the very precious creatures they’ve helped to create, the very ones that are looking to their parents or step-parents for modeling on how to act when things go wrong, then their bad actions become bad examples and poison the psyche of another generation.

So that’s how it happens, or so I think. Hope to break the cycle? Understand that the men don’t understand and step in to help earlier in the process. Encourage them to read or talk about it. Tell them what the process is like and that they will come out on the other side intact. And pray that their loved ones do to.

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