Have you ever browsed the relationships section of your local bookstore? When I was going through my divorce, I was desperate to find books that would offer advice and hope, affirm what I was going through and let me know I’d survive it, so I scoured the shelves. All the books I found had titles like When He Leaves, Runaway Husbands, and A Woman’s Journey Through Divorce. They were all written by women.
I’m a guy, but I snatched them up because they were all I had. When you’re dying of thirst, you don’t ask where the water came from, you just drink.
But this got me thinking. Why are the vast majority of books about divorce written by the ex-wives? After all, for every broken marriage, there’s a man involved too. Why didn’t he go out and write a book?
To be fair, I did find one or two books written by men, like I Thought We Were Happy: Lessons My Wife Taught Me on the Road to Divorce by Jonathan L. Lewis. In it, Lewis candidly shares his pain and confusion following his divorce.
Other male authors were less helpful. One suggested that nice shoes and a cool car are keys to divorce recovery. “Women love cool cars,” the author wrote. “If she likes you and feels sexy in your car, good things will happen.” True advice, maybe, but it hardly spoke to the emptiness and grief I was struggling with. So why don’t more men honestly share their experience of divorce?
For a few reasons, I think…
For one, men don’t like to fail. Society tells us our worth is wrapped up in our accomplishments. Whether it’s career or relationships, we’re compelled to be successful. And the break-up of a marriage is the ultimate failure.
Second, we like to fix things. When a problem arises, whether it’s a flat tire or a spouse’s bad day at work, we immediately come up with a plan of action to make it right. But divorce faces us with a problem that’s beyond repair. No matter what we do, our marriage is broken and we can’t fix it. It’s out of our control.
And that’s the third thing: Men like to feel they’re in control. But divorce shatters that illusion. Suddenly, one of the most important things in your life — your marriage — has spun out of your control. And you’re helpless to do anything about it. I think a lot of men don’t know how to talk about that experience or don’t want to because it forces us to admit we’re weak.
That’s what it all comes down to, I think. Men hate to be seen as weak. After all, we’re the protectors and providers. We’re supposed to be unafraid to face down the mammoth and slay it so we can bring home meat for our wife and children. But divorce brutally reveals that we’re not as strong as we think we are. Not only could we not provide for our wife and kids, we couldn’t even hold on to them. Divorce strips away our defenses and reveals us as the vulnerable creatures we are.
Vulnerability is not a prized quality among many guys. When men get together, they typically talk about sports, work, accomplishments. But rarely do they break down in tears and reveal their innermost hurts and fears to one another. In fact, much of the advice I got from male friends during my divorce went like this: “Screw her. You’re better off.” Well-intentioned advice, I’m sure, but hardly the stuff that a broken heart needs to hear.
I think these are some reasons why we generally hear less from men about their experience of divorce. Of course, I’m aware that all these things I’m saying about men are also stereotypes. After all, women don’t want to feel out of control or weak either. Whether male or female, we’re all just human. We all break just as easily. Pain is no respecter of gender. Fortunately, neither is healing.