Divorce can be a terrible thing, for you and your kids. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. Sometimes it’s not your idea, and the best you can do is to simply do your best. Sometimes it can be absolute hell. I’ve seen men go through terribly hostile divorces with angry wives who would seemingly stop at nothing to either get what they wanted, turn the kids against dad, or just do their best to make his life miserable.
The original men’s movement of the 50’s began in response to men who felt cheated, betrayed, and beaten down by the family law system in this country. There are an enormous number of angry men who have tried everything in their power to maintain custody, or at least their relationships with their children, only to find themselves vilified or cut out entirely. I really feel for these men.
Looking from the outside in, it’s not always possible to accurately judge a situation and to know just how a marriage was brought down. This post isn’t about taking sides, but rather offering some support for men who are finding themselves in an untenable situation; in a divorce proceeding that’s draining them, breaking their spirits, and making them want to either act out violently, or to give up on themselves and on their children.
Here’s one man’s story, but very similar to the experiences many men have with divorce.
Nick had been through almost two years of court hearings, psych evaluations for himself and his kids, restraining orders and legal threats, accusations of drug abuse and physical abuse, enormous legal bills he couldn’t afford, and constant doubt and fear about how things would turn out, and whether he’d retain 50/50 custody.
The process was wearing him out and keeping him from tending to his business. But despite the limited time he had in his schedule, he wouldn’t miss his weekly men’s group. In time, it became clear to the men in his group that his wife’s accusations were false. The men could see that Nick was a great guy, and a loving and committed dad.
But each week Nick’s state of mind would seesaw. Would he be in his power and feeling positive and engaged in this battle for his kids? Or would he be allowing the enormous strain of the process to bring him to his knees?
“Maybe I should just let her have what she wants,” he would say periodically. Meaning, let her move away to another county with her boyfriend. Although that would stop the immediate pain, it would require Nick to uproot his business and his life—again—to be near his kids, whose lives would also be disrupted by the move.
We could see the excruciating pain he was going through. We would help him with the details, and try to guide him to make the best choices, day-to-day. But when he came to us in despair, he would always hear the same message: You cannot quit on your kids. Whatever it takes, whatever solutions we need to help you find, you cannot stop fighting for your kids, being an example to your kids, or quitting on your commitment to be their dad, just as you’ve always envisioned.
Invariably, the support the men offered would turn Nick’s spirits around, getting him off the bench and back into the game.
None of us had ever gone through what Nick was experiencing. But we knew him, and we knew, in his heart, he wasn’t a quitter. We just had to keep reminding him.
And that’s really the essence of what men can do for each other. When we develop intimate relationships, and know one another through and through, we can remind each other of who we are in those moments when life is kicking our ass. We remind each other of the power we possess when we show up as the best man we can be. Only the guys who know you, who have seen who you really are, have the ability to bring you back to that place when you feel lost.
Nick kept fighting. Eventually, not only did he maintain his custody, the judge acknowledged the ex-wife’s deplorable tactics, and admonished her in his final ruling. The best news is that Nick has been able to rebuild his relationships with his children, and be the father he had always intended to be.
What this poor man had to go through would have destroyed most others. He came so close to throwing in the towel many times. Were it not for the support of the men, Nick admits that he would have given up.
If you’re going through divorce, you need all the help you can get. You need the support of good men. It’s not enough to have a lawyer. You need men on your side who will provide you with the attitude adjustments and reality checks you’ll need throughout the grueling process. As a matter of fact, there were a few times when the support Nick received caused him to rework his legal strategy with his attorney. As Nick began to trust his own instincts again, how he proceeded in court needed to reflect Nick’s vision for his family, not his attorney’s vision.
For those of you not going through a divorce, I suggest you, too, would benefit from building strong relationships with men. With that support and wisdom, you may be able to strengthen your relationships and be a happier and more successful man. And should you happen to hit a rough spot in your life or relationship down the road, you will be so pleased to have those men standing behind you.