Is leaving a wife—girlfriend, boyfriend or husband—the most insensitive thing a man can do?
The portrayal of divorce and break-ups in TV, movies and magazines errs on the side of promoting the sad stories of women selfishly left behind by heartless men for younger, more supple new women. “How could he?,” we the outraged protest. “What about all the years she gave him?“
When Brad left for Angie, the quote heard round the social media sphere, and that lingers today even 6 children and a marriage later, was Jen’s famous line, “He is missing a sensitivity-chip.”
We as a culture have a soft-spot for the weak and the betrayed.
We may not take much action on their behalf, but we love to talk about how much we care and how bewildered we feel by such cruelty. But is leaving a wife — or girlfriend, boyfriend or husband — really the most insensitive thing a man can do? Is it any more sensitive to either of your needs as human beings to continue living a miserable but coupled existence?
When I receive a call from a man who is considering divorce, I can predict with a fair amount of accuracy that without some tough introspective work in coaching or therapy his marriage will remain on autopilot until his wife finally decides she is ready to call it quits.
This is not because he is weak, controlled, p*ssy-whipped, lazy, greedy, or happy to simply carry on an affair.
It is because he is truly concerned for the welfare of his wife, his children, and yes, himself. That is OK, by the way. Men are allowed to be worried about their own physical, emotional and financial well-being just like women are. Just in case you were wondering.
I have spoken with countless men who call to find out how they can leave their marriage without hurting their wife and children.
The following concerns arise most frequently:
1) They fear that they won’t be able to support two households, and that she won’t be able to find a job that will pay her enough to make ends meet on top of what he gives her in support. This is neither belittling nor greedy in any way. The concern is based on cold reality. Most couples I see, no matter how much they earn per year, are living exactly at or above their means. Two households are expensive and most people do experience a decreased standard of living following their divorce.
2) They fear that they won’t be able to see their children easily or often. Not because of the outdated concerns that they won’t receive 50/50 custody, but because they will have to work so many hours that even on their days with the children they will have to hire child care until they return. Even if they only see their children for an hour or two before bedtime 5 days per week while married, 5-10 hours per week is a lot more than 2-4 hours per week with a custody schedule.
3) They fear that their children will have to move out of the family home, leave their private school, pay their own way through college, withdraw from their insanely expensive team sports, and on and on. You can #firstworldproblems all you want, but that doesn’t change the heart of the matter, which is that dads love their children and do not want to hurt them any more than moms do.
4) They fear that they just haven’t been a good enough husband, lover, father, provider, companion, friend, confidante, or man, and that therefore they never will be for anyone else anyway. These men are racked with guilt, wondering what they could have done differently and if there is still something they can do now to make everything better for them all. Even if they don’t feel responsible for the relationship deteriorating, they feel responsible for having made a commitment they would rupture by calling it all to a close.
5) They fear they will be seen as “the bad guy” by their family, friends and children. Given Aniston’s famous quote and most pop culture headlines, can you really blame them?