5 challenges to men facing divorce
Father’s were once young boys who were told that making a mistake looks bad – better do something you know you can succeed at than let others see you are weak. Piggy backing this belief, father’s grew up with the story that mother’s are better parents than father’s.
They were once young men who were told that they must become rich and be able to provide for a family despite the cost to their dreams and livelihood. Somewhere along the way we worked so hard, and forgot we are an equal part of the parenting dyad. We forgot that our dreams allow our children to build their own.
Father’s were children who, when their parent’s divorced, were often told they were better off with their mom.
They were once adults, who were told to give up on their dreams for the sake of their family and relationships.
Father’s were men who were always given more options to give up, rather than succeed.
The twentieth century drove fathers from parenting, from their dreams, and further from themselves than they have ever been. We’ve given up on them, and taught them to give up in return.
Memories sledge me in the gut.
My biological mother took me from my father before I was one, and hid with me in the mountains. My father was forced to decide whether he would give up on me, or not.
I am a father of three beautiful boys. The first two, identical twins, were born without my knowledge (I got a phone call in the week after they were born by a third party). My partner at the time told me if I had anything to do with the children, she would break up with me. She wanted me to give up on them.
Then, after a recent, terrible separation with the woman I married, I have two lawyers in two different countries, and am stepping into a realm of custody, divorce, and strategic warfare against the very person I shared love with for many years; our little one caught between the crossfire, sending me into pangs of guilt and distress.
Many have told me to just give up.
- “See him when he’s eighteen and you can start a relationship when he’s older.”
- “The mother is the primary care giver. That’s what he needs. Just focus on your work.”
- “Do whatever you can to save the relationship, so you don’t grow up without the child.” (I was mentally, emotionally, and physically abused during this relationship)
- “You don’t stand a chance, she is the mother and he is young.”
However, a vanguard of men are stepping forward and saying,
“hey, we are caring beings, we want to provide an influence in our children’s lives, and we’re not longer interested in looking in from the outside.”
Count me among them.
Men and Fathers are now in a double bind. If they do not become rich, follow their creative passions, feel and communicate their feelings, and spend more time at home, they are not seen as men. These men are often abused. If they do become wealthy and invest their time in their work then they are labeled as abandoners, “not family men”, who spend too much time away from home, absorbed in their job.
If a man and his wife separate, he is an abandoner if he gives up custody. If he does not give up custody, he is made aware that he is infringing on the mother-child relationship, and is “punished” by having to pay.
A father’s wallet has become more valuable than his time with the children.
We need to dream a new reality where both mother’s and father’s are empowered into their equally important roles. Here are my challenges toward Father’s who feel stuck, who look in from the outside:
Inheritance of Avoidance:
Practice a daily awareness that your reluctance to dive into the lives of your children does not necessarily mean you do not want to be a father. Know that you have inherited generations of fatherly attitudes that say your emotions are dangerous and you have little right to intrude on the mother-child relationship. Your child is half you, and if they want to know themselves, and indeed they will have to in order to grow and thrive in life, then without question, knowing you is a great thing.
Know you are Safe:
Because most fathers have not learned to share their emotions (another inheritance), sometimes those bodily charges can build up. Sometimes we get angry and shout. Just because your emotions are uncontrolled at some points, does not mean your child is not safe with you. In fact, a deep connection with your child goes lengths to reducing that charge. Just because you are a man, does not mean you are innately dangerous.
You are a victim too:
Even though parts of society and extremists will deny you this side of the spectrum. Many courts these days, fortunately, opt for an equal share of children. Having gone through lawyers both as a child and as a separated man, I am learning that I do have rights. When I get discouraged I see my son looking up at me saying, “don’t give up Dad. I need you.”
Don’t give up:
There may only be a small opening, a hidden path among the thorns of abandonment, that leads to staying engaged. The way you approach your child and his/her right to see you, is indicative of how you pursue your dreams in the world. If you have given up on them then it is easier to give up on your child. If you fight for your dreams, and find a way to deliver your gifts into the world, then you will also creatively find a way to have your child in your life. Find the one path that keeps connection alive, both to your calling and your children. This small path is your unique destiny.
Keep an open heart:
Your ex partner is the last person on your favorite list. But just because they may be trying to keep you out of the picture, does not mean you should keep them out of yours. Build some new neuro-pathways and hold them with love in your heart. Make sure your child knows that the other parent always has a place in conversations. Know, that from the standpoint of growth, this other person represents a challenge to grow out of old ways of thinking into new paths of harmony. Open your heart to the love that comes out of this social and familial activism.
How have you, as both men and women, been challenged to give up? How have you given up? How have you stood for what you believe in? Success stories? Failure stories? I’d love to hear them!
Abuse comes in many forms. Especially abuse that men often don’t recognize.
Most men, like myself, are unaware that they are, or have been, abused. Many men have selective memories. They remember the good times, the sex and the moments when their partner told them they were good at fixing doorknobs. Men can be perfect whipping boys. Their greatest strength is endurance in the face of conflict and terror.
They learn, as children and adolescence, to push their bodies well beyond capacity in order to net a soccer ball, or, as men, drive hard into long hours at a desk even though their soul is screaming for reprieve. Tolerance runs sovereign over self-respect.
For most men to recall a time they were treated terribly, it may take more than throwing a shoe down memory lane. They just don’t think about being treated terribly, they think about how to fix something, or how to escape, but to recall and feel are the creeds of a foreign god.
Men are most at risk for abuse when they have grown up thinking they have to please in order to be loved, have drug addicted or alcoholic parents, or if they’ve been abandoned by a parent or guardian and think it’s their fault. They become people-pleasing puddles of mush, mashed at the stroke of a disapproving gaze. This false core wound provides ground for any Narcissistic or Borderline individual to come creeping into their midst, keen on exploiting that wound for all its riches.
Narcissists and Borderline personalities, or the skilled victim as I call them, are those who have received the same type of wounding as the people pleasers, perhaps more severe/abusive, but have responded and developed in a different way. They can be men or women. These types become the opposite of people pleasing. They are never able to apologize, are uber critical of other people and are masterful manipulators.
The skilled victim needs someone, a whipping boy, to trim their hedges and turn on the lights for them, and the whipping boy will comply, because that is how he achieves shallow acceptance, and his own version of false love.
Skilled victims are the most prone to abuse. These are some of the ways I, and other men I know, have experienced abuse.
The skilled victim will:
- Seduce him with all the sex he wants until he has committed; then remove sex, off and on, infinitum, in order to keep him where they want him. The man will always apologize thinking he has done something wrong to have such boons retracted. This is abuse. Get out.
- Develop impromptu “sicknesses” just before their man leaves to clear his head, spend time with friends, go on a solo adventure, or business trip. The expert victim will then shame him for leaving them in such a condition.
- Will verbally abuse him, castrate him with their words and challenge his manhood and self-care. Skilled victims hate seeing people take care of themselves, because it is not something they have ever been able to do, and, quite possibly, were punished for trying to do so. A skilled victim is incapable of compromise, vulnerability, or authenticity. Either you do what they want, or they will do whatever they can to label you as an abuser.
- Become an expert within the first few weeks around what the man will want to hear. They will build him up. He will be an emperor in his own skin. Once the skilled victim latches on, however, all of his strengths will, like a slow poisonous drip, be challenged and undermined, especially when they interfere with the victim’s need for self-soothing and attention.
- Talk endlessly of wanting to be together for lifetimes, how they can’t wait for them to grow old together, and in the next instant they snap fangs at you for packing a box wrong. The man will be split into idealizations and degradations. This is abuse. Leave the leaf of the praying mantis.
- Empty a man’s bank account on the promise of love then blame him for a poor budget. When they are not getting their way, or if confronted, they will viciously attack a weak and tired man (who’s been working to provide) then berate his lack of energy.
- Start fights with the man’s family members, friends, or other males, and if he doesn’t take their side, he will be stonewalled and questioned for his commitment. Sometimes, they will provoke another man to the point of fighting, and demand that you defend their honor. This is abuse. Get out.
- Initiate the cycle of abuse at night, keep him awake, or try to make him orgasm as much as possible so that he becomes weak and disoriented. If he likes to orgasm, they will pathologize his sex drive. Sleep and sex control are common tactics of abuse. The skilled victim’s main assault is on his ability to be present, think clearly, and pursuit of anything that does not involve the victim’s plans.
- When a man finally stands up for himself, and refuses to take any more punishment, the skilled victim may become desperate, attack the man, and then tell the world they’ve been abused. They may take the children and use this false “abuse” as an excuse to keep them away from him; and then move to the next target (often the children).
This list is by no means exhaustive.
As an abused man I complained and pleaded. The more I pointed out their behavior, the worse it got. Finally, after having left the Ferris Wheel of victim and abuser, I have uncovered the following essential treasures:
The abuse is telling you that you need to step more fully into your path in life, your passions, and take responsibility for your gifts. The skilled victim will do anything to destroy them in order to feel loved.
Don’t give in.
A healthy partner will respect your boundaries, feel more secure in them, and will have a chance to heal inside your firmness.
The skilled victim is actually an external representation of the damage you are causing yourself by apologizing for things you shouldn’t, making waves out of your Yes’s and No’s, and folding your dreams for their satisfaction. Wake up. The only thing you should apologize for is not being yourself. Find a way to be You.
Learn about secondary gains. They provide the reason you keep finding partners like this. You are gaining the benefit of not having to be your own hero – a massive responsibility. Take out the IV, get off the bed and stand up. If they keep cutting you down, leave them.
- Men that lead from their heart thwart all abuse. Believe beyond reproach that what is good for you is good for the planet. It’s sexy.
- Skilled victims don’t know who they are. Their accusations and insults are actually how they feel about themselves and their self-appraisals are actually positive characteristics they have borrowed from you.
- Leaving a relationship like this requires you to grieve. Learn how to cry, join a men’s group (I have an online one), and start doing what you know all along you need to do – for you.
- Being abused is not a reason to stay in victimhood and complain. If you remain like this you will turn into a skilled victim. Please don’t.
- If your children witnessed the abuse, your leaving and self-empowering will inspire them to rise above as well.
- Expert victims should never be expected to change, but as the real victim, you should expect to change yourself. Abuse, at some level, is a deep wake up call to spirited action.
If you or any man you know is struggling with these issues, please feel free to contact me at Prometheus Men’s Group, firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook, or Twitter.