Men, Are You Headed For Divorce?

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Would
you take action if you learned you might lose the use of your legs
within seven years? Well, the odds on your being divorced are much,
much higher; and it can cripple you almost as badly.

When
you have a child, if your wife/partner decides you don't meet her
expectations and she wants to move on, she will usually take away
your home, your life savings, a third or more of your income, and
will often interfere with your ability to see your kids – all
without a trial.

If
you don't cooperate, she can say that she's afraid of you and have
the police eject you from your house. The legal system encourages
her to do these things, and millions of women have. (See Prof. Sanford
Braver's research in Divorced
Dads
.)

It's
no coincidence that divorced men's suicide rate is ten times the
rate of divorced women.

Almost
three-quarters of divorces are initiated by women, and it usually
comes as a surprise to the husbands and fathers involved. Very few
of us are prepared for this disaster. Here are some indicators that
it could be on the horizon:

When
a woman starts becoming dissatisfied with her marriage, she goes
through several stages (not necessarily in this order):

  1. First
    she tries to change her husband in various ways, or in one big
    way.
  2. If
    that doesn't work, she starts putting her commitment into other
    things: her job, her friends, the children, getting more education,
    etc. She builds a separate life for herself in that area, keeping
    her husband out. There is no intimate conversation with her husband
    about it.
  3. She
    decreases interaction with her husband by spending more time watching
    TV, phoning, reading, working, jogging, or going to bed early.
    Intimate conversation declines even more.
  4. There
    will be changes in lovemaking: who initiates it, frequency, duration,
    intensity, tenderness.
  5. If
    she suggests going to a counselor and her husband doesn't go,
    or drops out because he thinks it's her problem, the marriage
    will be defined as the problem…or he will.
  6. She
    starts avoiding entanglements beyond the short term, things like
    having a child, redoing a room, buying season tickets, or taking
    out a loan together.
  7. As
    she gets more committed and comfortable with her life outside
    the marriage, she starts making critical remarks about her husband
    in public, or showing him up publicly.

This
process may go quickly, or it may take many, many years. In fact
she may never decide to make the final break.

But
when she does become ready to tell her husband, the process has
advanced so far that it's usually impossible to reverse it. She
has changed her entire way of thinking, her commitment, her friends,
and her lifestyle. If she agrees to try to fix the marriage at this
point, it's usually just to convince her husband that it won't work.

Her
husband is likely to be unprepared for the crisis, and he tries
to court her again – to fix the problem. But the chances are
slim, and he needs to prepare for a break even as he hopes to avoid
it. Otherwise his legal position will deteriorate fast. Many husbands
have found the very things they give of themselves during this period
of trying are used against them in the final confrontation. One
of the best ways to start preparing for a coming legal contest is
to get a copy of The
Father's Emergency Guide to Divorce-Custody
, by Robert Seidenberg.

For
you, if your marriage has not deteriorated all the way, and you
want to prevent future trouble, the best bet is to learn to manage
your marriage better. It's just a matter of establishing a few simple
habits, and it will make your life much more enjoyable. Even if
it doesn't work, and your wife files for divorce, you'll be much
better off if she feels goodwill toward you. Get a copy of Conscious
Loving
by Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks. It's
the best book I've seen on managing relationships.

Meanwhile
you can start right away. One crucial step is easy: stop giving
your wife advice unless she explicitly asks for it. When she talks
about a problem, just show you understand. Remember how you feel
about being told what to do all the time.

Finally,
don't put this off. You can never know how close you might be to
the edge!

August
14, 2001

Neil
Steyskal [send him mail]
is a libertarian writer living in Washington, DC. Currently he is
helping to build the International
Men's Network
.

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