by Marvin L. Chapman, PsyD, LMFT, CFC
We generally understand that men and women take in information differently. Men are typically more visual and women are typically more verbal. Many times men and women speak different languages. Men have three primary areas of their lives which greatly influences their level of self-esteem and impacts their sense of well-being: work, home, and sex. For women, these areas are money, family, and intimacy. No overlap at all!
Ask a man to give his definition of money, family, and intimacy. Next, ask him to give his definition of work, home, and sex. You will find a significant difference between these two definitions. Men and women label these traits with different names, indicating just how differently we view them.
Divorce is all about these things: Work, home, family, money, sex and intimacy. Without speaking the same language, it’s no surprise men and women have so much trouble navigating marriage and divorce. So let’s take a closer look at these concepts based on my experience as a divorce coach working with many couples on these issues.
Work / Money
For most men, going to work is more than earning money. Work helps to define who we are. Our work is part of our identity. Our work directly impacts how we feel about ourselves. Our work significantly influences our level of life satisfaction, our sense of well-being. Our work provides us a level of both self-respect and respect from others. Having doubts? Check me out. Interview a recently unemployed man and observe his level of self-esteem, his sense of well-being, and his feeling of self-respect.
Home / Family
Most men receive a great deal of satisfaction in knowing they are not only providing a home, they are protecting their home for their family. Men have a healthy sense of pride in being able to provide for our family (food, shelter, and clothing). This satisfaction and pride translates into a greater sense of well-being and an increased level of self-esteem.
Sex / Intimacy
It has been said that for women, intimacy is a necessary prerequisite for sex. For men, it is generally accepted there is no necessary prerequisite for sex. For many women, intimacy leads to sex; for men, sex leads to intimacy. It would appear fair to say men and women not only view sex and intimacy differently, we actually act upon them from opposite directions. As with all relationship issues, the key to the issue of sex versus intimacy is the ability to have open, honest, nonjudgmental communication.
Men Need A Different Divorce Coach
When divorce coaching men, the coach must understand some of the general differences between men and women. Research has shown that men are far less inclined than women to enter therapy. However, there is a significant increase in the number of men who are willing to reach out and work with a divorce coach when they find themselves through into court during a litigated divorce. Hiring a coach has less stigma for men than entering therapy. Coaching is a more accepted activity.
In addition to gender differences, there are differences between age groups, socio-economic groups, and differences within and between cultural, racial, and ethnic groups. All of these groups have their own unique historical backgrounds, group rights and rituals, and group belief systems. An experienced divorce coach will take these issues into consideration when outlining a strategy of how best to meet the needs and necessities of their client entering into the family court system.
When men experience family court, they feel overwhelmed, confused, and threatened. They are threatened by a process and a system with control over their finances and their time with their children. They have no control and little if any input. A divorce coach needs to educate the man on what they are about to experience. They will need to have regular debriefings to process their emotions. Men gain confidence knowing they have the information and feedback from their coach throughout the confusing, frustrating, and stress-filled divorce process.
A divorce coach will set up a proactive plan of action to help the man move forward by teaching him how to emotionally let go of people not doing right by him, to include judges, opposing attorneys, the ex-spouse, over-reactive relatives, and under-informed friends, neighbors, and co-workers. A coach can help a man develop a positive attitude and a level of confidence in dealing with his own attorney.
An experienced coach will help the man keep his emotional issues from getting in the way of objective and logical decision-making, allowing him to think and act in a more centered and directive manner. Enlisting the man as an agent of positive change and requesting his input into all areas of the restructuring process allows the man to feel vested in the process, rather than simply standing by and watching the divorce process take on a life of its own.
When individuals experience the breakup of a relationship it many times includes a loss of trust and a shutdown in communication as a result. With men, this loss produces feelings of insecurity. Insecurities quickly produce feelings of resentment and blame. Feelings of resentment and blame sends men to a place of anger and sometimes rage. Men believe they know how to handle anger. We think we know how to either shut people up or force them away from us by showing verbal and behavioral anger.
Directing the natural anger into a balanced force is critical. During the divorce process, a man will be asked to think rationally, and with a level head. They will be told to get their emotions together. Men must think clearly during negotiations. They cannot and must not be clouded with angry thoughts about their spouse. Such anger results in irrational decision-making, resulting in bad outcomes for him and for his restructuring family.
Going through a divorce, especially a litigated divorce in family court, is the second most stressful event a person will experience, second only to the death of an immediate family member. Sorting through all of this without the benefit of a divorce coach help can be daunting at best, disastrous at worst. The services of a professional, skilled, and experienced divorce coach is well worth the investment.
A Different Set of Divorce Commandments
- The right and wrong in a divorce is the same as the right and wrong in life: Being honest, congruent, just, and reasonable is right; being dishonest, incongruent, unjust, and unreasonable is wrong.
- Fair is not a part of this process. What is fair for us will probably be considered unfair to our spouse. We need to leave the concept of fair out of our divorce equation.
- We need to change what we need to change. We need to let go of those things over which we have no control, or no longer need, or that no longer fits with who we are becoming.
- Forgiving someone is not about them. It is about us. When we forgive we release ourselves from our bondage of hurt, anger, frustration, and confusion.
- When we change, others around us must inevitably change.
- Like our life, our divorce will be different. We need to take outside advice as generalized information for reference purposes only. Misinformation from others is dangerous.
- One of the best releases for stress is physical activity. If we are already physically active, we need to stay active. If we are not active, we need to start immediately.
- Emotions and feelings are our body’s way of letting us know we are alive. Not right, not wrong, they just are. We either deal with our emotions and feelings on our terms, or we allow them to deal with us on their terms (usually through self-destructive behaviors).
- Whether things are going all right or whether they are going all wrong, everything changes. Be prepared for the unexpected. Being prepared for change and the unexpected allows us to roll with the punches without being knocked out of the fight.
- We must treat others as we want to be treated–with respect, patience, acceptance, and our understanding of unconditional love.