The Effect of Divorce on Men
It takes a lot to make a commitment in the first place. You’ve found the person of your dreams and you hope that you’ll grow old with them. So when the marriage crumbles and the fabric of this dream of togetherness starts unravelling there are two people who are left bruised and battered. We rarely see it from the husband’s point of view. Here are a few things that are going through a man’s mind when he’s getting a divorce:
1. What do I do with my Children? - There are many men who are concerned about their children and not being able to wake up in the same house as them. They want to provide for their offspring but they also want time and love from their children. Harish Mukherjee* is in a bitter court battle against his wife who walked out on him with his two kids. She’s only allowing access to them if he hands over the property in which he is living and a fat alimony to look after the children. But Harish can’t give that because he’ll be out on the streets. So he hasn’t seen his kids. He realises that this will affect the children at a deeper level later in the future but he is helpless. For other men they feel that their children will pick sides and before they can do that, the man has moved away so that he doesn’t get hurt. For others they suddenly need to find time for children because it’s not easy to meet them every day. This leaves a sense of imbalance in their life.
2. What happens to my Finances and Property? – When the man was living with his wife and children, he was looking after one house. But when a divorce happens, he needs to look after two houses, his own where he has shifted if he’s not gone back to staying with his parents and the one where his wife and children are still staying. A wife may also demand property in the settlement and it could cause a massive ego tussle since the man has worked hard to have savings and buy property and he believes his wife wants to snatch that away from him. There is a deep insecurity about how he will save again.
3. How did I lose my authority? – Most boys grow up to believe that they’ll be the “man of the house.” Hence they have a lot of power and authority at home, especially if it’s a joint family. So when the woman leaves it’s a huge blow to their ego. Divorce Lawyer Swaty Singh Malik says most men who come to her say, “How can she leave me? I can leave her!” Suddenly when they’ve lost the power at home, men find it difficult to concentrate on other aspects in their life and may try to find that power and dominance over others in other spheres, says senior psychologist Gitali Chatterji at Inner Space.
4. Who will love me again? – As soon as he’s got a divorce, a man may feel free and liberated and date many women. But it isn’t easy for a man to be alone. After a while he realises that his mind set has changed from what it was when he was in his twenties. He is now so used to having a wife and a family that he begins to crave it. Gautam Iyer refused to give his wife a divorce for many years believing that she will get back to him. After he was convinced that she will never return, he promptly signed the legal paper, got on a marriage website and married the first girl he dated.
5. Why are people judging me? – Most divorces end in ugly battles with the woman filing a 498A or a Domestic Violence case against the husband. And most times it is true. But in the rare cases when it’s not true, the man is automatically judged by his friends, society and the children’s school where gossip flows freely and he is condemned unless proven innocent. Lawyer Swaty Singh Malik says she has handled many cases where the man has just given away crores to the wife to have peace of mind. She said women can use children and the media to get back at the husband and people will be sympathetic towards her. In not so extreme cases, a couple does lose friends. During the course of a marriage, couples begin to meet collectively. When a divorce happens friends choose sides and suddenly a man’s social circle diminishes. For a man who is shy, reserved and has made friends through his wife’s friends, he finds himself alone and friendless.
It’s not easy for men to get a divorce. And even though they may not show it, they are heartbroken and insecure too. Most men should know that there are support groups who can help them in this difficult time. You must also reach out to your family and friends and talk to them, instead of bottling up your emotions. A good lawyer can also advise you on the correct steps to take. And most importantly don’t shy away from seeing a counsellor in your city who can help you deal with the issues at a core level.
*(names changed to protect identity)