Don’t Shut Down, Stay Engaged!
July 1, 2019
Maybe your problem isn't anger or impulse control. Maybe your feelings about the divorce do not fall under the “retribution/get even” portion of the spectrum. Maybe this divorce caught you completely off-guard. Maybe you didn't see it coming at all. Maybe it's as surprising as a meteorite falling from the sky and landing in your backyard. If this is the case, you have my sympathies. It's one thing when the marriage has been headed south for quite a while and everyone has known there are problems for a long time. It's another thing entirely when you are completely blindsided by a divorce.
When this is the case, there is a certain percentage of men who simply can't deal with the situation. In other words, they shut down both mentally and emotionally. They ignore the process and refuse to admit that any sort of legal proceeding is happening. This is a classic example of denial. Because the knowledge that their marriage has failed and is ending is so painful, they simply refuse to acknowledge it at all. Initially their mind is overwhelmed with feelings of shock and pain: “My life is over”, “How could she do this to me?”, “She's going to take my kids!” These types of thoughts are very common, and it's not out of the question that depression sets in, along with the denial. For some men, complete and utter numbness is preferable to acknowledging and addressing the emotions that they are feeling. Men who react to a divorce in this manner frequently exhibit a bizarre range of reactions (or non-reactions) and behaviors.
One way in which men frequently react is to think that their spouse is not serious. In this scenario, the husband firmly believes that his wife has made a mistake and that she will eventually “come around” and change her mind. This husband will go about business as usual, dropping the kids off at school, lounging around the house, discussing day-to-day issues with his wife, and pretty much ignoring the legal process. Sometimes the husband may even “up his game” and act like a better or improved version of himself in a vain attempt to show her that things really aren't that bad and that she has made a mistake by filing for divorce. The problem with this approach (other than the fact that it ignores the reality on the ground) is that the legal system does not care whether you are acknowledging the divorce. There is a common and far-ranging misconception about the divorce process, which is best summed up as, “She can't divorce me if I don't agree to it/sign the papers.” I've often wondered where this misperception comes from. I seem to recall, while watching old black and white western movies in my youth, that occasionally a character would yell out (presumably at their spouse), “I won't give you a divorce!” or, “why won't you give me a divorce!” Maybe back in the days of the Wild West you needed your spouse's consent to get a divorce, but those days are long gone.
I know it seems bizarre that a man would simply choose to completely ignore the process, or act as if it's not really happening, but I can tell you from experience that there have been cases where the man has refused to participate in the court process and the divorce has been granted, yet the husband continues to live in the marital home and act as if the parties are still married. These men are eventually removed by law enforcement, and it is not pretty. Assumptions like, “if they can't serve me it can't happen, right?” and, “if I don't participate then it can't happen” are relics of the past, and you place yourself at a real disadvantage if you cling to these outdated misconceptions.
Whether there is divorce in your future or you need to respond to a divorce filing by your wife, I am here to advise.