“Sometimes they only have one leg to stand on-at least that’s what it feels like”–Jim
After arriving back from a week long book signing tour in Vancouver and Victoria and after having been asked numerous times why this happens I thought it would be appropriate to toss in my two cents since Father’s Day is fast approaching.
The question is “why do men leave or just walk away from their families and abandon their children”? The response most often given is ‘because they are selfish, self-centered slugs’. I can understand how many men and women might respond this way. In some cases this is quite true. But in many cases it isn’t. This is seldom a knee-jerk reaction. There are many extenuating circumstances. However, I can say this with certainty. The reasons are varied, legitimate and numerous. Sometimes–sometimes men have or truly believe they have no other option. In this time of growing equity and equality I think it’s important that we understand and accept that it isn’t always the ‘man’ who walks away or is responsible for the demise of a family or a relationship. I will grant this: men are walking away from their families in record numbers–it has become epidemic. But increasingly women are beginning to do the same. Twenty percent of single parented homes are now headed by men.
Here is my top ten list (in no particular order) of the main reasons why men are walking away from their families:
1. Immaturity. The couple is not ready to be in a committed relationship yet. To many this is a short lived diversion from the real issues that plague them–like having a puppy or a new car. There are no seeming consequences for walking away. Many are not ready, in any remote reality, to be committed partners let alone parents. Too many kids-too fast with one income or social assistance to live on is nothing but a recipe for disaster.
2. Mental health. Often times the responsibility falls upon the man to ‘make it happen’. If he has few applicable skills he is hard pressed to make anything happen. If he left school prematurely he likely has little education or training and thus cannot compete for decent well paying jobs. He would be among the first to get laid off with no prospects for his family’s future. Hopelessness begins to rule–depression follows close behind. The struggle to ‘stay afloat’ becomes enormous and the stress becomes crippling. Anxiety grows with each rent cheque he can’t cover. The shame of failure becomes more difficult to deal with. He walks to get away from it–to start new somewhere else.
3. Lifestyle. Alcohol and drug abuse. No secret here. No relationship can withstand either or both partners using regularly.
4. Entitlement and selfishness. I want what I want and I want it now. I want what others have. Why shouldn’t I have it? Spending money when they don’t have it. Money is likely the number 1 reason why relationships fall apart or one partner leaves–often the man.
5.Constant physical abuse. Now I am talking about the physical abuse that is meted out by a female partner. It happens much more often than it is reported. What self respecting man would ever report or complain about his female partner beating on him? It’s reported about 10% of the time. Eventually he walks.
6. Anger. People seldom admit to being angry but rather blame their upset and distress on others. When the ‘upset and distress’ gets to be too much to endure everyday and they cannot seem to stop themselves from being physically, verbally, emotionally and spiritually abusive–they walk. Anger is really a poor man’s ‘pain killer’.
7. Rate of change. Men are finding it increasingly difficult to determine where they fit in to family life and society today. The rate of change and known or unknown expectations are often more than men can manage. Men find themselves disconnected from the life around them. They become increasingly unsure of their importance, value and usefulness.
8. Other partners. Often men, finally, just give up trying to figure out where and who they are supposed to be. Often they just walk away and hook up with another partner because she is more fun and less demanding. With less stress comes more control over their lives. In some cases it represents a freedom they believe they never would have experienced in their ‘other’ life.
9. Male pride. I’ve said this numerous times. There is nothing more fragile than a male ego. There are few things more devastating to a man than to be told he is not a good provider for his family. After a while it becomes painful to face his family day in and day out knowing that he can’t be what they want him to be–a good provider.
10. Lack of male mentorship. You can’t know what you don’t know and if you have never experienced a strong male mentor or role model it is that much more difficult to live life as a man in this world. Things like how to handle adversity, stress, anxiety and so on; how to exercise control over newly discovered or challenging emotions become much more difficult to master.
My greater concern when dads walk away is the finality of it. Many dads do not seem to understand the awesome privilege that has been presented them regarding the mentorship of their sons. They are not considering the grief, pain and loss they inflict when they walk away. If there are no children the loss is just as devastating for the partner left behind.
We are witnessing how that lack of mentorship is manifesting itself by way of increased violence and mass shootings. Fathers need to be involved in their son’s life on a consistent basis whether they reside in the family home or not until the son is able to demonstrate that he understands what it truly means to live as a man in the world today. Then he can pass it along to his son when it’s time. A man’s work is never done.
Anyway, that’s how I see it.
Let me know what you think. If you have any other ideas please send them to me.
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org web page: jamescloughley.com
Please send this along to your friends or anyone you know who may be interested.
All the best, Jim