I think I mentioned at one point that I’m working on a novel. It’s kinda like “First Wives Club” from a dude’s perspective. I think there’s a meme of the 30-50 year old Divorced man out there who’s trading up, or trying to rekindle his youth, or rejecting the now frumpy and wrinkled wife of his youth for a ferrari and a young girlfriend.
If you want to see a pretty accurate description of this in the movie world, try seeing Crazy Stupid Love. I will say, most of the guys I know are not in a lather to end up back with their ex-wife, but Steve Carrell’s character is a very good depiction of many guys in my situation.
Crazy Stupid Love http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1570728/
I’ve been this single guy for almost three years now and I have a good number of guy friends who are in very similar situations to me. I have yet to see one guy who fits this meme.
To be sure, the divorced men I know can be a bit picky. I think this is a result of being burned in previous relationships and not wanting to repeat past mistakes. But if there is one word I could use to describe virtually all the 30-50 year old divorced men I know it is this: lonely.
Even guys like me who have a good solid group of guy friends that meet for support, Bible study, fun, drinks, etc. are profoundly lonely. Not just the ones who don’t have kids at home like me – or who are dealing with the effects of parental alienation. Certainly, I think there’s a different loneliness inherent in those guys. But even the guys with half-custody and little kids running around every other week are profoundly lonely.
I think this colors much of the interaction men have with the opposite sex. I’m sure women can relate to these experiences as well, but I think there’s a significant difference with men. Men are taught from an early age to be strong and independent and not show fear and hide their feelings. Men often end up isolated in marriage for some reason. Women typically have their group of friends to do girls night out, or spa days or just coffee and chatting. Women who are more involved with the kids tend to have great relationships with other school moms. There’s frequently women’s groups at churches, and women just naturally tend to run in packs. In high school the guys called this the herding mentality of the female species.
Guys don’t typically have this instinct. We tend to keep more to ourselves, we struggle through things alone and if we don’t, we’re labeled needy, or emotional or a wreck, or whatever. We learn at a fairly early age to hide much of this. Heck, this blog is a case in point. It’s anonymous so my kids don’t see their business all over the internet, but how many of my guy friends even know I have it? Until just recently, my family did, but I maybe had one guy friend who’d ever read it. I’m even careful which girl friends are given access. Maybe its trust issues? Maybe I’ve just been burned in the past.
As a result of this loneliness, men cope in several specific ways — which are often translated by our culture into negative stereotypes. Let’s see if we can look at the reality behind some of these:
- Serial Dater. This is the divorced guy who’s constantly out on dates. Guaranteed: these dates are online dates from match or tinder. He’s not sleeping with many (if any) of them. He very rarely has second dates. He is literally wondering when he will meet someone he could fall in love with for good. Many perceive this guy as being a male slut or just never satisfied. From what I’ve seen — he’s maybe been married twice or more, he’s been really wounded in his relationships, so he’s very cautious about committing. He wants to be certain that when he does, he’s got a pretty good shot at success.
- Bif, The Guy who is bragging about his “exploits.” Not unlike the high school locker room guy, this divorcee is trying to get his mojo back. His marriage or previous relationship gave him the strong feeling that he was not valuable, not handsome, not sexy, not worth anything. He’s working hard to validate himself through “acquisitions” of notches on his bedpost. From my experience, this guy for the most part really is still trying to find “the one.” He doesn’t want indiscriminate sex with a bunch of different women, he wants someone who will love him for who he is and who will be his partner.
- The Premature Adorer. This is the Guy who meets a girl and declares his undying love very quickly. There are a lot of guys out there who are so lonely that the first girl that gives them some positive attention (even as a friend), is treated to a shower of compliments and love. It’s too quick, too soon, and leaves may women scratching their heads, wondering what is causing this. The danger here is that these guys can very quickly jump into a new marriage — the seven day romance, 3 week engagement and quick wedding. The cause of this again is loneliness and his need for affirmation.
- The Secret PolyAmorist. This is the guy who has ongoing relationships with several different women, largely unbeknownst to any of them. He may or may not have an “exclusive” situation with any of them, but more than one of them think that they are his one and only. He would say its not cheating, I’ve heard one say that he’s gone back and forth between two women several times but it’s okay because there’s always been a break with one before he goes back to the other. This is obviously damaging to the women and not a good situation for the guy. Again, it’s easy to judge this guy as a total jerk. From what I’ve seen, that’s rarely true. He’s typically a broken guy with a history of hard relationships who can’t stand to be alone but keeps thinking there’s something better around the corner.
Here’s the beauty of each of these divorced dudes. None of these guys are locked into these labels for the rest of their lives. I’m not encouraging you ladies to go out and try to change them — that’s a recipe for disaster — and maybe a future book? But I will say that the right relationship has a way of righting each of these guys. The huge risk that each of them take is that they cannot find a healthy relationship in the mindset of the label they embody today.
I’ll admit that I have struggled most with the first category – the serial dater. I honestly hate having 3-4 dates with different women in a week long period. I have friends that just shake their heads and I have other friends that live vicariously through my dating experiences and think it’s glamorous. I can assure you, tonight’s date looked 20 years older than her online pic. She had bad teeth and was not someone I would have ever asked on a date in a million years if I had seen her at church or the grocery store. But because she posted a pic of her in her 20s, I thought, hmmm she’s cute and wasted 42.5 minutes of my life. THIS, my friends is the excitement of the online dating world. And tonight, I’m back to thinking, “Am I ever going to find someone?”
Whether they are dating serially or not, I can guarantee you that most of the other guys in my circle of friends have similar thoughts daily. The profound reality is that the single divorced guy in his 30s – 50s is not a player. He’s not a playboy. He’s not looking to trade up. He’s just hoping to find someone he can love honestly and who will love him back.