Separation Challenges for Men and Fathers

Challenges for Men and Fathers

Separation is no picnic for either party but there are particular challenges for men, as they often leave the family home at the point of separation and lose day to day contact with their children, at least for the first while. Staying close, both emotionally and geographically, can be difficult.

It’s still the case in Australia that the tasks associated with running a home tend to be divided along gender lines and that means men are likely to be the primary breadwinners, particularly if there are children. Women are more likely to have taken time out from careers in order to care for young children, and that usually impacts on their capacity to bring money into the household and often impacts on their career direction, too.

If you have lived in a household where the tasks are split up along those gender lines, you’ll recognise where that division of labour naturally leads at the point of separation.  Fathers generally are not the people most used to daily care of children and mothers are not the people most able to bring in the money it takes to fund that care.

I believe that’s why men often take a long time to accept the reality of separating and tend to hang on under very difficult circumstances, unless they have somewhere else to go that offers companionship, approval and a degree of  comfort.  I recall speaking with a man who had spent two and a half years sleeping on a foam mattress on his living room floor – a massive effort of patience and determination.

The reason he was willing to be patient so long was that the alternative involved not living with his little daughter, who was the joy of his life.  Of course, he did accept eventually that the relationship between the parents was over and move on, seeing his daughter as often as possible.   He could clearly see that his daughter needed to stay in her home with her mum, as the best solution for her, but driving up to that decision was filled with grief for him.

I’ve had many conversations with men who hung on in sad marriages for years, in some cases, until they met another person who provided appreciation and companionship. Usually, it was at that point they felt there was enough encouragement to jump out of the distressing family situation. Faced with feeling trapped between pain and suffering on the one hand and the potential for admiration and approval on the other, it’s clear to see why so many people leave for new people.

If you think about it, wives who know their husbands well and are no longer enchanted but stressed and worried, just cannot be as attractive as new lovers who are enthusiastic and animated.  Of course, the situation is temporary but Blind Freddy can see who looks most appealing in that moment.

With a new partner, it is possible there will be a better outcome but better outcomes are more likely if you take time to learn about what could have been done differently and how you would prefer to be in a future relationship.

For those who leave without a new relationship to go to, the loss of daily contact and care for their children can be very painful and also lonely.  There is often a period of no contact that can go on for some months, depending upon the climate between the former partners.

It is possible to use the courts to re-establish contact with children but mediation is a better option in most cases, because it is quicker, cheaper and more likely to restore a measure of respect and cooperation between the former partners.

Meantime, if will help a great deal if separating parents refrain from introducing children to new partners.  Not only is that stressful for children, it usually de-stabilizes the post separation co-parenting efforts.

When introducing children to potential new partners, it is better to do it by agreement between both the parents, to wait a substantial period of time (such as six months or more after separation) before taking that decision and when you do, make sure you are not overtly affectionate with your new partner in front of the children.  With any new partner, be warm but not intimate when your children are around.

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