I wanted to start today’s message with a story. A few months ago I was in a Starbucks doing work… and to my left was a woman on the phone who was trying her damndest to keep her composure while tears were streaming down her face. She looked absolutely petrified and lost, disheveled and desperate to find something to stable her thoughts …her world.
I asked her how I could be of help to her right then. Pulled up a seat closer and listened,
They decided they were going to get a divorce… they’d just sold their house so she was trying frantically to find a place to crash… with her 3 your boys… until she could perhaps gain her composure and decide if she was to remain in Austin and find a job or move to her parent’s home in Houston. Amidst the crazed story that she shared, 3 key things stood out- not a surprise, but as a consistent list of statements I have indeed heard many times from other women and female friends when the D word is dropped by one or both of them:
- He doesn’t even seem upset. He hasn’t cried- its’ like he doesn’t care, like he’s unaffected. Looks at me like he’s already left- already detached or doesn’t know me.
- When he talks to me he acts angry, like he is totally frustrated with me.
- To top it all off, he just went back to work- his normal schedule- it’s all he’s focused on. He never missed a beat- just back to business – to taking care of what he needs for himself.
Ultimately, women ask WHY… why is my husband acting this way? Mind you, it takes two to tango, yes? So both sides I’m certain brought their own fair share of assumptions, Louis Vuitton baggage, expectations and personality idiosyncrasies. But regardless who’s serving the mine field papers, the woman sees the stoic character shift and is taken aback amidst her own drama.
So to this question WHY, gentlemen, we all know the answer. Because DIVORCE is code word for FAILURE.
As a side note, I was really torn as to what title would really catch your eye, gents. First it was going to be: Why Men Admit Divorce is Their Greatest Failure- but I thought guys won’t be running to listen to a podcast that calls them out and points a finger. Then I thought, how about titling it: Why Divorce is a Knee to the Nuts- but I thought you might not take me seriously.
Either way, both statements hold truth for men. Divorce- or the ending of a significant relationship- is indeed a painful failure. But instead I took the route of inviting you to look at your past or current split with fresh perspective of hope and forgiveness.
Through words of wisdom I’ve picked up over the years from plenty of sharp, truly grounded men
I’ve understood that marriage issues can not only make or break a career… they can also derail and perpetually scar a man for life, dismantle his already delicate ego and strip him of a huge part of his identity. When the one sacred relationship that created and offered unconditional solace, sanctuary, safety and acceptance crumbles, self-preservation becomes Job #1.
And since most men are kings of compartmentalizing and stockpiling emotions, the D-word keystone defense mechanism reactions are exactly what that tearful woman in Starbucks stated….
- What’s with the poker face, lack of compassion? Why haven’t you cried? It’s the Fight Club mentality and code: Do not share or show the stress, emotions or gut-wrenching fear you are facing. Those feelings are classified and stored away, deep, deep in the reserves of a man’s heart to be opened up and faced (somehow) head-on in full realization waaaaay down the road.
- The anger you are showing is anger and frustration with yourself. This is a “stumbling block” you didn’t configure into your life plan where you believe you are at the helm- of hunting, gathering, working, building a family, creating a decorated legacy, etc. The hurtful projections spurn from the need to work harder to stay channel focused, not lose your level.
- And so where do you go to reset your sense of control, power, familiarity and effectiveness…where you DON’T have to show emotion? You go back to work- your homebase, your security blanket, where your identity is still solid.
Ironically, there is no solution of simply wearing a cloak to work –or anywhere for that matter- to hide the shit that’s hitting the fan at home. Eventually the signs show…
And eventually, you choose to pull out those storage lockers leaking over with raw feelings and composted contempt, tears and confusion, fears and flashbacks from your childhood, perhaps. And this is where time is not on your side- it’s on “her side” because your ex dealt with the divorce, faced the hollow out of heart and mind, began true healing and moved on.
But for men- Having waited months or in too many cases, years to flesh out and experience the divorce – those files still have a pulse and their impact is now profound and more powerful than you’d expected. And it takes center stage amidst all other things on your plate. It’s with you at every meal, at every meeting, spills out in countless conversations, and sits with you each quiet night alone. And you no longer call it your divorce. You label it FAILURE. Your failure. You failed. Perhaps the greatest failure in your life thus far, you tell yourself. And that’s a heavy weight to carry around, friends.
And if you were to kick the bucket tomorrow- yup, I’d have to agree with you. Because it was your last marker of effort. But I’m here to shift your perspective… bringing hope by talking shop. Juxtaposing your relationship with your business. Your divorce with business set-backs.
The execs and businessmen I’ve worked with and interviewed have shared their insights with me about their own divorces, of course, in addition to the memorable mistakes they’ve made in their careers. Tell me if some of these sound familiar:
- Thinking of folding up shop too soon –doubting your own courage and choices.
- Assuming you are the only decision-maker and not compromising.
- Not asking for input and advice
- Taking advice from too many people
- Forcing vs. Influencing those who help you do what you do and be who you are- Acting Like a Boss Instead of part of the team
- Losing focus on what really matters in pursuit of what’s perceived as valuable going after things to acquire as opposed to loving that which you already have.
- Not communicating with empathy- not listening
- Showing a lack of trust, respect and support for others.
- Putting off doing the hard work.
- Not honoring the original plan and winging it.
- Neglecting everything else in my life- marriage, health, family, personal development, community
All of these things are common, repeatable mistakes that too many entrepreneurs and leaders confess to when talking about missteps in their careers… which led to challenges in their growth and success. And yet, each error in thought and action alone or as a collection as a circus of fumbles- is admitted to, analyzed, addressed with a Plan B or C, and tagged a “set back”. Not a failure. A set-back. A straying from the path, a wrong choice, and misjudgment- that’s eventually used as inspiration for a brighter future. Because leaders realize that the business is dynamic and alive and doesn’t exist in a bubble. Countless variables, obstacles and intangibles influence its life. So the set-backs became building blocks.
These very same mistakes create fertile ground for assumptions, miscommunications and a mess in a marriage. And in turn, countless variables, obstacles and intangibles influence its life… but if it ends in DIVORCE was it a failure? If all the hiccups net a growth opportunity for you to reset with mindfulness a better future by becoming a better man- wasn’t your divorce just a set-back?
“The whole life lies in the verb seeing.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French philosopher, priest and paleontologist
So how do get past your divorce… start on the right foot in a new relationship… not feel like you’re tattooed with a failure? You buy into the plausible truth that: DIVORCE is not FAILURE. I am not a failure. This was a “set-back”. And you forgive yourself.
Just as your business or career is a “work in progress”, so are you- because it’s an extension of you. So you rework those building blocks, man, starting with the key driver: Forgiveness – dump the past, wipe the slate clean, absolve yourself of your fumbles and flaws and stop being the victim of what went wrong. And you back that up with a concerted effort to shed the shadow of your dead divorce, of who you’re not and what you don’t represent and work to KNOW and develop the next phase of you. You can then SHOW and SHARE who you are inside and out more freely and with enthusiasm and confidence.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The average man has the means to step back and take in the Bigger Picture. A better man discovers the power and honors the duty to step forward and light it up again as a healed, healthy, whole man. Divorce sure as heck may bring you to your knees… but you can stand up again, knowing it was only a set-back.
Never Stop EVOLVING. – KD
©2016 Kimberlie Dykeman. Sponsored by Kimberlie Dykeman Enterprises Executive Performance Coaching, Retreats & Wingman Support for Gentlemen.