In Hollywood, it seems that the people least successful at being married are the ones most eager to tie the knot, over and over again.
On the heels of today's news that Jesse James is planning on marrying Kat Von D, an announcement that comes less than six months after his divorce to Sandra Bullock was finalized, a lot of us are wondering why on earth he's even dating anyone, let alone dusting off his tuxedo again.
But this kind of situation is more common than you would think, both in Hollywood and in the rest of the country. Kelsey Grammer's divorce to Camille Grammer is not yet finalized, but he is still planning on marrying girlfriend Kayte Walsh in February. Eric Johnson, NFL star, finalized his divorce to wife Keri Johnson in October 2010 and announced his engagement to Jessica Simpson in November 2010.
What's going on here? You can reason that they are celebrities, but research shows that in general, men tend to remarry significantly sooner than women after a divorce. Famous men are just exaggerated, in-the-spotlight versions of men all over America. What happens to these guys post-divorce that so often leads to them throwing themselves into another legally binding relationship?
Please don't think I am saying that only men make poor relationships decisions following the dissolution of a marriage. Both genders are prone to rebound relationships, because being single for the first time in many years can be incredibly painful. If someone is willing to be with you during such a difficult period, it's much easier to bury yourself in that person, much easier to transfer your feelings about your previous partner onto this new partner- instead of grieving and growing as an individual first. But the tendency for those rebound relationships to become marriages for men leads me to think that perhaps post-divorce support is not "one size fits all".
In my experience as a therapist and as a friend, it seems that the majority of the breakup resources available are for women and not men. Women, who tend to be more vocal about their emotional struggles, are the squeaky wheel that gets the grease from friends, from online communities, from books, and from therapeutic approaches. Women are encouraged to go on an emotional journey of self-care after a divorce, while men are expected to need help learning how to cook and parent on their own. When you Google "how men handle divorce", many of the links advise women on what to do if their husbands become violent during the divorce process. Why is there so little focus on how men can heal after a divorce?
Men--not all men but a good majority of the ones I have known and worked with--tend to think of difficult situations in their lives as problems that need to be solved. This is often made fun of in popular culture, but to me, it is a brilliant way of simplifying and quantifying issues that could easily be spun into unapproachable emotional juggernauts. Post-divorce support so often suggests things like letting yourself express painful feelings, taking emotional inventories, exploring new ways to fill your needs, and asking for help- none of these sound like something that fits into a problem-solving way of thinking.
Could it be that men are rushing to remarry in an effort to prove to themselves and others that the "problem" they had has been solved? Is Kelsey Grammer thinking "This time I'll get marriage right" in planning to remarry before his previous marriage is even over? Maybe our culture needs to put more emphasis on approaching divorced men differently, helping them learn to see their unhappiness in a relationship as the "problem" to be fixed.
Divorce is incredibly traumatic, but the pain, the self disappointment, and the destructive methods that are used to temporarily ease that pain seem to be different for men and women. Men deserve to heal and learn and grow from divorce just as much as women. Perhaps we should start focusing on that rather than scorning men for remarrying so fast.