I present here a hypothesis that men, after divorce, choose one of two essential pathways for their future. I hope to introduce an idea for discussion, and for divorced men, to provide a construct for decision-making about your future. I do not aim to judge this decision although I have chosen one over the others for myself. The two basic pathways I see are:
- The pathway toward a monogamous "coupled" relationship. Men in this category may be hesitant to enter a "full-blown" relationship, but are at least open to the idea that, if they meet an exceptional person they are open to the possibility of being coupled, or
- Remain strongly averse to marriage or being constrained by being anything but single. Men in this category may actively date but strongly emphasize their desire to remain uncoupled. Some men may shun dating altogether.
Wanting to remarry is a pretty understandable position that is only complicated by how much divorce sucks. All divorced people got married before, which implies (at least) that we wanted to be married. A significant part of a man's life (whether previously married or not) is spent pondering this question. "Should I stay single, date around, or settle down". Probably the same is true for women, although I can't speak as confidently about that. But in my search for male role models for how to move on after divorce I have made many observations and I see these patterns. Either a man desires to return to married life, at least being open to that scenario, or he wants nothing to do with being married again. Two different paths not unfamiliar to any man despite their status as married, divorced, or single.
So what changes in our lives that we would change our mind? Some men see the opportunity of divorce as a chance to live their future unconstrained by a coupled relationship. These men are not necessarily changed but want to pursue paths more easily followed alone. One example I know is a snowboarder who travels the world working short-term jobs that facilitate him hitting the mountain at every possible opportunity. A partner might compromise his freedom. Some of these men are often empathetic about the impact their lifestyles would have on a partner and choose to be uncoupled because they know it would be challenging for a partner.
I can totally understand the mindset of never wanting to remarry. Not remarrying means fewer obligations, not having more kids, and avoiding the negative aspects of marriage that played into us being divorced in the first place. Not remarrying also provides the freedom to experience more relationships, or to maximize the early stages of dating that tend to wane as relationships age. I get it; serial dating or even not dating at all can be easier than nurturing a successful marriage.
Choosing not to remarry is an understandable position, but I am concerned that this option is often selected to protect ourselves and not because it is something we actually want. I understand this mindset mostly because I spent a lot of time being directed by fear. I was very fearful, post-divorce, of getting into a future relationship only to repeat the same mistakes I had made in my first marriage. I was so overcome by fear that I did not want to remarry and it made dating very complicated. It took a lot of counseling for me to understand that I really did want to try again but was letting fear convince me otherwise. I was allowing low self-esteem associated with divorce, the statistics that suggest second marriages are harder, and the fear of being hurt again, to decide my future. I believe many men choose not to pursue relationships post-divorce out of fear and want divorced people to make decisions based on their authentic goals and not be clouded by the pain of divorce. Like all those articles say, we have to move beyond the pain and allow ourselves to live our lives. We owe it to ourselves, having been through divorce, to choose our futures.
Whatever you choose to do with your life after a divorce, it should come from a place where the pain of divorce does not cloud your decision. At the very least, divorce provides an opportunity to decide what you want for your future. The advice provided to me was not to let fear determine how you approach that opportunity. Though my second marriage is complicated by blending families, I feel incredibly grateful to those who helped me let go of the past and not let fear drive my future.