I try hard to move forward. To figure out how to move my life on from this tragedy that has befallen it. Its not simply the divorce, but all that is served up to me through the process of divorce. I see many men who are struggling with the same thing. They can’t move past the point where divorce devastated their life. I know far too many men who have stagnated after divorce. They stop growing personally. They just stop. I have to stop and ask myself, why is this? Why do men and not women seem to be afflicted by this. I don’t think the answer is simply there is a difference between men and women, but that is surely a part of it. If it were merely that, then the man who succeeds after divorce would be an anomaly, and they aren’t. Its more complicated than that. My view of the world is that of someone in the middle class. From my front porch is where I am commenting from. As I move about society, this problem is by far worse in the middle class.
So why might this afflict the middle class more than those below, and those above it? This I think is fairly simple, though not obvious. First lets talk about what the middle class is. The middle class is a place of hope. People move freely through the middle class. Its a place that is hard to escape, but you enjoy most luxuries that society has to offer, if only in small doses. You believe it is possible to have the next big idea and escape into the upper class of society. All the world has to offer, seems available with enough effort and intellect. There are books and movies and modern day folklore that tell the tales of someone moving from their middle class existence into the world of the rich and famous. People in the middle class tend to start at the bottom of a profession, and work their way up as they age to the tops of their professions. Its natural for anyone who is motivated to find their way onto the ladder and make this progression in one way or another. Those who live in the middle class have choice in their profession and can move between professions with minimal cost to their lifestyle. The middle class is a big place to live as well. Its not merely a function of income that keeps you there, but the social connections you have. This is good and bad, but most of us see the relative positives of these connections. In a family structure, those in the middle class have the luxury of deciding how much lifestyle luxuries they will partake in, and whether one of the partners can make their job that of homemaker or to earn more money(and how much). The middle class rarely takes any real risks, because there is a lot to lose. In the middle class, people like to talk about calculated risks, but rarely are the risks real. There is little to lose in the risks that people take in the middle class. The rare times that the risks are real, you see how risk taking can hurt and how it can pay off, but finding the motivation to risk your comforts is a hard step to take for most.
Now lets look at the lower class. This place seems inescapable. You have few real choices in your lifestyle. You see society as a type of jail, and its there to control you. You act out to demonstrate your autonomy when you can. For some this is violent and criminal, and others it is more subtle. You have little to lose, so taking risks costs you less. Some would say that they aren’t risks at all. Often there is little calculation to the risks that are chosen. The purpose is more to remind yourself that you have some level of control in your life. Your world is filled with people who tell you what you need or should do, and warn you of consequences if you don’t. In the lower classes you really don’t believe that there is a way to move up in society, and you believe that if you do move up, the system will find a way to kick you back down. Working for a living sometimes seems futile, especially when you can spend your time figuring out how to get a government and charitable handout that exceeds what you could earn any job you can get. In the lower class, there is little hope. The men in this class make decisions without fear of losing what they have, because they have very little that can be taken away from them.
The upper classes have a very different view of the world. Most people in the upper classes are born there. When someone from the middle class reaches into the upper classes, they really aren’t a part of them. Though their children or grandchildren will likely be. The upper classes have a safety net through your connections. Its more than just money that keeps you there. Every luxury society has is at your fingertips So much so, they are mundane. This is why so many young adults in the upper classes take such crazy personal and social risks. They learn through this risk taking, that the social network they have will prop them back up after a fall. This confidence that is born through this process allows them to continue to take risks when it comes to their financial world. They have room for failed business ventures, and thus can learn lessons practically that rest of us have to read about, and try to apply. This is a tremendous advantage, and one that most of us will never know. The best corollary that most of us will experience is in playing a video game, and being able to restart the game at a checkpoint after failing a tasks or losing a life. To fall out of the upper class, you would usually have to do something that is so damning politically that no one is willing to extend their hand to help you up anymore for risk of losing their support network as well. This is a very high bar to hit, so even the most inept are able to retain their position with limited effort. Loss of wealth usually takes a generation to fall into the middle class, and in this time a sufficiently motivated family will recover their wealth. The upper class doesn’t need hope. They know the costs of their risks, and have the luxury of limiting the scope of the risks taken.
What we see in middle class divorce is the devastation of a man’s hope. First the wealth that he has worked for in his life is plundered. Not just by the division of assets, but by lawyers and the system. There is rarely enough left over to feel like you have sound footing to launch from. We have already discussed how the middle class is actually a risk averse group, so what happens next. The court now tells a man that his future earnings are not his own. They belong to his children, and he must give it to the woman who assisted in the plundering of his wealth. He no longer has the choice of whether his child will have piano lessons or he will save that money to make a better life for all of them. Now he must spend that money on his child whether the child has piano lessons or not. The path to where he was has been artificially elongated by this. More hope lost. Before the devastation of his family,the man had a right to choose to start over in another industry, and work his way back up, or to take a risk and start his own business. The court has decided that the child’s ability to maintain their lifestyle is more important than the man having this right to choose. If he chooses to start a new venture, he may very well be held to account for the same amount of child support regardless of his earnings. Taking such a risk can likely land a man in jail for being unable to pay this court mandated support. For all practical purposes, the man has lost the right to choose his own employment. When people look on a man in this position they are puzzled as to why he doesn’t seem to care about the responsibilities he had before the divorce. The answer is, he has lost hope. He is now more like the man in the lower classes, who has little to lose. He may still exist in the bubble of the middle class, but his thinking is now like that of a lower class man. He believes he has nothing to lose. When you have nothing to lose, you also tend to believe you have nothing to gain. There we have that the cost of divorce for so many men in the middle class is the loss of hope.
The end result of this loss of hope will be seen in future generations. Lower class men have already began to avoid marriage. There is nothing to gain from it, and the hope that it will provide them with some advantage in life that they would not have otherwise is not apparent. The upper class still have hope in marriage, but things change more slowly in the upper class. They tend to not be concerned with the lower and middle classes, but what happens across society at large eventually bleeds into the higher classes over time. The middle class is quickly seeing little or no value in marriage. This is true for men and women alike. Men are seeing that all the advantages of marriage for them can be taken away by divorce. This is not some breathtaking revelation, it is what is expected. What is not expected is that all the disadvantages of marriage are not simply held onto through divorce, but are multiplied. Marriage is by definition a limited loss of autonomy, but in divorce that autonomy is further attacked. What is worse, child rearing now carries the same weight. Men who have children are automatically made responsible for the woman who bears that child. Our society thinks that this is okay and even right. Our society is blindly running down a path where men will avoid all familial entrapment. They will only find hope separate from women. Ultimately this will bring down our society.
An example of how this is already affecting the thinking of our children, a recent conversation with my 13 year old son went this way. He told me that when he gets married, hes not getting divorce. I explained that he doesn’t have control over that. His wife can end the marriage if she chooses. He then said that he would be careful especially if there were kids. Then he said well maybe he wouldn’t have kids, if he can’t guarantee they don’t get divorced. Then he followed with this. Well if we aren’t going to have kids, then why get married. My 13 year old is already looking at a path that may be eternal bachelorhood, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. I will likely give him advice, when it is safe to do so, and that advice will be that if he wants kids, then he should adopt them on his own, and never let a woman become legally the mother of the children. He should have a vasectomy, and give up the idea of having any progeny of his own.
How do we find hope again? How do we climb out of the hole that society throws us in when we divorce? I see no hope until my youngest is grown. I don’t want to wait that long. I don’t know that I will survive if that is the soonest hope I have. What is there to hope for? How do we find our footing again? This system has to be changed, and soon. The evil it does to families is horrible. The fact the system doesn’t consider the rights of all the people in involved is destroying men everyday. In my heart, I know there is some hope, but I can’t put my finger on it. I can’t see it. I haven’t given up, but I want to.