The first time I met him, Ted wore disheveled biking clothes and his eyes were bloodshot from laser surgery a few weeks before. He sat hunched over his coffee cup, eyes averted, arms occasionally crossed over his chest. He seemed absent somehow.
Soon off the top of our conversation, he talked about his failed marriage and his imminent divorce. He said he numbed out and lost 20 pounds of muscle after his wife told him about her affair.
Ted was a wounded man but he was ready to change. He just didn’t know how.
As a men’s image consultant, I make it my job to transform men into their genuine selves – not the men that society demands. I believe that all men are wonderful, but many have been influenced by outside forces that want to control and mold him into who they think he should be.
To me, this is abusive to men and their true nature that should be nurtured and celebrated.
After Ted hired me, I got to know him through an in-depth questionnaire so I could understand his character, his life, and how he sees the world; what he likes to do, what he reads, who he listens to, and what kind of art he likes.
Failed relationships with women tend to put the fear in men, and Ted said at the beginning of our first session that I was the only person on earth who knew this much about him, and he was a little nervous about that. I assured his emotional safety and dove into the character of this interesting man. I began to understand what a handy and creative guy he is – Ted can take a brick chimney apart with his bare hands and he loves Steve McQueen movies.
“Simply by meeting with Leah and talking about the good things we both wanted for me was, in and of itself, a change,” Ted explains, “My many negative thoughts were replaced by hopeful, positive ones. We spoke about the past but never dwelled on it – our immediate focus was on making a positive change in the near future.”
Our bodies tell the truth even when we choose not to. Ted’s body language told the story of his battered emotions and fragile ego. I gave him my observations.
Females are born with the ability to read faces and respond to eye contact. Since Ted intended to get past his bad relationship and meet more women, I assigned homework to work on his gaze to come across as sincere and present, asking for updates every week. After a few weeks of conscious eye contact, Ted said that he felt “so much more powerful” in his interactions with women, and they responded well to him.
When we moved into the physical part of process, we worked on body consciousness, body proportions, lifestyle assessment, and colour analysis that cleared his skin, brought his eyes into focus, and turned up his handsome. We were ready to build a new, efficient, and flattering wardrobe to give Ted fewer pieces to fuss over, more outfits to wear, and a new way to express himself.
“After getting out there in my new wardrobe, I’m happy about every decision I made. I’ve never received so many unprovoked compliments from people before,” Ted says,”I think guys in similar situations can have a similar experience in the image program, but they have to want change and be entirely open to it.”
The short end of the emotional stick
I looked for ways to further support Ted on his journey and was at once horrified but not surprised to see that there is a small amount of support for divorced dads and a comparatively miniscule amount of support for divorced men without children, like Ted.
This seems to say that if the man isn’t supporting other lives, he’s useless.
The lack of emotional support translates into a familiar and unjust message of men being expected to suck up all of the pain associated with divorce and carry on as if nothing happened.
A social attitude like this is a catalyst for drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and in some cases, suicide. This casts a terrible shadow on our society and from my perspective, is an example of sexism and emotional violence against men.
I found a therapist in Toronto who specializes in divorce. Bernie Golden is a counsellor/psychotherapist and family mediator. He also facilitates a Separation and Divorce Self-Help Group.
Bernie recognizes the social need to support men in their struggles “because men hurt and they deserve to have that hurt acknowledged; men should have an accessible and effective network of supports, and if they don’t, this can have a significant negative impact on a person’s emotional and physical health.”
He too acknowledges the societal problems that arise when people’s struggles are not recognized or supported, saying that when emotional difficulties are ignored, we are all diminished and we all suffer from this neglect.
“My clients often express their frustration over the lack of support for men,” he says, “I hear my client’s frustration when they reach out for individual support from friends and family; when they reach for support from non-profits, organized groups, and professionals, and I hear about the frustration around not feeling supported or understood from a larger societal perspective. Many men perceive and are faced with a societal indifference to providing them with the emotional support that they need.”
Men in Toronto can get in touch with Bernie at 416-951-1288 or through berniegolden.com.
Society is (very) slowly noticing the difficulties that divorced men face.
Google anything about divorced men and you’ll find mostly legal and financial websites, some more bitter than others, to support men during their most difficult times. It is truly shocking how few services there are for the divorced man.
I knew there had to be more, so I kept searching.
I found a wonderful specialized interior design service that reworks space for people in states of transition, namely divorced men.
Deirdre Dyment, of the Deirdre Dyment Design Group in Toronto, helps to create beautiful, happy homes for clients after life-changing events.
“There’s much more involved in leaving the matrimonial home than packing a suitcase and signing a lease,” her website says, “I want to create an environment that will inspire and get the individual that has moved excited about the next chapter of their life.”
Now we’re getting somewhere.
I came across a women’s dating movement in the UK that has its sights set on divorced men.
The PUMAs – women on the hunt for Previously Married and Attractive men, see divorced men as having greater relationship experience, with “the likelihood they will be more sensitive to their partner’s needs, and that they have demonstrated serious commitment in the past,” says this Daily Mail story.
Though this is focused in Britain, I’m quite sure there are PUMAs prowling the North American continent as well, gents. After reading the news story, I can absolutely see why smart women would want a man experienced with relationships and with women.
Things are slowly changing for divorced men, but we have a long way to go.
Ted is on a new road now. He’s had a fun summer, feeling better about himself, juggling women that seem to have come out of the woodwork, and taking a new pride in himself.
“While the whole ordeal may seem a bit overwhelming, I think it’s well worth it for men to invest a few dollars more in themselves,” Ted says in support of his broken brothers, “I went through the image process and I feel comfortable and confident and much more like the man I actually am, not the man my divorce made me feel like.”