Yesterday, we looked at three mistakes typically made by women during divorce, so now it's time to focus on the men. (Yes, men do make mistakes sometimes!)
1. Pursuing a new romantic relationship immediately after separation or while the divorce is pending – While this seems to be obvious on its face, it is, by far, the most common mistake we see in the practice of family law. Therapists point to the man's loneliness as a main reason for this pattern. More often than not, the man is the one who leaves the marital home and sets up a separate residence, typically spending most of his time without the children, or anyone for that matter, present. So when the loneliness sets in, he seeks comfort in a new relationship. While this may bring temporary comfort and companionship, it can create more problems than it is worth. First, it is difficult to demonstrate that your children are a priority to you when you're spending all or most of your free time (and probably your monetary resources) on a new relationship. Second, the old adage is usually true, rebound relationships rarely stand the test of time. And finally, divorce and the adjustment to single-parenthood and co-parenting takes an enormous amount of time and attention. If you are giving that time and attention to someone outside of your former family unit, you are doing a disservice to everyone involved. If you believe your new found love is “the one,” explain that you need this time to focus on getting your life and your children's lives settled first. If the relationship is meant to be, they will wait. If they will not respect your wishes or continue to pursue their own agenda, they probably really aren't “the one.”
2. Suffering from “Disneyland Dad Syndrome” – There is something about divorce and taking on a new co-parenting or visitation schedule that turns even some of the best dads into just a giant playmate for their children. While there is certainly nothing wrong with the occasional trip to an amusement park or kids' museum to enjoy an afternoon of play with your children, to do this every single time you have visitation with them is setting everyone up for failure. First, the children learn that Mom is the “bad cop” in their lives. She's the one who has to enforce chores, responsibilities, going to church, doing homework, writing thank you notes, brushing teeth, eating healthy, and going to bed at a reasonable time. But Dad? He's the one who plays with the kids. He's the one who lets kids have cotton candy for breakfast, Cheetos for lunch and no nap time. He will win them giant stuffed animals no matter how much money it takes to keep playing the game and he believes that rules and routine are boring. Is it fun in the moment? Absolutely! But what happens to the father the children need to experience, too? Who will teach the children that rules should be followed consistently, even on most weekends? Who will teach the children that men can cook meals, just like women, and men are just as good as reading bedtime stories as women? And above all else, who else can demonstrate to the children that fathers value the day-to-day routines of their lives just as much as mothers do? Children of all ages need a mature, responsible (and fun-loving) male role model. If all they see of Dad is 100% fun, games, and zero-responsibility, then that becomes their view of men in the world. Don't do that to your children.
3. Not Taking the Attorney's Advice – Men can be terrible about this. Maybe it's because many of them are in positions of responsibility and control in their work lives, so they naturally believe that they know and can handle their divorce better than anyone else. However, not too many men have handled as many divorce cases as the attorney they choose to hire. Therefore, listen to and follow through on the advice given by your attorney. You're paying for it, so you might as well make good use of it. The advice he or she may offer is given with a specific purpose in mind — protecting your interests. The case will be difficult enough fighting the opposing side, don't make it worse for everyone by forcing your attorney to fight against you, too.