The myth supposedly goes that men and women think differently. Volumes have been written alleging men are more Martian than human. But is it true? When it comes to breakups, do men handle heartbreak differently than women?
In the grand scheme of all the breakups in your rear view mirror, you may have noticed a trend. The memories left behind lingered around like crumbs trapped in carpet fibers. No matter how many times you run your trusty Dyson over the rug, you still find pointy, crushed Doritos stuck into the soles of your feet from time to time.
How Men Handle Heartbreak
No, it’s not just you. In fact, in August 2015, researchers at Binghamton University and University College London published the findings of their months-long study in a journal called Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences.
Their piece called, Quantitive Sex Differences in Response to the Dissolution of a Romantic Relationship, reveals that men not only deal differently with the post-heartbreak sting, but it also lingers around in their lives, sometimes taking years to fully heal. Women took them harder but were more likely to initiate the dissolution of the relationship.
Like a slow burn, the pain lasts longer in men, sometimes never going away completely. Previously thought of as the colder, less caring member of the species, this study purports the opposite is true. Binghamton research associate and lead author of the study, Craig Morris, said, “Put simply, women are evolved to invest far more time in a relationship than a man.” But while women hurt more (with a higher intensity), men take longer to feel the effects and they linger. “The man will likely feel the loss deeply and for a very long period of time as it ‘sinks’ in,” Morris went on to say, “that he must ‘start competing’ all over again to replace what he has lost – or worse still, come to the realization that the loss is irreplaceable.”
The Details of the Study
They posed questionnaires in English before 5,705 participants in 96 countries (average age of 27) in an attempt to replicate and expand on the existing biological model of human, post-breakup behavior.
- Have you experienced a breakup?
- If they experienced multiple breakups, respondents were asked to choose the one that affected them most or the most recent.
- How severe was the breakup for you emotionally?
- Who do you feel initiated the breakup?
- What sort of physical responses did you experience as a result of the breakup?
Participants were then asked to rate their emotional and physical responses to their breakups from zero (didn’t bother them at all) to 10 (unbearable).
75% of the total participants (4,279) experienced breakups at some point in their lives. Of those people, 75% of them (3,209) had gone through them more than once. Although a lack of communication was the most common reason for initiating the breakup, infidelity was the most common direct cause, primarily male infidelity.
Understanding the science behind how men handle heartbreak is important. By the time we reach 30, most people have experienced and survived at least three major breakups with one of them enacting a major negative impact on a person’s quality of life.
Post-Breakup Grief (PRG)
That’s the name of the thing that keeps you up at night dwelling on the one that got away. A previous study determined people with a predisposition to depression and anxiety were more likely to suffer from severe emotional issues post-breakup. Rejection altogether is one of the worst parts of the human condition. It’s another thing entirely to be rejected by the one we love.
Blame PRG for your obsessions. It’s also responsible for the rage and anger you felt at the thought of being abandoned by your ex.
Other symptoms of PRG include (but are certainly not limited to):
- Eating disorders
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Panic attacks
The study also concluded that rejected people suffered higher levels of PRG than those who initiated the breakup. At the end of a relationship, one person seems to be doing fine and coping well while the other is left bereft. This could be because the initiating party has had time to think about the impending end. They’ve had time to process all the possible angles. In a way, they get a head start ahead of the rejected party.
Morris suggests further studies be done looking into the long-term effects of PRG by adding, “With a better understanding of this emotional and physical response to a breakup – Post Relationship Grief – we can perhaps develop a way to mitigate its effect in already high-risk individuals.”
Evolution has made women more choosy of the person they pick to procreate with. Whoever it ends up being will need to be worth the frustrations associated with a potential pregnancy. Morris says that this is a reason why women are more likely to initiate a breakup than men.
On the other hand, men might feel they’ll need to compete with other guys for a new mate if they should end their current relationship. The process might seem like it’s too much effort to put forth when they already have a suitable companion.
How men handle heartbreak has a lot to do with their available replacement options. Good women aren’t plentiful. Finding someone who can adequately fill your ex’s shoes won’t be easy. She may even seem irreplaceable. The hurt lasts and fades away slowly, taking its time to exit stage right.
If you’re thinking about her right now, know that it’s totally normal. You’re not wrong for remembering the good times. The relationship satiated a part of you that needed it. Like food or water, it kept you going and fulfilled for a time. Your need to feel validated and acceptance was met. Longing for it is a part of the human condition.
I’ve found that taking yourself there occasionally can be therapeutic. It helps you remember that it wasn’t all always good. In the end, if it ended, it was never a permanent part of your life. It may have felt like it at the time, but sooner or later, everything that has a beginning also has an end.
The results of this study reveal men handle heartbreak in ways we’d consider non-traditional. For guys, the lost relationship leaves an imprint behind that women may not understand. Be honest with your potential new mate. If you feel the nagging weight of your last breakup sitting heavily on your shoulders, talk about it with your current pursuit. Be as open as you can be about it. For all you know, she may be carrying around a little extra emotional baggage, too. It could be something you end up helping each other through.
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The Child Support System – Making the Poor Poorer
When Good Intentions Go Awry
Our country makes child support collection a state issue. With each state having full authority over enforcement measures, they’re free to set punishments for default anywhere from a ding on one’s credit all the way up to (and including) incarceration. With single-parent families left holding the bag (when many of them are struggling), it’s a system that forgets whom it’s supposed to be helping.
The latest heated discussion centers on the disproportionate number of single mothers and their children living at or below the poverty level.
The latest heated discussion centers on the disproportionate number of single mothers and their children living at or below the poverty level.
In his 1964 State of the Union address, President Johnson declared war. At the beginning of the ongoing War on Poverty a host of programs designed to economically stimulate underprivileged families were put into effect.
Despite those efforts, the number of single-parent families living at or below the poverty level has risen.
Each of your television’s talking heads offers causes and solutions to the problem. With such an emotionally charged subject, the best way to chart our course through this issue is to follow some sage advice.
Just the facts, ma’am.
Point 1: More Single Moms Are Raising Kids than Single Dads
Approximately 28% of all children in the U. S. live with only one parent, their mother. Data shows this is true in five out of six cases.
Other children end up in this single-mom situation because they’re born out of wedlock.
Four-million single mothers live below poverty compared to around 400,000 single dads. Translation: for every single dad out there raising his kids, there are 10 women going it alone, too.
Point 2: Single Moms Make 70 Cents on the Dollar Compared to Single Dads
Single moms make a third less than single dads. And around one-third of these women receive regular child support payments. About 15% are working full-time.
Point 3: Gender-Based Discrimination Causes Economic Disparity
I blame Point 2 on Point 3.
A non-biased study found that on average a woman makes 18% less than a man doing her job one year out of college. Furthermore, the stats revealed this gap only increases with time.
At 10 years post-graduation, the wage disparity rises to 31 percent.
Some attempt to counter these facts by attacking the studies and citing the difference in educational and employment choices women make compared to men. As an example, far more women elect to pursue education and employment in generally low-paying fields – teaching for example.
However, even when these differences are normalized and the data corrected, there is still a 7% difference one year after college. The variance reaches twelve percent ten years after college. It cannot be explained or cited to a single cause.
Although career choices make up some of the gap, they do little to explain the problem.
Point 4: Child Support Makes It All Worse
$14-billion are owed in unpaid child support to single moms in this country. That’s not a typo. It really is billion, with a “B.”
Bingo! That must be it, right? Get the deadbeats to pay up and voila! Problem solved!
Not exactly. The total is calculated by rolling up local and state totals into a pile. Like our national debt, the number is thrown out there for shock value.
Yes, there is a large amount of unpaid child support. But here are the facts:
- Over three-quarters of this bill rests on the shoulders of men making less than ten thousand dollars per year.
- Only five percent of this bill is owed by fathers making over forty thousand dollars per year.
That’s the real push behind the executive office’s effort to reform the broken child support system.
Our current system puts a burden and continued debt escalation on parents beyond what they can afford. Why, for example, does child support debt continue to grow for parents in prison, where they cannot earn an income?
Our government’s current way of thinking is making financially difficult situations worse, not better.
$14 billion dollars remain unpaid to the child support system. A married household’s bankroll is 75% bigger than that of a divorced person’s household.
Why? Think of a household income as a pie. Some slices go to taxes, some go to house, others to utilities, car payments, clothes, and then finally there are a few slices left over for the adults to use as disposable income.
For most families, these leftover slices are puny at best.
If said pie is made up of all the income going into the house, divide the family into two households. The pie remains the same size. Neither partner received a raise for getting divorced. No prizes were awarded.
If a non-working parent finds employment, the income generally isn’t enough to make enough pie for two households.
In all the complaints about the low income that single parent households have to struggle through, the source of the new, extra money is rarely discussed. Remember there are two households now, instead of one, so more money flows out requiring more money to flow in if the standard of living is not to change.
When it is discussed, the source of the additional money is always from one of two sources; the fathers or the government. The father’s income didn’t change, so how is taking more from them going to make the households better? The facts show that only five percent of the sustainable wage-earning dads in this country are not making their current support obligations. Take more and you’ll see that number grow. The second source is the government. That pie is running on negative slices, but it is an option.
Rather than recommend a solution, like so many other Government programs, that throws money blindly at a problem, this one actually has answers to help focus the help. It is clear now that the real cause of poverty in single parent homes is divorce itself. Two households supported from an income base that previously supported one results in two households operating at a lower standard of living.
The mathematical economic reality makes this fact very easy to follow. If divorce clearly results in a lower standard of living, especially for women, why are the vast majority of divorces initiated by women as no-fault divorces? It must mean that the reality of post-divorce life for them was better than the life they were living while married. In that case, is Government support really necessary? Remember, Government support really means your tax dollars.
- Supporting and welfare for our neighbors has strong roots in America, long before it received the name welfare.
- As our country expanded, lending a helping hand to neighbors in need was an underlying principle for centuries.
- America leads the world in charitable giving today.
Why, though, would we give to those who made the informed choice to alter their lifestyle?
There are plenty of single parents, mostly mothers that are in their present struggling financial situation because of terrible marriages that resulted in fault-based divorces.
In those cases, we should extend the helping hand.
But if a reasonable adult recognized the reality of divorce and the consequences it would have to their standard of living and made the informed decision to divorce, there is no moral call to raise their standard back to pre-divorce levels if the cause of the divorce was unhappiness or irreconcilable differences.
There are other solutions available to these divorcing couples, such as time, savings, education, and employment all prior to divorce to allow for a better start.
The alarming rhetoric should stop and allow adults to live with their decisions while focusing our limited tax dollars on those that truly are in need because of events beyond their control.
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Birth Order and Divorce, Part 3
An Ode to the Youngest of Your Brood
This series is about the points of view of children. It’s meant to tell you everything they won’t say aloud. Some might find all of this to be too forward, exclusive, or not inclusive enough of the adults in a given situation. Well, tough!
Open up to your kids and avoid making your sentences to them about you. Tell them what you think, of course, but remember to care about their responses. Fathers matter. A father musn’t be self absorbed. He must, however, be livened, awake, and willing to hear the good, bad, and awful from his youngins.
To you, it may be small and insignificant stuff they can and should get over. To them, it’s everything. If they can’t trust you to hear (what you may deem to be) the puny and mundane, they won’t come to you with the terrible and awful.
Don’t be afraid to be a phenomenal dad. Your offspring will thank you.
Birth Order: The Baby of Your Family
They are a family’s unsung heroes. The babies of a family live a relatively simple life full of love and wonder. Treasured by their older siblings (usually) and parents alike, they live in a world of pure, uninterrupted wonder. And, it ends up being their hamartia, doesn’t it? This forever young version of you will always believe, always love even the words that spring forth from your mouth. Unlike their older counterparts, youngins give without taking. Why? Because everything has (and always will be) given to them.
Grown youngest children tend to feel the pressure on them more than their siblings. Parents tend to see their lives as a lifetime-long learning experience. If children feel there is too much pressure on them, they’re likely to develop self-esteem issues and self-doubt. Overcoming these could prove to be a real obstacle in the way of their long term success.
The hand me downs keep on handing down. If the middles have a hand-me-down problem, the youngins have a hand-me-down catastrophe. By the time they receive the item, it’s usually on its last leg.
The problem with this is they don’t tend to own much as children. Everything that’s theirs was once someone else’s. Boundaries become a problem because they see their older sibling’s belongings as being theirs anyway.
They too tend to be the overachievers. Like the oldest child, they move forward in life fueled by ambition with something to prove. Interesting enough, they require lots of figurative hand-holding and continued motivation for them to reach aspirations.
With parents willing to push them and expect more of them, they’ll get where they want to be. But it takes motivating factors and lots of reinforcement.
They tend to give up easily and may seem unfocused. One day, your youngest may come to you seemingly sure about pursuing a career in engineering. Months or years may pass before they realize it’s not really what they want to do with their lives unlike the oldest child who is more likely to continue down the path they set out on despite challenges.
My Own Baby
While I was away at Texas A&M, she told her Dad (who’s now my Ex) that she knew I was away at school so I could become a doctor – so that I could take care of her. Just two years old and she got it. She understood my life’s purpose at the time.
That’s who she is, though. Now a bright, beautiful six-year-old, she remembers a lot considering she was only three at the time all my medical issues became apparent.
She’s been the most forgiving of her life’s changes. Altogether, she’s been the most accepting of her changing world around her. My youngin’ remembers what life was like when we were all a family, and she asks questions all the time.
The most affectionate of my children, she requires lots of love and reassurance.
Her relationship with her father has suffered the least of anyone else’s. She loves to please and is the most likely to go with the flow. Her dad and her have a short-hand even still. She goes to him without a problem, and he’s more likely to listen.
Playing the baby card is her thing. Like me, she hates chores and is the least likely to sign up for additional household assignments. Most of the time, she gets her older siblings to do things for her she’d rather not do. One time, I saw them tying her shoes for her, a task she’s been proficient at since she was three. It’s like she needs to feel like she’s the baby.
Lately, when her older siblings tease her, she doesn’t respond with her own snappy comeback. Instead, she lets it ride. I can see that it hurts her, and I once asked her to tell me why she didn’t dish out the same crap she was receiving. She said she didn’t want to hurt their feelings.
On the flip side, however, when the older ones want something they think I’ll say no to, she’s the one they send in. The reason? They think I think she’s the cute one and I’ll cave for her.
This series is all about honesty. That’s it. In Part 1, I talked about what my oldest went through when my marriage failed. In the second part, I shared my middle child’s post-divorce experiences.
I’ve opened up my life for one reason: We were all children once. I hope that in learning about what my seven little ones have survived, you’ll be envouraged to discuss the uncomfortable situation you may be in with your own minions.
Take into account their age and understanding of the situation. Don’t complicate or simplify a situation that may not need to be made bigger or that you’d rather not talk about. Youngest children are likely to figure you out anyway, so please be honest.
Seek family counseling. I promise you, it’ll change the way you look at your own life. Above all, it’ll help guide you down the journey you’re on.
Healing is a process. Repairing the damage left in the aftermath of divorce isn’t supposed to be easy. The undertaking will change the way you view the world. It’ll do the same for your little one.
Everything from the split, to the kids’ issues, to visitation, to the final, grand divorce, it all feels like varying levels of crap being flung in your direction with a bazooka. I know, I’ve been there. Embrace the best days of your life. Urge your babes to do the same. Remind them that you’re going through it with them. It’ll bond you closer together.
Of all your kids, your youngest will require the most attention, especially when he or she feels like their older siblings are turning on them in their own grief. You need to be their refuge. If they don’t have you, they’ll turn to other people. Trust me, you want your kids to turn to you.
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A Quick and Easy Way to Get Out ASAP
You always remember that moment when your life came crumbling down. It’s like your own personal 9/11. The question is: How do you get out of the wreckage as quickly as possible?
I was on the phone with my then-wife while at Target. She told me that she wanted to divorce me. It was over.
Things were not perfect, but I did not think it would come to that. We spoke that night and figured out an amicable departure from each other.
The quickest way to get out was a no contest divorce.
5 Questions to Ask Before You Start a No-Contest Divorce
1. How much will child support or alimony cost?
If a child is under 18, then child support will be something to address. Furthermore, if one spouse was a domestic partner, then it is expected that spousal support will be given.
2. Is there any division of property and debt?
When I got divorced, I was fortunate about one thing. When we were married, my ex-spouse and I never shared a bank account. Nor did we purchase property together. It made the process very easy.
If you have any property and/or debt, however, it needs to be explicitly assigned without the court’s assistance.
3. Do both parties agree to the terms of the divorce?
The entire concept of a no-contest divorce is that no one contests any part of the divorce and the settlement.
4. How will you share parenting time and responsibilities?
Most divorcing couples don’t elect to have a no-contest divorce because of disagreements in time allotments and duties where custody is concerned.
How much time will the child(ren) spend with each parent? What are each parent’s specific responsibilities?
5. Can you work out an agreement in the midst of the emotional turmoil of a divorce?
Emotionally, divorce is taxing. Therefore, both sides will need to stay rational while working out the details together despite their challenges.
In its essence, a no-contest divorce occurs when two parties file their petition for divorce directly at their local county courthouse themselves.
You do not require an attorney but can have one if you choose.
Both parties agree upon a solution and then present it to the presiding judge for the dissolution of the marriage.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
You can retain one if you want to, but you do not require legal counsel to get this done in most cases.
When Is It a Bad Idea?
If both parties are not in complete agreement about the divorce or any part of the settlement, then you should avoid it.
Any dissent no matter how small or large negates the no-contest divorce. For example, my ex-wife did not want to return my grandmother’s ring. It was a family heirloom and the only point of contention.
Instead of spending a few thousand dollars to try to get the ring back, I opted for the no-contest divorce.
There was no guarantee that I would win, and it was better to move on with life. However, if I had chosen to fight that one point, we would not have been able to go through with the no-contest divorce.
How Much Does It cost?
Costs are significantly lower because you do not need an attorney in most cases.
Court fees are a couple of hundred dollars, and it’s a few extra bucks to get a certified copy of the final decree of divorce. That’s it, no expensive lawyers charging hundreds of dollars per hour.
Furthermore, without having to go through the entire judicial process of divorce, you do not have to limit funds or transactions because of a judge’s orders. Using this method, you can set your own parameters, granted both parties agree.
Safeguards of the No-Contest Divorce
If you are going to go through with a no-contest divorce without a lawyer, here are two specific things you should do to ensure the final paperwork fits with your goals.
Have a professional look through the paperwork. Preferably, have a lawyer or other third party professional look through all of your paperwork to find glaring mistakes.
While most of it is clear-cut in a no-contest divorce, it helped me to have an attorney look through it before moving forward. It might cost you some money just to have it reviewed, but it is worth it for your peace of mind.
Do your research. Additionally, you should do your own research. Since you are not using an attorney, you are on the hook. That means educating yourself on the process is necessary.
Fortunately, some government bodies have information online. That makes the research portion of the process easier on you.
Divorce is never easy. It is an emotional roller coaster that tries the sturdiest of people. However, a no-contest divorce can make the administrative and legal process easier to digest.
By educating yourself on the process of a no-contest divorce, you can quickly go through this painful process. Remember that not everyone qualifies for a no-contest divorce. However, if possible, it is something to use.
If you still have questions about a no-contest divorce, please let us know in the comments.
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Birth Order and Divorce
Part 2: Grief as Experienced by the Middle Child
She is the Cheech to my Chong, the Abbott to my Costello, the Timon to my Pumba. Always taking her job as The Official Family Reporter (a fancy way of calling her a tattle-tale) seriously, she remains in a state of perpetual preparedness, making mental notes of everything around her. The shortest of my children, she celebrates her petiteness by overachieving in school. She’s the youngest (and smallest) ten-year-old in the fifth grade and will celebrate her next birthday in June.
Like the dragon in Mulan, she says she is travel-sized for my convenience. But this little one is a force to be reckoned with.
The Psychology of the Middle Child
If you’re fortunate enough to have a middle kiddo, consider yourself very lucky. Statistics reveal that most Americans only have an oldest and a youngest. Simply put, they are a treasure, a rarity in a world where the average family has just 2.36 children.
The most difficult birth order to characterize, they tend to emulate and develop traits in direct distinction to those of the oldest in a family. They are generally likable people – acting as the glue or the balancer to ensure fairness is maintained within the brood. Getting the bird’s eye view over their older and younger siblings from their vantage point helps them shape their personalities.
They are the strongest child within a family. At best they receive hand-me-down everything. At worst, they’re overlooked in favor of their cuter, younger siblings or smarter, older ones.
They’re the negotiators, the fighters, the entrepreneurs, and the diplomats. Fiercely independent, they don’t tend to forget tasks on a list or directions on how to get to places or complete tasks.
Middle Child Position, Birth Order, and Divorce
When divorce rips apart a family, it’s normal for the children of the home to turn to each other for comfort. Their minds try to make sense of their new surroundings. Often, the middle child refuses to give in to their grief. Sometimes they may behave more like covert agents trying to gather data than like children.
Middle children need to feel like they have a job within the family, an irrevocable position. Having something they do better than anyone else can give them peace of mind when their world changes. Their need to harp on labels related to their birth order will become apparent as they focus more on their job description (and doing their job well) than their feelings.
Grief is an internal feeling, and they’ll internalize it. Few people are better at holding in their feelings than middles.
My Own Middle Child
Since infancy, my middle daughter has been closer to me than to anyone else. Just six years old in late 2011 when her father and I parted ways, she was already the most mature of my offspring. She loves her dad, sure, but she’s always held their relationship secondary to the one she has with me.
I noticed her pulling away from me in the initial aftermath of the end of my marriage. Your own middle may do this too. She’d sit quietly, alone in a room, rocking in a chair. She’d offered no explanation for her behavior, so I decided to give her space.
Two years passed with her doing this. At times, I was afraid she’d slip away from me forever. For a while there she seemed to prefer her father’s company and even asked to live with him. I refused her request not because I was using her to hurt him, but because the thought of letting her go with him felt as if I’d be letting her go. Mommas don’t give up on their children easily.
She stole money from me. Funny, but I didn’t notice it until she’d been doing it a while. I trusted her implicitly before then. There aren’t words to describe the sting I felt at her betrayal. I didn’t recognize my child at that point. She seemed to love material things she could buy more than she loved me. I couldn’t compete with trinkets.
Never before had she done anything against me. Suddenly, I was faced with needing to count my cash. And I had to keep it hidden where I knew she wouldn’t look.
Lying became her preferred tool. She’d lie about who gave her what, where she got things, where they were stashed… Depression is anger turned inward. It was clear that she was angry.
The entire time this went on, she still maintained the highest average in her grade.
We turned a corner shortly after my diagnosis came down. Faced with the prospect of losing me, her mother, she finally let me in. Slowly, she opened up. In doing so, the little girl I’d known returned to me bit by bit.
Today, we’re like peas and carrots. She knows she can talk to me about anything. She’s a snappy, intelligent, loving little diplomat who moonlights as a smart ass. We make jokes about the past and can laugh at all her bizarre behavior.
She inherited my spitfire tongue and witty disposition, and I’m glad she did.
Your children may act out post-divorce. They might use rebellion to cope with their new environment. The worst thing you can do to your middle kiddo is ignore their isolative behavior. Doing so can cause it to escalate into something more.
Getting your attention is their endgame. If they don’t feel loved enough (especially during divorce), they’ll do all they can to, at least, feel their presence is felt by you.
Birth order affects the ways in which children deal with stress. Their roles within a family are formed in large part by their ranking or position. Parents should do their best to try to make their kids feel equal in the grand scheme of things. But it’s the child’s perspective, the world from their own view that shapes who they are as people. Don’t discount their feelings (even if your little one seems to), and talk to them about your own.
Children need to know it’s okay to have feelings. They should be allowed to feel angry, even if it’s directed at their parents. Listen to them and accept their reasons. Talk to them about your own experiences. Above all, tell them you love them unconditionally.
And by the way…
In Part 1 of this series I mentioned a time when my oldest ran away down the street in the middle of the night. Remember that? I recalled that she took one of her siblings with her that night. Care to guess which one it was? Uh huh. It was the middle one.
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