Men After Divorce: In Touch With Feelings

ByABC News
March 13, 2002, 9:26 AM

March 13 -- It's the typical Hollywood view of men and divorce: The guy trades in the old wife for a new, younger model and a really cool life in the fast lane.

We know the stereotype, and it's what a lot of men and women think actually happens. But we went in search of the truth, and found that it's not even close to the myth.

Here's a painful sampling of the eight divorced men we brought together:

"I was so lost in myself after divorce, I didn't know who the hell I was," said John Heany, a salesman from St. Louis.

"I was terrified of it. I was terrified of being alone actually," offered Scott Bolden, a Washington lawyer.

"It was a death of dreams a death of hopes and wishes," moaned Joe Thompson, a twice-divorced banker.

Crushing the Myth

The myth is so easily shattered. For starters, it's not usually the men who leave the women and certainly not the movie-version of the guy leaving for a prettier and younger female. Instead, statistics show that in two-thirds of all American divorces, it's the women who file for divorce.

And while men usually fare better financially than women in a divorce, experts say it's the men who are much more likely to come unglued emotionally seriously unglued.

Eugene Palmore, a musician and seminary student in New York, told me that when his marriage ended more than 10 years ago, he spent weeks "not just crying . I was wailing, and beating my pillow, just wondering, why?"

I asked the men in our group if they agreed with Palmore that it was far harder, emotionally, than they thought it would be. All raised their hands.

Most striking was Jim Martin, a purchasing manager from Connecticut. After his second divorce, he ended up in a three-room apartment in an attic. He couldn't bring himself to furnish it. In fact, he told me those first few months were so dark that he contemplated suicide. His family, he thought, would be better off.

The truth is that men don't do well alone. Some statistics show divorced men are eight times more likely than divorced women to commit suicide. And men without wives are twice as likely to suffer depression and heart attacks. (Could it be a sign of my drive for self-preservation that I've been married three times?)