The Human Costs and Benefit of Separation

Let’s start with the known costs of failure born of the macho mindset. Then we will seek the main benefit of suddenly having to face family law issues. In the 1993 book, Man Enough, Frank Pittman explained the costs of a certain type of masculinity involving men learning to be philanderers (who can’t make or keep commitments), contenders (who feel driven to compete) and controllers. Does the name Tiger Woods ring a bell?

In his (post Masters Tournament) time off from working, what might he practice regarding his private life? There are benefits inherent in taking a break from contending, philandering and controlling (e.g. his wife’s life script). The main benefit from the hiatus in his marriage may be the opportunity to finally find him Self through a mindful contemplation of his family of origin scripts.

He might redefine what it means to find pride in emulating his dad. Perhaps with a new found loyalty to his positive Self rather than to dad’s ego, he might practice balance, conflict prevention, and find that Buddhist middle road between asceticism and extreme self pleasuring. What else more positive might it mean to be a Wood – other than to loyally and unmindfully play out the philandering script of his forebear?

Divorce can become a social dis-ease that keeps on seeding losses from generation to generation. The infectious aspect of this dis-ease is based on seeing oneself as a victim of his/her former partner, modeling just the way a prior parent lived life. You re-create a dysfunctional marriage and evoke a familiar blame. I would suggest instead experiencing compassion for the imperfect, incomplete partner that you and your mate are and will always be. As a carrier for this dis-ease, you otherwise plant a divorce process from the moment of engagement without even knowing it.

Young and adult children continue to pay in loss of self-esteem for the unresolved angst of their grand-parents as well as of their parents. There is nothing more damaging to a child than growing up amidst chronic internal strife or family disputes. Even adult children of divorce continue to suffer from the failure of their parents to take the responsibility to debrief and forgive their own and their partner’s broken promises. That requires some hard work: finding compassion for one’s former partner and for oneself.

I am beginning to think that everyone should be required to engage in pre-marital counseling in order to access such unfinished business — either of their own, their partner’s or of their parent’s. Such a cautious journey into relationship mindfulness may provide a necessary social inoculation from further loss and from the contagion of relationship dis-ease.

Then again, if you are just marrying for money, rather than love and commitment, you might forget the pre-marital process, simply consult a family lawyer and draw up a pre-nup. The cost, of course, may be more loss of Self, of pride and of feeling Man or Woman enough. And you will probably end up learning a lot more about family divorce law, fathers rights, and parenting plans than you ever imagined a mature, responsible human being would need to know.

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“Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.”

Hermann Hesse


  • Shel J. Miller, Ph.D.

    About Shel
    I build relationships - relationships that restore joy and meaning. My clients and I focus on their relationship strengths, on what's strong rather than what's wrong. I am a psychologist coach capable of effective, efficient transforming of conflict whether it emerged from the bedroom or the boardroom. Thus I offer executive, family, marriage and divorce coaching in order to provide solutions to personal or business conflicts.

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