Thursday, February 2, 2012

Why don’t men seek help?

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Why don’t men seek help?
By Jeffery M. Leving

Have you ever heard of a “shelter for battered men?”

It’s bad enough that in today’s society the odds that a marriage will fall apart are staggering. More than 40 percent of marriages end in divorce.

Worse is the fact that many men who are victims of abuse, not only do not get help, but often assume blame believing doing otherwise is a sign of weakness and “unmanly.”

The idea of seeking shelter would be too humiliating for most men to accept.

Men face many stigmas and stereotypes that force them to accept blame even when they are not to blame, and discourage them from seeking professional assistance even when they should.

These are terrible obstacles for anyone to overcome.

  • Society’s stereotype that men are always at fault
  • The emasculating stigma of being “abused” by a woman
  • The absence of programs to address abuse of fathers
  • Getting men to overcome their fear that failing to accept the blame might cost them their children

While men are often the first to be blamed for a collapsing marital relationship, many times, the break up is driven by abuse from one spouse against the other.

In many cases, it is the husband, not the wife, who is at the receiving end of physical and emotional abuse when marriages collapse. But they won’t accept it, and remain in denial. Abusive female spouses easily hide behind societal stereotypes to disguise their abusive roles. Many people just refuse to believe the facts no matter how truthful they appear.

The tendency to not seek help is greater with men than it is with women. That may explain why men are often blamed for the collapse of a marriage. Men tend to “circle the macho wagons” because they have been taught as little kids not to cry, not to surrender, and to always be tough.

Being tough often means avoiding doing the single most important thing a parent in divorce should do to end the cycle of violence. That is, to get help.

This is a societal stigma that is difficult to overcome.

Our society defines how we think and feel as men and women. Men must be strong. Women are weak. Men go out and work and put food on the table while women stay home and raise the kids.

The stereotype that it’s a man’s job to shoulder the tough responsibilities also includes forcing men to accept blame even when the blame doesn’t fit.

Today’s economy is changing the dynamics of a household. In many families today, both the husband and the wife work. More and more women are looking for jobs to bring home part or all of the “bacon”.

The family nucleus is impacted by the realities of the economy and the world around us, however, the perception of guilt still often falls on the shoulders of the father who believes he has failed as the sole or primary breadwinner of the family.

In some cases, many men not only assume the blame, but refuse to get counseling for the blame they wrongly accept.

It’s a quandary that causes much consternation for fathers. It even sounds contradictory that a father would accept the blame for doing no wrong but not seek help to address the causes of a collapsed marriage which has motivated the mother to falsely assess blame.

Many men assume blame because it is our societal expectation, even though not driven by fact.

Many men feel ashamed that their wife is leaving them, they often are in denial and remain there for most of the divorce process.

Many fathers also live with the fear caused by societal stereotypes, believing that they will be stripped of their rights with their children if they report their dilemma. Fearing they will lose their children, they refrain from seeking help.  Alternatively, some men accept blame believing that courts will then protect their relationships with their children.  Wrong.  Accepting blame is a “sacrifice” you do not want to make.

In fact, though, accepting false blame only undermines the rights of the father.

It is important for fathers involved in marital breakups to seek help immediately. They have to resist the temptation of succumbing to the stigma that somehow they are being weak by seeking help or even acknowledging that they need it.

Our society needs to change. We need to recognize that abuse is not shameful nor gender specific.

Men who are victims of abuse, whether it is physical or mental, have no shame to hide.

(Named one of “America’s Best Lawyers” by Forbes Radio, Jeffery Leving is the author of two ground-breaking books, Fathers’ Rights and Divorce Wars. He can be reached at

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