Since Jon and Kate Gosselin announced their split on the TLC reality show, Jon and Kate Plus 8, Jon has morphed into a poster boy for divorced guys behaving badly. Tabloids have photographed the 32-year-old father of eight with a slew of younger women, and most recently, Kate claimed that her husband of 10 years emptied a $231,000 joint account of all but $1,000. Though the indiscretions may differ, Jon's sudden bout of childish behavior is familiar to many divorced women, begging the question: Does divorce cause some men to act immature?
"Marriage constrains certain behaviors," says Reginald Richardson, clinical social worker at Northwestern University's Family Institute in Evanston, IL. "Under stress, it's not uncommon to see people regress. It's not uncommon that you'd go back to what feels good."
To find out more about men and their reaction to divorce, we talked to psychologist Marion Solomon, a UCLA lecturer and author of Lean on Me: The Power of Positive Dependency in Intimate Relationships and the upcoming Love and War in Intimate Relationships. Here she talks about why some recently divorced men regress and what women can do about it.
iVillage: Why do some men seem to behave so immaturely during a divorce?
Marion Solomon: Some men deny the pain of divorce, whether they initiated it or whether it was thrust upon them. They deny how much it hurts. What they say is, "I'm free. I feel like a load has been taken off me." On the road to divorce, there's a lot of pressure, attempts to make things work. "Now I'm going to do whatever I want. Now I'm free to do it. There are always women who might be interested [in me]."
iVillage: Why do some men start dating immediately after a split?
Solomon: Men need a woman to love them. They want those needs taken care of—to be nurtured, to be loved, "to be adored" is what one man said to me. Human beings who feel adored by their partner tend to be very happy.
iVillage: So these men are looking for love?
Solomon: There is a lifelong need to have a primary attachment. From the day you're born to the day you die, you want somebody there. People will do anything to avoid that feeling of aloneness. To avoid it, men start carrying on, start trying to look younger.
iVillage: Why do divorced men often seem to rebound with younger women?
Solmon: I am thinking of all the famous people, actors in their 60s and 70s. They go for the real young ones. Why do they do it? Because they can get the real young ones. Usually in their minds the most attractive are young, fertile women. That is biological. Very often what they want is a woman who other men will look at and say, "Wow. He must be successful."
iVillage: Does it matter whether the men married young, before they "sowed their wild oats"?
Solomon: The younger people are when they get married, the less likely it is that the marriage will last. When you're older, and you pick somebody who fits you, the chances are you're more likely to pick somebody who is more like you. When you're younger, you don't think about that. You think about how you have a sexual desire. "This is a wonderful woman." "I'm madly in love." You're less likely to ask, "How will she be throughout life? How will she be at taking care of children and managing money?"
iVillage: Studies have shown that married men are healthier and drink and smoke less than single men. Why?
Solomon: Overall, men who are married are more settled down. Women watch out for the family. When a man gets sick, a woman is right there generally overseeing it. If a man is alone, nobody is watching the food intake. There are very clear statistics that show married men live longer and are healthier than men who are widowed and not remarried or divorced and not remarried.
iVillage: Is it because no one is keeping tabs on divorced men's behavior?
Solomon: Women are trained to nurture, to feed. Men very often leave things to their wives. She makes the social schedule. People come in their lives. People who are connected to groups of people are healthier. Women make the plans. Men who are getting divorced are more likely to be isolated. They look for women, generally, not for male-bonding friends. More often they're ashamed to talk to men about the failure of their marriage.
iVillage: Can ex-wives (and soon-to-be-ex wives) do anything to keep their former partners from behaving badly, especially when kids are involved?
Solomon: If men are still connected to their children, that makes them part of a family, even if they're divorced. Some men divorce their children at the same time. They forget birthdays, they don't show up for things. Keeping [the man] in the picture is better, even if she hates it.
Share your theories on why some recently divorced men act immature in the comments below.