Men’s Emotions and Divorce:
Why One Therapist Specializes in Men’s Support Groups, An Interview with Dr. Norman Wyloge
Dr. Norman Wyloge is a Therapist/Psychoanalyst in New York City who works with individuals and couples. Dr. Wyloge specializes in working with divorced and separated men in a supportive group setting. Dr. Wyloge is known for his insightful and compassionate approach to therapy.
Dr. Norman Wyloge was interviewed by Divorceify Co-founder, Sonia Queralt.
Sonia Queralt: Can you tell us a little bit about how you started working with patients navigating divorce-related issues and what your practice is like today?
Norman Wyloge: For many years I have treated individuals, children of divorce as well as both the husband or the wife; these patients are usually referred by a divorce lawyer. I also work as a court-appointed clinician who treats the children of divorcing couples. It has become apparent to me recently that there has been a shift in the kind of broken marriages I’m seeing. I’ve become very interested in what I’m calling the effect of male domestication on marriage.
Queralt: Can you explain more about this shift in broken marriages and describe the effect of male domestication on marriage, and its effect on men’s emotions?
Norman: There are two types of couples I’m now seeing: one where the husband loses his job and is forced to stay home while the wife works, and the second where the wife has been making much more money than the husband and they decide as a couple that he would stop working and take care of the children and the home.
What I have found in both situations is that when there is this shift in the power structure, that affects the marriage. And in many cases, it’s a very unconscious shift and the men in these marriages are not even aware of what’s going on.
But what happens is that the man is de-eroticized and the woman has difficulty dealing with that. And she doesn’t know what’s happening, but what she says is, “I don’t love you anymore,” or “there’s something wrong.” And she’s really not able to verbalize it, but the marriage has fallen apart and she is ready to move forward with a divorce.
Often the wife has been in therapy, the children have been in therapy, but the husband is the lost soul. He feels something is wrong with him, he feels at fault as a provider and partner.
In reality, they’re good men, and they’re good husbands, and they’re good providers for the children and they should be proud of what they’re doing and not feel ashamed and guilty. I’ve discovered that the husband has been treated as the problem and really not as the solution, and based on these observations, I began seeing these men in groups.
I currently have a weekly mens’ group. The most important thing is that these men have never really talked about their feelings before, so the group provides these men with a safe space where they can share their feelings with other men who find themselves in similar situations. These men think that no one else has the same issues they have, but sitting in that room they realize that there are other men experiencing the same feeling of being victimized, the same feeling of loss, and it’s been very helpful for these men.
Queralt: It’s not easy for anybody to express their feelings when they’re going through problems in their marriage or divorce and I would imagine this is especially true for men. Have you found that you keep the group small on purpose?
Wyloge: Yes, because I want everyone to get a chance to talk. It’s interesting, a lot of the men say, “why can’t we have women in the group?” And I have said, “No, then it becomes a co-ed group and what makes this group unique is that it is all men.” For years and years, I had co-ed groups and they’re common– that’s not something new. This is something new and this is what I enjoy doing. Men that want to join the group can call me for an initial screening — if I think they’re appropriate I’ll put them in the group. I don’t accept any form of insurance for the group.
Queralt: How do men process divorce issues differently than women?
Wyloge: Well first of all most of the men I see are in shock because they had no idea that their marriage was in trouble, and it takes a long time to process that. They thought they were madly in love and had a good marriage and they find out their wife was either having an affair or seeing a divorce lawyer, and it’s traumatizing. They’re living in the family home and they may have to leave it. They also worry about child support and many of them aren’t working. So all of a sudden they’re completely alone, they can’t date because as one of them said to me, “How can I date? I don’t have a job, I don’t have a home. It’s premature. I have nothing to offer.” Most of the men in my group are all very lonely.
Queralt: Do you feel that there’s a part in the process when you can be most helpful to divorcing men?
Wyloge: When I see these men, most of them are obsessed with talking to their lawyers and getting everything done, and feeling like they’re not going to be even more victimized than they feel they are. These worries take up all their time. They have to find a job, a place to live and they have a ton of things to do. They are completely overwhelmed. These men don’t want to feel that they’re taken advantage of and they don’t want to sign away things that they don’t have to.
If men come to me when they are actively negotiating, when they still have tons of questions, when their lawyer is saying, “Do this,” and someone else is saying, “Do that,” and they need to air out all these questions and options – that’s when I feel I am most effective.
Queralt: Do you find that it takes time before men are comfortable fully participating in the group?
Wyloge: Men don’t open up easily, it takes time. Every time I start with a new participant I say to myself, “Will they come back?” And they DO come back, but it takes time. And especially because they are not just meeting with me, but with an entire group of other men who are strangers and with whom they are sharing their feelings.
The group meets in Manhattan every Wednesday from 6-7:30 pm. If you are separated or facing divorce and feel unappreciated, disrespected, and lost come be in the company of other men who are experiencing the same emotions and the same heartaches.