Dads Against the Divorce Industry

DA*DI is devoted to reinstating the societal valuation of Marriage and the traditional, nuclear American Family, with particular emphasis on the essential role of FATHERS.

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Jewish World Review July 11, 2003 / 11 Tamuz, 5763

Mark Patinkin

The dark side of devotion a warning for all men |

A new book out on the Kennedys claims that JFK Jr.'s wife was a high-maintenance handful who called him names like "fag," stormed out of marriage counseling and made him wait at the airport the evening he crashed his plane because she was getting a pedicure.

She apparently showed similar behavior before. A previous boyfriend revealed she once showed up at his door and, in a jealous rage, threw heavy candlesticks at a window and mirror.

Which brings up a question:

At the time they were dating, John Kennedy Jr. was the most eligible bachelor in America, if not on the planet. Why would such a man choose a verbally abusive, emotionally volatile woman?

And then marry her?

More to the point - why do decent men stay with difficult women?

One female friend laughed and offered this answer: "Because we're all difficult."

I suppose it's old news that women can be emotionally volatile in relationships. Henry Higgins sang about it in ``My Fair Lady'': "Let a woman in your life, and you invite eternal strife." Dorothy Parker wrote about it in "The Lovely Leave," in which a woman whose aviator husband is home on a one-day leave generates confrontation after confrontation because she sees it as a way to connect. Buttons and T-shirts advertise it: "Next mood swing: 8 minutes."

OK, women often are more emotional than men, but there's a serious question here: Why do men stick around for it when it becomes extreme?

At the very least, it's worth talking about for the sake of our sons.

In general, men are assumed to be the guilty party in bad relationships - cads who love and leave, playing the field while girlfriends remain hurt and committed. No doubt that happens often enough.

But this latest portrait of JFK Jr.'s marriage is a symbol of how the opposite situation is often overlooked: Males are frequently the ones who put up with difficult partners.

My own theory is that women may be the neater gender around the house, but some like an emotional mess, at least deep down somewhere. Most men don't. Women know this, and too many feel that if they make a scene, their man will give in, back off, anything to make life peaceful again. In doing so, the men end up rewarding confrontational behavior and the cycle gets worse.

Plus, there's this little voice in men's heads, often planted by their mothers, that says, "Be nice to that girl." So, like JFK Jr. apparently did, some men put up with a lot, and keep sticking around.

I'm not saying women don't put up with bad men. But we talk about that all the time.

What we don't talk about as much, especially with our sons, is that men can sometimes let themselves feel trapped by difficult, emotionally volatile women.

Yes, love may explain a lot of those choices.

But loyalty - or should I say obligation - may explain many as well.

It's worth reminding men that sometimes, obligation can go too far.

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