There’s an interesting article on DadsDivorce.com entitled The Ghost Dad Phenomenon written by Sarah Hampson of The Globe and Mail (click the link to read the article). It talks about the dads who disappear after divorce. They continue to send child support, but they’re physically absent from their children’s lives. They become “ghosts” to their children. As the years go by they become a hazily remembered presence imbued with equal parts of love, anger and confusion; but for their children the ache of their loss never goes away.
The big question is why? Sure there are abusive fathers and irresponsible fathers whose children are probably better off without them. But why do fathers who love their children disappear? If they love their children, how can they hurt them by abandoning them?
As a divorced dad explains in the article, “It’s about shame.” “In the world of masculinity,” writes Ms. Hampson, “you’re either a winner or a loser … It’s black and white. Divorce is seen as failure, ergo you’re a loser. Who wants to be reminded of that?”
Post-divorce conflicts over child support, parenting and visitation, coupled with spousal criticism, dating, remarriage or job relocation can strain a father’s relationship with his family to the breaking point.
“A man feels sadness,” explains Calvin Sandborn, author of Becoming the Kind Father. ”But on some level he thinks, ‘I’m not supposed to feel sadness,’ so the way men react is to blame the person who is making them feel sad. They get angry. There’s an adrenalin rush. And that makes them feel powerful again.”
Many fathers who feel increasing anger at their marginalization in their children’s lives respond by leaving. Ill-equipped to deal with their emotions and unable to express them, they choose to avoid them. The pain of being repeatedly reminded of what they have lost, drives them away. They push away from the pain and anger caused by a situation they cannot control and in the process abandon the children they love.
Next time: A child’s response.