Blogs by Betty Anne Grillo
Do men and women handle bankruptcy differently?
6/26/2012 6:13:51 AM
Of course--they are from different planets!
Of course—they are from different planets!
Not so long ago, everyone was talking about men being from Mars and women from Venus. It was a quizzical way to explain that men and women are definitely different from each other. They look different, sound different… and often respond differently to stressful situations.
Today I’m going to share my observations about the way men respond to financial problems, and ultimately—bankruptcy. As a paralegal for 18 years I worked with men, women, couples and “unintended victims” as they sometimes considered themselves. Honestly, I saw both men and women exhibit the “if I pretend it isn’t happening, maybe it will go away” syndrome. If one person handled the bills for the whole family, it made them an easy target when things went bad. Even if they weren’t responsible for the drastic reductions in income or increased or emergency expenses, it was always easier to blame someone else for what seemed like insurmountable problems.
When it came to the way men handled desperate financial problems, including bankruptcy, I saw everything from “I was stupid”, “I thought I could volunteer for overtime to catch up on my bills”, and “I don’t know how this happened”. They were generally able to confront the severity of the situation and do what was necessary to get past it.
If there was a home in jeopardy, though, the behavior of the men involved was quite different. I saw men throw so much good money after bad—because they couldn’t bear to leave the house they provided for their family. Sometimes it was even a home they had built with their own bare hands. There was sometimes a surprising bond between men and a building. The house stood for their status in life, and their ability to provide for themselves, their spouse and family. It was a sign to the outside world that they had “made it”.
These types of feelings were so hard to re-direct from my side of the desk. As a woman, and from a professional viewpoint, I had to discover with each of these men just what approach would get through to them so they could see their financial situation clearly, without emotions clouding judgment. I know that most people consider women as the more emotional of the two sexes, but I found that when a man is emotional about something—there is no letting go.
Framing the nuts and bolts of it—convincing a man he can achieve the goal of owning a home again—aided my discussions about the advice he received from an attorney. Sometimes it is necessary to walk away from a particular house, and its mortgage, because it is the best move for his health, his future, and that of his family. I always put myself in the homeowner’s shoes in order to explain difficult solutions to these stressed-out individuals.
When a man expects to protect his loved ones from harm and provide a safe place to live, and then finances prevent him from providing the life he wants to provide, he first has to deal with the emotions that surround failure and despair. He is not a failure, but he may feel like one. He must surround himself with people who present the solution as a problem solver would, just like him. When men see something wrong they want to fix it. If they can’t fix it, it is easier to shut down and ignore it—and we all know where that leads… AN EVEN BIGGER PROBLEM!
If you are a man facing very difficult financial problems, and yes—even bankruptcy—find someone to talk to who understands where you’re coming from. Work through the process with a professional, and realize that the better man sees the whole picture. When you realize you’re lost in the woods, you don’t just continue to walk in circles. You take out your compass, focus on moving toward the direction that leads you out of the forest, and trust your instincts to guide you. You and your family will get through this, and learn to live a better life. Your family will look to you for strength and protection. Be the man they know you to be… lead them out of the woods.
All my best!
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