There are benefits to being married to a psychologist. Sometimes, when I least expect it, my wife comes home from work, puts her arms around me, and tells me that I am a wonderful husband. I simply smile and receive this grace. It means Karen has just assessed the damage to a marriage in which the husband is truly awful, and she is feeling grateful that all she has to put up with is me.
But then there are the days when I find myself in the role of "enemy." The conversation starts innocently. "You know, it's a man's world. They control everything." I have become a marked man.
Nine times out of ten, what prompts Karen's fury is a divorce case. The husband is hiding assets, and his wife has no clue as to what they actually own. Or he has cheated on his wife and now wants half her pension. Or she doesn't know how she will raise three children and meet expenses while her husband gets to live out the dreams of a second adolescence.
Karen can walk her client through the stages of grief; help her deal with feelings of guilt, fear, and failure; and formulate a life plan. Karen is on the wife's side. But everyone else, it seems, is on the husband's: the lawyers, the judge, the government, and often the church. This is a widely acknowledged but little-discussed fact of life just a few decades years after the feminist revolution. And it makes women mad.
That anger runs deep. The film The First Wives' Club made $100 million and was put on the covers of Time and People. An American nerve had been touched. What audiences responded to is a story of revenge told as a comedy. The sweetness and thrill come from seeing the tables turned on the ex-husbands. And the wrinkle is that the bad guys here are not terrorists or drug runners. No, the bad guys are the guys.1