Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl, besides the author’s artful story telling, fascinates us because of the lens she places on Amy’s and Nick’s marriage. How could two seemingly intelligent people end up so quickly (fifth year anniversary) in a listless, duplicitous marriage beyond repair. What did they do wrong? There are many explanations, but what most intrigued me was Nick, who, underneath his charm, seemed so clueless both about what he wanted from a relationship and what Amy wanted. Of course, Gone Girl is a novel whose premium is more on drama than psychological analysis, yet I kept thinking what a great study Nick would have provided for why Men Fall Out of Love. To me, Nick’s self-doubt, narcissism, and suppressed anger reflect the same qualities in Amy. It’s what drew them together and then pulls them apart. She seems to see it and he doesn’t.
Because of the struggles in my own marriage years ago, I tasked myself—for my own therapy—with asking ten men, including myself, to step up to the mike and speak candidly. I wanted exclusively a male point of view because there were already so many books and blogs by women on relationships. It took me several years to coax nine other men (after interviewing close to fifty) of different ages and backgrounds to share some pretty intimate details. I came away thinking that most men have a somewhat rigid definition of themselves and their happiness—more centered on work and success than the vulnerability that comes with showing and sharing emotions. Most seemed to believe they had to be masters of their destiny.
Emotional self-censorship seems to be changing now, in the era of social media and self-expression, but old patterns still die hard for men. Women, on the other hand, have always been more flexible in evolving their relationships roles, and many men now admit to taking cues from them on how to catch up I made it clear to the men whose stories I captured that I was just like them, not a trained therapist, but, like Nick in Gone Girl, someone who had fallen in love and believed that was all I had to worry about, besides being a good provided and, eventually, a father. I knew little of the unexpected challenges that await everyone in a committed relationship. To me, Why Men Fall Out of Love is an excellent primer, for men and women, before they settle down with a partner. Afterwards might be too late. Better to know the danger signs before, like Nick, you’re swept away by forces that turn your destiny into a blur.
Michael R. French
Michael French is a graduate of Stanford University and Northwestern University. He is a businessman and author who divides his time between Santa Barbara, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.