We hear a lot about the damage divorce does to women, much less about the damage that divorce does to men.
So do women really feel the damage of a divorce more than their male counterparts?
Historically, women earned less than male partners and took a far greater role in raising children, meaning that a breakup left them poorer, more vulnerable and isolated, and less able to move on.
Men, on the other hand, were thought to have it easy: off they scuttled into a life of freedom and fecklessness, with fewer responsibilities, more cash and plenty of time to pick up a new model between weekends with the kids they’d left behind.
While that might be true for some guys, it’s certainly not the norm.
A bunch of studies in recent years show that, on the whole – provided they don’t already have someone else lined up – men find it harder to recover from divorce than their ex-wives do.
Often, this boils down to an inability to talk about emotions.
Women generally have a circle of friends to pour their hearts out to. They seek out the support and reassurance they need to make the pain more bearable.
Crucially, if a woman initiates divorce (or at least saw it coming) she’s probably been confiding about her experiences for a while. She may have reached the conclusion long ago that she’s too miserable in the marriage to continue.
Men, on the other hand, are much less likely to have had those conversations out loud. Dealing with the sudden tidal wave of despair can be more than they can handle.
That’s why women are more likely to report feeling relieved or even liberated after divorce, while men are more likely to report feeling devastated, betrayed, confused or even suicidal.
It’s also why men more often become embittered and fixated on finances and injustices, real or perceived. As Jim Patton of Families Need Fathers puts it:
“It’s easier for men to battle over hard cash than on an emotional level. Men don’t do emotions. It’s too psychobabble for us, so money becomes the catch-all for everything men feel and all the anger they have at how badly they feel they have been treated by their ex-wives, the courts etc.”
In other words, it’s easier for men to wallow in rage and hatred, obsessing over the wrongs they feel they’ve been dealt, than to face the weight of their pain, fear and loss.
This isn’t just terrible for your mental and physical health, it also wrecks your chance of future happiness.
Giving in to fury might feel great in the moment, but it hardly lays the groundwork for a loving relationship with your kids, or helps to navigate the practical stresses of divorce.
In fact, preoccupation with shame and anger over a marriage failure, and panic at the thought that their kids will see their weakness, leads some men to essentially abandon their children, causing irreversible damage to the most important relationships in their lives.
To give themselves a chance to recover, men desperately need to stop bottling everything up, allow themselves to grieve, process their feelings and take practical steps towards the healing process.
Without this, you risk carrying all the nastiness and dysfunction into your next relationship, too… and you have to ask yourself: is this trauma something you can face experiencing again?
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