How to Cope With Divorce As a Man [10+ Survival Tips]
For some reason, society believes that men dealing with divorce suffer less than women do. As a result, the so-called “real” man can’t allow himself to be in pain. This stereotype is firmly rooted in people’s minds.
Thus ex-husbands often find themselves lost after their marriage breaks up. They don’t know how to cope with divorce as a man the way society prefers to see.
The truth is men suffer no less than women and sometimes even more. Yet, their personal tragedy follows different laws.
What do men feel when going through a divorce? What effects may it have? And how to move on after divorce as a man? We will try to answer these questions in our article.
We will offer expert opinions, statistics, and practical survival tips to help men get over a divorce and become happy again.
Do Men and Women Mourn Their Divorces in Different Ways?
Divorce, like any other significant loss, requires mourning, which is the first step to recovery. Typically, in a long-lasting marriage, both partners’ personalities get closely intertwined.
Some studies show that partners may adopt each other’s traits even after a few years of marriage. As a result, it aggravates and lengthens the healing process.
How long divorce grief lasts depends on many factors, including:
- A person’s character;
- The quality and length of the relationship;
- How complicated the divorce was;
- And, as it turns out, a person’s gender.
Healthy mourning is accepting and expressing loss-related feelings in words. We can’t state that women share their problems more than men. That would be a great generalization.
However, the “boys don’t cry” stereotype that continues to exist in modern society creates an image of a strong man who shouldn’t express his pain.
Thus, some ex-husbands are not ready to acknowledge and share the feelings caused by divorce.
However, even if a man starts mourning a broken marriage, this process often differs from a woman’s. That’s what Dr. Nehami Baum focused on in her article “The Male Way of Mourning Divorce: When, What and How.”
Dr. Baum found that men tend to start grieving the loss of marriage later than women.
She writes, “Findings showing that men experience their highest levels of distress and concomitant symptoms after the decision to divorce and the actual separation, while women tend to experience peak stress while the couple is only talking about divorce and before they have separated suggest that men may begin the mourning process later than women.”
Moreover, men realize the problems in marriage at a later stage. Usually, they don’t rush to face their emotions and put this process off until the physical separation.
But what exactly do men grieve about when it comes to divorce? In her article, Dr. Baum notes that losing a relationship with their ex-spouse isn’t always the most significant divorce loss for men.
For instance, “qualitative and clinical studies suggest that divorced fathers tend to mourn the loss of their ex-wives considerably less than they mourn the loss of their children and of their home, family life, and routine.”
As for the mourning process itself, men tend to transform it into either increased activity or unhealthy behavior. Unfortunately, some ex-husbands try to “cure” their grief with the help of alcohol, drugs, and promiscuity.
However, it’s not a treatment at all, but just another attempt to get away from expressing their feelings.
Men’s Emotions After Divorce
Given that men mourn the breakup differently, the traditional 5-step grieving system with denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance does not always work for them. Although acceptance is the final destination, men’s path may not lie through all five conditions.
What’s more, some emotional stages of divorce may be more intense for a man than others.
For starters, some ex-husbands skip the grieving period altogether. In most cases, it happens because grieving is perceived as a sign of weakness that men should not show. Weakness can make a man feel humiliated, while humiliation is more likely to provoke anger.
Regardless of who this anger is directed at, society sometimes understands and accepts it. Thus, it turns out that it’s not okay for a man to be weak, but it is acceptable to express anger. That is why anger is usually one of the longest emotional stages for a man going through a divorce and recovering after it’s finalized.
Moreover, anger makes it difficult to adapt to a new life and grow because it does not allow a man to assess previous relationships and learn his lessons.
Robin Goldstein, EdD Licensed Psychologist, works with divorcees, both men and women. She states that anger and denial over emotions that often frighten ex-husbands (fear, anxiety, insecurity, etc.) can make the divorce recovery timeline longer.
According to her observations, men’s behavior after divorce can be described as follows:
- The ex-husband turns on his defensive mechanism. He denies his divorce feelings and convinces himself that everything is okay.
- When he can’t ignore the changes any longer, emotions kick in. He feels anxiety, shock, anger, or any combination of these negative emotions.
- Having burnt out, he crawls into his shell. It’s especially true for men living alone after divorce. They stop communicating with other people for some time. However, that’s okay when within reasonable limits. At this stage, a man tries to understand the radical changes and decide whether or not he wants to rebuild his life.
- If the ex-husband chooses the path of change, he gradually returns to his life with the baggage of the lessons learned. He starts applying them to make himself, and therefore people he loves, happy.
As Robin Goldstein said, “All relationships have lessons to teach us. The challenge is to transform those lessons into growth that improves our future.
Physical And Psychological Effects of Divorce On Men
Daniel S. Felix from Indiana University School of Medicine, W. David Robinson from Utah State University, and Kimberly J. Jarzynka from the University of Nebraska at Omaha researched the influence of divorce on men’s health and published the same-name article in the American Journal of Men’s Health.
They concluded that divorce could cause severe physical and psychological harm to men.
Since some men tend to lead unhealthy lifestyles after divorce, their immune systems weaken, leading to more frequent colds and flu. Additionally, divorced men are more likely to suffer from cancer, heart attacks, and strokes.
Finally, just like divorced women, they can gain or lose weight dramatically.
The researchers also found out that unmarried and divorced men have a mortality rate higher than married men. While physical health problems can serve as a standard explanation, mental health issues caused by divorce are equally important triggers.
Such psychological effects of divorce as anger, guilt, stress, resentment, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, and mood swings can decrease self-esteem and cause depression, a marker of suicidal risk.
For example, statistics show that divorced men are eight times more likely to commit suicide than divorced women. It can be explained by men’s “bad practice” to accumulate negative feelings without giving them the proper outlet or seeking help.
Some researchers argue that a person’s mental and physical health is inextricably linked.
According to the WebMD Medical Team, dramatic changes in both these spheres can cause a vicious circle. “Many of the physical changes caused by depression, such as insomnia or a lack of deep sleep, are thought to weaken your immune system.
This can make existing illnesses worse. In turn, physical changes caused either by depression or chronic disease can trigger or worsen depression,” platform experts say.
Breaking this circle can be pretty challenging without the support of people you love or professional help.
If women or men coping with divorce notice signs of depression or negative physical changes, they shouldn’t self-medicate. It’s best to seek help. You can look for special support groups, visit psychologists, search for divorce counseling, go to your family doctor or a health care provider.
Try to address the issue before it goes critical.
12 Divorce Survival Tips For Men
When it comes to starting a new life, men surviving divorce have two main options. First, they can leave everything as it is, turning their potential new life into the same old one.
Second, they can use the breakup as a launching pad for change. And although it sounds much easier to leave everything as it is, the second option is healthier.
We have selected divorce advice for men that really works and can help you rebuild your life. However, you should not blindly follow all the tips below.
Instead, analyze which how-to-deal-with-divorce-as-a-man insights will suit your particular situation and choose only those you are comfortable with.
Let Yourself Feel the Pain of Divorce
It is absolutely normal to feel the pain of losing your marriage. This pain can be very intense and combine many negative divorce emotions, including anger, resentment, sadness, fear, confusion, etc.
It’s vital not to ignore them but acknowledge what you feel. Suppressing negative emotions after a divorce will only prolong the divorce recovery process.
Vent Your Emotions In a Way That Works For You
Without a way out, anger, resentment, and irritation destroy a person’s mental and physical health through various diseases at the psychosomatic level. Therefore, negative emotions need a proper outlet.
Of course, talking to someone about how you feel is a perfect solution, but if it’s for you, you may try to vent your emotions by doing something you like.
If you enjoy sports, additional exercise can help relieve tension and stress. However, know when to stop. If you have some drawing skills, draw a picture to convey your feelings. If you can sing, and even if you can’t, find a song that matches your current emotional state and sing it.
In general, analyze yourself and try to find a method that is right for you.
Ask for Help
Isolation and unwillingness to communicate are some of the worst things that can happen to a man coping with separation and divorce. It often happens because, from a man’s point of view, he must deal with his problems himself.
Unfortunately, such an attitude becomes an insurmountable obstacle to seeking help and only exacerbates the situation.
Relationship coach Lewis Denbaum agrees. He says, “Men have to break through the ‘I’ve got to do it myself and go it alone’ attitude...
Women are so much better about relying on one another, and this whole ‘big boys don’t cry’ mentality has had an entirely negative impact on men’s well-being.”
Therefore, try to connect with one or two people you can trust to share your feelings. If it’s not possible, search for offline or online groups offering divorce support for men to meet other people in a similar situation.
By being around men “united” by divorce, you can seek the help you need and give it to the other person.
Focus on Your Health
During and after divorce, healthy habits can take a back seat; for example, you can stop monitoring your diet and sleep, drink more alcohol, or even use drugs.
For some men, it is a way to avoid their emotions. However, such actions bring only short-term relief and require constant replenishment, leading to addictions and harmful consequences for your health.
If you really want to recover from divorce and move on to a happy new life, you should watch your lifestyle.
Create a New Routine
Have you heard about “tsunami divorce?” It is when you live your married life thinking everything is just fine, and then your spouse suddenly files for divorce. Like a bolt from the blue, isn’t it? Such a situation can knock the ground out from under your feet.
However, even if both spouses try to solve problems in their marriage, but ultimately it all ends up with divorce, it can sometimes be a shock. As a husband, you may feel you have lost control of the situation and your life in general.
In this case, a new routine can help. Start small. Organize your day in a new way to gain control over your life. It will give you confidence that can also lead to increased self-esteem.
Begin with basic things: determine wake-up and go-to-bed time, choose days to go to the gym or do some sports, agree to meet your friends on Friday evenings, plan shopping and cleaning, etc.
Find New Hobbies and Interests
Try to look at divorce from a new angle and understand that even if it is the end of your relationship, it is also the beginning of a new life. And in this life, you can discover new things for yourself almost every day.
Instead of dwelling on the past, take an opportunity to learn new things and enjoy life here and now. Also, think about what you’ve always wanted to do but never dared to. Maybe now is the time.
Don’t Jump Into New Relationship Immediately
After a divorce, psychologists advise ex-spouses to take a break from relationships and devote this time to themselves. Rebound can just be a way to get away from the pain caused by the end of a marriage.
It’s better to live alone for a while and get back to the original version of yourself.
Of course, your background won’t let you reset your personality to the basic settings. But you don’t have to. Instead, you can use your experience to make new plans and find new goals.
It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t date anyone at all. You just don’t need to rush to start a new relationship until you know what you want.
Meet New People
It may happen that after a divorce, the spouses’ mutual friends take sides. If they don’t choose yours, but you are a person who needs communication, try to find new friends.
For example, you can join a community with similar interests, participate in social activities, become a volunteer, etc.
New people in your life can bring new emotions to fuel you up and provide support a man going through a divorce may need. It will help you get through this challenging period in your life and start moving forward.
Once you feel confident enough, you might even start dating. However, keep the previous tip in mind and don’t begin a new relationship too quickly. Instead, let dating be an opportunity for you to learn more about yourself and your preferences.
It can be helpful because, since the last time you dated someone (which most likely was your wife), they could have changed.
Get Ready For Co-Parenting
Divorced men with children are responsible not only for their recovery but also for their kids' healing after parents break up. As always, communication is the key.
First and foremost, parents should encourage dialogue with their children to explain the changes and answer their questions.
Next, you should help your kids understand that divorce doesn’t mean you love them less or that they are going to lose you. No matter what, you’ll always be part of their lives, as they will always be part of yours.
As for the practical side, make sure your kids feel comfortable when they stay with you. For example, make some room in your place for them to do their homework or to play. Buy child-friendly food. Think about leisure activities that will interest them.
Learn Your Lessons
Think about the reason your relationship broke up. Analyze your marriage and the roles each spouse played in it. You can discuss it with your wife (if you both are ready for it).
If it’s difficult to figure out the reasons yourself, you can visit a psychologist or therapist or do it in any way convenient for you. Just try to work it out and draw conclusions for the future. If you bypass this process, you can make the same mistakes in your next relationship.
Forgiveness. It’s just one simple word, but it’s actually the most challenging step towards a happy life after a divorce. So, how to do it?
There is no single correct answer, except that it must be done. You need to forgive yourself, your spouse, the situation, and in general everything that, in your opinion, keeps you in the past.
Forgiveness is the final step to accepting, thus, to getting over a divorce.
Don’t Rush Yourself
How long does it take for a man to get over a divorce? No one knows exactly how much divorce recovery time a man needs to get back to a normal life.
Some men can do it in as little as a few months, while others take several years to go through the whole process.
Most psychologists and therapists follow the basic rule - one year of healing and recovery for every five to seven years of marriage.
However, if a man wants to get divorced or the decision to end the marriage was mutual, it may take less. In some cases, men moving on after divorce may need around one year to get back on track.
Man’s behavior after a breakup can be different. It depends on how much time spouses were together, under what circumstances they got divorced, and whose initiative it was.
Although divorce statistics show that women are more likely to initiate divorce, life after marriage ends is more traumatic for men than for women.
Psychology does not have “magic” pills that can relieve divorce pain. You will have to live through it. Only then will the breakup be complete, and you will be ready for a new life with new constructive relationships in it.
Now that you know what a man might feel during and after a breakup, you can analyze your situation. Then, think about which of these 12 tips on how to recover from divorce for men can work for you and develop a plan of action.
Even being one of the most challenging periods in a person’s life, post-divorce time is also a turning point. Indeed, the quality of your future depends on whether you decide to become a better version of yourself and what you do to achieve it.