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How Divorce Changes a Man | 7 Effects of Divorce on Men

Anna Khmara

Anna is a certified life transformation and relationship coach with an in-depth focus on positive psychology and transactional analysis. Using her 3+ years of experience, she helps her clients understand the essence of the problem, build self-esteem, establish healthy relationships, find harmony, and manifest their dreams into reality.

Divorce drastically changes the lives of all its participants, and not everyone can quickly adapt to new changes. For some reason, many believe that men have a wonderful life after divorce, whereas women go through a lengthy healing process.

But, as it turns out, men’s road to divorce recovery is also steep and rocky, especially from the psychological point of view. So, why is divorce so hard on men? Let’s find out.

Is Divorce Harder on a Man or Woman?

The difference between what divorce does to a woman and a man lies in their response to stress. Women tend to internalize it, e.g., having more psychological problems, while the opposite sex sometimes engages in destructive actions. It can be risky behavior, drinking, substance abuse, and even suicide.

Statistics on men ending their life after divorce is frightening. For example, divorced men commit suicides 2.5 times more often than married men and 4 times more often than divorced women, according to research.

A possible reason for this inequivalence is that men who divorce their wives lose their stable social standing and ties with society. Women, on the contrary, have more social support from family and friends and even the legal system.

Is Divorce Harder on a Man or Woman?

The other reason is that women initiate divorce more often than men. That’s why they are more prepared for post-divorce consequences.

On the other hand, the emotions of a man willingly going through divorce are not so intense. It can make a massive difference in adjusting to life after divorce.

For example, men who want a divorce do not usually have the same problems with mental health as those who didn’t see the divorce coming their way. It allows for more successful coping mechanisms and faster recovery.

What is Divorce Like for a Man?

During and after the divorce process, the woman gets more empathy from those around her than the man. She has a strong support network of relatives and friends who rush to help and console her, and in unison, scold her ex-partner for his mistakes that led to the divorce.

Even society tends to defend women in every possible way and assume the break-up is a man’s fault. Don’t get it wrong - in some cases, such an attitude is justified. But unfortunately, men often find themselves in very unpleasant post-divorce circumstances that they did not deserve.

To name a few, they don’t get to see their children grow or participate in their upbringing since mothers get child custody in more than half of cases. Or they pay a lot of alimony and child support which drains their accounts and makes their lives even more miserable.

What is Divorce Like for a Man?

A lot of men going through divorce have to reinvent themselves. They were accustomed to their social roles as husband and father, which determined their existence. When their family breaks down, they are left wondering how to continue living, feeling completely lost and powerless.

Here’s What Divorce Does to a Man

Going through a divorce is equally complicated for both sexes, and the opinion that men start enjoying their great life instantly after the marriage ends is a myth. We often hear that a failed marriage and divorce are similar to the death of a loved one or a family member. It’s true for men, just like for women.

But, at the same time, husbands struggle in different ways than their ex-spouses. So let’s look at divorce from the man’s perspective and understand what they are going through.

Overwhelming emotional strain

How men react to divorce emotionally is not very different from women’s feelings. Many of them also feel sad and broken, even if they try to hide it. And they often do so because that was probably a significant part of their upbringing.

Robert Emery, Ph.D., explains that “Western cultures tend to groom men to disapprove of emotionally expressing difficult feelings such as pain and sorrow.” Sadly, society is still reinforcing “the stereotype that men must be strong and find alternative ways to deal with their grief.”

So, while women can openly connect with others in their support networks, men skip the grieving process almost entirely. They also seek professional help less often, thus losing a chance to improve their emotional state.

After divorce, men’s emotions often include disappointment, shame, and regret, although many are disguised as anger and even rage. Why? Because these emotions are “acceptable” in society for a man’s role model. That’s why so many men struggle to keep their sanity after divorce.

Deterioration of men’s health after divorce

Men suffer from various physical health issues more often than women. In addition, studies show that men, after divorce, experience deterioration of mental and physical health. Suppressed negative emotions and lack of support networks are usually the main reasons for elevated blood pressure, excess weight, depression, and anxiety.

Deterioration of men’s health after divorce

Many men also have higher mortality rates due to substance abuse, cardiovascular disease, and pneumonia. For instance, premature death is seven times more likely in divorced men than in their married counterparts.

In addition, divorced men struggle with mental issues more often than their ex-wives. Contrary to popular belief that women experience more stress than men after divorce, it turns out that the pain of divorce for men is no less than for women, according to the 2013 research on consequences of divorce on mental health.

Husbands often miss their wives after divorce, especially in cases where women initiate divorce and take the children with them. As a result, ex-husbands feel abandoned and lonely and can’t get out of a deep state of depression. Post-divorce anxiety in men is also among widespread health problems.

Financial hardships in some cases

Since women initiate the most divorces, men find themselves unprepared for the upcoming changes, both emotionally and financially.

Undoubtedly, it is much easier for a man with a high income to cope with paying for child support. But for many ex-husbands, financial obligations to children and the former spouse may become a heavy financial burden.

In a typical divorce involving underage children, a family court considers the child’s best interest when appointing a custodial parent and ordering child support. So, for example, if a mother keeps the kids, a father usually sees them only during the assigned time.

But even if he doesn’t spend time with them, he still has to pay child support, or he will get into trouble with the law.

These complex and sometimes stressful new family circumstances add to the declines in household income and the need to rent a separate apartment. Thus, all these new obligations may significantly decrease the standard of living.

Difficulty getting a favorable outcome in court

Although family law doesn’t discriminate against gender, the family court system more often than not favors women when dealing with some divorce-related issues.

For example, with children involved in the divorce process, the ex-wife has a higher chance to get custody since it is universally believed that men lack parenting skills.

The court often awards residential custody to the mother if there’s no divorce settlement agreement. The father, in turn, becomes a co-parent with limited visitation time and massive financial obligations, such as child support and alimony.

Of course, the situation can be improved if the man has enough money for divorce lawyers. Otherwise, the children will stay with the mother (and possibly her new boyfriend), and the ex-husband just has to deal with it.

Social isolation

Divorce for men often signifies the loss of social connections and alienation. It’s not rare when one partner “lures” all the mutual friends over to their side, and the other is left alone.

The lack of family, reductions of social contacts, or a move to another location decrease the social support that a man needs at the moment.

Social isolation

Plus, unlike their female counterparts, men rarely seek the professional help of psychotherapists after divorce. So, they have to cope with difficult emotions on their own, often unsuccessfully.

Prolonged loneliness and isolation can endanger mental health and lead to a high level of depression and a less satisfying life after divorce for a man.

Loss of confidence and low self-esteem

Low self-esteem can become an insurmountable obstacle on the way to a new life and happiness. Sadly, it’s exactly what happens to a lot of divorced men.

Divorce from men’s perspective is a failure. Many men blame themselves for not being good enough as husbands and fathers, lowering their self-esteem and competence levels. It means that they don’t feel as effective and successful as they used to during the marriage.

Studies also show that men can’t achieve a sense of accomplishment in their daily lives after divorce. The first two or three months, they feel lost and can’t decide what to do next.

Rushing into a new relationship too soon

Some men take a lot of time to start dating again, while others don’t waste another minute. However, they might rush into new relationships not because they quickly forget their ex-wife but because they want to numb the pain.

For some men, this trick works a little longer than for others. Then, when they start dating a new partner, they forget about unpleasant thoughts and feelings.

But there’s a high risk that the next relationship will fail. When people don’t have time to resolve past mistakes, they bring them to their second marriage.

Perhaps a man does not realize that getting a new wife is only a way to heal the wounds after the previous marriage. If so, there is a good chance the subsequent relationships will also end in divorce.

Main Changes in Men’s Behavior After a Divorce

The psychology of a divorced man right after their marriage breakdown may differ from what they usually feel or do. Some men who are going through a divorce display changes in their behavior.

These changes are associated with the pain of losing their family and the need to rebuild their life.

Main Changes in Men’s Behavior After a Divorce

And while women tend to become depressed under these circumstances, men deal with pain using the following tactics.

  • He works too much. Men need to feel that they are worth something. So for some, the only way to cope with it is to invest more time and energy in their careers. Hard work often brings tangible results and praise, which they lack in their new single life.
  • He becomes a party animal. It can happen if a man skips the grieving process and tries to relieve the pain by doing all sorts of harmful things - parties, alcohol, promiscuous relationships. Fortunately, after a few weeks of such a life, most of them usually come to their senses.
  • He won’t leave his ex-spouse alone. Some men spend their free time stalking their exes, breaking into their social accounts, or blackmailing them. Such behavior prevents them from moving forward with their new lives and new relationships.
  • He dedicates his entire life to his children. He is ready to do everything for the children’s sake. He shows in every possible way what an exemplary father he is and that he cannot live without his kids. It’s not always genuine, however. He may be proving to the ex-wife that he loves the children more than her.

Brief Tips on How to Get Through a Divorce as a Man

Here’s a few things that can help avoid a messy post-divorce period and make a complete divorce recovery sooner.

  • Create a good support system of friends and relatives who are on your side. Lack of communication is a major factor why men struggle with divorce more than women.
  • Take care of your mental health and see a therapist if you need professional advice.
  • Let go of your anger and embrace the reality that you need to build a new life after divorce without your ex.
  • Begin moving forward step-by-step. Don’t rush into new relationships if you haven’t recovered emotionally from your break-up.
  • Fill your free time with self-development, new hobbies, and travel. New activities and a change of environment can help calm your nerves and get rid of negative thoughts.

Final Words

Men suffer from divorce in many ways that women don’t, and vice versa. But for both, it takes time to recover and start living in the present. New hobbies, goals, and communication with friends and psychologists can help get rid of depression and negative emotions.

But none of this will help if the person is not ready to let go of the past. Thus, the main ingredient for recovery is the desire and the intention to start afresh.


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