Divorce is unique for men, and your experiences of divorce tend to get less press, less acknowledgement, and less support than the experiences of the opposite sex. A common belief exists that divorce affects men less than it does women, but plenty divorced men know that to be false. In fact, recent research is starting to show that divorce affects men just as much as it affects women, only in different ways. Rather than support beliefs that men get over divorce faster than women, research is also showing that both men and women tend to oscillate between positive and negative emotions, and between feelings of hope and despair for some time following divorce.
A harsh reality divorced men face...
A divorce can send a man into an internal tailspin of confusion as so much of their identity and worth can be connected to maintaining and supporting a family. Men often feel pressure to charge through feelings and “fix” whatever needs fixing. A shattered home can be the unfixable problem that men struggle to know what to do about. While the chaos often takes place inside, men experience an added pressure to soldier through and still perform like nothing’s wrong.
Men often take on the role of problem solver at home, at work, and everywhere in between, placing importance on “doing” instead of feeling. In fact one of the primary reasons a divorce can be so challenging for men is they are often asking themselves,
So, how do you hold up the world while it’s falling apart around you?
Here are a few tips if you find yourself trying to do exactly that:
1. Seek Assistance
It's understandable that this may not be where you want to start. As a man, seeking assistance can seem the same as admitting defeat or stopping to ask for directions. While it may be very challenging to seek assistance, consider the following reframe of your effort to do so. Look at it as leaning on your combat battalion for support through a tough mission or depending on your teammates during a difficult game time situation. It's important to band together with the right people to accomplish difficult tasks. You can employ the same team strategy here. Find trustworthy people and create your “band of brothers.” A men’s group or other support group can be helpful if members agree to provide safety and support to one another and respect the work done in the room enough to keep things private.
2. Keep Moving:
This one will come a little more naturally for a lot of men. Complacency can be a difficult pit to find yourself in. While the shock of divorce can leave you reeling and disoriented, finding a way to keep moving forward through life can be important. Everyone has responsibilities such as work, children, and other personal and professional commitments. It can be tempting to shy away from life and “call in sick” in the midst of divorce. While an occasional off day is great for self-care and being honest about your struggle, taking too much time off from life can keep you stuck.
Make a list of your top three or four priorities and make sure you have a plan to connect with those priorities regularly throughout the week. You are on a critical mission here to maintain connection with the things that mean the most to you. If three to four things are overwhelming give your self one non-negotiable such as time with the kids and no matter what else you might need to compromise on, make that thing happen.
3. Ask Questions
When going through a divorce it can be common to make a lot of assumptions that magnify feelings of fear or cause problems. One example is assuming the courts automatically side with mothers and seek to give them more custody rights (not true). By asking questions it is possible to get a lot of good tips you may not have otherwise considered, such as not speaking poorly of the other parent even if your interactions are challenging. It puts your child in a lose-lose situation since they either have to agree with you and think poorly of one parent or disagree with you and think poorly of you. Either way it isn’t something fair for a child to experience.
Finding others who have experienced what you’re going through, taking classes, or seeking other forms of professional help can be a way to get helpful tips on what to do. In the middle of a divorce people usually aren’t at their best and emotions can run high. One way to maintain sanity during a chaotic experience is to get answers to questions and trust the perspective of those who have also been divorced but are further down the path. It also makes sense to seek out those who travel the path often with others such as therapists or lawyers.
thrive on knowing their purpose in life and identifying something important can be a great way to keep you moving forward. This allows you to take steps to reclaim your life after divorce.
Who are you now that this relationship has ended? What will matter to you from this point forward? What goals will you decide to pursue? If you’ve thought about running a marathon, hiking the Appalachian trail, learning something new, or beginning a project this can be a great time to set out on an adventure as long as you connect it to personal meaning. Maybe setting out to hike a trail represents connecting with your solitude and will to persist even when things are challenging.
5. Find a Safe Space to Feel Bad
Just because men often don’t like to show their emotional selves to others doesn’t mean the emotions aren’t there. You may be trained and skilled in diverting your attention from emotion, suppressing emotion, or denying your feelings all together, but too much avoidance of emotion can actually intensify the experience. Emotion can come out in some unhealthy ways when the pressure starts to build. I would encourage you to find a safe space, somewhere you can be alone or with a trusted friend or therapist to feel all the rough emotions.
such as a therapist can be an enormous help, especially if you aren’t used to feeling sad or knowing what to do about feeling that way.
Divorce is Difficult, But You Aren't Alone
It can be challenging to know if what you are going through is sadness or something more persistent such as depression. For more info on depression check out: 5 Things to Understand if you’re Dealing with Depression, or: 5 Tips for Building Resilience if you have Depression.
As an additional resource you might try reading: I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression.
I am a therapist in private practice utilizing my education and professional experience to assist those struggling with self-doubt, guilt/shame, addiction, anxiety, depression, and grief to decreasing the struggle with internal distress and commit to actions that move them closer to the things they value most.