_Men's Guide--Dealing with Divorce_. Variations Psychology, 2018_Dr. Shinn.jpg

The Guy’s Guide to Life After Divorce

Movies often portray divorced guys living it up and enjoying the freedom they’ve always wanted. In reality, this stereotype can be far from the truth. Men often experience the most devastating losses from divorce, often without knowing healthy ways to cope. Men are nearly twice as likely to develop major depression after divorce than women, and the suicide rate of divorced men is nearly twice that of married men. Society’s stigma on men seeking mental health help only worsens this concerning problem.

So with men often losing their children, friends, reputations, and homes after divorce, is there anything they can do to feel like themselves again?

If you are a man going through a divorce, give these tips a try:

1. Reorganize your life

During your divorce, your role as provider, father, husband, and protector will either feel lost or significantly changed. These losses feel devastating and can really make you question your purpose in life. Dealing with these changes starts with being able to reorganize your life around your new situation. Rethink relationships with friends, family, children, and your ex to fill your time wisely and meet your physical, mental, and social needs. Men that fail to take these steps are subject to prolonged depression, grief, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Example:
“I’ve lost everything I’ve worked so hard for - my house is gone and I’m going from seeing my kids every day to every other weekend.”

Reorganized perspective:
“I’ll be getting more time to go out with the guys or just relax at home and do whatever I want. Every time I’m with the kids it’ll be more meaningful because we won’t see each other every day. Yeah, I’m moving into a smaller place but I finally get to listen to music as loud as I want and put what I like on the walls.”

2. Don’t set to self-destruct

Divorce can inflict a tremendous amount of pain that can cause men to try to escape what they are feeling. This puts them at risk to cope with self-destructive behaviors. Have fun and seek some thrills, but avoid resorting to damaging behaviors to numb emotional pain. Heavy drinking, drug abuse, or unsafe sex might temporarily boost your ego, but those highs are short-lived and will delay your process of moving on. Instead, get your adrenaline pumping with a new extreme sport or reigniting a hobby you gave up on years ago.

3. Stay Social

Men only initiate 1/3 of divorces.; this means that many men are forced to adjust to the idea of living alone after already being stripped of their role as head of household. Some men aren’t very social to begin with, so when their wife and kids leave they’re left with no social outlets. This isolation spirals many men into depression, so it’s important to surround yourself with a network of friends that you feel comfortable being yourself with.  Start a weekend poker night, join a fantasy football league, or plan a road trip with the guys.

4. Don’t dwell on the past

Men often get the short end of the stick with divorce with more financial obligations and less time with their kids. While these changes can be difficult, try not to dwell on what you’ve lost. Dwelling does not solve anything; much like running on a treadmill, you may think you’re going forward by rethinking the same thoughts, but you’re not.  However, processing and truly grieving what has been lost is the healthy way through a divorce. A Specialist in Men’s Issues can help you learn healthy ways to navigate your grieving process.

5. Keep a Forward Focus

Keep a forward focus by thinking of ways you can make the best of your current situation. Start a new tradition with your kids each time you see them. Enjoy doing things you could have never done while living with your ex – dust off the electric guitar and learn some new licks while cranking the amp up to 11, get online with your gaming system and some buddies and slay some newbs, carry out those old plans of creating a solid mancave. While you can’t control all that’s happening in your life, you do have the power to make the best of the hand you’ve been dealt.

6. Don’t ditch the doctor

Divorced men are more likely than married men to eat poorly, smoke more often, and die of preventable diseases. This is largely because spouses are more likely to push their husbands to stay on top of health screenings and preventative care. This can also be the result of men not doing the first recommended step – reorganizing their life around their new situation. Resist the tendency to let your physical health go once your spouse is out of the picture. When your body is healthy, your mind will be better equipped to move past the pain of divorce. Boost your mood with regular exercise, a well-balanced diet, dental screenings, annual physicals, and mental health support from a therapist or psychologist.

7. Date when you’re ready

Choosing when to get back in the dating scene is a personal choice. There’s no need to be in a rush to date after divorce, but going out and dating can be a great way to boost your confidence, feel attractive, and get out of a depressive slump. If you do decide to dive into the singles scene, use protection and steer clear of heavy, consistent drug or alcohol use. While there is certainly hope for another meaningful relationship in your future, take your time to grieve your marriage before jumping into another serious commitment.

8. Don’t pretend you’re fine when you’re not

If you are struggling with the mental and emotional impact of divorce, you are not alone. Seeking mental health support shows strength and courage, and can also provide you with the space to let out and process what you’ve been holding in. If you are experiencing any of the following warning signs of depression, don’t assume they’ll get better if you ignore them:

  • Anger, aggressiveness, or feeling on edge

  • Noticeable changes in energy and mood

  • Change in sleeping patterns

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Feelings of worry and fear

  • Craving alcohol or drugs

  • Not enjoying pleasurable activities

  • Engaging in high-risk activities

  • Ongoing aches or digestive issues

Click here to read our blog on unmasking the 6 disguises of depression in men

9. Visit a Men’s Specialist

Divorce can feel earth-shattering to a man whose life and identity have revolved around his family. Moving past the losses that men experience in divorce is difficult, but adjusting to your new lifestyle can be much smoother with the support and guidance of a qualified men’s specialist.  

Dr. Christopher J. Sample, Psy.D. specializes in supporting men and teenage boys through life’s transitions including the many obstacles faced during and after divorce. Dr. Sample provides a comfortable place for men in all walks of life to work through challenges and gain tools for leading successful and fulfilling lives.

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References:

Block, T. (2017). Divorce and MENtal Health. The Good Men Project. https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/divorce-and-mental-health-cmtt/

Bruce, M. L., & Kim, K. M. (1992). Differences in the effects of divorce on major depression in men and women. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 149(7), 914-917.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1176/ajp.149.7.914

Kposowa, A.J. (2000). Marital status and suicide in the National Longitudinal Mortality Study. J Epidemiol Community Health;54:254–261254

Menaghan, E., & Lieberman, M. (1986). Changes in Depression following Divorce: A Panel Study. Journal of Marriage and Family,48(2), 319-328. doi:10.2307/352399

Nauert, R. (2018) Men’s Mental Health Suffers After Divorce. PsychCentral. Retrieved online: https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/10/01/mens-mental-health-suffers-after-divorce/60153.html

How to Cite This Blog Article:

Shinn, M.M. (2018). The Guy’s Guide to Life After Divorce.  Psychologically Speaking.

[Variations Psychology blog post].  Retrieved from https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/the-guys-guide-to-life-after-divorce