STAGES OF DIVORCE RECOVERY FOR MEN: ACCEPTANCE VERSUS DENIAL

by Robin L Goldstein, EdD Licensed Psychologist

Men who deal with separation with intense anger often pay a high price for using such a destructive and ultimately ineffective coping mechanism. At the extreme, anger that leads to any type of physical aggression can cause legal trouble. Domestic violence rates increase during periods of separation. Many men who have never been violent become so for the first time during a divorce. Violence includes damaging objects and possessions as well as hurting other people. Fortunately, hurting other people is not a common reaction but violence including breaking objects, slamming doors, throwing things or verbal rage occurs quite frequently. The longer a man stays angry, the longer it takes to accept the new reality and start making life better again. Anger and denial interfere with the ability to heal from the loss and, eventually, to form new relationships. We all know people who have been separated for long periods (sometimes years) who are difficult to be with because they remain focused on their anger at a former spouse.

Anger also interferes with the ability to adapt and grow. To form good relationships men need to learn from the relationship that is ending. Where did he fail his partner? In what way can he be a better husband or boyfriend in the future. If there were major failings in the woman, why did he choose her and what about himself allowed him to stay? Acceptance of his own role in this life calamity will help him to avoid problems with the next relationship. Denial of the more frightening emotions-grief, fear, anxiety, etc., will only prolong the process of healing and recovery.

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