STAGES OF DIVORCE RECOVERY FOR MEN:
SURPRISES AND MYTHS

by Robin L Goldstein, EdD Licensed Psychologist

Many people are surprised to learn that a majority of divorces are initiated by women. Up to two thirds of divorces are filed by women. The fact that men are deeply affected by divorce, especially if they did not choose that solution, is not hard to understand. Myths persist that men are less in need of the comfort and support that a stable relationship provides but this is not the case. While our society continues to teach men to hide or avoid expression of their feelings, those feelings do not go away. They often appear intensely when a man is abandoned by a spouse or partner.

As a psychologist, I frequently work with men whose partners have left them. They are often surprised by the level of anguish they experience. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to hear men say that they have thought of suicide, usually for the first time in their lives. That men can have extreme reactions should not come as a surprise. Almost every week there is a story somewhere in the media of a man who has taken the life of a partner who has rejected him. All too often children are also the victims of these tragic events. It is an additional tragedy that men are often the most reluctant to seek professional help, viewing it as a sign of unacceptable weakness.

Of course violence is not the most common response to the loss of a relationship but we are all familiar with the many other coping strategies that are less than helpful. These include isolation, substance abuse, frantic seeking of a replacement partner, denial and an unwillingness to share grief with friends and family. Women also turn to these solutions, but less frequently than men as healthier responses are more acceptable for women. While the culture is changing, it is still less acceptable for men to admit to feelings of fear, helplessness, sadness, grief and anxiety. But ALL of these emotions are very common and normal when a relationship breaks apart. One emotion our society does easily accept from men is anger, so it is often anger that we see in men, especially when they are in the presence of others. Usually the intensity of the anger is related to the intensity of the (unexpressed) grief.

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