While the reasons for divorce remain unchanged over the decades, research has found that divorce is tougher on men than on women.
A new study reports that women are more likely to bounce back faster after divorce than their male spouse. The national study conducted by Avvo reports that only 61% of men feel like they cut ties from a failed relationship with no regrets while 73% of women say they feel no regret following a relationship’s farewell.
The study also concludes that more women value happiness, success and even loneliness over being miserable in a marriage versus 58% of men who feel the same.
“Women, on the other hand, prize happiness over marriage, and are less fearful of independence generally,” said sociologist and sexologist Dr. Pepper Schwartz. “Whatever the underlying reasons, both partners have a role in a relationship not working, women included – even if that means as a partner, making more mistakes that you care to admit, or even choosing the wrong partner.”
Dr. Schwartz also reiterated that stereotypical gender roles definitely have some inference as to why men and women feel the way they do about the decision to get divorce and the attitude towards life afterwards.
Why Divorce Is Tougher On Men Emotionally
Men Are More Likely To Be Caught Off Guard
In recent decades women more and more often are initiating divorces, especially in the over 50-demographic. Often this is because women will spend years struggling through an emotionally empty marriage or a relationship in which they feel powerless to express their needs and frustrations. After seeking help, they finally decide to make a break. Or they found financial independence in their later years. Their husbands, having been unaware or unconcerned about their partner’s emotional turmoil, are totally surprised when their wife announces the divorce news. She’s been long preparing for this life-altering experience – both physically and mentally. While she has had time to think about the process and consequences of divorce, he hasn’t. Caught unprepared, the shock divorce is tougher on men (or the spouse who didn’t see it coming).
Men Question Their Sense Of Identity & Value
Having conquered the challenges of finding the right partner and settling down into married life, many men have tremendous difficulty moving on and letting go following divorce. If they believe they should still “own” or have control over their partner it’s not easy to admit that they’ve lost the battle. Many men feel like a failure, that the divorce labels them as losers, which is tough on their self-esteem. In this regard, divorce is tougher on men because women may find it easier to separate their identity from the relationship.
Men Feel Their Paternal Role Is Challenged
For some men, feelings of shame, guilt or failure can be debilitating and affect their performance at work and in social circles. It’s especially important, if you are a parent, to stay connected to your family and be there for your children. Divorce doesn’t mean you are no longer a father. Your kids need you and, in turn, you also need them. It reinforces your value, purpose and sense of belonging – even if you are no longer living together full time as a family. Building on your relationship with your children can be healing for you as well as for them. You’ll never regret the time, love and energy you expend on your paternal responsibilities. Divorce is tougher on men who may feel as though their role of father is no longer needed.
Men Resist the Grieving Process and Prolong the Pain
Men are more likely to be do-it-yourselfers than women. However, coping with the stress of separation or divorce is not best handled alone. Failing to allow yourself time to grieve the loss of your marriage can keep you stuck – unable to step into the future. It’s wise to give serious thought to the role you played in the breakup – even if you primarily blame your ex-spouse for all your problems. There are two sides to every relationship issue. If you find some lessons to learn you can move forward with new insights about relationships that will serve you as a single man and lead you to a better love partner connection down the road.
Why Divorce Is Tougher On Men Physically
Marriage is strongly associated with overall happiness for both genders, in part because marriage is associated with financial wellbeing and better health. But not only may marital happiness be higher for men than women, the protective health effect of marriage is larger for men. In other words, men may be happier in their marriages than women and men may have more to lose in a divorce or breakup in terms of health and happiness.
Indeed, divorce is associated with worse physical and mental health more strongly for men than for women. These negative health effects are not trivial—men are more likely than women to develop suicidality after a separation. Divorce is tougher on men in terms of substance abuse, depression and anxiety.
Much of the negative effect of divorce on health may be explained by changes in lifestyle—such as tobacco and alcohol use. Where wives have encouraged husbands’ healthy behavior, without this positive influence, divorced men may rapidly fall into old, unhealthy habits. In addition, men may be more emotionally dependent on their romantic partners and have fewer alternative sources of support. When asked who they would turn to first if they were feeling depressed, 71% of men selected their wife whereas only 39% of women selected their husband. Married women may maintain a more diverse network of emotional support then married men, and this non-spousal support is important during a separation. That isn’t to say that men don’t have friends or family, but they may be less accustomed to seeking or receiving non-spousal emotional support. In fact, some researchers have even argued that men are neurochemically-predisposed to find breakups more difficult than women and to resist seeking help from friends.
This isn’t to say that breakups aren’t also hard for women. Both divorced men and women suffer poorer physical and emotional health. But the harmful effect of divorce is tougher on men—and men may receive less support from friends or family, in part because men may be less likely to seek out this support. If you are in this position or have a loved one in this position, seeking support is fundamental to good mental and physical health in the long term.
If you’d like to talk to one of our friendly, experienced family lawyers, contact us today for a free, 10-minute phone consultation.