Is Divorce Harder on Men Than Women?

Is the dissolution of a romantic relationship really harder on men than women?

A recent study published by the Journal of Men’s Health showed that recently divorced men were much more likely to engage in drug and alcohol abuse, and showed a drastically increased risk for high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.

Engaging in risky behavior is definitely a determining factor in the health risks posed to recently divorced men, but what about the mental and emotional pain that leads to this kind of risk-taking?

There are a few key ways that divorce can impact a man, challenging his self-esteem and leading to depression, which in turn can lead to risky behavior and problems with physical health.

Now, this may not apply to all men (everyone is a little different, after all), but there are a few common male traits that are challenged and sometimes dismantled after a divorce – here are just a few reasons divorce can be so hard on men:

Paternal Disruption

Much like the “maternal instinct,” many men have a deep urge to be a protector and provider for the family. After a divorce, though, the family dynamic may be upset, and the man may begin to feel that his family does not need him. Even the fact that a divorce disrupts family stability can be a trigger for men to feel as though they’ve failed at their duty to protect the family.

Divorce can be just as hard or hard on men.
Divorce can be just as hard or hard on men.

Even if it isn’t really the case (in the rest of the family’s opinion), men may feel like they’ve let their family down – which can certainly make them feel less masculine, less in control, and may lead to some destructive behavior.

Because of this, it’s extremely important that men make every effort to retain a close connection with their children in the event of a divorce. Staying a part of their lives will help reinforce his own sense of self-worth.

Loss of Identity

We use many different aspects of our lives to help form our individual identities, and while we may assume that most men identify the closest with their hobbies and careers, relationships are just as important.

After a divorce, a man may find that his identity as a married man was much more important to him than he thought, and the loss of this connection (and the self image in association with his wife) may leave him feeling very lost.

We may not even realize how closely our personal identities are tied to our spouses until it’s too late!

Tough Guy

As we all know, men (generally speaking) are notorious for not opening up, not being honest about feelings, and not seeking help when they are in emotional distress.

This can create all kinds of problems in the event of a divorce, or even when conflict arises in a marriage, because men who tend to internalize their problems – instead of talking about them or seeking comfort from friends, family, or professionals – can eventually buckle from the pressure they’ve created for themselves. When they are overwhelmed with their own internal struggles, this is when destructive and risky behavior starts to become more and more severe.

Now that we’ve talked a little about the mental and physical health problems that can affect men in the even of a divorce, the best solution is to avoid getting to this point in the first place!

With regular time spent together, open and loving communication, and genuine concern for your partner’s happiness, most marital problems can be addressed constructively – well before a divorce (and the associated potential for health problems) happens.

These issues are just all the more reason to keep your marriage strong and healthy!


For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders,

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Mike 10 years ago

Hi I can tell you that whilst Im not divorced and am still clinging to a relationship that was interrupted by my partner of over 30 years with a person 20 years her junior, I can relate to all of what has been described here and more. I have stated that my family defines me and I have always believed in my role as provider and protector. Through this recent difficult period and I would say before my partners affair I have struggled with the notion of not being a "Family Man". As a result I have allowed my partner to treat me as a "door mat" and have suffered many indignities and been humiliated by her. She has never really divulged or volunteered anything about the affair and in fact has told me she was in love with this "person" and was preparing to leave the family. I have continued to work through this with her but still feel she has not been totally honest with me and I still feel disconnected with the ideals of Family living. It is a battle daily and this has been the case for the last 20 months. We had counselling ( she pulled out towards the end - stating she felt she was being attacked) and was diagnosed with depression and severe anxiety, something I knew nothing about. This I believed had taken my identity away and my values for relationships was crushed. I have read and researched many many articles etc and found some very helpful, without a different understanding as a result of researching, counselling and my upbringing, I doubt I would have survived. I mean struggled to comes to terms with the affair and demonstrative effect it has had on my children and subsequently unsure of where or what I may have done or how I would have existed. Whilst we are not there yet and we have a lot more work and understanding to achieve reading articles likes yours has ensured at the very least no bad or misplaced behaviour has occurred yet.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 10 years ago

Mike, It sounds as though your wife has “checked out.” This video is helpful on how to get your spouse checked back in:

joey 10 years ago

Hello, I want my marraige of 13yrs to survive and I know my cheating wife too but she continues to lie to me about her not seeing/talking to him. This past March I discovered my wife was having an affair (emotional, she cliams) with a co-worker, mainly because her emoitonal needs where not being met from me. She was caught and demostrated remose about her mistake, which really shattered my heart and self-esteem.. I quitely started to forgive her on top of all the pain she had left me.. Fast forward to Oct, I discovered that she was secretely keeping in touch with the other man and meeting with him....and another knife to my back. I dont know excatly for how long she's been in contack with him. I feel, part of it was my fault for not discussing the affair in depth nor setting boundaries.. Its apperant that my wife may have strong feelings for this piece of crap that she continues to lie to me and her 3 beautiful young daughters. I had to do something that I wasnt too proud of to get the confirmation i needed to prove she is still in contact with him. Tonight, I will talk to her and confront her about the newly discovered information, which she has NO clue about.. I will give her the choice to pick.. yes, this will hurt like hell but as a man, we must retain a bit of our dignity. At this point, I feel she has Mt. Everest to climb to prove her and earn the trust.. I feel I can't move forward without this trust. Based on the information I learned, seem like my wife wants to have her cake and eat it too.. She tells the other man that she doesn't love me (her husband) but turns around and tells me she loves me...huh? She may be playing both of us....I don't know... Please help.. I am trying to save my marriage and give my daughters the chance I got to have a happy and nurturing home with both parents... thx

Mike_Olsen_SMN 10 years ago

Joey, I hope you are able to work things out between the two of you. You may find some help in this video, "How to Regain Trust After It's Been Destroyed."

sharon 10 years ago

are you sure it is just her being depressed ,no one is perfect in this world but maybe her depression is a result of being bullied and told what to do instead of being allowed to have own thoughts and voice, maybe she feels like a doormat to!

Mike H, Illinois 10 years ago

Sorry about that, but the cold hard truth is- women don't care. They say they do, but they are going to do what they want to do no matter what we say or do for them. I know this first hand, it happened to me. So, if a woman wants to see someone else and it becomes more with her so called "Friend" then all we have to do as men is to either find out why, or chalk it up to, she did it once, she will do it again. When I was dating my wife, we were in one of our deep discussions about out past relationships, marriages. She told me, that in her first marriage she had cheated on her husband, but later regretted it. That was 25 years ago, but now I find out, the hard way, my wife was seeing someone else. She suddenly was real busy in her "Church" work, going to this and that meeting. But whenever we would get together after she returned home, she was distant, and when I would ask what she had learned, it was very generic in nature. One night I had to get up and use the bathroom. When I got ready to get up, I reached over to give my wife a kiss and she wasn't there. I thought hmm and figured she was in there, but I didn't see a light on and the door was closed. I went into the bathroom, and startled her. There she was, sitting on the toilet, with her cell phone tx or emailing someone. Now, who would be tx, emailing at 3am ?? unless you are talking to someone you didn't want your partner knowing about. After that incident, she was always defensive, nervous and advoided just general life's questions... So, what I figured out and what others have mentioned, even a few female friends I had, is that when a woman cheats, it can and will happen again. I just never put 2 & 2 together before.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 10 years ago

Mike H., I am sorry to hear that you have had to deal with cheating in your relationship. If the two of you are still together and willing to work on the marriage, it is possible to still survive the affair. Here is a great video on "How To Survive an Affair."

Mike H 10 years ago

Mike Olsen, No we are not together. She is the one who filed for divorce. We were married for 8 years. I travel a lot for my job now, plus the last eight we were together I was in the Army, retired out in 2010. I know it was my fault also. Even though I knew she was having an affair, I was feeling more and more that it was dead, no feelings at all. I tried to talk with her, she blew me off, I tried the "Fire proof" for marriage, she did say OK, but never made an effort. I persued the subject several more times, but no more responses from her. I was working in El Paso TX, making good money. I was in a church group, and started to make a few friends. Well, after several months, this one woman asked if I knew anything about A/C, and seeing that is my backround I said yes. Well, I checked on her problem, fixed it. That afternoon she paid me and then asked if I would like to stay for dinner, I said yes. To make a long short, we were together for six months, I had moved in with her. She treated me like a king! I never had so much attention like that even from my spouse. I then decided that what I was doing, was just, and besides, I had fallen in love with this woman. Then it all turned crazy... But my spouse has checked totally out of the marriage, she will not return calls, emails, nothing. At this point all the love in the world I have/had for her is still there, but it's beyond letting her back in my life. The damage is done, all I can do at this point is lick my wounds, ask God for forgiveness, repent myself, pray for my ex spouse to be soon, pick myself up, shake the dust off and continue on with my life. Maybe someday I might find another, but I'm not looking.

Kat 10 years ago

Currently I am enrolled in your strongmarriage now online courses. I had an affair for a yr, my husband found out, I moved out because I couldn't handle the guilt and now he is moving back to NV where he works and I am following him but I will live in an apartment with our son to keep their relationship close and in hopes of fixing my marriage. He barely talks to me, it is getting a little better but he asked me for a divorce and recently said reconciliation is not totally off the table. However, he is hurt and angry and does not trust me. I want to spend time with him, I want to tell him all the things I am reading about but right now he does not want to hear it. We are in the process of moving and I am hoping once we move and get settled he will be willing to work on things. He wont spend time with me alone, but he will as a family? We hug goodbye every time and last night he actually called after our son was asleep-which he knew. How to I get him on board? I don't want to push him away but I am trying and making changes with me?

Mike_Olsen_SMN 10 years ago

Kat, It sounds like your husband is working on regaining his trust with you. It sounds like you are making positive changes, hopefully he will appreciate that. Here is a video that I think you will both find beneficial: