Is the dissolution of a romantic relationship harder on men or women?
It’s hard to say exactly who has it “worse,” but there’s evidence to suggest that men take divorce especially hard.
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 faced by 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. In turn, this 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:
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.
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!
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. 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!
This isn’t to say that women aren’t also affected by divorce, but the data shows just how destructive it can be for men.
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!