Divorce is extremely stressful for men not only because it makes them lose their sense of identity but also because they are still stigmatized by our society. Society makes many men pretend to be calm and self-confident, all the while suffering from pain deep inside. This state is detrimental to their mental health because it means no tears can be shown in public but, at the same time, agony lives on that no one can see.
“After my wife left, I was completely lost. At times, I’d be just staring at the wall and wondering how it was even possible that she could abandon our house. I’d stand in the middle of the kitchen, startled, feeling torn inside.”
Does this resonate with you?
Unfortunately, our society is ready to sympathize with women's tears caused by divorce but when it comes to men, their feelings often get ignored. Firstly, men themselves are afraid to appear weak or be lacking the masculinity that society seems to expect from them. Moreover, people tend to frown upon a man when his marriage fails, without actually digging deep to recognize the real state of affairs.
Furthermore, there are many other clichés that don’t allow men to fully reveal their pain, even to their close friends. Take, for example, the popular phrases “man up!” or “big boys don't cry.” If males stick to these mantras most of the time, it can be really hard to discuss feelings on a mature level with them.
Nevertheless, not talking about painful experiences with a trustworthy person may cause harm to a man who is going through difficult times after separation with a spouse. So, what is the best way for a man to cope with the post-divorce life-space?
Remember: having an unsuccessful marriage does not a loser make. Painful transformations often cause hard feelings, but at the same time, they contain extremely valuable lessons. Though don't worry: in this article, we're not going to preach but rather provide you with actionable advice on how to move on with your life after divorce.
Just shift your focus of attention for a second and imagine that your divorce is not a failure but rather a diploma. A diploma that will allow you to build a healthy and meaningful relationship in the future (if you want one, of course) and never go down the road of misunderstanding and mistrust again.
Here are 20 tips on how to truly overcome divorce, with its emotional turmoil, and start a new life. The tips include pieces of advice that pertain to both the practical and emotional aspects of life after divorce, as well as things you’re better off avoiding so as not to evoke more pain.
5 Things to Avoid After Divorce
1. Do Not Attempt to Reconcile with Your Ex-Wife
No matter how badly you want to make peace with your former spouse, avoid reconciliation. This doesn't mean that you can't occasionally meet and talk or share parenting responsibilities in an adequate manner. However, it means that you shouldn't attempt to escape from the soul-sucking realization that a part of your life is gone.
In other words, once the divorce has happened, it's too late to start from scratch with your ex. Now, there are exceptions to this rule; there are couples that get married for a second time. Nevertheless, the divorce rate among those couples is very high – around 67%, according to Psychology Today. In case you were wondering, the divorce rate among partners who marry for a third time is even higher – approximately 73%.
If you are eager to reconcile with your ex-wife after divorce, it would be better to accept the challenge and go through the transformational post-divorce process instead, without thinking about whether she’ll be a part of your new life.
In reality, you’ll have a better chance of starting over with your ex if you manage to deal with the issues that led you to divorce in the first place. This takes time, so you can promise yourself that you will consider the option of reconciliation later, when you’ve fully recovered from the emotional trauma caused by the separation.
Again, there is no last-minute remedy to help save your marriage after divorce. But there is a whole list of activities that can help you regain inner peace, rebuild your identity, and actually try numerous things that you couldn't even dream of before. Remember: the harder the trial, the better the prize!
Thus, don't get stuck in the denial phase for too long – the first thing you need to do is to accept that you are divorced now. Stop begging your wife to come back even if you’re still into her. Embrace the unknown and, finally, live through your difficult feelings if you want to be happy again.
2. Make Sure that the Divorce Does not Affect Your Children
People are prone to emotional reactions, and men are no exception when it comes to quarreling over divorce. However, if you have children, you should be twice as careful not to hurt their feelings, because it might affect their whole life.
A study done on the long-term implications of divorce for children found that a parental divorce influences kids for the 20 subsequent years after the breakup (Ahrons, 2007). A survey conducted by Ahrons revealed that the children whose parents managed to cooperate well during the separation maintained a profound and fulfilling relationship with them, as well as with their siblings and grandparents. At the same time, kids who had experienced much stress during the parents’ divorce reported worse relationships with their relatives.
Thus, divorce is especially harmful when parents express a careless attitude towards their children due to being overwhelmed with negative emotions directed at each other. It is thus better to avoid any kind of manipulation involving kids because even if you win the fight, you might “lose” much more than that. After all, no father is deliberately willing to make his children unhappy.
If your ability to see your kids is limited, still avoid blaming their mother in front of them. Be a nice father instead, and spend quality time with your children by providing them with as much love as you can. If you are on the brink of despair and can't quell the hatred towards your former wife, make sure to approach her with a level head. That or limit the communication until you calm down.
If the two of you need to talk, make sure that your kids can’t hear the conversation, especially if you know that it is going to be quite unpleasant (the best time for this is when they are out of the house). Remember, the best and sometimes only way to teach your children self-respect is through your own example. So, be a father your children will look up to!
3. Avoid Getting Addicted
Numerous men indulge in binge drinking, overwork, have casual sex, and even develop a dependency on drugs after divorce. It’s true: a completely “normal” person can go nuts due to the enormous stress divorce brings.
Nevertheless, the short-term benefits of engaging heavily in the things mentioned above can't “compete” with the destructive effect that an addict will experience in the long run. Even though you might think that those are good pain-killers, it is not true. They are actually pain generators. Why’s that?
It's quite obvious that a drug addict cannot restore or rebuild self-identity that has been lost during the divorce. In fact, things get even more complicated because drug users tend to completely lose all that's left of their identity, which is a path to hell. Binge drinking creates the same effect but the path might be a little longer.
It is also quite clear that loose women can make you feel wanted and even happy for a night, but in the morning when they are gone, you might feel even lonelier than before. Thus, having casual sex is not likely to boost your self-esteem for an extended period of time. Working too much is not as detrimental as the above mentioned “pain-killers”, but you might face the symptoms of burnout quite soon.
Coming back to an empty apartment may not be the most exciting thing in the world, but feeding your broken self-esteem with synthetic substitutes can make you feel as though you are living a plastic life, so think about the consequences whenever you feel an urge to ease the pain through simple means.
4. Don't Lose Control over Your Feelings and Actions
Men often suppress feelings such as anger, frustration, fury, and resentment because they would have to face social stigma. This may lead to a sudden emotional outburst at an inappropriate place and time.
As a man, you know what it means to own your reactions and have the power to control yourself when you and other people truly need it. So, avoid doing either physical or emotional damage. Remember that any feeling is basically energy which you can transform in a way so that it serves you, not destroys you.
If you are prone to aggression, go to the gym, jog in the park or do something else that could cultivate self-control. This might take extra effort and you might be unwilling to do it at first, but it's much better than engaging in self-destruction or causing damage to your loved ones. You might still never win your ex-wife back if you become balanced, but she will definitely respect you for that, and your children will be grateful to you as well.
5. Don't Start an Affair Before You’re Officially Free
No matter which one of you initiated the divorce, don't start dating before it's over. Some men begin dating other women out of revenge or to prove that they are worthy of female attention. These strategies are maladaptive, and they can only worsen your relationship.
If you're in the middle of a divorce right now, avoid seeing other women, at least explicitly. Firstly, your wife might take it as a personal offense and get furious, which could significantly complicate your divorce. Also, she might think that you are unable to control yourself and, what's worse, that you’re disrespecting her and your children, if you have any of those.
Secondly, dating someone new so soon might ruin your self-esteem instead of boosting it as described above. Moreover, you’ve had no time to analyze mistakes in your previous marriage that lead to your divorce. It stands to reason that you might repeat them and ruin your new relationship as well, and thus only increase the negative feelings you might have now.
15 Survival Tips for Men on How to Start a New Life after Divorce
1. Stop Sharing the Same Place as Soon as Possible
Numerous couples have to live under the same roof after the divorce, which often complicates the process of separation. However, staying together after splitting up officially may also impact your and your wife’s future. It will be impossible to bring in a new girlfriend or boyfriend, especially if there are kids.
Thus, one of the solutions may be to move in with your parents or friends if you can't afford to rent a separate apartment yet. Whatever option you choose, make sure that your new home is suitable for your children. If it's impossible for some reason to rent an appropriate place, consider camping with your kids so that the time spent together doesn't lose its quality.
If you're the one who’s staying in the family home, rearrange the furniture, get rid of old things, and redecorate the place so that every single item doesn't remind you of your broken marriage.
2. Make Essential Arrangements to Simplify Your Future Life
Adjusting to bachelor life means mastering lots of new skills and acquiring new kinds of responsibility. Thus, you might find yourself chock full of arrangements that you have to make ASAP. It's important to prepare everything beforehand during the divorce because otherwise, you might face numerous challenges that will be difficult to fix on-the-spot.
Firstly, make written financial arrangements and decide who gets what after the separation. If there is a misunderstanding, hire a financial consultant to advise you on how to deal with your money and assets.
Also, prepare all your documents on time, as postponing this activity will only make the whole process more painful. What’s more, making these preparations can eventually help you make peace with the separation and go through grieving quicker.
3. Establish a Convenient Weekly Schedule
Establishing daily routines and rituals might require some time. However, making a basic weekly schedule is definitely worth the effort, as it can help you keep your head above water whenever you feel lost or depressed.
Of course, it won't be easy to start a new life while facing significant changes in the family structure. This is why it's crucial to prepare your new schedule beforehand. You’ll feel enormous relief once you've done it. In other words, you will make sure that your sense of stability won't be jeopardized when you're alone facing tons of unexpected issues.
Additionally, spend some time to automate or at least schedule activities such as doing laundry, cleaning up, washing dishes, and other chores. What you truly need is to provide your week with a basic structure so that you don’t turn into a desperate jack-of-all-trades in just a few weeks. It's also recommended to discuss boundaries with your ex-spouse so that each of you can start a new life without bumping into each other at every corner.
4. Take Care of Your Health and Well-Being
Prioritize activities that will improve your well-being and support your health, especially if you work too much. Divorced men often suffer from health issues because they feel empty inside and don't get enough care. Nevertheless, you have to think about the future right now. The pain will eventually go; moreover, your children will need you!
Thus, stick to a healthy diet that includes whole foods, manage your sleep schedule, and create a routine that involves physical exercise no less than twice a week. You also have to take care of your mental health, because it has a significant influence on your immune system and your general well-being.
Recommendations on How to Deal with Intense Emotions
5. Make Sure to Deal with Post-Divorce Depression Correctly
Did you know that the Holmes-Rahe scale considers a contested divorce the second most awful stress in life, after the death of a spouse? Even superheroes have their weaknesses, and you are a human being, so it's normal to feel insecure and even depressed at times.
Here are 10 typical signs that you might be suffering from depression after divorce.
- Gloomy mood almost all day long for an extended period of time.
- Lack of interest in activities you used to like before.
- Eating disorders (consuming considerably more or less food than usual).
- Dramatically losing or putting on weight.
- Insomnia or other sleep disorders such as oversleeping.
- Lack of energy; the feeling of constant fatigue.
- Problems with focusing on your daily tasks and difficulties making important decisions.
More severe symptoms of depression include:
- Psychomotor agitation – this involves repetitive movement without purpose; for instance, walking around your room aimlessly or fidgeting.
- Psychomotor impairment – slower thinking and physical reactions. You might suddenly notice that it takes more effort for you to think, speak or even walk.
- Suicidal thoughts or thoughts about death in general. According to the National Longitudinal Mortality Study, men are at a higher risk of suicide after divorce.
If you are seriously influenced by the symptoms mentioned above, reach out for help immediately!
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to get instant help!
Please note that some symptoms of depression might be similar to the ones of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). It is better to visit a therapist who can prescribe treatment for the particular case you have.
Remember, feeling stressed and seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of. At the same time, not taking proper care of yourself in most cases means creating consequences that you will probably feel bad about in the future.
6. Do Not Skip Grieving
Separating from a significant other during divorce can be compared to a symbolic death. The loss of a close person causes grief, and no matter how fervently Western culture might try to deny it, you have to go through the full process to finally overcome your pain.
Don't expect yourself to “man up” and skip grieving; doing so could bring undesirable effects such as the feeling of emptiness, emotional numbness, inability to connect with people on a deep level, and even depression or physical health issues.
The grieving cycle is loosely divided into the following phases:
Thus, accept your loss and spend some time grieving and sorting out all your feelings that come with it. It's okay to lament the divorce and the death of your dreams about the future of your family. It’s essential to spend as much time as you need on grieving until your psyche is back to normal and ready to start a new life.
As it turns out, it’s utterly useless to hold on to something that is already gone. But even if you’ve completely lost your identity due to divorce, remember that the death of one thing gives birth to another.
Although it may be hard to imagine a new you right now, just believe that it's going to happen. According to a study conducted by University of Essex Professor Stephen Jenkins, most men become wealthier after divorce. Even if becoming richer is not your number one goal, you'll find a whole lot of other great things that you personally will enjoy when you overcome the divorce hardships.
These changes don’t occur overnight, as it requires effort and plenty of time to recover. However, in a year or two, you will discover that you've changed, and we sincerely hope that this transformation will benefit you, even though it hurts so much now.
7. Make a Conscious Effort to Overcome Your Pain
Working through your feelings can be very unpleasant. Nevertheless, it will pay off in the long run, unlike isolating yourself from the world, which won’t. In fact, after divorce, numerous men tend to separate from the people who are willing to take care of them. They do this in order not to be perceived as weak or come off as needy.
Nevertheless, maintaining profound contact with your feelings is a part of conscious living, irrespective of gender. Of course, you shouldn't approach every single person you meet in the street telling them about the way you feel. Find people who you can trust instead and talk it out.
If you consider it difficult to ask your family or friends for support, visit group therapy or a private coach. And if you still think that men shouldn't act like this, try to look at the situation from a new perspective.
It actually takes more courage to open up in front of other people than to drink at home alone. It takes more effort to acknowledge your suffering and deal with it than to get involved in self-destructive behavior. So what kind of action do you consider more masculine? And, if we now eliminate the category of gender, what behavior pattern do you consider to be healthier?
Sometimes, shifting the focus from social clichés and looking at the situation from a different lens gets one to realize that first and foremost, you are a human being that deserves love and compassion. You came into this world with a bare consciousness, and without the knowledge that society would impose gender roles, just like any other child. And you always have a choice whether to conform to those expectations or stick to what you truly need right now.
Some men mistakenly associate visiting a therapist or a support group with an assumption that something is wrong with them, but this is not true. There is nothing that needs to be fixed about you. Therapists will never label you, but will rather help you go through the transformation by respecting your unique path. There’s a common thread in almost every great work of literature: what writers refer to as the Hero's Journey. So, dare to be the hero of your own life without heeding to the expectations or norms of society. Society itself is imperfect, after all.
8. Use Mindfulness Techniques
Try mindfulness meditation and other techniques that will help you calm down and raise your awareness. Even if the world around you is spinning and it's really hard for you to control yourself now, it's worth the effort.
It's not necessary to go to a Buddhist temple or Tibetan monastery to benefit from mindfulness techniques. Even conscious walking can help you out if you're overwhelmed with negative emotions!
This kind of walking is probably the best mindfulness technique to start with, as it's relatively easy. Conscious walking includes paying attention to every small detail on your way. Mindful observation of the things around you will bring you to the present moment and make you feel significantly better, both physically and mentally.
Other techniques include Sound Healing and certain types of Mindfulness Meditation. The thing is, though, when there is emotional turmoil inside of you, it may be twice as difficult to concentrate on the practice. This is why not all kinds of meditation will suit you when you're going through an emotional upheaval.
Your best solution will be a practice that brings your attention to some external stimuli such as Sound Healing. You can browse the internet to find a recording of a Tibetan bowl for Bowl Meditation or visit an offline session in your region. Whatever floats your boat, make sure to fully immerse yourself in the sound to break free from your annoying internal dialogue.
Playing a musical instrument can also shift the focus of your attention outwards. For instance, did you know that playing the didgeridoo is not only good for your emotional well-being but also improves your health? A study in the British Medical Journal found that people who played it on a regular basis noticed a reduction in asthma and sleep apnea symptoms as well as snoring, because the didgeridoo trains the upper airway muscles.
9. Disconnect from Social Media Temporarily
It may be detrimental to disconnect from your supportive friends and relatives when you're facing difficult times, but this rule doesn't apply to social media. Firstly, constantly browsing your ex-wife’s Facebook page is no good, because you might see something that will break your heart, such as her having fun at a party while you’re sitting at home alone, full of resentment.
To make matters worse, you might see your former spouse with another man. So do yourself a favor – either unsubscribe from her page for a while (it's possible to do so without deleting her from your friend list) or don't check your social media accounts until you feel the desire and strength to face reality as it is. Also, don't be afraid that you’ll miss some important news; your friends will tell you anyway.
If you’re using your social media to express your feelings, be careful about the things you post. According to recent research, 30% of divorce cases involve Facebook posts of ex-spouses. Thus, whatever you say there can be used against you by your ex and her attorney.
10. Express Yourself Creatively
Although you might feel lost at the moment, there are numerous ways to express what you're going through now. You can even use your daily activities as ways to deal with stress and anxiety.
Do you go to the gym? Bring your feelings to the treadmill and run together with them! Do you practice yoga? Find an asana that will metaphorically represent your resentment or your new self, depending on your current mood.
Do you play guitar? Learn a song that is close to your heart and invite your friends over to listen. Can you paint? You don't have to be a professional artist to reveal your feelings on a piece of paper! Did you know that drawing a mandala from time to time is one of the most powerful art therapy techniques to release tension and center yourself?
Rebuilding your identity takes time, so why don’t you start enjoying your Hero’s Journey if you can’t escape it? Applying a creative approach towards restoring your inner peace will revive your inner child, who definitely knows that the gloomy days won’t last forever and will be eventually surpassed by sunny ones.
11. Reconnect with Your Favorite Hobbies
Overcoming a divorce isn't an easy period. It's like recovering from a severe illness, so treat yourself accordingly. You need lots of self-care now to enhance your well-being, but it's not always about dealing with the pain. It’s also about having fun, so reconnect with your hobbies!
Start your busy week with a boxing class, go fishing on the weekend, join a public speaking community. There are tons of activities that can help you come to your senses. How about something like Wilderness Therapy? It includes outdoor programs that involve exciting activities in the great outdoors.
You can observe the healing effects of connecting with nature in an extremely powerful movie with Reese Witherspoon called “The Wild”. The main character suffers from severe PTSD symptoms and selects the Pacific Crest Trail as her escape route from civilization to rebuild her self-identity.
As you can see, you don't have to join a Wilderness Therapy group, as you can take a solo trip to a National Park or ask your friends if they want to join you. Here’s a list of the 10 most popular long-distance hiking trails in the U.S for you to choose. Just make sure that you comply with all the safety regulations before you go.
12. Make More New Friends
Many individuals lose a lot of friends after divorce because they tend to take sides or are afraid of becoming a “mediator” in a tough relationship. Numerous divorcees also deliberately avoid mutual friends because they might remind them of their former spouse.
Nevertheless, cultivating new friendships will help you get out of the frame of your “past life” where everybody knows the person you used to be. A frame where nobody is aware of who you are turning into right now. Now, let’s be clear – there's no need to quit on your old friends for good. This advice is about establishing new connections to avoid social isolation and help you move on.
So, start small with simply attending a business lunch with your team, visiting a speaking or a movie club, volunteering for a church or a social organization. You can find lots of local activities on services like Meetup.
It's okay if the desire to hibernate now outweighs the probable benefits of new friendships. However, if you've been hiding from the world for a while and are continuing to suffer from isolation, it's time to come out, even if you've been severely traumatized by a toxic relationship with your wife. After all, most people are good-natured and won't cause you pain. But if you don’t get out of your shell, you'll never find out that there are people who are willing to support and love you the way you are.
13. Say “No” to Alienation and “Yes” to “Me Time”
If you're suffering from loneliness, try replacing it with “me time”. Shift your focal point to a bit of self-indulgence! It might sound weird, but make sure that you have pleasant experiences on a regular basis without neglecting this practice.
At first, including pleasure time in your daily schedule will require a conscious effort. It might be especially difficult if you're currently at the stage of blaming yourself for the divorce or experiencing other negative emotions. These feelings are often rooted in guilt, which is especially energy-consuming.
Nonetheless, in a while, you’ll benefit from “me” time as it will rebalance your body, mind, and soul. This will help turn your “lonely” time into “time for myself” and pave the way out from desolation.
14. Build a Meaningful Life
When your grief is finally over, you might find yourself quite lost, because your past is gone but your future hasn't come yet. This is often called a “transformation zone” with respect to personal crises.
People change as they grow older, but they also transform due to various life experiences. Divorce is one of the most powerful crises but just like sorrow, it possesses precious gifts for you. Although the growth might be very painful, discovering those gifts is worth the effort.
You can transform your wounds into wisdom even if you find yourself in complete darkness, as you can suddenly see your own light there. So, be honest with yourself and figure out what no longer matters to you. Maybe you no longer want to work that much because your wife left you due to the lack of time spent together?
Transformation may affect any area of your life depending on your personal experience. For instance, some people who used to cheat on their partners lose interest in adultery after acknowledging how much pain they caused their loved ones. Other people who ended an abusive relationship may suddenly reveal that they no longer want to chase a cold-blooded spouse to melt their heart but are longing for genuine connection with a caring person instead.
Thus, set off on a personal journey of self-exploration and define what areas of your life have been transformed. Furthermore, identify what matters to you now and what happiness consists of, in your opinion. Also, think about your possible new relationship by learning from past mistakes.
What is unacceptable for you in a relationship, and what would you like to have instead of it? Sharing similar values is key to establishing a long-term relationship, and keeping in touch with each other’s emotions is key to a profound, long-term connection.
15. Learn to Forgive
You might find it difficult to accept the idea of forgiving your spouse at first, but the time will come when you become willing to do it, either consciously or subconsciously. In fact, resentment is one of the most punishing things that people can do to themselves. A person who can't get rid of resentment might end up being very unhappy.
You shouldn't force yourself to forgive, as this is simply impossible. However, you'll notice when the wave of your anger starts to decrease. Once you feel less bitter, you might want to quit holding that grudge for good and start living a happy life. This will mean that you are ready for forgiveness, which is the final phase of recovery after divorce.
However, it's not that easy; you might mistakenly think that forgiving means forgetting. Nonetheless, forgiveness is all about restoring a positive self-image and regaining your self-worth. You don't have to forget evil things that happened to you, but you can choose to drop the burden of resentment and simply carry on.
Furthermore, people make mistakes all the time. Never forgiving a person for drawbacks would mean that you never make mistakes, which is untrue. Just accept the fact that your ex-spouse mistreated you, and it was painful. But once you deal with your negative emotions, also accept that you can look right into the future’s eyes and say that you deserve to live happily in spite of all the terrible things that happened to you in the past.
Hopefully, these 20 tips will help you deal with your divorce and improve your quality of life. However, remember that it is impossible to always control yourself, so it's ok to get down sometimes. Don't be a perfectionist when trying to overcome your pain but, at the same time, remember that your future life is in your own hands. It is you who's in charge of what your personal future will look like. And isn’t now the perfect time to take action?