men hurt too; asking for help is an act of bravery!

By Hayley Lisa

The stigma previously associated with people who seek help during a divorce is slowly but surely dissolving. It may have previously been seen as weak, but as far as the vast majority of people are concerned, this is no longer the case. Now, we recognize the fact that asking for help when we need it is an act of bravery. So, men, please don’t suffer in silence – get the support you need.

Years ago, the stigma of divorce made it difficult for individuals to reach out for help, especially for men. Society has painted men as immune to the pain and suffering brought on by divorce and our unjust court system.  Previously, men were seen as weak when showing their emotions and expressing the need for professional help. Fortunately, this mindset is dissolving as more men are reaching out for the support they are desperately in need of. 

Did you know that research indicates that divorce takes more of a significant emotional toll on men than women?  In fact, as of 2021, women file for divorce 70% of the time and when this is a shock, men find themselves alone as they try to navigate the choppy waters of divorce.  One of the reasons why men find themselves alone is that women tend to foster more relationships with family and friends based on deep emotional connections than men.  Therefore, when the divorce happens, women will have a support network in place to help them grieve and recover. Men, on the other hand, come to an abrupt realization that their spouse did more work maintaining those relationships and tend to be retained by her, and now those connections are lost to him. 

Myths persist that men are less in need of support, and our society continues to teach men to hide or avoid an expression of their feelings. Our culture has made it less acceptable for men to admit to feelings of fear, helplessness, sadness, and grief. This is why men are notorious for bottling up their emotions and less likely to seek professional help as they view this as a sign of “unacceptable weakness.” Toxic Masculinity which is a term referring to harmful stereotypes of what it means to be “a man,” affects many aspects of men. The one emotion society easily accepts from men is anger. Which in turn, only feeds the myth that men don’t hurt and experience emotions that women do. Society has conditioned men to be afraid to ask for help from friends, family, therapists, and coaches. 

Grieving is a natural process of divorce and this is most often are trying to escape by turning to drugs, alcohol, sex, and excessive work.  Unfortunately, the more you try to escape grief, the more you are prolonging your misery. Men need to realize they must go through it. During the grieving of divorce, men may feel panic, anxiety, depression, anger, or a combination of these emotions making this period very difficult since they are less likely to reveal their distress to others. Men will often turn away from support when they need it the most out of an attempt to appear strong and in control. This is when men will find themselves crying, having nightmares, and having a severe level of anxiety.  When this happens, men will find themselves withdrawing from family and friends for fear of people catching on to their emotional distress.

During this period, men will often take an obsessive review of what has happened to bring them to where they are now and make sense of these drastic changes.  As a divorce coach for men, I’ve heard it over and over, how looking for professional help was the last thing men wanted to do. Yet, once they had the support of a coach, therapist, or mentor they always say they regret not doing it sooner! To move forward, I encourage my clients to accept the losses and try to learn from them by asking themselves, what do I miss from the last relationship? What are the elements to avoid in a new partner? What did I learn that will make the next chapter of my life as good as possible? There’s no sense dwelling on what has happened, this only keeps you stuck and does not give space to grieving and moving on.  Studies show a significant majority of people feel their life improved only 2 years after their divorce. All relationships have lessons to teach us.

The men who make the best adjustment will be those who reach out for help and realize that it is brave to admit you’re in emotional distress and need professional support.  If you are going through a divorce and concerned about how it is affecting you, take the first step and reach out.