A few weeks ago, a new client “Bill” had reached out to me regarding his impending divorce. He explained how this was something his wife wanted and was going to pursue, even though he did not want this.  In fact, up until when she broke the news to him, he was under the impression that the marriage still worked. Sure, it had its ups and downs, just like every marriage does, however, now that they had become “empty nesters,” he was looking forward to the next chapter with his wife.

The breakdown of a family is hard enough when both parties agree to a divorce but coping with a divorce you never wanted is particularly difficult. It can be numbing when a spouse verbalizes the words you have probably anticipated in the back of your mind for a while but still wasn’t prepared for – they want to divorce. Even if you knew the marriage had significant problems, calling it quits didn’t seem like the best answer for you.

Your wife has made up her mind that divorce will bring her more happiness than continuing to stay in the marriage with you (even if you don’t want a divorce). She may feel like happiness is either too difficult or too far away from where you are right now, and that getting a divorce would allow her to elevate her happiness to a greater height than she can right now. She’s decided to pursue her happiness individually instead of as a couple. Coping with divorce means knowing it’s time to end something that hasn’t been working for a while, and it’s very difficult for people to not only grasp but also figure out why it’s happening and what caused this.

The question is, what can you do about it? Here are a few tips to help you cope and begin the healing process:

  • You’re not immune to the pain of separation and heartache. Going through your separation, you may struggle to find a way to punish your ex. After all, they’re the ones who wanted out! But unfortunately, trying to enact judgment (bad-mouthing the other parent to your children gossiping, whining, carrying-on at parent-teacher meetings or the children’s sporting activities) doesn’t help anyone. Especially you. One of the most difficult lessons to grasp is that you don’t get to punish someone who wants to leave you. No matter why or for what reason.
  • Address your feelings.  Unfortunately, as much as I know you would like to bury your feelings, the bad news is you don’t get to escape them.  Men tend to cope with their loss by using “actions” to avoid the pain such as heavy drinking, turning to drugs, working longer hours, and casual sexual encounters. It’s never an ideal time to deal with deep pain and loss, however, I can tell you that as you begin to address your feelings, you will begin the process of healing much sooner.
  • Put on a brave face. You may have convinced yourself the marriage is salvageable, and you’re willing to do just about anything necessary to stave off the unthinkable. She’ll be unimpressed and it’ll be destructive to your confidence and self-esteem when she says no. Instead, prepare yourself that regardless of what you say to your spouse who is determined to get a divorce, you most likely receive a response you don’t want to hear. Unfortunately, at this stage, in a disadvantaged position, it’s essential to be open-minded to making improvements in yourself, especially if these will be positive changes for you personally. As you go through your divorce, it’s important that commit to happiness within yourself. This in turn will give you the confidence and self-worth you deserve.
  • Don’t Beg Her to Stay with You! This is not the solution to stop your wife from wanting a divorce. Many men will throw themselves down on their knees in front of their wife, begging and pleading with her to stay in the marriage. You don’t want to be that guy; trust me you’ll regret it whether now or later. The best thing you can do is keep your dignity, stay strong, and take proactive steps for your upcoming divorce.

The best way to manage the seemingly never-ending roller coaster of emotions is to learn how to respect them. You may find yourself upset one moment but not the next. There is no straight line through this. More like twists and turns, backward and forwards, ups and downs. Having a support structure is key. Understanding how to cope with the loss is paramount.

There will come a point when you’ll be ready to move on and begin to imagine having a new life and a new love. It may not feel easier, but when you learn the art of coping with a divorce you don’t want, many things in life begin to fall into place. Your resilience becomes stronger, your faith in others, and your trust in yourself!

Hayley Lisa

The Divorce Coach for Men