How Men Can Cope with the Emotional Stages of Divorce

There is a lot of weight attached to being a man at the end of a relationship. Gender roles often make it difficult for men to navigate through such an emotionally draining experience.

It may feel heavy not knowing what to expect next and grieving the loss of what once was. Men are often encouraged to get over or bury their emotions. Regardless, the grieving process can neither be rushed nor avoided.

Breaking Down Breaking Up

Grief is a natural reaction to loss. As such, the stages of grief are used as a model for the emotional stages of divorce:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

However, what makes divorce a bit trickier than other types of grief is that it’s frequently imbalanced.  Often, one person has been considering ending the relationship before their partner even realizes there is a problem. One party may be navigating these stages internally before any real discussions happen. 

man sitting on bench with head in handsProcessing Denial

Any sudden change can take time to process. The decision to divorce has altered the course of both of your lives. 

Denial does not necessarily mean that you don’t understand or believe what has happened. You may not have had the time to process.

Men are especially at risk when the wounds are still fresh. They are more prone to substance abuse to cope with the shock of newly ended relationships.

Coping with Anger

You may be angry at yourself or your partner at the end of a relationship. Frequently, toxic ideas about masculinity cause this stage to persist longer for males. It is more commonly accepted for men to appear angry than vulnerable.

Men often attempt to overcome the inevitable vulnerability when a loss of stability occurs. You may be trying to figure out what went wrong and how and feel that having a reason will make you hurt less. You may start assigning blame.

Processing the causes of anger is an important stage on the path to acceptance. However, you must be cautious that your anger isn’t manifesting in ways that are harmful to yourself or your loved ones. Venting anger around children can be especially harmful for their long term mental health.

When Bargaining Won’t Work

You may find yourself trying to make deals with yourself, your ex, or the universe to get back to where you were. 

It may seem emasculating not having control over the situation if you are not the initiating party. It may be tempting to try to find ways to try to make things work.

Unfortunately, by the time divorce has become a part of the conversation, it is often too late. 

The Big Sad 

Once you’ve made it through the shock, anger, and trying to find your way back; depression is often the last step before you are able to move on with your life.

Men are more likely than women to display physical signs of depression. It can cause disruptions to your sleep, changes in eating habits, loss of energy, and physically hurt.

Men are often ill-equipped to confront depression as sorrow is often repressed in favor of emotions that make them feel less vulnerable. For men, there is more of a risk of self-harm or substance abuse at this time.

It’s okay to seek help to help manage symptoms of depression. There is a whole new life about to happen. 

Life on Your Own Terms

One day it won’t hurt like it does now. You will learn ways to move on with your own life separate from your partner. 

Everyone is different.  We may grieve long after the relationship is over, however, the ultimate goal is acceptance. You are not alone and you are no less of a man for needing help through this difficult loss.

You may find exercise, meditation, or journaling beneficial as you process your emotions. 

Often, the best course of action is to seek out a trained professional to help you navigate towards your new life. Connect with me so I can help you overcome the obstacles you are facing with depression treatment.