In the United States, about 40–50% of marriages end in divorce. And 70% of those divorces are initiated by women.
There is an overall view that women bear the highest burden of divorce and require more public and private support than men. And there is ample evidence that women do experience disproportionate declines in household income and standard of living, as well as a sharp increase in the risk of poverty. Women face a higher risk in losing homeownership and as they age and have a lower chance of repartnering.
HOWEVER. However, there is increasing evidence (and studies) that indicate that men may have more to lose in terms of health and happiness in a divorce. There are a variety of reasons why this is, ranging from a lack of support systems to difficulty processing and talking about the emotional ups and downs divorce naturally brings.
So let’s take a look at some common mistakes men make when going through a divorce, all of which can contribute to depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other negative personal consequences that can lead to weight fluctuations, stroke, heart disease and more.
Using Children as Leverage
This can be very common, often unintentionally, especially when the conversation turns to the link between number of overnights a child spends with a parent and the amount of child support. There is a natural fear of losing time and connection with children, which can result in increased conflict over parenting issues.
When we are angry or scared, it’s very easy to fall into black or white, all or nothing thinking. While understandable, this inability to be flexible in our thinking can result in increased conflict, increased costs, and increased length of a divorce process. Parties who engage in mediation and remain collaborative have a much higher chance of avoiding court and crafting parenting plans and separation agreements that are sustainable.
Hiding money, using money as a threat, failing to provide “family support,” or ignoring the “automatic temporary injunctions.”
One of the biggest contributing factors to a high-conflict divorce is money - it’s another natural anxiety that anyone who divorces faces. The fact is that in the majority of cases, parties who divorce will have to face difficult financial decisions and a decreased pot of money from which to live. Hiding money or using it as leverage, however, is of course frowned upon legally and ethically, and can result in escalating conflict, cost, and potential run-ins with the court. It’s vital to be transparent with finances and to come to the negotiation table in good faith, regardless of how painful or scary it may be.
Not Getting Appropriate Mental Health and Emotional Support.
This is a big one that is all too often overlooked. Our society teaches men to suppress their emotions and to present as stoic and in charge. There is a stigma for men to seek help for emotional issues, but being able to do that can be the difference between moving healthily through the grieving process and an increased likelihood of negative and potentially deadly health side effects.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of common mistakes men make during a divorce that can lead to a wide range of negative side effects. There is ample research and writing that go into greater depth on these topics. My takeaway for anyone going through a divorce, men or women, is relatively simple, yet powerful:
Don’t go through it alone: surround yourself with professional and personal support. Find people who can inform and educate you about the divorce process and the divorce laws in your state. Seek out people who can help you process your emotions, improve your communication, and reduce conflict throughout the process. Seek out a community of people who are also going through a divorce - a divorce support group or even a group of friends. Know that it’s OK to talk about your feelings - it’s more than OK, actually: it’s critical.
Don’t make decisions out of fear and anger: Making decisions out of escalated feelings will inevitably lead to increased conflict, cost, and time. It can derail a collaborative process and ruin any likelihood of a settlement that works for both parties. It can destroy relationships, parenting time, communication, and a budget.
Divorce is hard on both men and women - of course it is. But being able to ask for and accept support, emotionally, financially, and legally, is one of the best ways to ensure a more successful outcome for the entire family. If you are going through a divorce and need support, schedule some time to talk with me about how you can avoid common mistakes and find the support you need to help navigate your divorce more peacefully.