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By Irving H. Zaroff, JD LMFT and Dana Schutz, MA LMFT
In this era of political correctness and gender blindness, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of real world experience. The trauma of divorce and rate of recovery should be the same for men and women. But, the hard facts reveal that it is not. Perhaps because of how women are raised, or something in the genetic coding for females, women seem to be better equipped to deal with both the process of divorce and recovery from it.
Studies and surveys show that men and women cope with divorce in different ways. Women are more apt to seek and utilize social support networks, enter into personal therapy, and engage in positive activities. Men are more apt to self-medicate (alcohol or drugs), engage in casual sex, and/or become workaholics. After a divorce is final, women are more likely to experience relief, an increase in self-esteem, and a sense of liberation. Men struggle with the loss of social interaction, balancing finances, and dealing with their role as parent.
While divorce takes its toll on men and women alike, men are twice as likely to resort to suicide, more apt to experience depression, and, uncomfortable in the single role, tend to remarry earlier. More than two years after a divorce a third of women and 41% of men were still sad about the divorce. The two greatest fears expressed were having enough income to live on and how the divorce would affect their children.
While the news may be daunting for men, the information is valuable. It can point the way towards a better direction for dealing with divorce. Make it okay to ask for help and support. Consider the use of personal counseling. Actively contribute to shared parenting responsibility. Men who spend ample time with their children, are informed about the children’s needs, and stay involved in their children’s lives are in greater compliance with child support obligations. Men and women show a higher degree of satisfaction in a parenting plan and the amount of child support when negotiated in mediation.
The fact that, in general, men have a harder time with the emotional divorce does not minimize the experience for women. Divorce is traumatic for the entire family. But, there are resources to successful recovery.