Your marriage is shattered. The vows you read out loud to each other have been broken. There is no denying that you are feeling lonely after divorce because the one person who was supposed to stand by you through thick and thin is no longer present in your life. You have parted ways with them. You feel like the walls are closing in on you and you are on an emotional roller coaster ride. The end of your marriage is likely to have adversely impacted your mental well–being.
The fact that male depression after divorce is rarely talked about shows how hard it can be for men to cope with the end of a marriage, heal and move on. Besides, notions of toxic masculinity that propagate stereotypes such as men don’t cry only make it harder for men to process and deal with their emotions in a healthy way. Men have been conditioned to suppress their emotional and negative feelings. They are asked to “man up” when they look for support post-divorce.
A study done on divorced men found that getting divorced directly and indirectly affects men’s biological, psychological, social, and even spiritual health. For example, divorced men have higher rates of mortality, substance abuse, depression, and lack of social support. While we scope out some of the signs of a lonely man after a divorce, we also address why men find it harder to cope with the end of a marriage, with insights from psychiatrist Dr. Shefali Batra, who specializes in cognitive therapy.
Symptoms And Signs Of Loneliness After Divorce
Loneliness after a breakup is only natural because a romantic relationship, especially a marriage, becomes an integral part of our lives and identities. When that integral part of life is suddenly taken away, it can leave a person feeling lost. You begin to question every choice, every decision you’ve made, your faith in love and companionship falters, and it can be hard to pick up the pieces of your life and start afresh. As a result, you may begin to feel lonely and depressed after divorce, which may manifest in the following ways:
- Inability to connect with anyone at a deeper level. You feel like your loved ones won’t be able to understand the pain you are going through
- You avoid meeting your friends and family because you don’t want to answer their questions about the split
- Overwhelming feelings of loneliness and isolation. You will feel lonely even when you are in a group setting
- You won’t wish to spend time with anyone or make new friends
- Negative feelings of self-worth and self-doubt, which negatively impact your self-esteem as well
We wanted to know why men struggle while dealing with loneliness after divorce. Dr. Batra explains, “Divorces are tougher on men than women because women can use externalizing behaviors like crying out loud, talking, discussing, complaining, calling up a friend, and sort of getting the pain out of their system.
“Women have a higher chance of feeling lighter and expressing negative emotions than men. Men bottle up their feelings and they really have no outlet for them. Men don’t talk generally to other men about their feelings. So when there is a biological predisposition to be quiet, it just is an automatic way of internalizing the stress.
“So men feel lonely after divorce because they don’t know how to deal with the emptiness of their home. They like the comfort of a schedule, of knowing that they could go back to a family at the end of the day. When that does not exist anymore they don’t know how to survive.”
Why Do Men Feel Lonely After Divorce?
Broadly, dealing with loneliness after divorce is harder for men because of their inability to acknowledge, accept and vocalize the emotions they may be struggling with. This manifests in various reasons why men cannot deal with their loneliness after divorce. They are truly afraid to be alone and hate the empty nest. The end of a relationship or marriage is always harder for men and they are unable to cope with the situation for the following reasons.
1. Social withdrawal
The shock and denial of divorce are the worst stages of divorce for a man. This shock and denial make him isolate himself. There are so many emotions going on inside men who are dealing with divorce – resentment, sadness, anger, and frustration, to name a few. This emotional roller coaster causes them to pull away from others.
Divorce changes a man. Despite having family and friends, men are less accustomed to seeking their help or support. This is especially true of middle-aged men or seniors. A divorced man with no friends, family, or support system to turn to for solace will naturally find it harder to cope with the loss of such an important part of his life. With fewer outlets to vent out, men sometimes also blame themselves for the breakdown of their marriage and loneliness becomes their status quo.
Dr. Batra adds, “More men actually seek psychological help which is the first step they take in their healing process. More men go to counselors and therapists and relationship guidance experts because they just feel like, “I don’t have anyone else and I have to do this on my own.” Women actually rely on one another. The whole dictum that men don’t cry and are strong is actually what makes them weaker.”
2. Shame and grief make men lonely after divorce
It is completely natural to mourn the end of your relationship. Your separation has been painful and everything reminds you of your ex-partner. You are confused and don’t know how to deal with this grief and you don’t know any of the sensible ways to deal with rejection in love. Why? Because male depression after divorce is also rooted in a sense of shame and loss of self-esteem.
Dr. Batra points out, “When a man is dumped, the shame they endure is a lot deeper. Instead of healing, a man with low self-esteem will begin to beat himself up, thinking that he is not man enough. He won’t move forward and he will be stuck reliving the happy moments he shared with his ex-spouse. This will make him hate himself more. If this doesn’t stop, he may soon start exhibiting anger issues and the suffering won’t stop.
“Often many men who are very committed to their marriage make it their identity, much like women; and when they are rejected, their sense of loss is immense. They suffer just as a woman does. The pain is deep and their perspective is foggy. They build a house of guilt where they blame themselves for the separation.” Men have more internalizing reactions than externalizing and internalizing is a form of bashing, which rots the core from the inside. That is why men have a much worse reaction to divorce than women. They feel more lonely after divorce.
3. Becoming overzealous
Many times we come across divorced men who have plunged into the idea of dating or sports or excessive drinking with their buddies. They resort to traveling, taking drugs, or signing up for myriad physical activities soon after divorce to boost their self-esteem. These are their tools to cope with divorce. They sign up on single-parent dating apps and try to see if they still have the charm to win someone over.
However, don’t let the “I don’t care” attitude fool you. Men are known to resort to such tactics to avoid facing their feelings of loss, resentment, instability, confusion, and sadness. A broken man after a divorce thinks excessive socializing or trivializing the divorce can somehow heal him and help him survive the male depression after divorce. However, it is not true at all.
Grieving your divorce is an opportunity to heal. It is healthy. It’s best to talk to a therapist or a counselor instead of using drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms. The feelings of emptiness will prevail unless you don’t accept the separation and cry it out.
4. Serial dating is another reason why men feel lonely after divorce
To numb the pain of separation and to stop feeling lonely, a divorced man may seek comfort in meeting new people, having one-night stands, and forming meaningless new relationships. Instead of taking care of his mental health, he ends up becoming a serial dater and sleeps around to stop feeling lonely.
However, that rarely works. No amount of flings or sleeping around can compensate for the loss of that emotional anchor his ex-spouse was to him. Being with too many women only brings along more stress and anxiety. Some other unhealthy coping mechanisms include:
- Watching a lot of pornography
- Casual sex with strangers
- Emotional eating or overeating
- Gambling excessively
- Becoming a workaholic
5. Physical and psychological stress
The feeling of being unwanted can be a trigger for male depression after divorce. The feeling of being rejected by a spouse and the entire ordeal of divorce, custody battles, property division, and asset split can hit a person real hard. It can even trigger suicidal thoughts post-divorce and make it harder to deal with depression.
Unlike women who have healthier emotional responses, men are not trained to access their feelings throughout their evolution. The only solution is to feel and live through all the stages of grief and look ahead to a new chapter in life. They deal with invisible pain and suffering because society is hardwired to see a macho image of a man who does not give in to emotions easily.
“Typically, we have seen that men who get divorced develop high blood pressure, cardiac illness as well as neurological complications like stroke. Psychologically, they have a high propensity to addictions and depression, and suicide rates are significantly high compared to women who have endured divorce,” says Dr. Batra.
Related Reading: Effects Of Divorce: Psychological, Emotional And After Effects
6. Men feel lonely after divorce because they are emotionally dependent on women
Men are logistically and emotionally dependent on their wives to the extent that they may not have any other support systems in their lives. Most men prefer banking on the support of their wives when it comes to facing the challenges of life, doing household chores, or even doing something as basic as getting groceries for the house.
So, divorce is bound to leave them feeling vulnerable and lost. This can lead to feeling lonely and pave the way for self-pity after divorce, making it harder for them to accept reality and move on.
7. No network of support
Men are less accustomed to talking about their feelings and seeking support and help from their loved ones. They may feel they don’t have a sympathetic listening ear with whom they could share their negative experiences. Men also need to be cared for, asked after, and allowed safe spaces to let their grief and sadness out. A man living alone after divorce needs a lot of attention.
However, in most cases, men are left dealing with loneliness after divorce because even those closest to them don’t know how to reach out and check-in. Since they appear to be doing just fine outwardly, many people shy away from offering their compassion and concern for the sake of not raking up old wounds.
“They will not cry, but avoid facing friends and family. Not show sadness and run away from the situation. There could be a decline in work performance because the focus will be impaired. Sleep and appetite and all signs of psychological illness like anxiety, depression, seeming withdrawn, and not enjoying the things they used to earlier will manifest. They will not outwardly cry but will not be happy either,” cautions Dr. Batra.
Related Reading: Love Again? 10 Real Fears About Love After Divorce
8. Finding love again is tough
Experts say that men find it harder to get into relationships and show signs of commitment issues post-divorce. While men are more desirous of remarriage as compared to women, dating after their divorce is an uphill climb for many. Here are some reasons why it can be difficult for men to make new relationships:
- They will have trust issues and may struggle to let any potential romantic interest in
- The breakdown their marriage may leave them grappling with feelings of shame, guilt, regret, low self-esteem, and low self-worth, which can make it harder for them to put themselves out there
- Co-parenting and work responsibilities could also be one of the reasons why divorced men thinks they may not find love again
A divorced man who is feeling lonely will fight a lot of internal battles, day in and day out, all the while making it seem as if it’s business as usual in his life. The expectation for men to live up to certain lofty standards of stoicism makes it especially hard for them to cope, heal and move on from the setback of a failed marriage.
How To Cope With Divorce As A Man
You can’t just tell a man to stop feeling lonely after a divorce. It’s not something that happens overnight. He has to take one step at a time toward accepting that his marriage is over and only then can he truly embrace this new chapter of his life. Once he does, he may witness some wonderful things in life. If you are a man asking how to cope with divorce, here are some ways you can do so:
1. Do not beg your wife to take you back
The deed is done. The divorce papers are signed. You and your ex-spouse can’t go back together. You need to figure out how to accept your marriage is over and embrace your new life. Don’t beg for your ex-wife to come back. It’s a soul-shattering reality but you need to face it to begin healing. If you can’t seem to let go of your ex and are stuck in denial, it’s best to take care of your mental health by reaching out to your loved ones or seeking professional help.
2. Avoid getting addicted to anything
As mentioned earlier, men neglect their well-being by resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Those are just short-term gratifications but they won’t numb your pain. They won’t heal you forever. In fact, they will end up doing more harm than good. Avoid one-night stands, alcohol, substance abuse, overeating, and working till you burn out.
Related Reading: Should You Get A Divorce? – Take This Divorce Checklist
3. Avoid getting into a serious relationship
We get it that you are feeling lonely after divorce and you hope that finding someone new will help you feel better. But that can’t happen unless you are completely healed from the setback of the divorce. Until you get there, don’t get into a serious relationship. Don’t be afraid of being alone just because you will start missing your ex-partner when you are feeling lonely. That too is an important part of getting over a long-term relationship. Believe us when we say this, you will learn a lot about yourself when you start enjoying your company.
4. Seek professional help
Don’t lose hope and don’t be afraid to seek professional help. A mental health professional will be able to help you work through your emotions more effectively than anyone else. Here are some reasons why seeking professional help to aid your post-divorce recovery is a good idea:
- They will put you on a path to healing and help you find the peace you seek
- They will help you to regain control of your life
- A therapist will also help you discover new things about yourself
- They will equip you with tools to overcome this divorce in a healthy way
If you’re considering seeking help, Bonobology’s panel of experienced therapists is here to help.
5. Practice mindfulness
Try mindfulness and other techniques that will help you calm down. Even if the world around you is spinning and you don’t know how you are going to control and heal yourself, mindfulness will make you feel grounded. It will help you learn the importance of letting go. Here are some other self-care practices you can try at home:
- Deep breathing
- Conscious walking
- Practicing self-care through exercise, yoga, and a healthy diet
6. Reconnect with old friends and old hobbies
How to cope with divorce as a man? Get back to doing the things you once loved to do. Meet your friends and family. They will act as your support network and will help you deal with negative feelings.
There is no correct answer to how long does it take to get over a divorce for a man. You can take all the time you want because the breakup healing process can’t be rushed. It is not a switch that you can turn on and off any time you want. You will get back your true self the minute you realize moving forward is the only healthy way of getting over the divorce.
- Divorce is as hard on a man as it is on a woman. In fact, divorce can wreak havoc on his mental, physical, and emotional well-being
- Men shouldn’t resort to dating as many women as they can post-divorce to avoid feeling lonely.
- Instead, learn to face the reality and stop hiding your feelings
- Men can practice meditation and mindfulness as a step toward self-care.
- Revisiting old hobbies and spending time with loved ones can also speed along the healing process
If you’re struggling with depression, feeling lonely, and battling anxious thoughts, know that male depression after divorce is not uncommon. In such a situation, reaching out to an expert can help you bounce back from what may seem like rock bottom. Build a meaningful life by overcoming your heartbreak and traumas in a healthy way.
This article has been updated in November 2022.