The end of a relationship is hard on everyone, but more so on a man surviving divorce and loneliness. Interestingly studies have shown that while women are considered emotional and believed to have “nesting urges”, it is actually the men who find it harder to recoup after a divorce and land on their feet. They feel very alone after divorce. Finding themselves lonely after the divorce, they don’t really know how to cope.
One trait that men have carried from their evolution from a hunter-gatherer to a warrior to a farmer and to white collared jobs now is protecting their families or people they love from any danger. After divorce, it is unnatural for him to come home to no one and nothing to protect or look after.
Men are naturally predisposed to not being able to deal with a breakup, unlike women. That’s why divorce is harder on men. They don’t know how to survive the loneliness after divorce. So 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 a divorce with some insights from Psychiatrist Dr. Shefali Batra, who specializes in cognitive therapy.
Why Divorce Is Actually Tougher For Men?
Why do men struggle in 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, cribbing, 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 output. Men don’t talk generally to other men compared to women who talk to a lot of other women. 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.
Male depression after divorce is common and it stems from this sense of loss and isolation, coupled with an inability to process difficult emotions that follow. Over centuries, men have been conditioned into believing that they need to toughen up and be strong. From an early age, beliefs like ‘men don’t cry’ are so deeply ingrained in their minds that as adults they don’t know how to sit with uncomfortable emotions and process them the right way.
This leads to a lot of repressed feelings, which over time can take a toll on their mental health and well-being. They feel the weight of being divorced and lonely a lot more than women because they are not equipped with the tools to vocalize the pain and grief they experience in the aftermath of a marriage falling apart.
Related Reading: How can I deal with Unwanted Advice After My Divorce?
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
Due to loneliness, men tend to turn inwards after a divorce, especially in India where being part of large families, being married and having a wife and kids is a norm. Women are better calibrated to have a wide network of support and lean on them during trying times or post-divorce.
Despite having family and friends, men are less accustomed to seeking this help or support and this is true for 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 lesser outlets to vent out, men sometimes also blame themselves for the breakdown of their marriage and loneliness becomes his status quo. Dr. Batra adds, “More men actually seek psychological help, 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 makes men lonely after divorce
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. A man with low self-esteem may usually beat himself up thinking that he is not man enough. Especially when a majority of times, the larger custody of children goes to the women, men feel very challenged. That internalizing negativity gets to them.
“Often many men who are very committed to their marriage make it their identity much like women and so when they are rejected, their sense of loss is higher. Men have more internalizing reactions than externalizing and internalizing is a form of bashing which rots the core from inside that is why men have a much worse reaction to divorce than women. They become more lonely after divorce.”
3. Becoming overzealous
Many times we come across divorced men who have plunged into dating or sports or drinking with their buddies, traveling, taking drugs or signing up for myriad physical activities soon after divorce to boost their self-esteem.
However don’t let the, “I don’t care” attitude fool you. Men are known to resort to such tactics to avoid facing up to their feelings of loss, instability, confusion and sadness.They feel excessive socializing or trivializing of the divorce can somehow heal them and help them survive the loneliness of divorce. But it is farthest from the truth.
Everybody has to grieve and deal with their loss before moving on in a healthy way to the future. Men truly don’t know how to deal with a separation.
Related Reading: Effects Of Divorce: Psychological, Emotional And After Effects
4. Getting into unhealthy habits because lonely after divorce
A lonely divorced man may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as sleeping around or excessive alcohol consumption to numb the pain. A woman not only brings a lot of stability and earthiness to a man’s life in a marriage but she also ends up being his emotional anchor. However, with the absence of their wives who may chide them for undesirable behavior, men tend to fall back on old, unhealthy habits.
Being lonely after divorce many men tend to take to alcohol, drugs or binge-eating to fill the void and loneliness in their lives for that dopamine boost as there is nothing else they can turn to. Breakups can be tough on men and they end up doing everything wrong to survive the loneliness.
5. Physical, psychological stress
The feeling of being unwanted can be a trigger for male depression after divorce. The feeling of being rejected by a spouse can be hard-hitting, triggering suicidal thoughts post-divorce and making it harder to deal with depression.
Unlike women who have healthier emotional responses, men are not trained to access their feelings throughout their evolution. They deal with invisible pain and suffering because society is hardwired into seeing 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 get into addictions, depression and suicide rates are significantly high compared to women who have endured divorce,” Dr. Batra says.
6. Emotionally dependent on women
Men are emotionally dependent on their wives post marriage to the extent that they may not have any other sources of an emotional cocoon. Most men prefer banking on the support of their wives when they face challenges in life. So divorce leaves them bereft of this important connection and feeling vulnerable.
This can lead to a feeling of self-pity after divorce, making it harder for men to accept the reality and move on. The ‘why me’ and ‘what did I do to deserve this’ laments can make turning over a new leaf in life that much harder. This, in turn, makes coping with divorce a lot harder for men.
7. No network of support
Men are less accustomed to talking about their feelings and seek support from their near and dear ones. To deal with loneliness after divorce, men also need to be cared for, asked after and allowed safe spaces to let their grief and sadness out.
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 out for the sake of not raking up old wounds.
“They will not cry, but avoid facing friends and family. Not show the 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, 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
While men are more desirous of remarriage as compared to women, rebonding or rekindling romance and dating after their divorce is an especially an uphill climb for many. Trusting a new partner and her intentions, shame or guilt about the divorce and breakdown of a marriage, responsibilities of children or work could also be reasons men find it tough to begin dating again or looking at possibilities to settle down again after a divorce.
Experts say that men find it tougher to get into relationships and will stay away from commitment as compared to women. But statistics also show that the number of Indian men marrying after a divorce is double that of women because they become lonely after divorce and don’t know how to survive the loneliness. This only goes on to prove that men loathe living alone after divorce, they would rather take the plunge a second time.
A divorced and lonely man fights 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.
If you have someone like that in your life, don’t let him feel like a divorced man with no friends or family to turn to. Be the caring, compassionate support system he can lean on. And if you are a lonely divorced man, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Reach out to your loved ones for support, and allow yourself to grieve in order to heal.
If you’re struggling with depressed, 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 the rock bottom. Consider seeking counseling from Bonobology’s counselors or a licensed therapist to equip yourself with the necessary tools to cope with the pain and loss.