Break-ups are hard on everyone, but more so on a man surviving divorce and loneliness. Interestingly studies have shown that while women are considered emotional and having “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.
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 be able to deal with break-up, unlike women. That’s why divorce is harder on men.
So while we scope out some of the signs of a lonely man or signs of a lonely man, we ask the inevitable question.
Why divorce are actually tougher for men?
Cognitive therapist and Psychiatrist Dr Shefali Batra explains, “Divorces are tougher on men than women because women can use externalising behaviour 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 more 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 internalising the stress.”
Why do men feel so alone after divorce?
There are a number of reasons why men cannot deal with their loneliness after divorce. They are truly afraid to be alone and hate the empty nest. A break-up 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. Despite having friends and family, women are better calibrated to have a wide network of support and lean on them during trying times or post-divorce.
Men are less accustomed to seek this help or support and this is true for middle-aged men or seniors. With lesser outlets to vent out, men sometimes also blame themselves for the breakdown of their marriage and loneliness becomes his status quo.
Batra adds, “More men actually seek psychological help, more men go to counsellors 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 & Grief
Dr Batra points out, “When a man is dumped, the shame they endure is a lot deeper. They usually beat themselves 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 internalising 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 internalising reactions than externalising and internalising is a form of bashing which rots the core from inside that is why men have a lot worse reaction to divorce than women.”
3. Becoming hostile/Becoming over zealous
Many times we come across divorced men who have plunged into dating or sports or drinking with their buddies, travelling, 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 socialising or trivialising of the divorce can somehow heal them, which 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.
4. Getting into unhealthy habits
While women bring a lot of stability and earthiness to a man’s life in a marriage she also ends up being his emotional anchor. However with the absence of their wives who may chide them for undesirable behaviour, men tend to fall back on old, unhealthy habits. Being alone after divorce many 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. Break-ups can be tough on men.
5. Physical, psychological stress
The feeling of being unwanted due to lack of a spouse anymore can lead many a man to depression and feeling suicidal post their divorce. 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,” 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 the emotional cocoon.
Most men prefer banking on the support of their wives even in India when they face challenges in life. So divorce leaves them bereft of this important connection and feeling vulnerable.
7. Less support network
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.
“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 focus will be impaired. Sleep and apetite 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 Batra.
8. Rebonding rituals are tough
While men are more desirous of remarriage as compared to women, rebonding or rekindling romance and dating after their divorce for a man is 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. This only goes on to prove that men loathe living alone after divorce, they would rather take the plunge a second time.