The difference between how divorce affects men and women might be negligible. Although females tend to display emotions more than males, distress due to a marital breakup knows no gender. Responses in both sexes can run the gamut from angry outbursts, rage, and resentment to uncontrollable crying, depression and suicidal thoughts. But how divorce affects men is not always apparent. Sometimes, even if an ex-spouse is guilty of adultery and appears to celebrate a new found freedom by partying and carousing, they may secretly experience remorse, regret and depression. The reason for these dark emotions is because divorce is much like death. Whether couples spend two or twenty-two years together prior to a breakup, a physical and emotional bond is formed that is difficult to dissolve.
Through marriage two individuals become one flesh. To these one-flesh union children are born, and a lifetime of trials and triumphs are experienced in an intimate relationship that cannot be rivaled. The dissolution of the marital bond tears asunder one of the most sacred unions ordained by God; and that tearing is not easily overcome by either gender. "The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19:3-6).
While males are less likely to openly share personal feelings, how divorce affects men may be evident by a variety of more subtle responses. Ex-husbands may experience emotional highs and lows, becoming sullen and withdrawn one moment or exuberant and enthusiastic the next. Signs of depression due to divorce include failure to keep up personal hygiene and attention to dressing, weight gain or loss due to overeating or fasting, and insomnia. How divorce affects men is largely dependent on the lifestyle led prior to the breakup. Husbands accustomed to having a wife to cook, clean, and provide care twenty-four hours a day may struggle with everyday chores. Replacing nutritious home cooked meals replaced with high-calorie, high-fat fast foods often leads to obesity and accompanying health issues, including heart attack and stroke. Ex-husbands may also indulge in increased alcohol consumption or substance abuse in an effort to deal with emotional highs and lows. Feelings of rejection, abandonment, and low self-esteem may plague men who are victims of adultery. Former spouses may feel as if life has taken a downward spiral with little chance of recovery.
At the pinnacle of an emotional roller coaster, ex-husbands may demonstrate how divorce affects men with overwhelming exuberance and boundless energy. After an initial depression, some males may seize the opportunity to re-tool themselves, focusing on body-building, fastidious grooming, and getting back on the dating scene. Days are spent at the gym trying to get rid of the pounds packed on during decades of married life; and nights are spent at the clubs trying to pick up women who may have not given them a second look while married. Statistics indicate men outnumber women by four to one. On the dating scene, newly divorced females will have fewer eligible males to choose from. But for males, a plethora of women are available. Many former husbands, having been burned by a bad marriage, prefer to play the field and may spend several years or the rest of their lifetime jumping in and out of relationships.
Casual observers of how divorce affects men may also see a greater alienation from family and friends, especially children. If the man was responsible for the breakup because of infidelity, alienation from loved ones is highly likely. In such cases, minor and adult children may feel compelled to come to their mother's rescue, alienating themselves from a cheating dad. Isolation, depression or feelings of abandonment and low self-esteem may result, as former mates suffer the loss of relationships once highly valued. Even if an adulterous male should marry his mistress, the loss of friends, family and children from a previous marriage can be painful. Feelings of rejection, remorse, or self-hatred may all be signs of how divorce affects men. Alcoholism and substance abuse may result from the guilt, shame and stigma of an adulterous affair ending in divorce.
Regardless of how divorce affects men, ex-spouses must strive to achieve a degree of emotional stability. Spiritual, psychological and relationship counseling may be necessary to gain a proper perspective. But for most males seeking help from professional therapists or ministers is not an easy decision. To admit the necessity for help resolving the emotional trauma of divorce is the first step toward restoring balance to an unbalanced life. Undergoing a devastating experience like the dissolution of marriage can force men and women to take a closer look at their spiritual walk with God. Growing closer to God by regular Bible study and church attendance and making a personal decision to become born again by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord will help ex-spouses overcome adversity and find peace. Ex-husbands should consider joining a church-sponsored divorce recovery group or making an appointment to talk to a pastor. Church attendance will help strengthen a spirit broken by divorce. Ex-spouses should seek a clergyman or close personal friend with whom confidences can be shared. Finally, men need to realize that displaying emotion is not solely reserved for women, nor is the salvation and peace of mind that can only be found in Christ Jesus.