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 Ex-husbands may experience emotional highs and lows, becoming sullen and withdrawn one moment or exuberant and enthusiastic the next.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.
How Divorce Affects WomenHow divorce affects women is, in many ways, different than men. Because females can be vulnerable or emotional, the end of matrimony can be devastating. The hurt and feelings of rejection can overwhelm a sensitive woman who was or is still in love. Females tend to pour their whole beings into a relationship; and when it ends that part of the woman's psyche or self-worth must somehow be retrieved. An estranged wife must deal not only with feelings of rejection, but also abandonment, self-deprecation, or depression. A love lost can leave a former spouse wounded, empty, feeling forlorn and fragmented without a sense of direction or will to survive. It is the depth of emotion that makes how divorce affects women different from men. A man undergoing a marital breakup may be hurt or feel rejected, but men are less inclined to allow emotions to penetrate. Ex-husbands may be momentarily wounded, some may even go through depression; but the knowledge that males are innate "hunters" convinces former husbands that there are new territories to be conquered. That hunter instinct and male resiliency enables men, though wounded and rejected, to resist feelings that might overwhelm or immobilize. And the libido drives an estranged husband to seek another mate and the possibility of future fulfillment.
Unlike men, how divorce affects women is manifested in the female's innate dependency on the opposite sex. Not only does society teach little girls that it is okay to be fragile, but God created women to be the weaker vessel. But when a marriage fails, especially if the woman was the victim of infidelity, her whole world can fall apart. The agony of marital breakup for a woman is that as the world is crumbling, the one "anchor" she would have held onto is no longer there. Some ex-wives are so dependent on former husbands that they cannot function, even on a day-to-day basis. After decades of marriage, the wife's personality can become absorbed by the husband's; and her self-worth a mere reflection of the husband's opinion. With the absence of the male, the woman is left to fend for herself; but ill-equipped to survive in the real world of decision-making and self-actualization.
Wives undergoing the trauma of divorce need a support system to help make the transition from a dependent female to independence. Support may come from first from those who understand how divorce affects women: professional or spiritual counselors; then friends, family, or church members. Faith-based organizations or self-help groups, secular therapists, or divorce recovery classes can help women rediscover who they are and find meaning and purpose in life. Skilled therapists or Christian counselors are aware of how divorce affects women and can offer several methodologies for recovery. The goal of secular therapists will be to get former wives to realize self-worth and regain independence. The goal of spiritual counselors will be to get hurting women to seek God for strength, the ability to forgive, and the willingness to become viable.
Joining a church-sponsored divorce recovery class can help estranged wives regain the self-confidence and faith in God to restore, renew and regenerate a wounded spirit or a broken heart. "Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer" (Isaiah 54:4-8).
Spiritual advisers that are well versed in how divorce affects women may pair a new enrollee in a recovery program with a female who has successfully completed the program. The testimony of a recovering former wife can go a long way in helping to convert a new enrollee from dependence, depression, and self-deprecation to spiritual wholeness and mental well being. As part of an ex-wife's support system, in addition to being a prayer partner, a successful program participant can offer a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, or an encouraging scripture. A church leader, pastor or elder should be able to deftly lead a hurting soul to seek a personal relationship with Jesus Christ so that the wounded female can one day stand on her own.
Spiritual leaders or pastors who are well aware of how divorce affects women should also exercise caution when dealing with wounded hearts. A former wife who finds herself suddenly single can be extremely vulnerable to other men. Married women who have grown accustomed to male companionship can easily fall prey to an emotional attachment to strong male figures. Responsible male leaders should be mindful of wounded ex-wives who may view a pastor or church elder as a "knight in shining armor." Many well meaning clergymen and women find themselves in compromising positions when trying to minister to hurting souls. Christian divorce recovery programs and counseling are best conducted in small group settings or in the presence of another individual. To avoid the appearance of evil, pastors or church leaders should only counsel females in the company of a wife or church mother.
An understanding of how divorce affects women can aid secular or spiritual counselors in helping ex-wives find the road to recovery. A strong support system, involvement in a local church, prayer and rebuilding a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, are the building blocks any estranged female can use to reconstruct a life torn by a failed marriage.