The longitudinal data from the National Population Health Survey showed that men, aged 20-64, were six times more likely to report an episode of depression than men who were still married. Compare that to women, aged 20-64, were only 3.5 times more likely to report depression than women who were married. It seems that being the strong, silent type isn’t such a good strategy after all.
Interestingly, the study isolated out factors that could account for depression, such as loss of income, reduced social support and fewer children living in the household, to see if any of these things explained the depression. Even taking those important factors out, men were depressed simply because of the divorce itself. While most people worked through their depression within two years after the break-up, a significant minority were still depressed four years afterwards.
I found it interesting to see that men appear to be hit harder emotionally than women. In my experience, women certainly are more adept and willing to process and express their emotions. The vast majority of my clients are women and many of my coaching colleagues have that experience as well. Men are socialized to be the provider and problem solver of the family. They don’t have as extensive a social support network as women to support them in their divorce journey.
We’ve all heard about how men need to retreat to their “cave” at times. Quite often, men will jump straight into another new relationship as a way to cope with the loss, only to find that the same issues and unresolved needs surface yet again with the new partner. As the saying goes, “If you can’t feel it, you can’t heal it.” Starting a new relationship when you have unhealed emotional wounds is setting you, and your potential partner, up for a rocky ride.
So what’s a guy to do? I just so happen to have a few suggestions!
1. Talk It Out
Don’t suffer in silence. Reach out and find a “divorce buddy” you can really pour your heart out to. There are support groups specifically for men in many communities now. I just heard of one where every week men of all ages and marital status get together in a park and gather around a campfire, sharing their stories and simply listening to the others. A divorce coach or therapist can be a great resource, too.
2. Take a Time Out
Here’s a big tip: Take time to get to know yourself before jumping into the next serious relationship. Like an earthquake, divorce sends shock waves through your entire life. Give yourself time to let any aftershocks settle down before you rush out to lock into a new relationship. Make the investment to heal yourself upfront, and you’ll improve your odds of a successful future relationship significantly.
3. Women Love Vulnerable Men
There’s nothing more appealing to many women than a man who’s willing to be vulnerable and emotionally accessible. Drop the macho “I can tough it out” persona and let us see and feel your heart. Being real and authentic are critical for creating connected, loving relationships.