How Divorce Changes a Man (According to Experts)

Divorce can be a difficult and stressful time for anyone. However, men and women may have different experiences during and after the separation process.

But what are some of the biggest changes men go through after a divorce? Does he become a different person? Does he have a harder time dealing with stress?

More importantly, what kind of support do they need to get through this trying time?

Here are helpful insights from experts:

Rich Heller, MSW, CPC, ELI MP

Rich Heller

Relationship Coach, Rich in Relationship

He gets to choose whether he’s going to be “reactive” or “proactive”

How divorce changes a man is completely up to you.

In life, we get to be reactive or proactive. When we’re reactive, we feel like we’re being changed. When we’re proactive, we are actively changing ourselves.

When in reaction, it seems like everything is happening to us. In the divorce process, we all feel like this at one time or another. We feel like we have failed. We feel like we’ve let our kids down. Often we feel like we’re under attack; we’re hurt, fearful and angry. Living in a place of either blame or victimization, or both!

Being proactive is about having feelings of sadness, fear and, hurt, even anger and moving through them so that we can let them go.

There are four principles to making a change in life:

  1. Let go of old emotions and baggage that might be in the way of moving forward.
  2. Create a strategy for moving forward.
  3. Take action.
  4. Adjust our strategies and actions for the situations that arise.

He stuffs his emotions and rationalizes his way through it

Where most of us get jammed up is in letting go of emotions. Often we avoid the more vulnerable emotions and roll with anger, or we stuff our emotions and try and rationalize our way through it.

Emotions will not allow themselves to be ignored or stuffed. Eventually, they come out, and usually at times when they’re least helpful. Allowing ourselves to have them and release them is vital.

We often can’t even see the future, much less creative strategy, until we’ve done this step. Worse still, we plan for a future from a place of hurt, fear, and anger. When we’re wearing these lenses, the future that we’re planning for is not bright and shiny

In creating a strategy, we have the opportunity to visualize and create our best selves. Why not clear up the negative emotions that can pollute that process?

People wear many hats. Divorce impacts every one of those hats. Our focus in divorce needs to be on the well-being of the children. Without that, we will end up putting our attorney’s kids through college and not our own.

Once we have a focus on a strategy, we have the ability to choose the higher ground when given a choice.

For example:

A father has done the work, let go of old emotions, and is clear about what’s best for his children.

He realizes that his soon-to-be “ex” is always going to be the mother of his children. He wants the divorce to be as short and simple as possible. He wants her to have a comfortable life because he knows it means his children will have a comfortable life.

The only problem is she hasn’t done the work yet. She is still experiencing being a victim of circumstance. It’s not unusual for her to be sarcastic and cynical with him. Because he knows where he wants to go in the divorce process and who he wants to be, because he’s handled the negative emotions of the past, he’s ready, willing, and able to take the high ground when this happens.

He focuses on the result he wants to create for his children and does not take remarks personally. He stays focused on logistics for the well-being of his family.

Over time she sees this; the remarks become less, and the relationship starts to calm as a new understanding is achieved. Sounds unrealistic? It happens all the time! Sometimes we need help to get to this place, but once we’re there, we can actually become better fathers and partners in the divorce process.

Related: 13 Best Books for Children (On Divorce & Single-Parent Families)

He tends to bottle up his emotions

The alternative is to bottle up the emotion. Men who do this are typically already looking for their next partner even though the divorce is over. They’ve decided that it’s all their wife’s fault that the marriage failed. If they just find the right partner, it’ll be okay.

When met with sarcasm and cynicism, they throw it right back. They might even initiate it. These guys have no problem talking stuff about the mother of their children to their children. They’re doomed to a long and painful divorce in which everyone suffers more for it.

The saddest part is they’ll think it’s all their ex’s fault! These are men who are allowing divorce to change them.

They all get to choose whether we’re going to be reactive or proactive. The ground rules for change are the same for all of us. Life may not be fair and not just, but we can take the reins of our lives and be fair and just people regardless of the circumstances.

Related: How to Move on After Divorce, According to 12 Experts

Ellie Borden, BA, RP, PCC

Ellie Borden

Registered Psychotherapist | Certified Life Coach | Clinical Director, Mind By Design

He may have difficulty adjusting to life as a single person and struggle with loneliness

Divorce can significantly impact a man’s emotional and psychological well-being. The experience of divorce can be a traumatic and stressful event, leading to feelings of grief, loss, and depression.

It can affect his self-esteem and self-worth

Some men may also experience feelings of anger, guilt, and shame. In addition, they may experience financial difficulties and changes in their social support networks.

One study found that men were more vulnerable to the short-term consequences of divorce for subjective measures of well-being, such as mental, physical, and psychological well-being. However, over time, these differences were alleviated.

In the medium term, both men and women experienced similar consequences in terms of subjective economic well-being, residential moves, and chances of finding another partner (Leopold, 2018).

In some cases:

  • Men may have difficulty adjusting to life as a single person and struggle with loneliness.
  • They may also have trouble adjusting to their new role as a co-parent if they have children.
  • Divorce can also affect men’s self-esteem and self-worth, and they may question their ability to form future relationships.

Not all men will experience the same negative effects

However, it is important to note that everyone’s experience of divorce is different, and not all men will experience the same negative effects. Some men may find the experience to be a positive change in their lives and may find new opportunities for growth and self-discovery.

A support system can help work through the emotional and psychological effects of divorce

To help men work through the emotional and psychological effects of divorce, it is essential to have the following:

A mental health professional can help you work through your problems since your divorce.

Related: How to Know if Therapy Is Working (50+ Ways According to Experts)

Katie Ziskind, BS, MA, MFT, LMFT

Katie Ziskind

Licensed Holistic Marriage and Family Therapist | Owner, Wisdom Within Counseling

He may realize a divorce can be a second chance to create a healthier future with someone else

Divorce can change a man in many ways.

Divorce is a process of grief, loss, clarity, and confidence. And then, he may realize that his marriage was not as healthy, supportive, or loving as he would have liked. A divorce can be a second chance to create a healthier and happier future with someone else.

He’ll realize he may have taken for granted his last marriage

A divorce can also make a man realize that what he had in his last marriage he may have taken for granted. Divorce can make a man grateful for the relationships he does have in his life and be more emotionally present for a future marriage.

Divorce can be a time to take a good look at what wasn’t working and the contributing factors to the separation, such as:

  • Not spending enough quality time together.
  • Not having conflict resolution.
  • Not having skills or other issues.

He will seek counseling for growth

Divorce can propel a man to seek counseling to grow in personal ways that he might not have otherwise done.

Positively, it will allow him to gain mental clarity for his future relationship

These can be positive changes that allow a man to embrace himself in a more healthy way, connect to his mind and body, and gain mental clarity on what he would like in the future partnership.

Negatively, he will develop self-sabotaging behaviors if he doesn’t have healthy coping outlets

Divorce can create negative changes when a man does not have positive coping outlets, such as alcoholism, drug use, or even emotionless sex. These can be very dangerous and our self-sabotaging behaviors.

Ideally, a man can use the difficult experience of a divorce to grow in a personal way so that he can have healthy outlets and emotional coping strategies to be a contributor to a healthy relationship in the future. Divorce can allow a man to become a better teammate in the future, especially if he wasn’t that great of a teammate in the past.

Related: How to Be a Better Man in 2023

Anne Hamer

Anna Hamer

Doctor of Law, NYU | Family Lawyer

He becomes more vulnerable

As a divorce lawyer who represents both sexes, I can tell you that there is one way a divorce inevitably and always changes my male clients: They become more vulnerable.

He becomes introspective about his role in the breakdown of the marriage

On the outside and to the world, these men continue to:

  • Perform at high levels in their chosen industries.
  • Pull in a paycheck.
  • Play golf, hunt, or go to car shows with their buddies.

But on the inside, the change is intense. I watch them become introspective about:

  • Their role in the breakdown of the marriage.
  • Their guilt at their behavior that contributed to the sadness, frustration, and distrust their spouse may have felt, and ultimately to, the divorce.

Each of my male clients has used this pain to develop a new set of life priorities and principles they hope to live by as they move into their post-divorce life.

I can say with confidence that not one of my clients has moved on from divorce as if it meant nothing. They all have different ways of grieving and cope with grief, but they assuredly do grieve. A divorced man has watched his dreams of love and family alter irreparably.

He dreams smaller, more carefully, with his heart protected the next time he dreams of love

So the next time he dreams of love, he dreams smaller, more carefully, with his heart protected. Vulnerability is a human characteristic that brings maturity. As my clients admit their vulnerability, their fears, and their disappointments in themselves, they grow into more introspective men.

It is a trial-by-fire process that produces steel tempered with a new understanding of their own imperfection. I find my male clients infinitely wiser and kinder after their divorce. It is a horrible experience, but the changes I see in these men are truly remarkable.

Lisa Van Loo

Lisa Van Loo

Writer | Speaker | Certified Dating & Relationship Coach, LVL IT UP

There is a lot of stigma around divorce being a “red flag” or something to be concerned about in the dating world, but I couldn’t disagree more.

At a certain age in relationships, we all come with baggage, whether an ex-spouse or emotional trauma; everyone is working through something. When it comes to divorce, it’s a significant loss in someone’s life comparable to death, but the profound impact it has on someone can create lasting change.

It forces him to work on himself and become a more emotionally intelligent partner

In my experience, dating and marrying a divorced man has many benefits:

  • He has shown he isn’t afraid of commitment.
  • He is family-oriented.
  • He has experience being a partner.

The divorce forced him to work on himself and become a more emotionally intelligent partner, and I can see the benefits of that in our relationship. He’s helped me improve my healing journey because of the insight he has gained, so it’s a benefit to both of us.

He closes himself off to vulnerable love

Unfortunately, I have seen this go the other way; some men struggle with processing the emotional toll of divorce and close themselves off to the possibility of vulnerable love again.

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

Senior Editor, Tandem

I was married to my first husband from 1995 until 2001. This is because even though we separated in 1997, we didn’t officially get divorced for a few years.

Fortunately, my ex and I did not share any children together, and we were able to file for a no-contest divorce. From this experience, I understand what divorce can feel like.

Of course, though I know what divorce felt like for me, that doesn’t mean I know what divorce would feel like for other people. I am a female, but I would have to imagine that when a man divorces, what he feels and how he changes would be different than it was for me.

But how does divorce change a man?

He might feel emasculated

Merriam-Webster defines emasculated as “deprived of or lacking virility, strength, or vigor.” It’s not surprising that when a man divorces, he might begin to feel this way. Whereas when he was married, he may have been considered the head of the household, when he no longer has a spouse, he might lose some of his sense of self.

He might feel as if he is being blamed

True or not, a man might feel as if people are blaming him for the split. Even so, when regarding divorce, society often presumes it must be the man’s fault. Of course, the only people who truly know why a divorce took place are the two who got divorced.

He might become less trusting

Especially if the divorce happened because the wife was unfaithful, a man might not be as trusting as he once was after he divorces.

In Aesop’s fables, you can find a form of the phrase “Once bitten, twice shy.” This idiom helps explain why men might not be as trusting after a divorce.

Related: Trust Building Exercises for Couples (According to 9 Experts)

He might feel lonely or lacks support

When you marry someone, you aren’t only married to the person. In a way, you are also married to their family. This means that when you divorce someone, losing contact with some of their friends and relatives is not a given, but it is a possibility.

A divorced man who loses friends or relatives in this way might feel less supported or even feel alone.

He might experience issues with his health

From depression to anxiety to insomnia and more, many aspects of a man’s health might get affected if he gets divorced.

It could partially be due to the wife being previously responsible for making all doctor appointments. It could also be that many men are taught to ‘be strong,’ and a man might unintentionally ignore any health-related symptoms.

Whether you are a man or a woman who is divorced, and whether or not your divorce was uncontested, the reality is that anyone who gets divorced can be changed by it.

Try to be there for him

Do you have a man in your life who is already divorced or is currently going through one? If you can, try to be there for him.

Look for signs that he is:

  • Feeling emasculated
  • Feeling blamed
  • Feeling less trusting
  • Feeling less supported
  • Having health issues

He might not notice any changes, but if you act as an extra set of eyes and ears for him, this can help him get back to being himself sooner rather than later.

Tina Fey

Tina Fey

Relationship Expert and Founder, Love Connection

It can lead to newfound independence and self-reliance as he navigates life without a partner

Divorce can be a rollercoaster of emotions for a man, much like a stock market chart. Just as the market has its ups and downs, a man going through a divorce may experience a range of feelings — from the lows of heartbreak and uncertainty to the highs of newfound freedom and self-discovery.

Like a savvy investor, a man navigating divorce must learn to adapt and make strategic choices in order to come out on top and build a fulfilling life post-divorce.

Here are a few ways divorce can change a man:

  • It can force him to confront and work through his emotions, leading to a deeper understanding of himself and his needs.
  • It might lead to feeling a huge loss, desperation, or confusion, making men struggle to cope. As a result, many men develop major depression.
  • It can lead to newfound independence and self-reliance as he learns to navigate life without a partner and make his own decisions.
  • It can be an opportunity for growth and personal development as he learns from his mistakes and takes the time to figure out what he truly wants in life and relationships.

In either case, divorce can be a difficult yet ultimately transformative experience for a man, leading to emotional growth, newfound independence, and opportunities for personal development.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does divorce affect a man’s relationships?

Divorce can have a ripple effect on a man’s relationships with others. It can strain his relationships with family members and friends and affect his relationship with his children. He may also find it difficult to regain trust and be reluctant to enter new relationships. However, it’s important to remember that with time and support, a man can rebuild his relationships and form new bonds.

How does divorce affect a man’s financial situation?

Divorce can significantly impact a man’s financial situation, as he may be required to pay alimony or child support, divide assets, and cover legal fees. This can be a source of stress and uncertainty for many men, especially if they are the primary breadwinner in their marriage.

It’s important for men to seek legal advice and work with financial professionals to protect their financial interests during the divorce process.

How does divorce affect a man’s sense of identity?

Divorce can challenge a man’s sense of identity, as he may have defined himself as a husband and partner for many years. It’s not uncommon for men to feel lost or unsure of who they’re after a divorce.

However, it’s important to remember that divorce doesn’t define a man’s worth. He can use this opportunity to redefine himself and discover new interests and passions.

How does divorce affect a man’s role as a parent?

Divorce can change a man’s parenting role, as he may have to adjust to sharing custody or visitation rights with his ex-partner. He may also have to navigate co-parenting challenges, such as communication and scheduling conflicts.
It’s important for men to prioritize the best interests of their children and work with their ex-partners to create a positive co-parenting relationship.

How can a man take care of himself during and after a divorce?

Caring for oneself during and after a divorce is crucial for a man’s well-being. Some ways to take care of oneself include:

• Exercising or being physically active regularly
• Eating a healthy, balanced diet
• Getting enough sleep
• Practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation
• Taking up new hobbies or interests
• Seeking support from loved ones or a therapist

By prioritizing self-care, a man can better cope with the emotional impact of divorce and move forward in a positive and healthy way.

How can a man rebuild his self-confidence after a divorce?

Divorce can challenge a man’s confidence and self-esteem, but several strategies can help him rebuild his sense of self-worth. These include:

• Focusing on personal growth and self-improvement
• Setting achievable goals and celebrating what he has accomplished
• Surrounding oneself with positive and supportive people
• Challenging negative self-talk and replacing it with positive affirmations
• Practicing self-compassion and forgiveness

How can a man move forward after a divorce?

Moving forward after divorce can be a gradual process, but it’s important for men to focus on their personal growth and well-being. This may include setting new goals, pursuing new interests, and finding new ways to connect with others.

It’s also important for men to take care of themselves—physically, emotionally, and mentally. With time and effort, a man can heal and move forward after a divorce.

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