How do men and women respond to this life event that brings overwhelming, emotional pain? When the relationship comes to an insurmountable impasse, how are their responses different or similar? We checked in with two relationship experts, Cecil Wong and Kanya Daley, to explore how both genders deal with divorce.
Daley explains that, "from the outside, men seem to get over a divorce more quickly than women. They start dating more quickly. They start having sex more quickly. But are these behaviors really signs that they have moved though the pain of divorce? In a word, no. These behaviors often point to a man's attempt at avoiding his feelings about his divorce."
Wong agrees: "In general, men seem to focus on externals (no surprise there): financial and legal matters. Many seem to quickly find new partners or simply resolve to not get too close ever again. Seems like there's a lack of attention to what goes on the inside and the result is blindly going into another relationship with all the same baggage or just continue living with a fear of intimacy. In a way, it's another example of guys always wanting to fix things. Jumping into another relationship or avoiding them altogether are quick fixes which occur when we are either ignore or avoid the inner life."
"Guys just tend to bury grief; they don't know what to do with the ugly emotions and therefore think finding a new partner will solve things or just burying ourselves in work will save us," Wong explains further. "On the other hand, many women seemed to be more open about their pain and loss. Again, no surprise. Many of them admitted they had gone through periods of addictive behaviors which helped numb the pain. They were aware of the shame and guilt they were feeling and many of them shared about the process and support they had to get healed and move forward. Some even took their experience and turned it into a business. There were also men who went this route, creating support websites for other men going through the same thing. It was really cool how they both arrived at a very similar healthy way of dealing with their divorces."
Divorce Is A Gradual Process
Daley brings up a good point: "On another note, the ending of a marriage doesn't happen overnight. For many couples it takes several years for things to disintegrate and during those years unresolved conflict and bad feelings often mean a disruption in a couples sex life. Once the door is open, men can't see a reason to wait. His brain does still tell him to be with as many women as possible and he's been holding back on that during his marriage, so his desire for a new partner will be very strong."
Daley continues: "Another reason is loneliness. Men generally are the ones that move out and they spend less time with their kids. He was used to coming home to his family every night and even if the marriage was bad, being part of a family felt good. Now he comes home every night to an empty apartment and take out. He's on his own while his ex is home with the kids, doing homework and managing a house on her own. She's too tired to date and he's too lonely not to."
It will, of course, hurt if you hear that your ex is taking up with new partners. But Daley has a gentle reminder: "Don't take it personally if your ex starts to date long before the ink is dry on the divorce petition. Unless he is really enlightened or has done more than his fair share of therapy, he's probably going to have several flings following a divorce. Statistically speaking, it takes the average man two years post-divorce before he will actually settle down again. Most of his flings will end when the women he's been dating starts to push for more because his emotional tank is still empty."
Additionally, Daley explains, "In the mean time, he'll date women like his ex. He'll date women the opposite of his ex...and women ten years younger than his ex. But eventually he'll need to actually resolve what went wrong with his ex before he can build something new. This will mean looking at how his behavior and action or inaction contributed to the end of the marriage. Mainly, he needs to get clear about what kind of relationship he wants and is willing to work at in the future."
How To Deal in Specifics: Men Vs. Women
Wong gives some real-life tips:
For us guys, Joe Collinsworth gave these 5 helpful tips; not as detailed, ordered, or specific but quite similar:
- Give attention to your own life; learn about yourself
- Give adequate time before new involvement.
- Get legal advice for protecting your assets and future financial security.
- Divorce is a journey; emotional rollercoaster ride.
- Focus on the right things — where you would like to be and how to get there.
He also offers a few tips from Christine Clifford:
- Don't panic
- Take 4 steps forward: attorney, CFP, realtor, psychologist
- Surround self with supportive friends and family
- Realize your life will never be the same
- Research all possibilities
- Do something special for yourself
- Don't beat yourself up; think "What can I learn?"
- You are the source of your happiness
- Learn to forgive
- Don't forget to laugh
How Do You Truly Achieve It?
Many divorced individuals, men and women, who found healing and health said their divorce was actually the beginning of a new life. They all seemed to go through a process very similar to a 12 step recovery process. The dissolution of their marriage woke them up to pay attention to the roots of what caused their marriages to spin out of control and this of course involves getting serious about dealing with the ugly, awkward, unmanly things, and even scary stuff on the inside. This inner life proficiency is most essential and primary because it will help you make healthier choices with regards to subsequent relationships, as well as legal and financial issues. Keep reading...
More dating after divorce advice from YourTango: