Divorce and parental separation has been associated with a range of negative outcomes affecting all those involved in the process. But why is it particularly difficult for men, as multiple studies indicate it to be? How could men and women create a support system that will not only help the couple overcome challenges related to the split, but also help children cope with their parent’s separation?
Marriage has been directly associated with men’s health. 66% of men rely on their wives for their primary social support. Thus, divorce greatly increases a man’s sense of isolation. Also, socially isolated men have an 82% higher risk of dying from heart disease.
Why Is it Harder for Men to Endure Divorce?
Comparing the impact of divorce by gender, we discover that one of the reasons men find it more difficult to deal with a separation is their inability to open up and share their failures, worries, and pain from divorce with others. In comparison to women, since men are less prone to reach out for support when their family gets shattered, their chances of suffering from helplessness, stress and depression increase. In some cases, severe mental health problems arise in men that even lead to suicide. As confirmed by an investigation of the University of California, divorced men are nine times more likely than women to die by suicide. How can this be explained?
In general, factors that impair the mental and physical health of the divorced are loss of control over life, impairment of family and social sense, financial anxiety, loneliness and emptiness. All these feelings are intensified in divorced men. In addition, we can add to this difficult situation the potential for false accusations that often become part of the lawyers’ disputes over the custody of children.
There is a common misconception that it is easier for a man to live the single life after a separation, a life free of worry and commitment, while single mothers are left overwhelmed with the task of raising children alone, often dealing with most of the economic burden single-handedly. However, in practice, this picture often turns out to be unfounded. Instead of celebrating their supposed freedom, men often feel like abandoned children alone in the world, unable to pick up the pieces of their broken lives and carry on. Their confidence and self-esteem is undermined by divorce.
While in many cases women receive almost full custody of the children, fathers find themselves “divorced” from their children as well. Relentless quarrels with the ex-spouse often complicate the relationship with the children who sometimes hold a grudge against the father for leaving home, feeling distanced regardless of the compensation he might try to give them to maintain his position in their lives.
Understanding the Other Side Better
What Western society misses is that a man, despite the “macho” image he might portray to cover up his own insecurities, is almost totally dependent on the emotional support of the woman next to him and his family for a sense of well-being, much more so than most of us imagine. The wisdom of Kabbalah explains that a man by nature is fragile and vulnerable and needs a feminine influence resembling a mother figure to accompany him from childhood and throughout his life. Just as a fetus receives nourishment from its mother through the umbilical cord, a man remains in need of a woman’s nourishment in the form of support and care to continue to remain fulfilled.
Women in return should receive from men security, confidence, and total recognition for the pivotal role and contribution they play. A man needs to constantly emphasize his love and appreciation for his wife and should pamper and embrace her as much as possible to avoid losing her.
The problem is that both men and women, from an early age, receive no education on how to understand this interactive mutual support mechanism and how to use it positively for the sake of family integrity. Each partner is locked in the ego, in individual self-concern, and often misinterprets the other until the partnership is unable to endure the resulting emotional crunch and the decision is made to tear the family unit apart.
The Key to Successful Relationships
In fact, the success of a marriage does not depend on physical attraction or even on personality, as our consumerist culture would have us believe. Marital success depends on the attitude and warmth that partners provide to each other, a necessary condition for a balanced relationship.
We need to stop assuming that we know what the other loves or needs. How can we expect that two different people from two different families, with two different upbringings, would know what each other want? It is unwise to sit back and wait until one would suddenly do something positive to the other. Instead, they must proactively and openly discuss their needs and desires, and then they will realize how positive such communication is to their relationship.
If, after making all possible efforts to preserve the family unit, divorce seems to be inevitable, it is indispensable for ex-spouses to transcend their own nature and differences to build a life as friends. In such a scenario, all family members — men, women and children — will benefit from the encouraging communication and cordial relations. Everything must begin with an education that aims to develop close and positive relations.