This article was kindly written for Mr Perfect by Ian Shann, principal mediator and director of Move On Mediation in Perth. Ian’s commitment is simple – to help keep separated couples out of the Family Court and minimise their need for lawyers, saving them time, money and anguish (you can find his website at the bottom of this article).
There’s a lot of information online about how to cope with divorce but not much about how to cope with divorce as a man.
Experts tell us that, second to death, coping with life during and after a divorce could be the most stressful, traumatic and emotionally draining period you may experience.
The experts also tell us that, in general, women somehow seem to cope better than men during this painful period in their lives.
So we have put together some tips on how to cope with divorce - as a man.
There are several stages one may go through before overcoming the pains of a divorce.
Stage 1 - Take time to grieve
Taking time to grieve is a necessary stage in moving on from divorce, during which you may feel a multitude of emotions including hurt, anger, disappointment, blame and loneliness.
Caring for your children, moving house and, perhaps, financial difficulties all add to the trauma. These issues, responses and emotions are quite normal and to be expected.
Men – as a generalisation - tend to suppress their feelings and are afraid or embarrassed to open up and seek support from friends and family, or even consider seeking professional help.
Remaining in a state of grief for too long is not healthy and can lead to depression which will have a detrimental effect on everyone around you, especially your children.
Stage 2 – Acceptance of your new reality
The first step in the healing process may be to come to an acceptance of your situation, by appreciating that this is a temporary phase you have to go through and that you are not alone.
There are millions of men right now going through exactly the same thing. They will pull through and so will you.
You have family and close friends around you. It’s time to lean on them for support. Do not isolate yourself from them or society. In most cases they really want to be there to help but are waiting for you to ask rather than to interfere. Connection with others is especially crucial at this time.
To help at this stage, try to establish new routines. This is much easier to achieve when you have moved into different homes. Work out when you will have the kids with you, who will do school pick up, and who will take the kids to their sporting activities. This predictability and stability is also really helpful for your children.
There is life after divorce. Once you accept that, you are half way there. Now is the time for action – that’s what men are meant to be good at.
Stage 3 – Time to do things
Chances are, you might have children to look after. To do that you first need to take care of yourself – it’s the old principle of the oxygen mask on the plane; get yours on first before helping others.
Eating healthy and getting enough sleep and exercise are all vital. Spend as much time as possible with your children to minimise their grief. They have been affected too, no matter how old they are.
It could be time to make some new friends or reconnect with some old friends you may have neglected for a while. Perhaps now is the perfect time to do something you always wanted to do, but never had the time.
Take a trip somewhere or try a new hobby or a sport or create a new routine in your day to day life. By keeping your mind occupied with regular pleasurable and positive activities, you will be giving yourself more time to heal.
At the same time, do not neglect your job or your business – you and your children may be depending on it. It is easy for one to become entrapped in the constant feeling of loneliness and despair and neglecting one’s work, which often leads to financial pressure, raising the level of stress even more. Stay focussed. Not easy.
Try to keep your mind free of negativity, avoid saying hurtful things about your ex-spouse, especially in front of the children, or on social media. Keep all your communications with your ex as cordial as possible. The time for blaming and bickering should be over by now and any further quarrelling will slow your own healing process. You don’t need that.
If you are still experiencing parenting difficulties with your ex, keeping to the terms of your Parental Plan agreed through your family mediation, should resolve any conflict. It can be that simple.
All divorce situations are unique and all men respond differently, so the healing time will vary with each individual. There will always be days when your emotions get the better of you and you will not cope so well. That is unavoidable and is part of the process.
But remember too that, with each day, life will become easier and the pains of divorce will slowly begin to fade as your new life starts to become more meaningful. Rest assured you will emerge on the other side as a far stronger person.
Move On offers affordable and effective divorce and family mediation in Perth for separating couples.