We hear a lot about women and what we go through in a divorce, but not so much on the guy’s side today. We’re always talking about the women, what we go through – how we feel. But what goes on on the flip side of it all? Rachel Sussman, the nationally recognized relationship expert, specializes in breakups and divorces and has got all the info we need. She sat down with Jessica and T.H. for the Divorce etc… podcast and talked about how there are really three sides to every story, even though we usually only ever hear about one.
The Mind of a Man
So to start, let’s just clarify that there are a lot of amazing guys out there who get dumped by some nasty women. There are a ton of men out there who didn’t want their marriage to end, and who would’ve stayed in it if given the chance. In some ways, these guys have suffered worse than women, because they don’t know how to find and use their resources. I mean, how many men do you know who’d jump at the opportunity to call up a friend and ask, Can you talk? I’m feeling a little depressed today.
A lot of these men feel shame and embarrassment because, in their minds, they should have been able to fix their situation, should have been able to prevent the divorce. They have a hard time communicating their feelings to their exes, who will tell them they weren’t romantic enough or not successful enough, so they feel like they’ve failed. And there are also times when men will work really hard at their jobs, and even though their goal is to help their family, it ends up creating a divide, and the reasons behind their absence aren’t articulated. “They come to me and they don’t know what just happened,” Rachel finds. “They’re shocked.”
So really, a lot of their problems are similar to women’s issues in divorce. But the key difference Rachel sees is that men don’t have the same amount of resources and sometimes don’t have the same level of emotional intelligence to help them figure it all out. This leads to a major feeling of isolation on their side of the divorce. It’s confusing for them, and they end up doing a lot of things that aren’t in their best interest and don’t benefit them in their journey to recovery. That’s why their exes and others always think they’re doing fantastic during recovery, because you’ll see that they’re already dating, or on a vacation, or posting themselves on social media looking great. It’s all a cover-up. Many men just don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing.
“My Ex Was Crazy!”
There are so many stories of people constantly bad-mouthing their ex. Rachel’s got some beef with that. “What concerns me is they’re not doing the work on themselves,” Rachel worries. “Because if you have a crazy ex, what does that say about you?”
Rachel works to help them through the stages of recovery and have a full understanding of why their relationship didn’t work out. Why did they pick the person that they picked? Whose fault was it? Because in the end, it’s 50/50. And if you can’t take a chunk of the responsibility, how are you going to fully heal?
Let’s be real. If you’re going on a date with a divorced guy, it’s going to be a real turnoff if they just bad-mouth their ex the whole time. But if they go in saying yeah, I was married, she was great but it just didn’t work out and now we’re working on ourselves, they’re going to come out looking a hell of a lot better. Now that’s a man we’ll respect. And vice versa – you don’t want to be doing this yourself when going on a date after getting a divorce. Nobody wants to hear bad-mouthing. Pull yourself out of that victim mentality.
The Beginning to Recovery post Divorce
“The first two things that they should do is put away the alcohol and close out your dating app because those are the two biggest mistakes that men make that women don’t,” Rachel stresses. As we’ve said, they’re sitting with all these emotions, don’t know how to deal with them, and BAM they’re on their way down a black hole. And if they’re jumping right into dating after the divorce and then that also ends badly? They’re going to have a double breakup because they haven’t even had time to heal from the first breakup.
That’s also why a lot of women have a hard time recovering. They find out their ex is already in a new relationship fresh out of signing their divorce papers, and it sucks. But you’ve got to remember, it’s not about you. It’s about them, because who starts dating seriously two months after a twenty-year relationship?
“So for the guys out there, if you could just slow down, talk to someone, understand your emotions, work on yourself, and then just go enjoy yourself for a little bit as a single guy,” Rachel suggests. Once you’ve done that and have a bit of me-time, you’ll have a much better story to tell once you are back in the dating arena.
Do Men Even Want Help after Divorce?
Rachel sees that the majority of men do want help to get better. But like us, they also trip and fall eventually. Something will trip them up and they’ll go back a few steps in the process. Rachel can’t count how many times she’ll get calls from their sisters looking out for them, trying to get them back on track.
A lot of men will have a distaste for therapy because they may have tried couples counseling in the past and had a negative experience. They feel their wife and counselor are ganging up on them because many therapists are female. They feel like they can’t express themselves, or articulate as well as their wives and the marriage counselors. They tell this story to Rachel a lot, and she’s got to show them that there’s a difference between the couples therapy they went through versus individual therapy. “I really do want to meet them where they’re at,” Rachel conveys to them. “I really do want to hear their story.” But with that being said, if they’re just sitting there bad-mouthing their wife the entire session, Rachel’s going to make them face the facts and accept part of the responsibility.
Exercises (Not Just Working Out)
Most likely a lot of guys aren’t going to want to journal. So Rachel’s got some other exercises for men to work on when going through the divorce. For one, she’ll start with them quitting some of the bad behaviors they’re already doing, like signing out of dating apps, working on their health, and controlling their drinking. From there, she’ll help them come up with a plan to engage in healthier behaviors. And again, guys are doers. They want clear-cut goals.
So what are their goals? Rachel gets them to work on these goals, and in between these goals, she gets them to slow down. Maybe it’s meditation, or a yoga class, something they wouldn’t typically seek out themselves. Or maybe if they have a dog, suggesting that they pause on a walk and sit on a bench for a bit. Take time to yourself and watch the world go by. What do they feel in these moments? Write these feelings down to discuss in their next appointment. And often, writing this down is the gateway to journaling, and it can lead to a better outlet for them. It’s all about focusing on improving both mind and body. That way, you can put your pieces back together.