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Is there a difference in how men and women are affected by divorce?

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We came across a recent, fascinating article in Psych Central on the differences between men and women in divorce - particularly, in the emotional effects they experience. It serves as a good reminder that men and women do indeed have differences that need to be factored in to the divorce process.

Many of the emotional effects of a divorce are actually the same - depression, anger, jealousy, and anxiety all can impact both men and women as they deal with the reality of divorce, the frustration of the divorce process, and the uncertainty of what comes after the divorce.

The author, Rebecca Lee, also makes an important point about identity and how that can potentially change during the divorce process. She notes:

A form of identity is lost during divorce. Where one lives, what school their children may attend, and who they confide in are all subject to change. Since the "unit" of marriage often involves friendships with other couples, expressing dissatisfaction with their previous married life may feel uncomfortable. These friends may only know the divorcing couple as a married couple, making it increasingly difficult to separate an independent identity from the marriage identity. Financially, sexually, and socially, all aspects of individuality change for both men and women.

What may be most surprising, though, is that it's men and not women who may suffer the most on average as a result of divorce. Lee quotes the Journal of Men's Health, observing that "men are prone to deeper depressions and more likely to abuse substances after divorce. The suicide risk for an unmarried man is 39 percent higher than that of a married man. Men are also at greater risk for physical health problems such as heart attacks and stroke. Men start to mourn later in a divorce than women, thus extending the grieving process."

They also note, importantly, "Since women are more likely to initiate divorce, men may experience denial during the initial stages of separation. When actively dealing with divorce, men are more likely to use action rather than words to express their feelings. Common actions taken by newly divorced men include working too much, having casual sexual encounters, and avoiding their new home."

While those observations might seem bleak, they're a good reminder that for both men and women, divorce is a two-track process. The first, which we're the experts in, is the legal track. It's our job as lawyers, who are advocating on your behalf, to craft a degree that gives you and your children the best post-divorce life possible. It starts with knowing what's important to you, but if you do have children, also needs to take the co-parenting relationship into consideration.

The second track is an emotional one, which professional, licensed counselors are best positioned to help you through. In some divorces, especially collaborative ones, we'll have a mental health professional as part of the team helping the couple and their children through the emotional peaks and valleys of a divorce. But we also encourage each person divorcing to have his or her own counselor, and to not lean on a lawyer for that kind of support.

While caring deeply and being supportive is essential to what we do at the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance, it's best manifested in working toward getting you a decree to help you move beyond the divorce. Establishing a good working relationship with a counselor while you're working on your divorce with us gives you someone to continue working with, for as long as you need, even long after we've gotten you to the divorce finish line.

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