What Does Divorce Cost Men?
"For over a decade it's been clear to professionals in family welfare that the problems of men after separation are significant, and badly neglected." Says Steve Biddulph, psychologist, family therapist & author of Manhood–Raising Boys.
He adds, "Marriage is our most critical social building block, over a third of marriages end, and abundant research shows that the effect on men, and therefore on women and children, is especially damaging".
Almost since there has been marriage there has been divorce, yet in the last few decades divorce has become a burgeoning phenomenon.
The Australian Family Law Act 1975 allows only one ground for divorce: irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, measured as the separation of the spouses for at least one year.
Once implemented, this law resulted in a large increase in the divorce rate. That rate fluctuating since 1979 between 2.4 and 2.9 divorces per 1,000 population.
The Australian Bureau of statistics estimates that between 1996-2005 there were approximately 800 thousand marriage terminations, affecting approx 400 thousand children (under 18).
A fluctuating 30-40% of all marriages will end in divorce; 8% within five years, 19% within ten years, 32% within twenty years and 39% within thirty years. Remarriages following divorce have the highest risk of divorce.
Surprising maybe to some, cohabitation before marriage actually increases the risk of marriage breakdown for both men and women.
To say the divorce rate is high is an understatement
And while research into the consequences of this modern trend has examined the effects on woman and children, little has been published on the effects to men. Men being partly blamed for this, the typical Aussie bloke somewhat disinclined to reveal his emotions (at least, not via surveys).
The breakdown of a marriage, entered into with hopes of bliss and contentment, is normally a hurting and anguishing experience, research indicating just as much pain for the man as the woman.
Steve Biddulph says, "It's a rough time, with the risk for violence, unhappiness, and therefore stress on children, poor health, and other risks all being magnified."
Peter Jordon, family counsellor & researcher, agrees, saying, "My research highlighted that men are significantly affected emotionally, physically, socially and financially at the time of separation."
Yet, in a society where divorce has become so common –almost the 'norm'– people become desensitised to the damage it leaves in its wake. Though the professionals tell us that to numb ourselves to the harm of separation and divorce means we fail to examine whether the damage is preventable or controllable.
One would have to be on Mars or Venus to remain unaware of the differences between men and woman and how they deal with different circumstances.
These differences have much to do with the way men and women instinctively react to divorce. For many men, however, these gender-based traits prove to be their Achilles heel in dealing with the stresses of marital breakdown.
Divorce for men can produce overwhelming feelings of fear and panic
In giving in to these strong feelings, men can find it tempting to respond via aggressive or violent impulses; these negative inclinations encouraging them into socially unacceptable acts.
But the results are not always directed outward. Says Mr Biddulph, "Separated men increase in their suicide risk sixfold."
"Compared with women, they are thirteen times more likely to take their lives in the two years following marriage break up" he adds.
Also, Re-marriage is even more likely to be unsuccessful, creating further feelings of anger and low self-esteem.
Sydney Psychologist, Bettina Arndt, says to men going through divorce, "How you handle this devastating time in your life will determine your future, particularly that all important relationship with your children."
Men experience the same feelings of failure, upheaval, loss, and sometimes despair that woman do when their relationships break down. However, whereas woman generally seek support and counsel during hardship (both within their personal networks and from professional sources), men often try to 'handle it' alone. The long-term effects of this can be harmful to all, not least of whom the men themselves.