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What Does Divorce Cost Men?

Updated on May 27, 2017

"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".

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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.


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    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 4 years ago from Oz

      That's a fantastic response DC! I especially relate to your comment regarding fatherhood experiences. That deflating sense of inadequacy and mourning over diminished relationship with ones children; when such high expectations were anticipated at their birth. Such things deeply impact a man's emotional well being, further robbing him of his potential in all his relationships.

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      DC_guy 4 years ago

      It's absolutely true that the effect of divorce on men is overlooked, both socially and clinically. Men will often assign blame very quickly to the woman, even if they have initiated the divorce or separation and this has long-term consequences... particularly if kids are involved. The big "elephant in the room" that is overlooked is the emotional drain and trauma men go through when they are separated from their children. Socially they may brush aside questions about how they feel, but many (according to research) have intense, often crippling inner-dialogues where they question their ability to parent, to be a father, to be a husband or potential partner in the future. What was described by one man as a type of "emotional castration (split custody)" indicates that men too mourn the loss of relationships, the loss of the family unit (if not always the relationship with the spouse) and feel significant loss at not being able to partake in the full-spectrum of fatherhood duties, rituals, experiences etc. Missing a funny moment, a tooth falling out, etc... these take a toll on men, can feel emasculating and hurt in ways that most of the mainstream will never understand as long as the issue overlooked.

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 5 years ago from Oz

      Hey Angela. Sad indeed. Can't help but think that western society has lost its way in this area. Thanks for reading and commenting

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      Marriage the number one cause of divorce.:) Why get married just pick out a nice house togather and fight all the time? LOL Great article about a sad reallity!

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 6 years ago from Oz

      @Bud ~ Yes, that particular stat is odd, not sure the reason. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment.

      @schoolgirlforreal ~ Yes, it is. Thanks for commenting.

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image

      schoolgirlforreal 6 years ago from USA

      What an eye opener!

    • Bud Gallant profile image

      Bud Gallant 6 years ago from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

      Very interesting reading. Curious how the 25-29 age group shows a drop in divorce rates compared to the past, being the single instance of that entire chart. I wonder what accounts for that.

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 6 years ago from Oz

      @SunGirl ~ Thanks. I notice you are relatively new to HP. Hope to see more of you and I look forward to reading some of your own hubs.

    • Sun-Girl profile image

      Sun-Girl 6 years ago from Nigeria

      Good documentary, nice hub.

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 7 years ago from Oz

      @UlrikeGrace ~ Sorry to hear about your son, I'm sure you feel his pain acutely. Maybe I will attempt a hub on 'what can be done' as you have suggested; though writing about the problem is always easier than providing answers. However, your suggestion has been taken on board... watch this space. As always, appreciate your comments Grace.

    • UlrikeGrace profile image

      UlrikeGrace 7 years ago from Canada

      Parrster...what a much needed do often get the short end of the stick when it comes to emotional much focus goes to the children and wives...but as you said it needs to be all as everyone affects the other. I hope you write a hub as to what can be done for the men in these situations, (I have a son going thought this)and a hub like this coming from a man would be most helpful. Blessings to you great your heart...

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 7 years ago from Oz

      @James ~ Great comment James, yes, the sharp end of "justice system" sword does seem rather pointed in the male direction.

      @Habee ~ & a painful subject. Thanks for stopping by.

      @tonymac04 ~ thanks for commenting, and I hope the scars have healed.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      I have been through the mill and I know. This Hub has raised the issue very fairly and honestly. It matters not who is to blame for the divorce, it is deeply painful and extremely difficult for all. I think men have been a bit neglected though.

      Thanks for raising this important issue.

      Love and peace


    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Wow - sobering facts!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      Great article. Part of the problem is that fathers are treated shabbily by the so-called family courts" here in the USA. Those in charge are decidedly anti-man, anti-father. If this were not so, divorce would still be a terrible problem we have to fix, but not as devastating on men in general. Thank you.

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 7 years ago from Oz

      @Linda Myshrall ~ I think your attitude toward your husband is terrific. Maintaining the 'crazy's' for each other is surely the best ward against negative attitudes becoming entrenched. Sadly men are too inclined to 'handle it' alone, but this is a something through which everyone needs the guidance, wisdom and company of caring others. thanks for stopping by.

      @Pamela99 ~ Although many men don't realise it, the measure they (and others) will make of themselves in life will ultimately be how they related to their family. At the end of life a man will not care how well he did in business, how attractive he was to the opposite sex, how strong or athletic he was, but he will care deeply about whether he loved and was loved by his family, and especially his wife and children. Feelings of failure will be deep if he hasn't.

      @Kaie Arwen ~ Thanks for your comment. Yes, divorce is something to be avoided -- if possible. Yet, as you say, every story is different and sometimes the hardest decision is the only one left.

      @Coffeesnob ~ Thanks CS. Yes the distractions we pursue to annul the things of greatest priority are many. Yet avoidance is a valley down which pain is the only result.

      @valeriebelew ~ Thanks for your caring comment Valerie; and for your love of we males. Being a man (like being a woman, I'm sure) is a complex equation sometimes. So much of how we respond to life is due to incorrect programming from the past. The challenge is to correct it before it leads to catastrophe.

      @joezap ~ Thanks for the honest response. Although I feel there would be some circumstances in which divorce may be the only result, I am sure that in the majority a better solution is available. Having said that, it's ultimately all down to what people want. Many say they have stopped loving the other, when really what they mean is they've stopped wanting to. Appreciate your feedback.

      @Springboard ~ Good to hear from you again. Yes, it is a surprising statistic, and one I haven't looked further into. Personally I think that the reasons for divorce (in the majority of circumstances, though not all) funnel down to one -people stop wanting to love each other. It generally gets to that point via incremental stages (unless infidelity or violence is involved), but its at that point divorce is sought. Most of us would never treat our children with the same conditional love we treat our spouses, yet we justify it to them with the words "we stopped loving each other". No wonder children feel so insecure. Appreciate you stopping by my friend.

    • Springboard profile image

      Springboard 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      I've never believed there was any real correlation between those who cohabitate and marry who then divorce and those who don't and then marry and stay together. I think in the case of ALL divorces there are very clear reasons why they occur. I think a lot it has to do with marrying for the wrong reasons (a child may be involved) or marrying too young, certainly lack of communication is a big factor, and whether or not true love exists is a big factor.

      Very interesting hub though. I wish divorce were not as common as it is.

    • Joezap profile image

      Joezap 7 years ago from Washington rainy coast

      Been there and done that, even after I became a Christian. My advice to unhappy married men is “Don’t go there!!!” Get help. Divorce is an emotional and financial catastrophe.

    • valeriebelew profile image

      valeriebelew 7 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

      I think this is very sad. In many ways men are more emotionally dependent on women than we are on them, and they are less good at faking it as they grow older. Men are sensitive creatures who won't show it, and that is a major part of the problem, though I understand it. They are socially expected to always be in control, and they literally die to live up to that expectation. I love men; this makes me sad to think about it.

    • profile image

      coffeesnob 7 years ago


      This was excellent. Our culture seems to dictate that we be strong and ignore the emotinal pain of divorce and other things that destroy our relationships. But no amount of diving into career or ignoring it in any other way will fill the void divorce creates.


    • Kaie Arwen profile image

      Kaie Arwen 7 years ago

      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."

      These were the traits that ended my twenty year marriage.......... then they escalated to heights that no one outside of my children and myself will ever know.............. divorce is a very sad for many, but I have to tell you............ I find far more sadness in my avoidance than I do in the leaving. Sometimes it's best for everyone.

      Good article............ the affects on women and children are placed far to the forefront, but every story is different. That's one of the reasons we write!


    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Parrster, This is a very informative article as it seems there is more focus on the women and children than the men. I didn't realize the effect on men was so great, and yet I know they have the same feelings of failure and often they can't spend much time with their children either.

      Great hub. Rated up!

    • profile image

      Linda Myshrall 7 years ago


      What a great topic and outline!

      I was surprised by the statistics in your article; I had no idea that the divorce rate in Australia is so high. I haven't checked, but my guess is that it isn't exactly low here in the US either.

      I was more surprised to learn of the effects of divorce on men, although I did know a man who committed suicide when going through a divorce (not from me, Thank God!) The men in my world are of the 'handle it' variety you mentioned, so it never occurs to me that men suffer the same way that I do...

      As for my husband, he'll have to use the Jaws of Life to extricate himself from me. I'm still crazy about him after all these hundreds of years. :)

      Excellent hub, parrster. Thumbs up.