We need to change the conversation.
There’s a tendency, when people talk about divorce, to immediately try to cast the two people involved as either the hero or the villain.
It’s not enough that we desperately want to assign blame to one half of the couple, but we also tend to treat the other person as the ultimate victim or someone we pity.
That urge is so strong that we even find ourselves doing it down gender lines. If you browse online, you’ll find endless articles and research studies asking “Is divorce harder on men or women?”
The answers tend to vary wildly. One search will deliver you a Psychology Today article that says men take the breakup of a marriage harder, experiencing a much greater toll on their overall mental health and happiness in the long-term.
Meanwhile, another search will present a Gallup Poll that says 56 percent of separated women and 47 percent of divorcees experienced heightened daily stress (compared to 45 percent of separated men and 40 percent of divorced men).
But “Is divorce harder on men or women” the right question to be asking?
In our latest Expert video (which you can see at the top of the page), Senior VP of YourTango Experts Melanie Gorman gathered a panel of professional divorce coaches — Laura Bonarrigo, Sonja Stribling, Cherie Morris, and Pegotty Cooper — to ask them IF men and women really do experience divorce differently.
You can watch their full comments in the video, but the panel largely agreed on one important TRUTH when it comes to divorce.
Measuring “Who has it worse?” is a pointless exercise, particularly when you’re talking about genders.
Divorce is hard for women.
Divorce is hard for men.
That may seem like a cop-out, but it’s true. In almost every instance where you could make a generalization about how men and women react to divorce, the reality is that EVERYONE is suffering. Everyone is experiencing heartbreak and loss.
Are there some decidedly male behaviors that men exhibit during a divorce? Yes.
Men tend to check out mentally long before they leave physically. Because of that, often times, during the divorce proceedings, men almost seem dispassionate. They went through their own grieving process months before the reality of the divorce filing kicked in.
That might make you think that men have an easier time… until you consider what happens when the woman initiates the divorce, particularly if the man didn’t see it coming. Suddenly, all of his male detachment is gone and he’s struggling to process the breakup in real time without enough time to make sense of everything.
Men and women don’t have a set gender-driven way they respond to divorce in every situation. And it doesn’t get any easier once you try to start assigning blame due to the circumstances around the divorce.
Here’s why — in most divorce cases, the ONLY people who really know what went on in that marriage are the couple in question.
Excepting (of course) cases where abuse or violence clearly occurred, you simply can’t ever be sure what actually happened between those spouses. He’ll have his reality. She’ll have her reality. And there’s never going to be a good way to quantify one person’s pain against another’s.
And the important thing to realize is that IT DOESN’T MATTER.
Everyone is hurting. Everyone needs to heal.
Following a divorce, assigning blame is the least constructive thing a person can do. Instead, they need to forget about who had it worse, focus on themselves, and spend time allowing themselves to heal.
Because divorce is NOT harder on men than women OR vice versa.
Divorce is hard. It’s a rite of passage. And it’s something that everyone endures in their own unique ways, regardless of their gender.
If you’re struggling with a divorce — or just need help getting through the process — please visit the websites of our Expert divorce coaches and contact Sonja, Cherie, Laura, and Pegotty directly. They’re here to help.