What are the emotions of a man going through a divorce? Well, I’m not a man, but I divorced one, and then after my divorce, I met, became friends with, interviewed and dated dozens of divorced men. So, I think I have a very good sense of what some of the emotions of a man going through a divorce are.
Why did I write this article? Two reasons: to help validate the feelings of men going through a divorce, but also to enlighten women going through a divorce and help them understand how their ex might be feeling.
Here are 10 emotions of a man going through a divorce (in my opinion):
In my opinion, most men don’t leave their wives unless they are leaving for another woman. So, if a man leaves his wife—he’s the one who wanted the divorce, he usually doesn’t have the emotion of shock. But, if his wife leaves him, I think so many men are in shock. Even if the wife has been threatening to divorce him for years, once she pulls the trigger, there is still a sense of shock, leaving a man feeling like this doesn’t even feel real. It can actually feel traumatizing to people.
2. Fear of not spending time with the kids.
In most divorce scenarios, it’s the husband who moves out of the house. I can’t count the number of men I met after my divorce who were living in small apartments and having their kids every Wednesday night and every other weekend. And most of them were very sensitive when it came to talking about spending time with their kids. They wanted me to know they saw their kids on a regular basis-almost as if they were insecure about it and had to prove to the world they were still a good father.
Of course they are still good fathers! I feel so sad when I think about how it must feel to have to move out of your home-especially if you aren’t the one who wanted the divorce, and then try to work 40-50 hours a week, and then find time to care for the kids, oftentimes having to learn for the first time how to cook, clean, and do things like Mom does.
Also, think about how much anxiety someone might feel, wondering if their kids are going to be closer to Mom because they spend more time with her, and how much pressure that puts on oneself. I’m not saying women don’t feel these feelings, too. They absolutely do.
Of all the emotions of a man going through a divorce, this one is almost always present: resentment. Almost everyone getting divorced feels resentment towards their spouse, which might go back months and years. So, what he might be thinking are things like this: “I was a good husband. I didn’t cheat, I always provided for the family, I’m a good dad… and she never appreciated me. She was mean to me, she never wanted to have sex with me…” With these thoughts come resentment and with resentment comes anger.
In divorce, there’s a lot to be angry about and a lot of people to be angry with. A man might be angry with the situation. He might be angry with his wife for divorcing him. He might be thinking: “Why would she do this? We have such a great life!” He might be angry with her for doing this to the kids. He might be angry with God. He might be angry at the world. He might be angry with ALL women. And perhaps the biggest: he might be angry at his ex and the justice system because he has to give her money.
I find that men—of all income brackets—wealthy, financially struggling and everyone in between cannot stand giving their ex child support and/or alimony. It doesn’t matter who left who, many men truly resent handing over that check every month. It kills them, even if they have the money. And it makes them angry and causes so so so much conflict in a divorce.
5. Wounded and rejected.
Men getting divorced feel to me like they are wounded. They have been hurt, and they feel like because they are men, they can’t really show their hurt and vulnerability. They feel like they have to be strong. But in reality, they might feel rejected—she doesn’t want me anymore, she’s beaten me down for so long and made me feel badly about myself for so long so maybe what she thinks about me is right. I remember one guy said to me, “I wish my wife treated me as nicely as she treats the Starbucks barista.”
This insecurity of feeling wounded and rejected often shows up in dating. Some men want to get married again as quickly as possible, desperate to find someone again, while others become commitment-phobic, running from a relationship and only wanting a casual relationship. And some men don’t even know what they want! They think they want one thing and behave as if they want another.
6. The need to feel validated that they still have it.
I feel like a lot of men seek out sex after divorce as a way to prove to themselves that they are still desirable to other women. They need that validation of “I’m still attractive to other women, I can still perform well, I’m still young, and these women appreciate sex with me so much more than my ex ever did!”
7. Financial fears and insecurities.
Men not only resent having to pay their ex child support or alimony, but they might become insecure and fearful of their finances. What they used to save after a paycheck is oftentimes cut in half and that’s a hard pill to swallow! Plus, now they have another residence—whether they bought a new home or they rent. I truly think financial anxiety is one of the most stressful aspects of a divorce for men. And with fear and anxiety comes resentment and anger towards the ex, since in their mind, they feel like, “Why is she doing this? Things were so much easier when we were together.”
As do women, men have so much sadness through divorce. Sad for themselves, but also sad for the kids. They might feel like a failure, they might feel shame or embarrassment about the divorce. These feelings can cause sadness, too. And, a man might still love his ex-wife. He might have regrets about the way he treated her or the way he handled things, or not trying therapy when she wanted to. I see so often women trying for years to save the marriage, and when they finally give up, men want to work on it. It’s so sad, and I feel for both partners.
9. Jealous and territorial of the ex.
I’ve seen this scenario so much: the wife starts dating someone and the ex has a really hard time with it. They might say to their ex, “How do you know it’s safe to have this guy around our kids?” They might have a point, but oftentimes, it’s more of a jealousy and territorial thing. The last thing they want is for the kids to become close with another man, but they might also be unable to handle picturing their wife with someone else. Even if it was the man who wanted the divorce, I see this.
On a side note, women have these same feelings, only worse! I am guilty of it, and have heard from countless women that when their ex gets a girlfriend, it infuriates them.
10. Feeling surprised.
The emotions of a man going through a divorce almost always include this: A man gets divorced and has no idea how attractive he is to other women. Then, all of a sudden, everyone and their brother wants to set him up. Women are all over him and he cannot believe it. Suddenly he gets a little bit cocky. I have actually had countless divorced men tell me how shocked they were at all the attention and opportunities they have from single women.
When I hear these stories from men, it makes me happy because it helps them realize that they have a self-esteem problem, and oftentimes it causes them to dig deeper (meaning go to therapy.) Having a girlfriend (or dating a lot) also keeps Dad cheerful, and he might be a little nicer to Mom.
Although every divorce story is unique, I have known all kinds of divorced men who display some or all these 10 feelings. What I want to say is, these feelings don’t make any guy a bad person, and they don’t make them a bad father or a weak person, or even someone who is unworthy of finding a great partner. I feel for men going through a divorce, I understand their anxiety and fears, and I admire so many of their wonderful qualities, especially when it comes to being a single dad.
Divorced men who have some or all of these 10 feelings just need to work through them and for that, I would highly recommend therapy and/or a divorce coach. Divorce is a scary and vulnerable time, and it’s hard for both men and women to admit that they need help and support. It also takes courage to open up to a stranger and share your most intimate thoughts and feelings. But there is a big reward that comes with that: Working on yourself in therapy/coaching helps change your thinking and behaviors and actions, which leads to better decisions, better future romantic relationships, better parenting, a better relationship with your ex, and a happier, healthier overall post-divorce life.