When a marriage ends, two people are often forced to adapt to a drastically different life. Some divorcees enter this phase of life without struggle. Others feel angry and vindictive toward their ex-spouse, sometimes taking the feelings of bitterness too far. This spiteful behavior stacks on the heavy burden already present in divorce proceedings.
A 2013 study by Daniel S. Felix, M.S., a doctoral candidate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and W. David Robinson, Ph.D., from the University of Utah indicated that divorce has a deep impact on “men’s biological, psychological, social and even spiritual health.” Specifically, this paper, titled “The Influence of Divorce on Men’s Health,” concluded that divorced men’s mortality was 250 percent higher than married men. Elevated risks of dangerous activities, such as drug abuse and suicidal ideation, can compound the feelings of distress.
“Popular perception, and many cultures as well as the media present men as tough, resilient, and less vulnerable to psychological trauma than women. However, this article serves as a warning signal not to follow such unfounded perceptions,” said Ridwan Shabsigh, the president of the International Society of Men’s Health, which aims to improve the mental and physical health of men worldwide.
Kate Scharff, a psychotherapist and contributor with the Huffington Post, notices that many divorced parents speak negatively about each other in front of their children, which hurts the mental health of anyone involved. In cases like these, Scharff encourages parents to provide a protective and empathetic response to their children, gently correcting any trash talking while mostly focusing on the emotional difficulty this situation provides to the kids.
For example, if the child says, “‘Mom says you don’t love us anymore, that’s why you left,’ then it’s best for parents to respond with, ‘That must’ve been upsetting to hear. I don’t know why mom said that. She and I see things differently. But I absolutely love you, and though I’m not with your mom anymore I’ll always be here for you.’” Scharff calls this the “protective response,” which redirects the negativity toward an affirmation of love and positivity.
Seth Meyers, Psy.D., sees befriending an ex-spouse the best way to heal after a divorce. While he says this is very difficult for ex-couples and takes a hard look at the bigger picture, he believes that growing a friendship after such a trying time can “integrate the past and present” for a new sense of peace in both halves of the couple.
Sovereign Health Group helps patients working on a new direction of life after a divorce. Our counselors are ready to listen and advise. Call us today for a referral.
Written by Nicholas Ruiz, Sovereign Health Group writer