How Do Men Really Deal With Divorce?

How do men deal with divorce when they realize making it official won't necessarily make it work.


*Names have been changed for privacy.

I was upset when Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck split. When Tisha Campbell-Martin and Duane Martin went their separate ways, I literally felt like I didn't want to live in a world where those two couldn't make it. To be honest, I'm still rooting for Channing Tatum to pull Jenna Dewan back. Lately, it seems like people can sign off on a car lease with more commitment than a marriage, and generations before us love to preach that today's young couples don't have a deep understanding of what “till death do us part" actually means.

If I'm convinced of anything, it's that any good marriage is built on a solid foundation. So when I recently touched base with an old friend named *Brian, I wasn't all that surprised to hear that after telling the world how he handled a heartbreak that went on to become a marriage, he was now dealing with an impending divorce.

The last time I bumped into Brian was in Fall of 2015 when he told me he had recently married his college sweetheart after years of making and breaking up.

The couple now had a five-year-old daughter, but the longest "break" they endured occurred during the first few years of her life. During that time, Brian had ended the relationship over living arrangements that included feeling disrespected by his then-girlfriend's dog and just generally being too immature for a serious relationship. After moving halfway across the country, he made several attempts to heal that included having sex with someone new just days after the break-up and throwing himself into work to try and get through the heartbreak. Ironically, his plan for getting past the pain was interrupted a few months later when family and friends living a few states away in his hometown dropped the bomb on him that his ex was expecting his child (turns out, she wanted the whole world to know before he did).

Finding himself almost smack in the middle of new fatherhood, Brian made the decision to move back home and try to build a life with his ex for the sake of their family.

I've always gotten the impression from Brian that many of his relationships included the tug-of-war of making and breaking up and that many of his relationships didn't really form over falling in love with anyone, but more so from the fear of being alone. Last year, more than being excited over finding the person he would spend the rest of his life with, I suspected he was using marriage as a way settle the drama that can sometimes come with a challenging co-parenting situation. Recently, he revealed that he knew the marriage was over pretty much before it began:

“I knew it probably wouldn't last when I asked her to marry me. I was trying to be the good guy. I wanted it to work for the child."

Not even a year later, Brian now admits that it's not working and recently filed for legal separation. Brian's story is proof that if dealing with heartbreak isn't hard enough for men, then divorce isn't any easier.

Even though your ex might be getting down in several girls' DMs or losing his life savings in Magic City to ease the pain after a break-up, dealing with a divorce tends to make things a little more complicated. Untangling assets, establishing spousal and child support, and a number of other things might just have your ex-husband too busy to worry about which chick he wants to hit up next to help ease his pain. A 2013 Huffington post article broke down exactly how harmful a divorce can be for men not only mentally, but physically as well. A Journal of Men's Health study revealed divorced men are more susceptible to heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke and 39 percent more likely to engage in risky behavior or commit suicide.

So for all of you renewing your membership in the National Creep Squad Association, even science says that being happily married is good for your health.

YourTango relationship expert, Cecil Wong explains that in some ways men deal with divorce much like they deal with break-ups: By avoiding their feelings and diving headfirst into unhealthy behaviors. He warns, a sudden Hennessy and strip club binge might just be covering up a bout of depression and a need to prove that just because his marriage fell apart doesn't mean his whole life has to:

"In general, men seem to focus on externals (no surprise there): financial and legal matters. Many seem to quickly find new partners or simply resolve to not get too close ever again. Seems like there's a lack of attention to what goes on the inside and the result is blindly going into another relationship with all the same baggage or just continue living with a fear of intimacy. In a way, it's another example of guys always wanting to fix things. Jumping into another relationship or avoiding them altogether are quick fixes which occur when we are either ignore or avoid the inner life."

Wong says that unlike women who will bond and get honest about the pain they're going through which helps the healing process, men tend to bury difficult feelings or hope that work or other women will distract them.

So what went wrong in just a few months and just how is Brian dealing with divorce? Brian sheds some light below on how he's coping:

1. Who was the first to realize it was over what do you think went wrong?

"We had so much miscommunication, for the most part about finances. Checks were bouncing for bills she was supposed to be paying. When I wanted to sit and works things out, she wasn't straight with me. It was like she was too proud to ask for help. She'd rather have an eviction notice on our door than admit she was struggling with money and it always fell on me. I couldn't do it anymore."

2. What's been the hardest part about being separated?

“The hardest part is when your kid keeps asking, 'When are you moving back, Daddy? When are we getting a new house?' It really leaves me at a loss for words because I feel like I can't explain the whole situation. So I'm just like, 'I'm getting a place for us soon.'"

3. How is getting a divorce different from any other break-up?

"There's more people involved when you get a divorce: lawyers, family, children. It's not as easy to make a clean break because so many people are affected. And once the law gets involved in your relationship, it's not as easy as just deleting a number from your phone or taking down some Instagram pics. Shit gets real."

4. What have you learned from your situation and what do you think you should change about yourself, if anything?

“I think there's someone out there for me, but I don't think I need to change anything about myself and I know what I want for my next relationship. This one just wasn't right for me. I wish I had figured that out before having kids, but I know next time to trust my gut. The first break-up was probably a foreshadowing of things to come."

Looks like when it comes to dealing with divorce, being “in our feelings" continues to keep women better off in the long run, even if the only thing we're cuddling up with is a carton of Butter Pecan while we do some soul-searching. One thing I've learned from Brian's experience is that although love isn't everything in a relationship, it's pretty important. And if it isn't one of the main reasons you want to spend your rest of your life with someone, you're doing yourself and maybe even your kids a huge disservice in the long run.

Have you ever been divorced or dealt with a break-up? How did you deal and what are some important lessons you learned during your soul-searching?

Featured image by Shutterstock

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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