It’s well known among doctors that men are far less likely to seek help with medical concerns than women. The main reasons cited in the medical articles I read are perceived vulnerability, fear, and denial. Men tend to get most of the push to get medical issues checked out from their wives or other significant females in their lives. In simple terms, we men don’t seek out help for health issues because we don’t want to seem weak, or want to wait until later, unless an important woman in our lives pushes up or asks the obvious questions we choose to ignore. Sounds about right to me.
I’ve found the same is true for divorce. We don’t seek out help naturally, for health or for divorce. We have had the “suck-it-up” mentality engrained in us from early in our development. When faced with all the challenges of a divorce, it is only natural for us as men to hunker down and try to work through it. Unfortunately we miss out on all the benefits that come from getting help. The stress from divorce is extremely high. Being able to gather friends and a support network in, even just knowing they are there, carries with it huge benefits for our mental stress and physical health.
Up until my divorce, I only had a general idea of which friends and coworkers had gone through a divorce. It was sometimes part of a general conversation, but never brought up. The night I was informed by my ex that she wanted a divorce, I was fortunate by being on travel with a friend that I knew had gone through a divorce a few years ago. I called him and asked if he had time for a few questions. Several hours later, though I was still in a fog, I was a bit settled. When you enter this club of men who have gone through a divorce, or are going through one, you find most very willing to open up and help. The few exceptions I have encountered all had very painful divorces. Discussions with them I believe just brought up too many bad memories they would rather leave in the past.
It’s not easy to reach out. I have to be in terrible pain to see the doc. I don’t like to ask the guy at Lowe’s where a certain item is located. But when you take that step to reach out to someone who has gone down this road before you, you will find a whole world opens to you. None of us envisioned joining the group, but we all are full of where we gooned it up or are sympathetic enough just to listen and be a sounding board for your ideas. The help doesn’t have to stop with during the divorce either. Moving on when the dust settles is very hard as well, with many variances in everyone’s stories.
As pointed out in the health care studies, men often need that push to go see the doctor and it usually comes from a woman. During and after divorce, guys like us don’t have that woman in the picture. Therefore, the challenge goes both ways. For those of you who have been down the road before, reach out to a friend or coworker that you know is just starting out. One young engineer that worked on my team a few years ago was a lost soul at work when his high school sweetheart and wife told him she was leaving him for another man. I didn’t know him well, but I pulled him aside and offered my ear as one who went before him. He talked with me several times and I believe left each conversation with a clearer head.
There are plenty of opportunities in life to cowboy up and trudge it out on your own. The stress in divorce and the stakes are too high for that behavior, so leave that mentality at the door. Let’s work together to lend a hand during a divorce. No stories are alike, but the pitfalls can be common. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn when you ask and later, I promise, you’ll be happy to lend a hand to the next guy headed down your path.