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I’ve been married and divorced twice, but when I divorced the first time — in my 20s, with no children — I never paid attention to any articles about reinventing myself as a divorcee. Not to say that there weren’t articles about that; perhaps there were but this was in the days before the internet and so you’d have to be reading magazines geared toward women and thos never seemed to interest me all that much. But when I divorced the second time — at age 48,with two young children — the internet was beginning to shove the midlife post-divorce reinvention thing in my face. Then came Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2008 memoir Eat, Pray, Love, and we all know what that led to. And, when she divorced in 2016 it was clear that her reinvention of herself — to partner with her best friend, a woman — may have been something more.

Still, we often read about how divorce can be liberating, but that’s usually geared toward women. And, granted — women are often a lot happier after divorce than men are. Marriage isn’t always all that for women, so it’s no surprise that they much more likely to want a divorce.

Which made me wonder, well, what about the men? Are they rediscovering themselves after a divorce? Is anyone helping them see that divorce offers them a chance to reinvent themselves?

Then I read an article by writer and entrepreneur Brian Ainsley Horn that directly speaks to men who’ve gone through a divorce.  In all my years of reading and writing about divorce, I haven’t seen many, if any, articles geared toward divorced men.

Quicker to marry again

Most of the research I’ve stumbled upon indicate that divorced middle-aged men are more likely to marry again than middle-aged divorced women, and more likely to marry faster than women. There are many ways to interpret that, but make no mistake — getting married again at midlife, man or woman, doesn’t prove anything about anything.

Do men need anything different than women do post-divorce? Or are divorced men just not subject to the pressures to reinvent themselves as divorced women are?

Honestly, when I read Horn’s advice supposedly geared toward men I couldn’t see anything that was anything different than what’s been presented toward women:

  • “Look at your divorce as an opportunity.” Check.
  • “Reexamine your priorities and life patterns.” Check.
  • “Examine your past relationship.” Check.
  • “Learn to be happy alone.” Check.
  • “Move on.” Check.

And then his advice for the inevitable mistakes to avoid, which, honestly, any person — male or female — might want to entertain.

Except the one glaring difference: There didn’t seem to be anything that spoke to truly reinventing yourself — start a business! discover a new passion! travel! — which is what women are told all the time. No, men are told to update their wardrobe, take a class and change the way they approach women. All of which are fine, but they are hardly reinventions.

As I’ve written before, there’s been some research on divorced men, but they tend to focus on men who have children and what happens to their relationship with their kids post-divorce,  but mostly on how it the loss of contact negatively impacts the children. There hasn’t been much research on how the dads themselves are faring. A well-referenced 2003 study noted how divorced men were at much greater risk of suicide than were divorced women or single men. Other studies indicate that divorced men drink more booze than their married counterparts and divorced women.

Surviving, not thriving

Maybe that’s why much of what’s written for divorced men is more about coping or surviving, and not thriving.

Brad Pitt may be the perfect example of that. Since his highly publicized split from Angelina Jolie he hardly looks the same. He stopped drinking, he’s seeing a shrink, he’s working on art, he’s trying to be a better man, Pitt tells GQ. He’s coping but he’s hardly reinventing himself.

While men feel devastated, betrayed, confused and often suicidal after a divorce, women are more likely to feel relieved and liberated. More than two years after a divorce, 41 percent of men said they were still sad about the end of their marriage while just 33 percent of women felt the same way.

It’s easier to reinvent yourself when you feel liberated than devastated.

Still, many divorced men eventually find happy, healthy lives.

So, what does it all mean?

You can’t divorce-proof a marriage but you can change your behavior, something Brad Pitt is learning, at age 53. It’s possible to reinvent yourself while staying married. If you want to stay married, you might want to explore how.

Want to reinvent your marriage? (Of course you do!) Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon.


3 Responses to “Do men reinvent themselves after divorce?”

  1. Jono says:

    Well Vicki, if mine ends up in a divorce I’ll let you know how it is for men. At least this one. I am always trying to be a better me, but I’m not sure exactly where that is taking me. Even at this age I am still growing.

  2. Tim says:

    GQ? Really? Could you have not picked a more gynocentric, ‘women good – men bad’ feminist propaganda site? That’s Hillaryous! GQ!? The only men that read GQ are delusional!

    Never give a woman and/or the state any level of legal, financial, emotional, physical, psychological or spiritual power over your life, PERIOD.

    Marriage for men is a long con. Trillions in wealth and power have been shifted from men to women through marriage, no-fault divorce, alimony, asset division, child support (alimony++), Title IX, Affirmative Action and now with Affirmative Consent.

    Men built ALL of civilization (buildings, bridges, roads, infrastructure, etc, etc, etc) and fought all the wars for the advancement of women and the state. Men pay the vast majority of taxes and the vast majority of state and federal spending on health, education and welfare goes to women. What did men get in return for their sacrifices? Demonization. It’s all one gigantic, rigged LIE. ALL OF IT.

    It’s all a con game rigged in women’s favor. It’s like the millions of suckers that walk into casinos every year. Most lose the bets. But the house counts on those suckers walking in every day so they can live high on the hog. Every year, in the US alone, a million men go into divorce court and come out broke. Marriage is an evil male meat grinder and most certainly should be abolished.

    Just say no to ‘marriage’. It’s a man-trap.

    • Rob says:

      Well said Tim. This blog post is ridiculous on many levels but I can assure that the men I know are much happier single than married. I know I am and my 31 year marriage was relatively good by most standards. Why tie yourself down to one woman and agree to give her half of your hard-earned money if she bails on you? No wonder women initiate the large majority of divorces. They have much to gain – at men’s expense, of course.

      OTOH the older divorced women I meet are largely bitter and entitled. They just don’t realize that they don’t have the same options as they did when they were younger and hotter. That’s why I don’t bother dating women my age any more. Younger gals are much more fun and way less entitled.

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