Men may never ask for directions, but when it comes to divorce, just like women, they need all the help they can get. That’s why this blogpost is dedicated to providing divorce advice for men.
It’s not that men need any more or less divorce advice than women. It’s just that, sometimes, the advice that men need is different.
Here is what guys who are facing divorce need to know.
32 Pieces of Divorce Advice for Men
Take care of yourself.
Divorce takes a toll on your body as well as on your life. When your body feels like garbage, it’s hard to think properly. When you’re going through a divorce, you definitely need to be able to think! This is not the time to drown your sorrows in booze, drugs, sex, or anything else. If you want to have the best chance of making it through your divorce without going over the deep end, you need to take care of yourself. Treat your divorce as if it was a sport and you were an Olympic athlete going for the gold. Eat right, exercise, and get as much sleep as you can. Not only will you feel better, but you will be able to think more clearly, too.
Get a therapist.
Just because you’re a guy that doesn’t mean that you don’t need help. Going through a divorce is rough on everyone. It’s emotional and confusing no matter what your gender is. Having a good therapist by your side as you go through your divorce can make an enormous difference in your mental and emotional health. (Plus, therapists are often covered by your insurance, so it shouldn’t add too much to your divorce expenses.)
Learn how divorce works ASAP.
You may be able to bluff your way through a poker game, but trying to bluff your way through divorce rarely goes well. If you want the best chance at getting the best outcome for yourself and your kids, you need to understand how divorce really works. (HINT: It’s different than what most people think!)
Figure out what matters to you from the start.
What is the most important thing to you in your divorce? Is it getting time with your kids? Is it making sure you can make ends meet if you have to support your wife and kids for the next “x” number of years? What is the one (or at most two) main things that you care about? Figure that out. Focus on that. If you don’t focus on what really matters to you, you will get sucked into fighting about everything. Unless you focus on what you want, what you get may not even be the stuff you really cared about. (… unless, of course, you’re really attached to the Tupperware!)
Don’t do stupid things.
Yes, this should go without saying. But the problem is that, when you’re full of emotion and your wife pushes your buttons, it’s normal to want to retaliate. But retaliating only jacks up the conflict in your divorce. For example, it’s tempting to want to pay your wife back for having an affair with a co-worker by telling her boss. But that will only get her fired and leave you having to pay her support. Remember, revenge may be sweet, but it can also be downright stupid too! (If you’re not sure what things are “stupid,” ask yourself whether you would be ashamed of doing to your grandmother whatever it is you are thinking of doing to your spouse. If the answer is yes, don’t do it!)
Get your financial documents together as soon as you can.
Documents have a way of mysteriously “going missing” during a divorce. While men are the ones who are usually accused of hiding financial documents during a divorce, women can play fast and loose with financial information, too. To avoid problems later, make copies of all of the financial documents you are going to need as soon as you know that divorce is a possibility.
Know your numbers.
Settling the financial end of your divorce without having a solid budget and balance sheet can leave you in a financial hole for decades after your divorce. If you were the one who was in charge of the family finances before your divorce, knowing your financial numbers may not be a problem for you. But if you weren’t (or you didn’t want to look at your finances because they were so bad) now is the time to suck it up and figure it out! (Sorry!)
Figure out your finances, but don’t obsess!
If you’re a “numbers guy,” then figuring out your finances may come naturally to you. The problem is, you can only figure out your finances if you have enough information to do so. When you’re going through a divorce, there will be a period of time when you just don’t know how much you’re going to have to pay in support, or rent, or anything else. That uncertainty is going to give you anxiety! When it does, your natural tendency will be to play the game of “what if” and run your numbers eighty seven thousand different ways just to see how they come out! If that’s what you find yourself doing: Stop! Contrary to what you think, when you’re obsessing over your numbers every single day you are not “figuring out your finances.” You’re driving yourself crazy!
Don’t bury your wife in spreadsheets before she’s even ready to talk.
For whatever reason, men love spreadsheets. Women do not. Your wife is not going to be impressed when you email her twenty five different spreadsheets demonstrating why your marital assets should be split up in the way that you want. If your wife is a spreadsheet kind of gal, then definitely share your Excel file with her. But, if she’s not, sending her spreadsheets will likely only piss her off.
Divorce is a document-driven process. At the same time, documents are only useful if they’re organized. What matters in court is not whether you paid a certain bill, or deposited 100% of your business income into your bank account without skimming anything off the top. What matters is that you can PROVE what you paid and what you did with your money. In order to prove those things, you need to be able to show your lawyer, your spouse and the judge the documents that back up your story. If you can’t find those documents, you can’t prove squat. (Yes, you can always get that information from your bank, credit card company etc. But that’s expensive and time consuming. It’s far easier if you’ve kept the right documents and organized them properly yourself.)
Don’t think that just because you’re a guy you’ve got to keep it together all the time.
Divorce is hard. It’s emotional. Letting yourself feel your emotions has nothing to do you’re your masculinity. It has everything to do with being human. While you certainly don’t need to have a public breakdown, allowing yourself to fall apart privately can do you a world of good. (And, no, it’s not going to feel good while you’re going through it. But it’s the only healthy way for you to start to heal.)
Don’t hide money.
Yes, I know this is a stereotype. I apologize in advance for saying this. But, because men tend to make more money than women, they also tend to want to hide more money in divorce than women. (Of course, there are also plenty of women who are stashing dough on the side, too. So, this is definitely not just a man’s issue!) No matter who you are, hiding money is a risky game. If you get away with it – Score! You win. But if you don’t and you get caught (which happens more than you may think) you will be branded as a liar and a cheat. That can end up costing you more in your divorce than whatever you were trying to hide. Plus, there’s your personal integrity to consider. You may be divorcing your wife, but you can never divorce yourself. (PS Karma happens!)
Ask for help.
This is not the time to “go it alone.” You need support. You need to rally your family and friends around you. Resist the temptation to become a hermit and stay in your cave. Sure, you’re going to need some “alone time” to figure life out. But, at the same time, being Stoic and trying to do everything yourself is a sure way of driving yourself into having the public breakdown that you’re trying so desperately to avoid. If you don’t have family or friends you can lean on, join a gym. Maybe you’ll meet other guys there. Or you could consider joining a support group. Believe it or not, there ARE men’s support groups out there that can help you.
Get your own divorce lawyer – but don’t hire a gladiator unless you truly need to.
If you’re trying to divorce amicably, you may be tempted to only “use one lawyer.” Since no lawyer can ever represent both sides in the same case, what that really means is that someone is getting a lawyer and someone is going without. More times than not, the person who “goes without” is the guy. Doing that is okay, as long as you at least hire your own lawyer to go over the paperwork before you sign it. Of course, just because you need legal advice does not mean that you need to hire the most aggressive shark in town. If you want to create a bloodbath, go ahead and hire the shark. But if you’d rather save time, money, and some piece of your sanity, choosing a tough but reasonable lawyer will serve you better.
Don’t expect your lawyer to figure everything out for you.
The only thing your divorce lawyer is going to do is to get you legally divorced. S/he is not going to find you a new place to live, plug the holes in your post-divorce budget or figure out how you should parent your kids. All of that is your job. So, while getting a lawyer is really important, know that you’re going to need to level up and starting taking control of a lot of things yourself too.
Spend as much time with your kids as you possibly can.
If you want to minimize the chances that you will lose your kids, or damage your relationship with them, you need to spend as much time with them as you can. The reality of divorce is that neither you nor your wife will be able to spend 100% of your free time with your kids anymore. To compensate for that, think about how you can spend time with your kids in addition to the parenting time you will get after your divorce. For example, maybe you could start coaching their teams, or chaperoning school field trips. Maybe you could re-arrange your work schedule on certain days so that you can pick them up from school. In short, think out of the box. Get creative. Even if you only add a couple of hours a week to the time you have with your kids, it will be worth it.
Stay as involved in your kids’ lives as much as you can.
If your wife was the primary caretaker for the kids, she was probably the one taking the kids to the doctor, attending parent/teacher conferences and organizing play dates. Now, that needs to change. While your work schedule still may not allow you to do things with your kids during the day, you still can pay attention to what’s going on in their lives. You should KNOW their doctors, their teachers and their friends. If you put in the effort to know what’s going on with your kids, and if you learn to care about what they care about, your relationship with them will grow enormously – even if the time you spend with them can’t.
Don’t become purposely unemployed just so you don’t have to pay support.
No one WANTS to pay support – especially spousal support! But quitting your job just to lower your alimony and child support payments is scummy. It’s irresponsible. It doesn’t matter what you think of your wife, or whether you believe she needs the money or not. If you have kids, it’s your responsibility to support them. Period. Plus, becoming purposely unemployed or underemployed can also backfire on you. If a judge decides that you COULD earn more, but that you’re not earning more just because of your divorce, the judge can “impute” income to you. That means s/he can order you to pay the support that you SHOULD have had to pay even though you may not technically be making the same amount of money at the moment. If that happens, you could watch your entire paycheck (and more) going out the door before you ever see a dime.
Don’t cancel your wife’s health insurance.
As long as you are still married to your wife, her medical bills are your medical bills. What’s more if you cancel her health insurance out of spite (or to save a few bucks in premiums) and she runs up a gigantic doctor bill, you could very well end up having to pay the WHOLE bill yourself! Plus, with all the craziness that surrounds health insurance requirements these days, once you take your wife OFF your insurance, it may be really difficult to put her back on. So, do everyone a favor. Until you’re divorced, leave your health insurance alone.
Don’t start dating until AFTER you’re divorced.
There’s a reason people say, “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned!” It doesn’t matter whether your wife left you, or if she was the one who wanted the divorce. It doesn’t even matter if your wife had an affair first! If you start openly dating someone else while you are going through a divorce, you risk having your wife go completely postal on you. That will complicate your divorce beyond measure. It can also complicate your parenting plan and your parenting schedule. So, again, do yourself a favor: Don’t date until AFTER your divorce is over!
If you are seeing someone else, don’t flaunt it!
Okay, I know I just said don’t date before you’re divorced. I also know that many of you will do it anyway. So, if that happens, and you’re already hot and heavy into a new relationship, DON’T FLAUNT IT! Don’t buy your new sweetie expensive things or take her on lavish vacations (unless you’re prepared to pay for it all from your separate money.) Don’t take your new sweetie to your family events or to parties where you might run into your wife. And, for heaven’s sakes, DON’T introduce your new squeeze to your kids before you’re divorced!
Keep a calendar so you can keep track of your kids’ activities, as well as your court appearances and important deadlines.
If you have young children, or a lot of children (i.e. more than one!), keeping track of their schedules can be a full time job. The only way to keep everything straight is with a calendar. If you and your wife get along okay, you can use a shared Google Calendar. If you don’t (or you want something that was specifically designed for coparents and has lots of cool features) you can use one of the many parenting apps out there, like Our Family Wizard or CoParently. Or, if you’re old fashioned, you can just buy a paper calendar and tape it to the refrigerator.
Resist the temptation to be the “Disney Dad.”
When you’ve only got a limited time with your kids, it’s normal to want to maximize it. You want to make sure your kids know that you love them. So you take them to expensive places and buy them expensive stuff. You get them the things your wife can’t (or won’t) afford. While this strategy can be incredibly effective in the short term, it almost always backfires. You go from being the “Disney Dad” into becoming a forced “Sugar Daddy.” You start to feel like your kids only want to be with you because of what you buy them or where you take them. (… which may be partially true.) Not only does that feel horrible to you, but it devalues your position as a father. It also teaches your kids the wrong thing about you and about fatherhood in general. (Plus, you will likely end up with VERY spoiled kids!)
Establish a way to talk with your wife about the kids – even when it’s hard.
As the saying goes, “Spouses divorce but parents are parents forever.” If you and your wife have kids you MUST find a way to talk with her about your kids after your divorce. If face to face communication is impossible, try texting or using email. Or, use one of the parenting apps mentioned in #22. It doesn’t matter what you use to communicate, as long as you do communicate. Otherwise, you will end up putting your kids in the middle. That forces your kids to become “adults” midway through their childhood, simply because you’re not able to be the adult that they need.
Understand from the start that your divorce will take longer and cost more than you think.
Divorce is almost never easy or quick. It is also usually significantly more expensive than you ever imagined. Sure, there are things you can do to make your divorce more amicable, and less costly. But, in the end, no matter what it costs or how long it takes, it’s still going to feel like time and money wasted. You can either accept that fact and deal with it. Or you can fight it and end up bitter and angry. Unfortunately, what you’re probably never going to be able to do is change it.
Don’t badmouth your wife to your kids.
Whatever your wife did or didn’t do to you is completely irrelevant when it comes to your kids. It doesn’t matter if she had an affair, or drained your bank account dry. It doesn’t even matter if she ran off with the plumber and left you and the kids to fend for yourselves. (Of course, it really does matter. But the point is that you don’t need to overshare all that information with your kids!) Take the high road. Do NOT badmouth your wife to your kids. Ever. If she really is that bad, they’ll figure it out for themselves. It’s not your job to bring their mother down.
If you start to feel your emotions rising – take a walk.
Unless you’re a robot, you WILL get angry during your divorce. Unfortunately, when your wife pushes your buttons, and you’re already upset to begin with, it’s easy to lose control. Don’t. The quickest way to turn your divorce into your worst nightmare is to get physical with your wife or your kids. What’s more, because you’re a man, you’re likely physically bigger and stronger than your wife. So even if you’re just yelling at her, she can find your behavior threatening. To avoid problems, when you feel your temper rising, take a break and take a walk.
Take up yoga or mediation.
Yes, real men do yoga. What’s more, yoga and meditation are scientifically proven ways to clear your mind and lower your blood pressure. Both have a range of health benefits including reducing stress, controlling anxiety and promoting your physical and emotional health. It doesn’t matter whether you feel as flexible as an oak tree, or you have the attention span of a fruit fly. Just trying these practices can help you calm down and clear your mind. That’s especially important when the rest of your world is spinning!
Stay off social media!
Social media is designed to keep you engaged and keep you using it. While it can be entertaining, when you’re going through a divorce, being on social media is a distraction you don’t need. Seeing pictures of your soon-to-be-ex wife laughing at a party will be like driving a flaming dagger into your heart. Plus, whatever you post on social media can (and likely will) be used against you by your wife and her attorney. (Just so you know, researchers say that Facebook is mentioned in about 30% of all divorce cases these days.)
Before you move out, make sure your new place is appropriate for your kids.
A lot of men make the mistake of moving out of the marital home and into a studio apartment or their parent’s basement. Even though that may be a practical move from a financial standpoint, it can be a disastrous move from a parenting standpoint. If you want your kids to spend the night with you, you MUST have an appropriate place for them to stay. (Sure, if your kids are young, you may be able to convince them that “camping” at dad’s apartment is fun. But if you don’t have space for them to play (or electronics for them to play with) it’s not going to be “fun” for very long!)
Find something to do that isn’t work or parenting.
It’s easy to lose yourself in your divorce. Men in particular have a tendency to throw themselves into their work when other areas of their lives aren’t going well. While that can be a boon for your business or employer, it can totally bust you emotionally and physically. To create a healthy balance in your life, you need to do something that’s just for you. Maybe you get involved again in sports, or you take up yoga! Or maybe you pursue that woodworking idea that you had so long ago, but never made time for. It really doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is that, whatever you do, you give yourself the time and space to relax and enjoy life a little.
Don’t have sex with your wife … but if you do – be careful!
This is another one of those “I’m going to tell you not to do this, but I know a bunch of you will do it anyway” pieces of advice. In a perfect world, once you and your wife decide to divorce, you move smoothly along that path until your divorce is over. But the world isn’t perfect. And it’s normal to have second thoughts about your divorce somewhere along the line. When you do, if your wife happens to be around and looking good, it’s easy to be tempted. The smartest thing you can do for yourself emotionally is to resist the temptation (unless both of you seriously want to get back together.) If you can’t resist, though, at least be careful. Babies happen – and they will always complicate your divorce!
NOTE: This article is primarily directed at the stereotypical situation where the man had been the primary breadwinner for the family and the woman has been the primary caretaker of the children. This stereotype obviously doesn’t apply to everyone. If you are a male who is the primary caretaker of your kids, you may also want to read divorce advice for women, since this article on divorce advice for men will be missing information you might find useful.