12 Truths About Life After Divorce, According to Divorced Dads

Matt Christensen
·10 mins read

What is life after divorce like for men? It’s hard to say, exactly. Every one is different. Some are contentious. Some are amicable. Many sit in the space between. So it takes time to settle into life after divorce and understand the new reality. What is certain, however, is that one the dust settles, there is time for perspective and self-discovery. Will some men be hit harder than others and thus need more time to find their footing? Absolutely. Depression, grief, and denial are often part of the process. As often, happiness and contentment take place when acceptance occurs. There is no one timeline that works for everyone. But there are some truths that become apparent along the way. We spoke to 12 divorced men about life after divorce. They touched upon painful feelings, paranoia, debt, and loss of friends. But also: stronger relationships with their kids, finding peace, and settling into a new sense of normal that feels, well, okay. Some changed for the better, some are still works in progress. But all are honest accounts of how life after divorce looks for different men.

1. It’s Painful, No Matter What

“My wife cheated on me. After the initial shock, my emotions turned into raw anger. So I thought that the divorce would feel liberating, and rewarding. I felt like I’d be rid of her, so I’d be rid of those emotions. But, that wasn’t the case. Things were just really painful for a while. It was a mix. Sadness. Anger. Hopelessness. We were married for more than ten years, so it was just a complete departure from everything I’d known for a decade. And that just turned my brain into a big ball of yarn. I’ve heard that it takes a month to ‘get over’ every year you’ve spent with someone. It’s not science, but I’d say that it was pretty close. It took about a year before I was waking up without the loneliness and confusion so heavy on my mind.” – Clint, 36, Ohio

2. You Might Be in Debt for a While

“The legal process for my divorce cost more than $10,000. For me, that debt is pretty crippling. I don’t make a lot of money, and I’m completely stretched financially. Emotionally — at least as it related to the relationship — I think I bounced back pretty well. Financially, though, I feel really, really angry. She’s the one who filed for divorce, so I was stuck paying thousands of dollars for something that I didn’t understand, and didn’t really even want. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t an ideal marriage. But it was such a sudden decision, and it wrapped up relatively quickly. I was completely unprepared to take on this type of a burden.” – Paul, 37, North Carolina

3. You May Lose a Lot of Friends

“The hardest part about life after divorce was realizing that most of our friends were mutual. I brought some into the relationship, and so did she. They were ‘my friends’ and ‘her friends’. But, over time — over seven years — they became ‘our friends’. And when we split, the lineups weren’t the same as when we started. No one really took sides. It was just sort of a natural fissure that ended up with some friends closer to her, and some closer to me. To be honest, I’m happy with the way things turned out. I think the people who stayed in my life are the ones who are meant to be here.” – Kevin, 35, Maryland

4. It Will Be Hard to Get Back “Out There”

“I think it’s been about three years since our divorce was finalized. And I haven’t had the slightest inclination or interest in dating. I don’t know exactly why. My wife and I were married for three years, but we dated for, like, seven. So, maybe I’m just exhausted. My friends will even try to set me up, and I’m just like, ‘Nah. I’m good.’ And I really am. I’ve lost weight. I’ve gotten into more hobbies. I’ve started taking grad classes. I think I was in that relationship for so long that I just lost myself while I was trying to be a boyfriend, and then husband. I’m really in one of the best places I’ve ever been in my life.” – Neil, 38, Colorado

5. You’ll Miss Your Kids…

“We have joint custody of our two kids. Both are almost teenagers, a boy and a girl. Our arrangement is probably the best one you could ask for. We both have even time with them, things are civil, and so on. But, I miss them every day they’re not with me. Not being able to see them when I wake up and go to bed — every morning and every night — has hit me really hard. I’m also wondering what it’s going to mean when they turn 18, go away to school, and all that. Is our relationship going to be strained because of this? I hope not. I hope we’ll get closer when they’re able to make their own decisions but, really, who knows? There’s a lot of uncertainty right now.” – Mike, 40, New York

6. …But It Can Bring You Closer to Them

“Honestly, divorce was the best thing to happen to my relationship with my kids. When we were together, my wife and I did nothing but fight. There was so much tension that it alienated our kids. We were like two separate people in the same house, instead of a couple or a team. And our kids were spectators the whole time. Now that we’ve separated, everything is healthier, and for the best. Our oldest just turned 16, and that’s supposed to be a really, really tough age to be during your parents’ divorce. But even he seems to realize that things are better. So, either he’s incredibly mature, or things were just a bad fit for too long. Either way, my relationship with my kids is the best it’s ever been. So, that’s a win.” – Colton, 42, Connecticut

7. You Might Feel Paranoid

“I felt like people were talking about me all the time. Like, ‘Oh my gosh! Did you hear so-and-so got divorced?’ Like, honestly, I was imagining people sitting around at a garden party gossiping about my divorce. And that went on for a while. Really, it was on my mind before, during, and after the whole thing happened. I’m anxious by nature, but that situation really fed into my insecurity. After the divorce was final, I was convinced that my wife was out laughing at my expense, bad-mouthing me, and making me look like an idiot. Luckily, I found a therapist who helped me work through all of that catastrophic thinking which, spoiler alert, was all in my head.” – Brandon, 34, Ohio

8. It Will Be Hard to Sort Through Your Stuff

“I had to get rid of a lot of stuff when we got divorced. Neither of us could afford the house separately, so we both had to downsize our living situations. We have a son, so she found an apartment, and I was able to sublet a condo. I remember having to get rid of so much stuff that seemed so, so important before we split up. I kept pictures and books, mostly, but I had a lot of collectibles that were really special to me. And I ended up just having to sell them, because of the smaller place and to help pay for the legal stuff. I guess I’m still here, though, and I’m very aware that time spent with my son is more important than a basement full of ‘stuff’. Maybe one day I’ll be in a position to get some of it back. Who knows?” – Nathan, 37, Oregon

9. You Might Feel Defensive (Of Your Ex)

“It’s weird, but I find myself sticking up for my ex wife a lot more than I thought I would. We were an okay couple, and I think things could’ve either gotten better or worse after we got married. It was one of those hit or miss things which, in hindsight, is definitely not how you want to feel about getting married. When we split up, I had a lot of friends and family who blamed my ex wife. And I found myself saying, ‘Hang on. I made a bunch of mistakes, too. It wasn’t just her fault that we got divorced.’ I took responsibility for the mistakes that I made and, while I didn’t make excuses for her, I definitely didn’t throw her under the bus. I’ve heard guys do that before, and it just makes them sound like petty assholes. That’s not my style.” – Ben, 41

10. Therapy Can Help

“I actually owe my ex-wife for the gift of therapy in my life. She insisted that we go as a couple before we decided to divorce. So, technically, that round of therapy didn’t really work. But that’s because we weren’t right for each other. I’ve kept going to therapy, because I actually really enjoyed and benefited from the process. Even though we were working through our issues, I felt like it gave me a chance to confront a lot of my own insecurities and self-doubts. So, not only did my personal journey with therapy help me through the aftermath of the divorce, it also helped me work out a ton of shit I probably never would have explored otherwise. It’s a huge silver lining that came from a lousy situation.” – Aaron, 33, Illinois

11. Eventually, it Will Feel “Normal”

“Almost every day of our marriage was just suffocating. We were constantly walking on eggshells around each other. We were always worried about upsetting each other. It just wasn’t a relationship that was destined to grow. Luckily, we both realized that. So, while our divorce wasn’t entirely amicable, it was absolutely the best thing for both of us. She’s with someone else, and so am I. We didn’t have any kids, so we have no reason to see each other. But, we live nearby, so there have been two or three times we’ve bumped into each other at the grocery store or whatever. It’s always been civil, and cordial, and I think that speaks to life after divorce being pretty healthy for us.” – Billy, 34, Pennsylvania

12. It’s Not The End

“Was it the end of our relationship? Yeah, that’s pretty much done. But, what I’ve realized is that life isn’t over. For a while, that’s how I thought. I really loved my wife. We got married very young, and I thought she was my ‘one-and-only’, or whatever you want to call it. And after we divorced, I thought, ‘Well, I had my shot, and I blew it. I’ll never get another chance.’ But, that’s not how it works. My life with her might be over, but my life itself isn’t. It’s taken me a long time to realize that the path of life doesn’t end with the death of a relationship. It just kind of re-routes. So, I don’t know what’s next. I haven’t met anyone. But I’m much more optimistic that someone else might be out there, and that’s a good feeling.” – Adam, 31, California

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