Although no one enters into a marriage hoping or expecting to get a divorce, the sad truth is that many marriages simply do not work out. Statistics show that 50% of first marriages end in divorce, while 67% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. Going through a divorce will always be difficult, but for those whose marriage allowed them to become a father in addition to being a husband, navigating divorce is doubly hard.
Understandably, divorce is one of the biggest emotional challenges an individual will ever experience in their life. Those going through divorce often experience a range of powerful emotions such as grief, sadness, anger, and disappointment. For fathers, these emotions are even further accentuated by the fact that they are not only separating from their partner, but also potentially their children, as mothers tend to get primary custody after a divorce more often than fathers.
To make matters worse, these feelings are rarely temporary. Even after the initial shock of getting a divorce wears off, individuals will continue to feel the same feelings of sadness and devastation throughout the proceedings and even during the aftermath of the separation. Generally speaking, it takes about a year for a divorce to finalize, but this length can vary greatly depending on how quickly spouses are able to reach an agreement and their geographic location. Still, this is quite a long time to be going through the emotional turmoil and uncertainty of a divorce.
Challenging feelings fathers feel during a divorce
It’s important to remember that many individuals will experience feelings of loss when going through a divorce. After all, a spouse and marriage are a fundamental part of your life for a period of years or more. Thus, divorce can disrupt a father’s sense of identity and their role as a partner and parent. Redefining their role in the family structure is among the most difficult challenges a father will face in a divorce, and could contribute to feelings of confusion and insecurity, sometimes even a loss of purpose.
One of the biggest fears that any father going through a divorce will have is wondering whether they will be able to maintain a close and meaningful relationship with their children afterward. The changes that happen during a divorce — such as those in living arrangements, co-parenting dynamics, and custody arrangements — have a fundamental impact on both the parents and their children. Fathers may experience worry that their children will blame or even resent them, which weighs heavily on their mental health.
The family dynamic can be further complicated by divorce if it’s decided that the mother and father will co-parent after their separation. Some of the challenges presented by co-parenting situations include communication difficulties, disagreements over parenting styles, and conflicts over custody and visitation. These struggles can have a negative effect on fathers’ mental health by making them think that they are not providing for their families properly.
One challenge that fathers may underestimate when going through a divorce is the level of financial stress they experience. Although the cost of a divorce varies based on several factors, reports say that the median is around $7,000, and the average is between $15,000 and $20,000. Particularly for “complicated” divorces that involve costly litigation, the expenses associated with divorce proceedings can climb even higher. Because of their increased financial responsibilities, such as child support or alimony payments, fathers could experience additional feelings of anxiety, depression, and overall mental health difficulties.
What fathers can do to navigate their divorce
Ultimately, the most important thing a father must do when navigating the challenges of a divorce is to seek support. Whether this be from mental health professionals, counselors, or support groups, it’s essential that fathers do not try to navigate the complex emotions of going through a divorce by themselves. These therapeutic interventions can help fathers by providing them with a safe space to process their emotions, develop coping strategies, and navigate the complex situation they are experiencing.
Remember, if you are going through a divorce, you are not alone. According to the US CDC, there were a total of 689,308 divorces in 2021 in the District of Columbia and the 45 states that report these statistics. Although a divorce is undoubtedly an event that will have a sudden and forceful impact on one’s life as they know it, there are resources available to help you navigate the complexities of your divorce.
For fathers, it can be difficult to overcome the unique challenges divorce presents to you and your family, but understanding these challenges is key to preserving your mental health.