Psych nurse likens divorce for men to PTSD

Too often, a person’s mental health is neglected during the breakdown of a relationship.  For me, this article not only brings to the forefront a mans perspective on such matters, but also outlines the importance of obtaining legal advice at the outset, no matter whether you are the husband/father or wife/mother.

Obtaining legal advice will enable you to think practically and logically about your situation.  We can then work together to devise a plan that best suits your needs moving forward.  Call us at CopperTree Family Law on (02) 4369 6838 today for an initial consultation.

Aaron Stevenson’s painful separation led him to write a practical guide for men dealing with the trauma of divorce.

With more than 30 years’ experience in the mental health system, Mr Stevenson regularly saw people in the throes of a relationship break-up.

Then, three years ago, it happened to him.

The psychiatric nurse’s 10-year marriage ended leaving him “blindsided”, just as his 50th birthday approached.

Likening a divorce to a trauma like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Mr Stevenson said the response was the same.

You don’t have to have fought in Afghanistan or got run over by a car to have PTSD; basically it’s about having trauma and, in some way, feeling you’re at risk“, Mr. Stevenson said.

“Symptoms can escalate into extreme situations when people’s willingness and or capacity to seek help and support is poor,”, Mr. Stevenson said.

“They go out and drink, do drugs, smash things, break things, get IVOs (family violence intervention order) against them, which causes another set of problems”, Mr. Stevenson.

While there are many services for men and plenty of books, articles and blogs about relationships, Mr Stevenson struggled to find any clear practical guidelines.

So Mr Stevenson compiled all his research into a guidebook, including his own experiences and his 32 years of clinical work.

The secret art of breaking up: Surviving and thriving is a guidebook for men trying to navigate the crisis of their relationship, which he co-wrote with his friend, former ABC reporter Corey Hague.

The first part outlines options for saving a relationship and the second part is how to make it through the “brutal process” of an inevitable break-up.

More women initiate divorce

The 2016 Census found that 41.5 per cent of divorces were from joint applicants while 32.5 per cent of single applicants were initiated by women.

“There’s a significant percentage where it’s women initiating and a lot less where it is men initiating”, he said.

While the initiator may have spent much time thinking about the separation, the non-initiator was quite often taken by surprise.

“It will come somewhat out of left field and it can be quite a period of crisis and distress when it’s done in that way because they then have to start dealing with it, whereas the other person is much further down the path,”, Mr. Stevenson.

“When that break up happens — you’re sort of out on your own.”

Mr Stevenson said he felt the same when his own marriage ended.

“Things were slowly deteriorating, and I didn’t realise it until one day the writing was on the wall and it hit me — it was like ‘boom’,”., Mr. Stevenson.

Divorce ‘harder on men’

Mr Wiseman said divorce was harder on men largely due to the higher levels of social isolation many men experienced.

He cited a 2015 survey by Beyond Blue that revealed that 25 per cent of men between 35 and 65 had few or no social connections.

Often in a relationship, Mr Wiseman said, the woman would play the role of social secretary, so when a relationship did end men tended to re-partner much sooner with little time to process their emotions.

Of those relationships men did have with friends, many of them tended to be “active” relationships.

“They might go off to the football together or the pub together or play golf together, but they may not necessarily talk about what’s going on in their lives and how they’re managing or not managing,”., Mr. Stevenson.

Because men generally tended to be solution-oriented, Mr Stevenson used a crisis intervention model in his book as well as worksheets.

Some of the immediate strategies involved making a commitment to the need for change including strategies in being proactive, finding support, and planning responses.

He said language was a crucial strategy that formed part of acceptance.

One piece of advice for men was to relinquish control by agreeing with their partner’s opinions instead of automatically defending themselves.