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How do Men Deal with Marital Breakups?

Breaking up is always hard to do but unfortunately, divorce is something many may have to experience. The U.S. Bureau of Statistics reports Black Americans have a higher divorce rate than other racial groups. Researchers from the American Psychological Association postulate various reasons for this - including the higher expectations that can be placed on Black Americans as a result of the civil rights movement and lower reported marriage satisfaction among African Americans (owing to factors such as financial strain, work and occupational status, responsibilities for extended family members, the presence of children, and discrimination and minority stress). What do Black men perceive as the key sources of marital breakdowns and how do they cope with them?

The Causes of Divorce

A study by Erma Jean Lawson and colleagues found that the main stressors leading to a marital breakdown (according to Black men) are financial factors, noncustodial parenting, child support stressors, and psychological and physiological distress. The findings also show that Black men experience deep post-divorce psychological distress. This distress can be related to the feeling that one has failed, the stigma associated with talking to others about difficult emotions, and a fear of loneliness. The latter in particular can lead some people to attempt to revive a failed relationship. Despite clear signs that the relationship is over, it is difficult to accept that the relationship would not work out in the future. While these fears abound for all men, those who fear that admitting weakness, anxiety, or depression will result in judgment of their peers, can face more strain than those who can count on a solid, unconditional support system.

Coping with Breakups

Lawson’s study indicates that Black men can find specific strategies helpful when dealing with breakup stress. These include relying on family and friends, taking part in church activities, interacting with others socially, and embarking on a new relationship around one year after a divorce. Researchers at the London School of Economics and the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that forming an active part of a religious community is “the only social activity associated with sustained happiness—even more than volunteering for a charity, taking educational courses or participating in a political or community organization.”

Seeking Professional Help

Men who find that they are battling chronic stress, anxiety, or depression after a marital breakup should seek professional help. Often, natural therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, holistic activities such as yoga, and spending time in nature can help lower stress levels and improve mood. Black men who are concerned about seeming ‘fragile’ can actually enhance their strength and self-sufficiency through the use of tried-and-tested approaches that focus on understanding and making the most of the link between their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Divorce rates are higher among African Americans who have been married. Black men may find it difficult to seek help or discuss their stress with others, owing to a fear of being seen as vulnerable. Research indicates that specific activities (including church worship and social interaction) can provide welcome relief. However, men should seek professional help if their stress or pain is severe or prolonged.


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