According to a new paper by researchers at the UBC school of nursing, the idea that men don’t want help during a breakup, separation, or divorce is just not true.
In reality, many men do look for help. They use online resources, coaches, and self-help books, talk to friends, family, and community groups, and some even go to professional counselors.
Dr. John Oliffe, a professor of nursing at UBC who runs a research program on men’s health, and Mary T. Kelly, who also worked on the study, say that men can be resourceful and strong when going through painful relationship changes.
Oliffe, who is the Canada Research Chair in men’s health promotion, adds, “It’s also important to shift the narrative.” “The story that is most often told is that when a relationship breaks down, the man goes into crisis and/or perpetrates violence on his partner, but this is not the trajectory for most men. It’s helpful for guys to see that most breakups end with the men working through their challenges by leaning in to help.”
“We’ve known that men seek help when an intimate partner relationship breaks down, but we always thought it was professional help they sought. Our research shows that they creatively used various strategies,” adds Oliffe.
One of these is working alone and getting in touch with people you already know. About a quarter of the men said they looked for blogs, coaches, and other help on the internet a lot. Most of the time, these guys were younger or in shorter relationships. They talked to friends or family, not necessarily to find a solution but to talk things over, or they read books on how to help themselves.
Men who had been in long-term relationships with children or who were going through court cases, dividing assets, etc., were more likely to meet new people and look for help in their communities, like from local dads’ groups or groups of men who had gone through a separation or divorce.
About half of the men got professional help, like counseling, for their mental health. Most of the time, these were men who already had a mental illness or who needed professional help to deal with how bad they felt.
Mary Kelly says that this paper breaks the idea that men don’t go to the doctor and don’t want help. “It shatters the trope that men aren’t emotional and aren’t affected as much as the rest of us by a breakup. We also tend to think that men don’t do introspection or vulnerability, but a lot of the men were really engaging in that deep kind of work.”
Oliffe suggests that men who are going through a breakup take the time to “sit with the emotions that go with the breakup. You can be sad and happy, angry and sorrowful at the same time. Look to reconnect or stay connected with friends and family. Be careful about substance use. Maintain a routine, get some exercise and be open to reaching out for professional help.”