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Most Common DIVORCE MISTAKES Men Make

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Can you avoid divorce, or is it inevitable?

Sometimes, there’s going to be little doubt about your decision. Either you’ve already irreversibly gone down the divorce road in your mind, or she has, or you both have. But as often as not, things are not so starkly black and white. So let’s start off by discussing some pros and cons for the men who haven’t yet decided that their only option is divorce, whether that’s their decision or something their wives have decided for them. We’ll move on to the people who have made up their minds already a little later.

She’s been unfaithful but I can’t make up my mind.

OK, so you’ve reached the conclusion your marriage isn’t marvellous, and you’ve even found out that she’s had an affair. Maybe you’ve even had an affair as well. For some people, fidelity is non-negotiable. Without it, there’s no marriage. If you fall into that category, then your decision will be relatively easy. For you, if your wife has had an affair, it’s game over. There’s no option but divorce.

But if infidelity alone is not enough to make you decide on divorce, then it’s time to start thinking about the pros and cons of your marriage. In fact, the tried and tested way to do that is to actually take a sheet of paper, draw a line down the middle and write pro and con headings on each side. This might seem like incredibly simplistic advice, but you’ll be surprised at how helpful this method can be in getting your thinking clear. And clear thinking is at a premium when you’re in the midst of the inevitable emotional turmoil that even the thought of divorce can trigger.

On the pros side of your sheet you’ll include the possibility of starting a new life away from a partner who has betrayed you, and who may have made you miserable in other ways. On the cons side might well go items such as the likely financial costs of divorce, possibly losing your home and no longer living full-time with your children. Later, we’ll be looking at ways to make those cons as painless as possible.

Case History: Terry

Terry had been married for 11 years to Mandy – they’d been together since they were both just teenagers and they got married when Terry was 21 and Mandy was 22. The first 10 years of their marriage seemed to be happy enough. They had two lovely children and Terry’s job as a car mechanic coupled with the money that Mandy made as a part-time nurse meant they could afford a comfortable if not luxurious lifestyle.

Terry first got the idea that something was up with his marriage when Mandy started taking on extra hours in her nursing job now that the kids were a bit older. These extra hours often seemed to include evening shifts. One evening Terry phoned Mandy at work – he had a question about their daughter’s school schedule the next day. When she answered the phone, Terry could hear what sounded very much like a lively pub rather than a busy hospital ward in the background. Later, he queried Mandy on this and she admitted that some of those extra shifts had actually been time spent with a woman she worked with. And this woman was much more than just a friend – she was Mandy’s lesbian lover.

This betrayal was just much more than Terry could accept. For him, in this situation, divorce was the only option.

We just can’t live together.

Every divorce is different, and not every split is caused by either the husband or wife being unfaithful. In fact the reasons for divorce are probably as numerous as the number of divorces. One partner can develop problems with drink, drugs or gambling, all addictions which can destabilise even the strongest of marriages. Or one or both parties might have affairs.

And nothing especially dramatic may happen at all. It may just be a case of a couple gradually drifting apart. Maybe petty domestic squabbles can escalate to something more serious. Arguments can lead to entrenched positions which both partners find it difficult to move from.

Only you can decide when a situation has become intolerable. If your wife does have addiction problems, it may be possible for her to get help and for things to get back to normal. But if she refuses to accept help with her problem, divorce could be the only answer, for the sake of the children if nothing else.

Case History: Tommy

Tommy and his wife of 13 years, Angela, were both sociable types that enjoyed an evening out with friends at their local pub. Tommy liked a drink, but hated hangovers so was always careful not to drink more than sensible. For many years, Angela was the same when it came to drinking and Tommy’s successful business meant that they lived in a comfortable house with their three children, enjoying a good lifestyle with a couple of cars and annual foreign holidays.

But gradually as the years passed Tommy noticed a change in his wife. Angela always seemed to want just one more drink. Once, on holiday in Spain, she fell down a flight of stairs at their hotel when she’d had too much to drink, breaking her leg. The holiday had to be cut short. After that incident, Angela’s drinking got more out of control. Most mornings she couldn’t get out of bed in time to see the kids off to school, so that routinely became Tommy’s job, despite his demanding business life.

Eventually, her drinking became the centre of her life. For the sake of his own sanity, Tommy got a divorce. He also successfully fought through the family court to get principal custody of the kids on the grounds of Angel’s proven alcoholism. That was one situation where divorce turned out to be the only rational thing to do.

If it’s a question of rows and arguments getting out of control, there’s always the possibility of marriage counselling. A neutral third party may be able to help both of you to take a step back and to get things on a level footing again. But counselling is not a universal panacea – it doesn’t work for everyone. And if it doesn’t help, again divorce may well actually be the best option.

Case History: Jake

When Jake married Gillian, it was his second marriage so he thought he was immune from repeating the mistakes that had meant things had gone wrong with his first wife. Unfortunately, he was wrong. Two years into the marriage – fortunately there were no children in this ill-fated union – the arguments had just got worse and worse.

It seemed that, in Gillian’s eyes, nothing Jake did was right. He wasn’t earning enough money and he went to the pub with his mates too often (only once a week actually, and only for a couple of pints). Gillian’s idea of trying to have a discussion was to go from nought to screaming in two minutes flat. Jake walked out one winter evening never to return and the divorce came through the following year. In many ways Jake had been lucky – he got out early. Sometimes that’s the best option.

Can a broken marriage ever be mended?

Some marriages are clearly doomed to fail, but in other cases there may be a possibility of saving a damaged partnership, even after infidelity. Various public agencies, charities and private organisations provide counselling services for married couples whose relationship has become difficult. Of course this type of help cannot provide answers for everyone.

Counselling definitely won’t work unless both partners have at least some belief that there is a possibility of salvaging a marriage that has hit the rocks for whatever reason. And in some cases the level of antagonism that has built up in a marriage will defeat any amount of well-meaning counselling.

But if a marriage is simply going through a bad patch, and both partners want to try to avoid divorce, then counselling is certainly a feasible option. Counselling usually involves a couple meeting with a trained counsellor for a programme of regular meetings, often weekly, and usually lasting 40 minutes to an hour. For counselling to be effective, both partners have to be committed to the idea and ready to be honest about their feelings and about what’s happening in their marriage.

Case History: Derek

Derek had been married to Helen for seven years when things started to go wrong. At the root of their marriage problems were children – or the lack of them. Helen was desperate to have a child, and Derek, although not quite so consumed by this desire, was more than happy to go along with the idea that they should have kids.

After five years of trying, Helen finally fell pregnant, much to her delight. Derek was also pleased the prospect of a baby and happy that Helen’s dream looked like it would be fulfilled. Sadly, Helen’s baby, although it had seemed healthy during the pregnancy, died during the birth. Helen was seriously ill after losing a lot of blood, but thankfully she recovered. Unfortunately, in order to save her life, the doctors had no choice but to perform a hysterectomy. Obviously, having their own children was now off the agenda.

And that’s when the marriage started to go wrong. Helen, unsurprisingly, went through a dark period of depression. Derek wanted to help her, but nothing he did seemed to be of any use in lifting her depression, and his despair at this inability to help began to make him think of divorce. A friend suggested counselling. Derek was happy to give it a try because he wanted to get the old Helen back, and Helen was prepared to go through with it as nothing else had worked for her.

After three months of intensive, weekly counselling, Derek and Helen managed to get to a stage where they understood each other better and were able to get a perspective on what they’d been through together. Their marriage lasted, and they went on to adopt two children. In this case, counselling had definitely helped them to stick together through thick and thin.

But I’ve made up my mind – divorce is my only option.

There comes a point when you decide that enough is enough – your marriage cannot be saved, and you need to bail out. It might be you that’s reached this decision, or it might be your wife who has decided to end the marriage. Then again, you may have decided together that divorce is the only option.

If you’ve reached that point when divorce is inevitable, you’ll most likely be experiencing a whirlwind of conflicting emotions and feelings. These will include anger, regret, bitterness, sadness and confusion. Just about everybody goes into a marriage hoping for the best, so when the worst happens, that’s a real shock to the system, an end to whatever dreams of happiness you had in the beginning.

Because this is such an emotionally turbulent time, it’s really important to try and stay calm. Decisions you make now will affect your future, and the future of your children if you have them, for many years to come, perhaps for the rest of your life. So you really need to take the time to think carefully about what it is you want from life, and how you might achieve your goals. Acting in haste may well be a terrible mistake. Now is the time to be thinking about the rest of your life in as calm and measured a way as possible.

That is exactly what this book will be doing – helping you to decide on your future. Helping you to avoid some of the pitfalls that can trip men up during divorce proceedings and leave them alone, sad and broke. We’ll be looking at the most common mistakes men make and suggesting strategies to avoid those mistakes.

DIVORCE MISTAKES

Mistake Number 1

Refusing mediation

Mediation is often used by couples who have reached a bad patch in their marriage but feel that some sort of reconciliation might be possible. But even if you have long gone past the point of no return in terms of ending your marriage, mediation can actually still have an important and helpful role.

Assuming you’ve already made a firm decision that divorce is the only option for you, even so, there are still plenty of things that you need to negotiate with your soon-to-be ex-wife. This is something that a skilled and professional mediator can help with. Here are some of the most important things that a mediator can assist with.

Money

As so often in life, the subject of money can throw up a long list of tricky questions. For example, do you have a joint mortgage? Are there bank accounts and credit cards in both of your names? Obviously all of these joint financial commitments need to be disentangled. That’s going to be a whole lot easier if you are in complete harmony with your partner. But let’s face it, that level of harmony is unlikely to say the least.

After all, you’ve decided to divorce one another, so there’s almost certain to be some amount of animosity between the two of you. And that’s where a mediator can come in. A good, professional mediator can act as a neutral third party. He or she can look at your finances in an objective way and help you to come to a settlement that treats you both fairly.

Children

Custody agreements about children can be one of the most contentious issues in any divorce. Obviously, who gets the children and when they get them is a question that comes with high levels of emotion, and potential disagreement.

Sadly, it’s almost always the case that the person with primary custody will be the mother rather than the father. But there are still plenty of things worth negotiating over. In fact although it’s true that the mother usually ends up with more custody in terms of time, there’s absolutely no reason why you as the father can’t share the children on a 50:50 basis. This is just one of the things that a skilled mediator may be able to help with. If you can come to a childcare arrangement without the sparks flying, that is a huge bonus.

Housing

In many, if not most, divorce cases when there are young children, the husband moves out of the matrimonial home and the wife stays there with the children. Again, although this is typically what happens, it is not always the case. Especially in areas with high housing costs, financial considerations may mean that a couple are forced to stay together in the family home even although they have split. This is another area of the fallout from divorce that requires agreement to be reached, which may not be easy in an emotionally charged atmosphere.

Conclusion

The complexities of negotiating a divorce can be quite overwhelming, especially if you and your wife are not on the best of terms. Of course the whole process can be conducted through lawyers, but this can be a time-consuming and ferociously expensive option. If you think there is enough good will between you and your wife to come to amicable arrangements, then a mediator can be of enormous help. So the best advice is to give the idea serious consideration.

Mistake Number 2

Letting your anger get the better of you.

You might very well have good cause to be extremely angry. Perhaps your wife has been unfaithful to you. She might have been poisoning your children against you. If you had joint bank account, she might have decided to splurge loads of money that actually belonged to you. Then again, she might just have been downright unpleasant to you, doing her best to undermine you in all kinds of personal and hurtful ways.

But if you let your anger get the better of you, the most likely outcome is that she will emerge from the divorce in a much better place than you. If you make your rage obvious, this is likely to count against you in the courts when you have your divorce hearings.

If you let anger take over, this may well be noted by social workers if they have been called in to deal with arguments over custody of the children. If you want to get the best deal possible in terms of how much of a share you get of the children’s time, appearing angry to the point of irrationality will definitely not help your case.

Case history

Andy and Elaine had been married for 12 years when things went pear-shaped. Andy had his own events organisation business which he’d built up into a very successful enterprise over the years. His business meant that he had to travel all around the country setting up prestigious major conferences and sales events for a wide range of private companies.

He would often be away from home and his two young children for several days at a time. Obviously, he was prepared to do this for the sake of his family, so that he could give them a decent lifestyle. And indeed they had a beautiful home, the children were at private school, and they drove late-model cars. They had foreign holidays every year and basically Elaine, who worked part–time as a nurse, and the children wanted for nothing.

One week, Andy came back from a trip. Ominously, Elaine said that the two of them needed to have a serious talk after the children had settled for the night. As you’ve probably guessed, she wanted a divorce. Andy was at first baffled – he hadn’t seen this coming at all. And then it turned out that Elaine had started an affair with one of the doctors at the hospital where she worked.

Now, Andy was overcome with rage. He started shouting at her, the children woke, and soon the whole family was up to high doh. Elaine called the police. Although Andy hadn’t laid a finger on her, the police advised him to leave the house, for that night at least. He went to stay on a friend’s couch.

Early the next morning, Elaine had the locks changed and later got an emergency court order denying Andy access to the house, on the grounds that his rage made him a danger to her and the children. It was that one outbreak of temper that set the tone for the rest of what was to be a highly adversarial and protracted divorce, one that didn’t end well for Andy.

Conclusion

However difficult it may be, and however much the circumstances might justify rage, you must keep do your utmost to keep your anger under wraps. If you want to get the best possible outcome from your divorce, you need to stay in control of your emotions.

Mistake Number 3

Hiring the wrong lawyer

It is of course highly advisable to get professional representation if you are going through a divorce. And that is especially true if your divorce is likely to be acrimonious at all. Don’t forget, your wife is almost certain to hire a lawyer which absolutely means that you need one to.

But a lawyer, remember, is not your friend, however professionally charming he or she may be. That particularly applies to your wife’s lawyer.

What can go wrong if you have the misfortune to employ a rogue lawyer? Well, the experience of divorced men shows that you’re more likely to come up against an incompetent rather than an actively corrupt lawyer.

The incompetent lawyer may give you the wrong advice about crucial matters like child custody, property division and financial matters. These are all incredibly important factors in divorce proceedings and you absolutely have to have a lawyer that you can depend on to give you the right advice at the right time.

Other problems that lawyers who are not up to the job may cause you include filing important court papers late or failing to give information that is legally required to your wife’s lawyer. A sloppy lawyer may also let your wife’s lawyer get away with things that they shouldn’t.

Of course, most lawyers are ethical operators and will not try to take advantage of your difficult divorce situation. But as with any profession, there are some lawyers out there that are definitely best avoided. You only have to look in the papers to see that it’s not that rare for lawyers to be disbarred for bad behaviour and even downright corruption.

There is a type of corruption, not strictly illegal, that you need to watch out for in divorce cases. That’s the lawyer who deliberately strings things out so they can earn more money from your case. They’ll advise you to fight every inch of the way, even when that’s not actually your best option. Sometimes, it’s better to compromise than to quibble over every little detail. So you should make it clear to your lawyer that you want your case to be handled as quickly and painlessly as possible right from the outset.

You almost certainly need a lawyer to steer you through the sometimes complex pathways of a divorce. It’s rare that a divorce is going to be so straightforward that you don’t need legal advice. If you don’t jointly own any property or other assets and you have no children, then it may be possible to get an easy divorce. But even then, it’s advisable to get professional legal advice.

In any case, for most men getting a divorce there are all sorts of complicating issues like child custody, home ownership and perhaps even joint business ownership that need to be considered.

It’s highly advisable to do some research before you decide which lawyer to hire. Try asking around – you may well have friends who have gone through divorce. Some of them may be able to recommend a lawyer to you. On the other hand, they may be able to steer you clear of a lawyer with whom they’ve had a bad experience.

Obviously, you’re looking for a lawyer with a good level of experience of handling divorce cases. When you go to see a lawyer, don’t be shy about asking questions about their experience and about the outcomes of previous divorce cases they’ve been involved in. It’s also worth checking out who in the law firm will be handling your case. Although the head honcho will likely meet you to try and get the business, your case may then be handed on to a junior partner. That might be perfectly OK, but you have the right to know that in advance.

Mistake Number 4

Forgetting about your physical fitness

We all know that divorce can be a time of exceptional emotional and mental stress. The whole process of separating from your ex, arranging what will happen with the children , negotiating the financial settlement and all the other 1,001 things that need to be sorted out can take a heavy toll.

But what all too many men forget is that one of the ways to keep yourself on an even keel at times of high stress – like divorce, for example – is to make sure you’re physically fit. The Romans, a wise and intelligent people about so many subjects, had a Latin saying for this: Mens sana in corpore sano. That basically translates as ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’.

With all the emotional upheaval of divorce and the worry with what’s going to happen with the kids, the house, even the pets, it’s all too easy to let things slide on the physical health and fitness front. Visits to the gym, regular runs, weekly swimming sessions or other sporting activities can all too readily fall by the wayside.

Whatever your favoured exercise was before the whole divorce mess started, it’s highly advisable to continue with it. If you’ve already let it slip, then get back to it gradually. For example, if you used to swim 30 lengths three times a week, get started again gently by going for one session a week and building up from that. If you have a commute to work, maybe think about cycling a couple of times a week if that’s feasible.

If you were a bit of a couch potato even before the trauma of divorce set in, well there’s never been a better time to change that. If you’re in poor physical shape, you’re going to be ill-equipped to deal with all the stresses that divorce almost inevitable throws up. Now is the time to get yourself fit!

Regular exercise is obviously important to maintain physical fitness, but there’s also one other key factor – diet. It may be that you’re not used to cooking for yourself after years of marriage. Even if you’ve always had cooking skills and used to whip up meals for the family with pleasure, it’s a whole different ball game if you’ve moved out of the family home and you’re cooking just for one now.

If you actually never did the cooking, now is the time to learn. It’s a skill that you’ll never regret having. And if there’s romance in your future, being able to cook well is always going to be an impressive quality to women.

When it comes to diet, you’ll find plenty of advice online. But the main thing to remember is to eat a balanced diet and avoid comfort eating of sweet or freed stuff. Emotionally you might be in a distressed state, but eating junk will emphatically not help you.

Read Harry’s story about what can happen when you let your physical fitness decline, and how you can get things back on track.

Harry’s story.

“OK, I’m actually not going to write a lot about all the details of my horribly messy divorce. Suffice to say that we were not only husband and wife with three lovely children, we were also business partners, and that made things horribly complicated.

“I left out family home not long after we’d decided to divorce and I found myself a studio flat. In happier times, I’d been pretty physically fit, and I ate well too. But now, with everything concerning my kids, my business and my future up in the air, I have to admit things started to go downhill.

“Previously, I’d been a really keen cyclist with a decent road bike and all the Lycra gear. I cycled between 60 and 100 miles a week depending on the season, and I actually loved doing it. But now I just didn’t seem to have the energy or the motivation to get on the bike two or three times a week. It now lived in the shed in the back garden of the family home.

“Also, I stopped caring about what I ate. It was any old junk from the supermarket chucked into the microwave. In fact, that was on a good day. Often enough I couldn’t even be bothered to do that and I’d just order in a takeaway. My diet was really horrible, and now that I wasn’t exercising, I started to put on weight and I also began to feel really down, actually quite depressed.

“That was when I made the connection. I needed to get physically fit again before I was going to be able to get back to my old positive self. I started cooking proper meals from scratch even although they were just for me. I cut out the junk food altogether. And I rescued my bike from the shed and started going on at least two training rides a week.

“To be honest I was quite shocked by the results. Within just four weeks of starting to take better care of myself, the improvement in my physical health was great. But what really impressed me was the transformation of my mental attitude. Once I’d started to take care of myself physically, my state of mind was so much better. I just felt much more positive, and yes, it did definitely help me to get through my difficult divorce.”

Mistake Number 5

Failing to plan for life after divorce

OK, when you’ve first decided to divorce – or your wife has told you she wants a divorce – everything can seem quite overwhelming. There’s so much to sort out. Who is going to stay in the house? Will you have to find somewhere else to live? Or will you sell the house so that you’ll both have to find somewhere else? Is there even enough money to do that? How much time are you going to get with the children? Who is going to be their principal carer or will it be a 50:50 arrangement? All of those questions seem to be urgent and it’s difficult to know where to turn.

But you must do your best not to allow all the difficulties, the very real difficulties that are there in the present, to stop you from thinking about your future. Whether it’s you, your wife, or both of you together that have decided to go for divorce, you still have the rest of your life stretching before you.

The sooner you start planning for life after divorce, the better. Leaving yourself in a limbo where you have no idea where your life will be in a year or five years from now just makes you more vulnerable. If you already have a good idea what you want out of life after your divorce and how you’re going to get it, then you’ll actually be in a much better position to come out of the whole process in a positive way.

That great leader and exceptionally wise man Sir Winston Churchill said, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail” and those words are as true today as when he originally said them. So how should you go about planning? Well, different methods will suit different people and temperaments but here are some pointers to get you started.

Where are you going to live?

Assuming that your wife and children will be staying in the family house, then you’re going to have to find somewhere new to call home. Obviously, this means you’ll need money and more than likely a mortgage. But you may well already have a mortgage on the family home, so will you be able to get another one? This is where a good financial adviser can help, so if you haven’t already got one, now’s the time to start looking.

Of course, another option is to rent, which may be more suitable to your circumstances. But whether you buy or rent you’ll want to think about your children. Will your new home be close enough to where they are with their mother so that you can easily see them? Will your new home be large enough so that you can have your children over to stay? These are questions that you will need to answer as you form your future plans.

What future do you want for your children?

Naturally enough, most fathers are extremely concerned about their children’s futures. But after divorce, things can unfortunately get much more complicated when it comes to your children. In fact, children are another reason why it’s a very good idea to maintain as good a relationship as you possibly can with your ex-wife. If you have to negotiate about what is going to happen with your children in an atmosphere of mutual hostility, possibly even through the medium of lawyers, your life is going to be a whole lot more complex and stressful. And in turn that is not good for your children.

The first thing you’ve got to think about concerning your children is who is going to be their principal carer and where they are going to live. If your wife is co-operative it may be possible to plan a future where custody of your children is 50:50. This can mean that the kids spend half the week with you and half the week with your ex-wife. Alternatively, they might stay with you one week and with her the next week. Of course, an arrangement like that does assume that you and your ex-wife live reasonably near to each other or the logistics of getting the children to school will be difficult if not impossible.

There are many other options for how the children’s time will be split between you and your wife. The point is that you need to decide what you want and to plan accordingly. Of course, it’s always possible that your wife will act to put a spanner in the works, especially if your divorce has been a messy and bitterly contested affair. But you’ll be at an advantage if you at least have a clear idea of what you want.

What about your financial future?

This is another area that can be an absolute minefield, especially if your ex-wife doesn’t want to make things easy. If you have been the main breadwinner then the courts will almost certainly mandate an amount that you have to pay to her on a regular basis. It’s also quite likely, especially if there are children, that she will get possession of the family home.

Those commitments, and the loss of your home, will almost certainly create a financial black hole for you, even if you are reasonably well off. Of course, you can argue the toss about how much money your ex-wife will get, and in most cases there will certainly be some room for negotiation when it comes to the final divorce settlement.

But although you might want to challenge whatever figures your wife, or more likely her lawyer, say they want, you’ll have to ask yourself how much of your life do you want to devote to fighting about money? Certainly, go for the best deal you can get, always remembering that you want to be sure that your children are well looked after. But there should be a point when you bite the bullet, pay what is fair, and leave that particular battle behind.

So, it is highly likely that you might be less well off financially after the divorce than you were before, particularly if you’ve got to rent or buy a new house for yourself. So you need to make firm financial plans about how you’re going to survive this change in your fortunes.

Conclusion.

As we all know, the emotional chaos of going through divorce can be a draining and disorientating experience. But you really need to focus on what your life will be like in the future. You owe that to yourself, and you certainly owe it to your children.

Mistake Number 6

Letting depression get the better of you

When you got married, you thought that you’d made a lifetime commitment. And as the years went by, no doubt with their ups and downs along the way, you settled into a marriage that you thought would last into old age and beyond. But then the bombshell hit. She wanted out of the marriage, and you really hadn’t seen that coming.

Of courses, there are alternatives to that story. Perhaps it was actually you that decided, for whatever reason, that the marriage just couldn’t go on any longer. Or perhaps the two of you had gradually drifted apart until divorce seemed not only inevitable but welcome.

Whichever divorce story is closest to yours, one thing is for sure. Going through a divorce is potentially one of the most traumatic life events that any man can go through. Not everyone is going to suffer from depression, but there are plenty who will.

Chances are you’ve lost your home and you’re separated at least to some extent from your children. And the marriage which was central to your life has been destroyed. Any one of those factors would be enough to make you feel depressed. Combine them altogether and you have a recipe for an almost perfect storm of negative feelings.

For many men, admitting to depression can be an extremely difficult step. The typical stereotype is the tough guy with the stiff upper lip who doesn’t need help from anyone. But you have to ask yourself: Is that really the best way to deal with depression?

There are a variety of signs to show that you’re not just a little unhappy, you’re actually depressed. You might find it starts to become really hard to get up and out of the house in the morning, and you just feel tired and wiped out through the day. Pastimes such as sport, hanging out with friends or any hobbies you have ceased to give you pleasure when before they were all things that you really enjoyed. Not being able to sleep at night can be an indicator of depression. Paradoxically, finding yourself sleeping for many more hours than usual can also be a sign that you’re depressed.

So, if you find yourself unable to enjoy life as you normally do, chances are you are actually depressed. But there are things you can do to combat this. Talking to friends can be a great way to get started. Perhaps you feel they won’t be interested, but seriously, give your friends a chance and you might find they’re capable of being much more understanding and even helpful than you imagined. Likewise, family members can be a great help.

The other thing that is highly recommended for depression is to make sure that you’ve got structure in your life. If you used to go for a run every Tuesday and Friday, but that’s dropped off, start doing it again. Any hobbies you’ve had in the past should be revived, whether it’s an hour’s fishing on the canal or a weekly hang-gliding session.

Of course, depression can turn into an actual clinical condition in the most severe cases. If you really can’t find a way out of a dark place, you should pay a visit to the doctor. He or she may prescribe you some anti-depressants to tide you over. For many people that’s not an attractive option, but if depression has got really serious, you need medical help.

And it’s worth pointing out that not admitting you’re depressed when you actually are is one way to turn a mild depression into something much more serious.

Case history Alex

Alex was married to Maria for eight years before divorce reared its ugly head. For Alex and Maria, it wasn’t the infidelity of either partner that split them apart. As time had gone by, they both felt that they had less in common. Their love life petered away to nothing and they seemed to find more and more occasions when they rowed. Sometimes they hardly spoke to each other for days on end after a particularly vicious spat.

Eventually, Alex felt he had no choice but to end his marriage even although they had two beautiful young daughters aged five and seven. Despite the fact that it was Alex who made the decision to end the marriage, it was a situation that he was far from happy with.

Suddenly, getting to work on time in the morning became a struggle in itself, something that had never been the case before. Alex had been a keen gym-goer previously, popping in for a workout two or three times a week, but now he just felt he didn’t have the energy. Another regular pleasure had been his local pub’s quiz team every Thursday, something he’d always enjoyed, time with friends and a couple of pints. Now that didn’t appeal any more.

At first Alex refused to accept that there was anything wrong, but deep down he knew that things were slowly going off the rails for him. Much to his surprise, the person who actually helped him to get back on track was Bill, one of his quiz night friends. He bumped into him on the way home from work one evening, and Bill insisted that they go for a quick drink. Bill actually got the ball rolling by asking why Alex hadn’t been to quiz night for a couple of months.

That one question was enough to prompt Alex to spill it all out, the divorce, the sense of failure it had given him and the dark feelings that now plagued him. Well, it turned out that Bill himself had been through a divorce some years previously, before Alex had known him, and he was able to empathise with the whole situation Alex found himself in. Just being able to share his woes was a huge help to Alex, and in hindsight he reckoned that one conversation had been the catalyst that helped him to leave his depression behind.

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