I don’t know Russell Armstrong at all. Truth be told, I don’t even watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. But I do have something to say about Russell Armstrong’s unfortunate and untimely death.
Before we chalk up his suicide to mental illness, his abandoned anti-depressant regimen two weeks prior, or his despair due to financial woes, there is one other explanation we should consider. It’s entirely possible that Russell, like so many divorce-averse men in his shoes, took his own life because of the devastation he felt over his publicly failed marriage. In short, divorce kills.
Although this statement may sound overly dramatic or simply provocative, consider the following. Justin Denny’s research was published last year in Social Science Quarterly. It concluded that divorced men are 39% more likely to commit suicide than married men. Thirty-nine percent! That is shocking. Why are men feeling so despondent about the break up of their marriages that they are killing themselves?
It may have something to do with what has been referred to as the Walkaway Wife Syndrome. Two thirds of divorces in our country are filed for by women. It is not that women take their decision to leave their marriages lightly, it is just that once they decide that they want out, they mean business. They leave. And they leave men no choice. As women prepare to walk out the door, men begin to do real soul searching and it is then that they realize how much their wives and families mean to them. These men will do anything to get their marriages back on track. But unfortunately, at this point, most women have shut down emotionally. Their mantra is, “Too little, too late,” or “Where were you when I needed you,” and away they go, leaving their husbands in the dust.
Men become depressed when women walk away. Work becomes meaningless with no family to come home to at night. Hobbies, partying with friends, working overtime and other outside interests lose their appeal. Life doesn’t feel worth living. And even though this insidious pessimism is generally transitory, it’s easy to lose perspective when one is in the throes of pain. Suicide starts to look like pain relief.
How can suicides such as Russell Armstrong’s be avoided? Here are some suggestions. If divorce kills, don’t divorce. Don’t stay together and be miserable either. Learn the skills it takes to keep marriage vibrant. When that doesn’t work, find the help you need to breathe new life into an ailing marriage. Whether it be marriage-friendly couples therapy such as Divorce Busting, or marriage seminars where one can learn concrete relationship skills, there steps anyone can take to bring a marriage back from the brink of divorce.
And one final thought. When Hollywood comes knocking on your door, resist the temptation to cash in on your fifteen minutes of fame. For all of its hoopla, it simply isn’t worth it. Just ask Russell Armstrong.
Michele Weiner-Davis is a best selling author, internationally renowned marriage therapist, and award winning speaker who has dedicated the last 30+ years of her life to preventing unnecessary divorces. Get her latest advice on Facebook, Twitter, and join the Divorce Busting e-mail list.