Healthy relationships positively influence men’s well-being. Men who are partnered or married live longer lives than single men, and they have better mental health than women and unpartnered men. Marriage appears to offer a protective influence on men’s health, reducing loneliness, depression and suicidality, and is associated with less substance and alcohol use.
Despite these benefits, male suicide continues to be a global crisis. As men’s health researchers, our focus has been on men’s suicidality. Much of this work is motivated by the fact that men complete suicide at three to four times the rate of women, and are known to use more lethal methods (guns, asphyxiation) to end their life.
While major depression is a contributing factor to suicidality, a recent review concluded that being unmarried, single, divorced or widowed are also strong predictors of suicidality among men.
Men who adhere to traditional aspects of masculinity — emotional stoicism, needing to be in control, fear of being seen as weak for seeking help — are more likely to self-isolate, resort to anger or aggression, or self-harm when they experience distress. The links between men’s mental illness, suicidality and intimate relationships are particularly concerning when considering the high rates of divorce and separation in countries including Canada, Australia and Britain.
To investigate the intersection of men’s health and intimate relationships, we conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews over Zoom with 49 men and 30 service providers who work with male clients. We collected men’s first-person experiences of an intimate partner break-up, as well as providers’ perspectives of relationship challenges and how masculinity influences men’s coping in strained relationships.