Until Death Do Us Part: Why Did Russell Armstrong Commit Suicide?

Written by Michele Weiner-Davis


There is a lot of talk about high profile divorces these days.  Celebrities and their miserable marriages are making front page news.  So is the marriage between the late Russell and Taylor Armstrong of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” fame.
I don’t know Russell Armstrong. And the truth is, I never watched “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” or any other “Real Housewives” episode.  But I do have something to say about Russell Armstrong’s sad and untimely death.

Lest we assume his suicide was due to mental illness, his abandoned anti-depressant regimen two weeks prior, or his financial worries, we should consider this- It’s entirely plausible that Russell, like so many divorce-averse men, took his own life because of the devastation he felt over his failed marriage. In short, divorce kills.

Although this statement may sound over the top, 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 outrageous. Why are men feeling so desperate about the demise of their marriages that they are committing suicide?

It may have something to do with what I refer to as the Walkaway Wife Syndrome. Two thirds of divorces in our country are filed for by women. It is not that women make light of their decision to leave their marriages; it’s just that once they decide to exit their marriages, they mean business. They leave. And they leave men no choice. When women walk out the door, men do real soul searching about the importance of their wives and families.   These men are willing to do anything to get their marriages back. But unfortunately, at this point, most women have closed their hearts. 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 from their marriages. Work becomes meaningless with no family or children to come home to at night. Hobbies, partying with buddies, working overtime and other outside interests simply lose their appeal. Life doesn’t seem worth living. And even though this insidious pessimism is temporary, 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? I have some suggestions. If divorce kills, don’t divorce. Don’t stay together and be unhappy either. Learn the skills it takes to keep marriage vibrant. When that doesn’t work, breathe new life into an ailing marriage by seeking marriage-friendly couples therapy such as Divorce Busting, or marriage seminars where one can learn specific relationship skills.  Just be assured that there are many ways to revitalize a marriage.

And one last 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.

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