If you think you took your last break-up (we’ve all had at least one) harder than your former man, you are absolutely right, according to a new study published in the journal Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences.
The fabulous news, is that even if wome have a rougher time right after relationships come apart, we not only bounce back faster, we may be in even better emotional shape when we start dating again.
“At some point, clearly, women get over a breakup,” said study author Craig Morris, a research associate at Binghamton University in New York. “They will discuss in great detail the pain, the suffering, the misery, but they are talking about it in the past. Once they return to the dating scene, he adds, they are “better in many ways than they were before, having learned from and processed their mistakes.”
Men, on the other hand are unlikely to feel the crushing blow of a break up initially, but they may never recover from the loss fully emotionally, the study found.
Guys Grip the Past
“When you talk to a man about a breakup,” Morris said, “you can see he is still there. The anger. The disappointment. There was never any end to this for him. Most men never use the phrase, ‘I got over it.'”
Morris discovered the difference between the sexes after analyzing data on 5,705 women and men from 96 countries who answered questions about their feelings after breakups. Morris cautions that like most research, his findings don’t apply to everyone, but he saw definite trends in his large study sample.
After a relationship ended, the women in the study scored an average of 6.8 (on a scale of 0 to 10) in emotional anguish. The men scored 6.6 or less. In terms of physical pain related to the break-up, women reported and average of 4.2, while men scored at about 3.75.
Biology, said Morris, who is an expert in evolution, at least partially explains the differences. Dating, even in the later stages of life, is still guided somewhat by biological (meaning reproductive) behaviors. Women have a lot more to lose if they choose a bad partner because they can become pregnant. Men, on the other hand, have no biological investment in relationships so they may feel less when the let a woman go.
But Morris adds, there is “far more than biology” at play here. The pain of a break up does not just stem from the loss of a potential reproductive partner. We all have deep, psychological needs for intimacy and love (yes, even that old player who is still hanging out in clubs flirting with women who could be his granddaughter).
When these feelings are considered, Morris suggests that women may feel more pain, anxiety, and fear about being alone. Yet women are more likely to seek social support and engage in positive coping methods like going out with friends and talking things over, than men.
Morris agreed men should seek help and support. “Men are conditioned to grin and bear it,” he said. They may go out for a drink with buddies, but he would not expect to hear they tried to process their breakup by discussing it over a beer. Men often move on to another relationship without processing the previous one,” he finds.
There are a few tried and true ways to deal with break-ups big and small, though for really life-altering changes such as a divorce, especially after a long marriage, give yourself a break a seek professional help, at least for a few sessions. Start with these expert tips:
- Cry it out. Go ahead and have that good cry. No matter how rotten it was, you are hurt and the catharsis of a good cry may make you feel better. By all means, do not fight it. Let go and give into your emotions a bit.
- Give yourself time. A break-up is no time to force yourself into any activity that does not feel right. Establish a set time to wallow — lay around sweats, pig-put on your favorite comfort food, listen to love songs for hours — then decide when to move one. But do set a cut-off. You don’t want get stuck in this mode.
- Don’t ruminate. Some recent advice has shown that excessively going over a relationship by doing things like writing in a journal daily may make things worse. Talk things through with close friends to get out your feelings and let me know about your new life, but then try to focus on the future.
- Get real. If you dumped him, you must have had a good reason, so congratulate yourself for moving on. If he dumped you, then think about what your life would be like if you’d kept someone around who did not really love and appreciate how great you are. Be happy you have a chance at a fresh start.
Also try this additional professional advice.