Why Is This Important?
Because the hardest part of breaking up is actually not “getting back your stuff.”
Long Story Short
Researchers found that women and men handle breakups differently. Women feel more pain and anguish at the onset, but eventually recover. Men, on the other hand, never fully recover from a bad breakup — we just move on.
Breaking up sucks, no matter who you are. I don’t care if your S.O. is a horrible trash person and ending the relationship was the only smart decision you ever made — it hurts, it’s arduous and life sucks for a while afterwards. We tend to assume that women take breakups the hardest, while us callous, unemotional men move from relationship to relationship unscathed. Not only is that not true, but it’s actually backward — men have a much harder time recovering from the emotional pain of a breakup.
Researchers from Binghamton University and University College London conducted a huge survey across 96 countries with nearly 6,000 participants. They were asked to rate both the emotional and physical pain of a breakup on scales of one to 10, with 10 being the worst.
In a sense, the conventional wisdom about women and breakups is true — women are hit harder, at least at first. Women averaged a score 6.84 in terms of emotional anguish. versus 6.58 in men. Women also feel much more physical pain, scoring an average of 4.21 versus our 3.75. Lead author Craig Morris attributes the difference to some evolutionary psychology:
“Put simply, women are evolved to invest far more in a relationship than a man,” Morris said. “A brief romantic encounter could lead to nine months of pregnancy followed by many years of lactation for an ancestral woman, while the man may have ‘left the scene’ literally minutes after the encounter, with no further biological investment. It is this ‘risk’ of higher biological investment that, over evolutionary time, has made women choosier about selecting a high-quality mate. Hence, the loss of a relationship with a high-quality mate ‘hurts’ more for a woman.”
Evolutionary psych/sociobiology stuff is always a mixed bag, but this isn’t too far-fetched — if you make the decision to spend a lot of money on what you believe to be a high-quality car, you’re gonna be pissed if you wind up with a lemon. But for as much as it hurts, women are better able to recover from that pain because, I assume, there’s some comfort in knowing that they dodged a bullet. Guys, however, have the opposite problem — the further removed we are from a relationship, the more life sucks.
“The man will likely feel the loss deeply and for a very long period of time as it ‘sinks in’ that he must ‘start competing’ all over again to replace what he has lost — or worse still, come to the realization that the loss is irreplaceable,” Morris said.
I believe it. We tend to romanticize the single life (particularly for younger men), but we do that because being single kind of sucks. Sure, you can have sex with whoever you want, but people who trump up that nugget tend to gloss over the fact that you first have to find someone to have sex with you. Sex aside, it’s no fun having little or no emotional intimacy in your life, either. On the flip side, women seem to tend to have much stronger, deeper support systems awaiting them after a breakup, which is why you’ll likely come crawling back right about the time she’s ready to get on with her life.