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Culture & Religion

Breaking up feels different for men and women

Women feel the effects more harshly, whereas it takes a while for men to let those feelings sink in.

The emotional and physical effects right after a breakup are different for men and women, but so is their recovery, according to a recent study.

Researchers from Binghamton University and University College London asked 5,705 participants in 96 countries to dig deep into those emotional memories and recall their last breakup. The researchers then asked the participants to rate their emotional and physical pain following that breakup on a scale of one (none) to 10 (horrible). Women tended to feel the strongest effects following a breakup. Their average rating for emotional and physical pain being 6.84 and 4.21. The men on the other hand averaged 6.58 for emotional anguish and 3.75 for physical. So, still hurt, just not as much.

’[W]omen are evolved to invest far more in a relationship than a man.’

Lead author Craig Morris, a research associate at Binghamton University, offered a suggestion in a press release for why this difference exists:

“Put simply, women are evolved to invest far more in a relationship than a man. 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.”

For the man … the loss will ferment and linger.

However, the researchers also found that while the effects of a breakup hit women the hardest, they tend to make a full recovery as time passes. As for men, the researchers say they simply “move on.” For the man, Morris explained, the loss will ferment and linger.

“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.”

This explanation isn’t the only one; it may also have something to do with the social dynamics of how we deal with breakups. Within our own, people are told to “get over it,” when another recent study has found this may not be the best course of action.

Highlighting differences in how men and women approach relationships without giving into stereotypes helps demonstrate the seriousness with which both genders approach sex. As anthropologist Helen Fisher explains, there really is no such thing as casual sex:

Natalie Shoemaker has been writing professionally for 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

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Photo Credit: MARCO LONGARI / Getty Staff


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