by David Zinczenko
Some relationships end with fighting. Some end with crying. Some end with sex. Some end with verbal insults (or dishes) being thrown at sound-barrier-breaking speeds. Whatever the case, break-ups can be uglier than some Dancing with the Stars performances. Let’s face it: some relationships aren’t meant to be, so a break-up averts a bigger disaster. So when the Love Boat hits the iceberg, who handles it better? My answer: Women. Several studies show that men experience more depression, distress, and anxiety after break-ups than women do. Men might like to come across as being tougher than overcooked steak after a breakup, but the truth is that they’re actually more the consistency of jelly. Believe me-I see the letters of hundreds of men desperate for advice on how to win their ex back. Here’s why some men come undone during a breakup:
Men Mask Their Pain
When a guy is dumped, his first reaction is: I’ll show her. How he sometimes does it: With a couple pitchers and a night out with the guys. In fact, 26 percent of men say that the dumped party should get drunk with the guys after a break-up, according to a Men’s Health online survey. But those beer swillers are actually in the minority: 36 percent say a guy should look at his new ex, smile, and thank her. The thing is, both of those reactions are exactly the same thing-masks for their true feelings. They can’t deal with being hurt, or angry, or bummed. It’s not until after they get past their initial reaction that men actually mourn the loss of the relationship. Women are more likely to cry soon after the breakup, and they’re also more likely to use straight talk when ending a relationship, studies find. So women face their relationship blues head on, and get them out of their systems earlier. Many men tend to repress their reaction, so it lingers like basement mold.
Men Have Fewer Friends
One of the reasons why women can get over sour relationships faster than the guys they breaks up with is that women have an amazing network of people to latch on to. Research indicates that men depend on romantic relationships for emotional intimacy and social support, whereas women are more likely to turn to family and female friends to satisfy those needs. Mothers, sisters, friends, hairdressers, cabbies, whoever-the more times she tells the story about what a jerk he was, the better she’s going to feel. A man, on the other hand, stays corked. Often he shrugs off a break-up with a shoulder shrug, shoots a Jager shot, and tries to convince himself that he’s not upset. That is, until about six months later, at 1AM after the fourth pitcher, when he confesses to his buds that all he ever wanted is for Janelle to take him back.
Men Hate Starting Over
After the break-up, a man may feel an initial surge of excitement of future prospects-the women he’s yet to meet. But after three, four, or two dozen dates, he realizes that it’s going to take a long time to reach the level of comfort he had with his ex. Research conducted at Carnegie Mellon University suggests that women adjust better to the end of a relationship because they’ve already given consideration to the possibility of a break-up, whereas men are typically unprepared for it. While that sense of emotional security can’t be the only reason to stay together, it also makes him realize that he was very lucky to have a woman like her. Meanwhile, she’s already moved on. And perhaps the only time he lets his guard down enough to admit the emotional truth is when he’s drunk dialing her. And that’s too little, way too late.
Men Idealize the Dating Game
Many breakups are a knee-jerk reaction to what men perceive as stagnation: He’s bored with the same restaurants, the same petty arguments, the repetitive sex. Once he’s back on the prowl, he thinks, he’ll be bedding 10s and living the high life. After the break-up, however, he quickly realizes that the singles scene isn’t all champagne and half-naked strangers–it’s work. Instead of the exciting bar scene, he finds that he misses the intimacy of his past relationship. Studies show that women consistently outscore men on measures of social, sexual, and intellectual intimacy–and women are often quicker than men to realize that intimacy provides the foundation of a lasting relationship, not the sexual thrills.