Last month I mentioned an interesting article I’d read recently. At the time I didn’t feel like going into it so it was just the preface to a Friday Night Music post.
The post I was going to originally do was based on this article, “Why Break Ups Hurt More For Women.”
For those too lazy to read the article, it describes how men and women react differently to break ups. According to the study, women are hurt far more when a relationship ends, then they eventually recover and are generally stronger for the experience. Compared to men, men are hurt less after the break up but never recover, just move on.
Just reading that summary, you should have some idea where I’m going with this. I kind of feel like the article and the study missed something. The title says break ups hurt more for women… but they recover… and are stronger afterwards, men are just kind of a footnote but it says they never get over it. To me, that begs the question how break ups (some study said we average three by our thirties) affect men long term. According to the study women would get stronger and stronger, it seems to follow then that men would get weaker and weaker… which is fascinating in many ways. But they never follow up on that.
Several readers commented they wanted me to expound on the subject when I got the chance. While I can only give my own opinions and experience, I’m going to try and do that now.
I agree with the premise that men don’t really get over break ups, they just find a way to move forward, though I think it’s a little more complicated than that. It’s like a wound that never really heals, we might be able to get around anyway but we’re never quite the same. Again, I can only really speak for myself but I think this is fairly common.
What the article doesn’t address, one of the many things it doesn’t address, is the severity. This is where it gets more complicated. Not every breakup hurts the same.
One of the things that I think makes the “never healing from heart break” concept difficult to believe is because it seems on the surface to be counter intuitive. Guys are always trying to get laid, having casual sex, always on the prowl, act like dogs, etc. If breakups hurt them and they never healed, why would they be so promiscuous?
Well, you could flip that around and say that maybe some guys are promiscuous because break ups are so painful. When that first High School love doesn’t work out, it’s like touching a burner, he’s learned that lesson the hard way and doesn’t want to go through it again.
This goes back to the ‘severity’ that I mentioned. I think that the damage done after a break up is directly proportional to the investment the guy makes in the relationship. That would mean the more serious he is, the harder he takes it. So, to protect themselves, a lot of guys refuse to get serious. There’s too much risk.
Now, me, I’m a fucking romantic. When I fall, I fall hard. I’m the make-breakfast-in-bed, write soppy posts, eat pussy for hours, buy roses for anniversaries, plan long term kind of romantic. That bites me in the ass when it comes to break ups. Every time I get that invested and it doesn’t work out, I come away with serious damage. Unlike NSA, that kind of pain adds up.
In reviewing my own relationships, I’d say that there’s only four or five that really, really hurt afterwards. And you know what, those were the four or five that I was really, really invested in. Most of the other women, the other breaks, those weren’t as serious and they had a lot less affect afterwards.
This actually leads to an interesting side topic, the casual vs. serious relationship ratio. This is just me, but I find it fascinating. In reviewing all these past relationships I’m at about a 4:1 ratio, which ends up being about 1-2 years. It’s a cycle. I get so hurt by a break up that I won’t do anything serious for about two years, I’m too scared/hurt to invest, and it’s only casual sex.
For example: My senior year in High School I started dating Anne (Anne pt 1, Anne pt 2), we had it great until she moved away for college. We did the whole long-distance thing for our Freshman years, back together for the summer, then things fell apart when she left again for her Sophomore year. I was totally dedicated to her, I mean I was faithful during my freshman year of college while she was 3,000 miles away. When it fell apart I dropped out of college, got into a lot of bad (drugs) habits, and had casual sexual relationships with four women over the next year. Gradually I worked up the courage to get more invested and the next summer I ran into Cat.
Now, I barely remember the four women I slept with during that period, they had almost no affect on me, but both Cat and Anne, those were biggies.
And I think that’s why I’m so emotionally detached right now, I’ve had too many breaks in the last cycle and I’m keeping my heart close to my chest like it’s a wounded animal. I can’t handle anything more so I’m shutting it all down. Maybe in another year or so I’ll be brave enough to get back into the dating pool, ready for something more than a night, but it really feels like each time it gets harder and harder. More cynical, harder to invest, keep my distance longer.
On the other side of the coin, I also agree that women seem to get stronger after each break up (from what I can tell). Sure, they hurt more right afterwards (according to the study) but then they heal and are better than before. As I’ve gotten older the women I meet are progressively stronger, more confident, more happy, more at home inside their own body, and in many cases more intimidating. I’m sure part of that is age, getting wiser, but it also seems like they are all building higher and higher. They are accumulating experience and confidence in all the right ways.
I don’t see that with guys, I really don’t. They drink more, put on more weight, and try harder to seem younger, but that’s about it. Compensating much with that red corvette?
Which means that the older we get the bigger the difference between men and women. Men accumulate a life time of baggage and pain, while women get stronger and stronger with the same experience. Men get weaker, more and more outclassed over time. Which is also interesting because older guys supposedly go after younger women. That would almost make some sense if the article is on the right track. Older guys, more damaged and less confident, would match up better with women who haven’t had as much experience. It’d be a more ‘level’ emotional playing field.
(Funny side note that I didn’t think of until I was falling asleep last night; that also means that more experienced women would match up better with younger, less experienced guys. So maybe there is something to the whole “cougar” phenomenon.)
So, the article makes a lot of sense to me, hopefully they’ll do a more in depth study sometime soon to really dig into it.