Men Too Go Through The Emotions Of A Break-Up

men-too-suffer-emotions-break-up-devastatedFor the longest time, we’ve been told that women are more vulnerable to the emotional rollercoaster of relationships. But research published in the June 2010 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior indicates that even though men sometimes try to present a tough face, unhappy romances take a greater emotional toll on men than women. They just express their distress differently from women.

In the study of young adults between the ages of 18 and 23, Wake Forest Professor of Sociology Robin Simon and Anne Barrett, associate professor of sociology at Florida State University analyzed data from more than 1,000 unmarried young adult men and women in south Florida. The survey data was originally gathered for a long-term study of mental health and the transition to adulthood.

“Our paper sheds light on the association between non-marital romantic relationships and emotional well-being among men and women on the threshold of adulthood,” Simon says. “Surprisingly, we found young men are more reactive to the quality of ongoing relationships.”

While young men are more affected emotionally by the quality of their current relationships, young women are more emotionally affected by whether they are in a relationship or not, Simon says. So, young women are more likely to experience depression when the relationship ends or benefit more by simply being in a relationship.

Simon suggests a possible explanation for the findings: For young men, their romantic partners are often their primary source of intimacy — in contrast to young women who are more likely to have close relationships with family and friends. Strain in a current romantic relationship may also be associated with poor emotional well-being because it threatens young men’s identity and feelings of self-worth, she says.

She also explains how men and women express emotional distress in different ways. “Women express emotional distress with depression while men express emotional distress with substance problems,” Simon says.

That means the harmful stress of a rocky relationship is more closely associated with men’s than women’s mental health. The researchers also found that men get greater emotional benefits from the positive aspects of an ongoing romantic relationship. This contradicts the stereotypic image of stoic men who are unaffected by what happens in their romantic relationships.

Simon says there is much still to learn about these relationships between men and women in early adulthood, so she advocates for more research on this prolonged and varied period in the life course that is characterized by identity exploration, a focus on the self, and forging new relationships.

Personal Note: I don’t buy into men vs. women research or Mars-Venus way of thinking about men-women relationships. To me this reasearch just proves that we’re all human beings – and as human beings we all hurt!

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  • I ended my relationship with a woman I loved and still love because of the drama. At the end I just didn’t know what she wanted and my mental state couldn’t take it nomore. I think she’s bipolar but will not yet admit it. It’s been 7 days since we broke up and i’m finally realizing how badly I was affected by all the constant fighting and mood swings. I’m sad but feel relieved, if there is such a thing. She wants me back but no way am I going back.

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  • I’ve been a long time fan of your website and the information you have written has helped out a lot. I’m curious though, what is it that you don’t like or believe about the Mars-Venus as it pertains to relationships?

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    • Ooooo-hohoho! You got me going… :>)

      I just don’t think/believe the Mars-Venus approach to man-woman relationships is based on reality. It creates this notion that women and men are sooooo-soso different – like from two different planets – which from personal experience (btw, I”ve been told over and over by men that I’m more of “a man” than a woman -and it was supposedly a compliment…heheee) and from working with thousands of men and women over the years is simply NOT true!

      Men and women are actually more alike – same human race, same planet earth – than different. When it comes to love and relationships, we all want the same thing – to love and to be loved. The way we go about it may be different but it’s more a function different “personalities” and different “social conditioning” than gender/sex differences. Two people of the same gender/sex may have the same biological make-up but be very different from each other in the way they think/feel/communicate. In other words, there is no monolithic “women from venus” or “men from mars” species.

      To say men think/feel/communicate one particular way and women think/feel/communicate one particular way is to limit the “human experience.” No wonder so many unhappy and frustrated women and men who’ve spent lots of time – and sometimes whole lives – educating themselves on how to communicate with the other “species” have never really experienced the whole range of the wonderful human experience also known as a “loving fulfilling relationship”!

      My approach is: We are all – men and women – “one species” from one planet and we all can speak the one universal language – the language of love! We just have to figure out each other’s unique “accents” and “communicate” with the INDIVIDUAL – not the gender/sex!

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  • I do think there is some validity to what you are saying regarding how men and women communicate with each other. It sounds like you prefer an approach where you address each situation and experiences as it’s own vs. trying to adhere to a set of standards and rules. I enjoyed reading your article.

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    • Thanks. You’re right, I promote the approach where we address each individual, situation and experience as unique. However, I do recognize that there are some basic “rules” for how we communicate in a way that we get along. But the emphasis should not be on the “rules” but rather on the being attentive to the individual and to the experience. My clients who switch from the rules-based approach tell me when they allow the experience to unfold instead of trying to control it with a bunch of rules, they not only feel more relaxed and more themselves (authentic) but also things flow more smoothly and naturally. This is, in my humble opinion, how relationships ought to be and ought to feel!

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  • I agree with you 100% on the venus-mars view on romantic relationships. One thing you did not mention is that it encourages a state of fear, prejudice and judgement largely because of the trumped up fear of “the other”.

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  • I think the research is true for all couples; not just young adults. I’ve been dating someone for almost two years, we are in our 50’s, and the emotional roller coaster of emotions is taking its toll on both of us when dealing with family issues, ex-spouses and over-all day to day living.

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