Women experience more emotional pain right after a breakup than men, a new study finds.
Women, though, tend to recover more fully, given time.
It’s men that have more trouble recovering from breakups in the long-term.
The conclusions come from a survey of 5,705 people in almost 100 countries.
People were asked to rate the emotional and physical pain of a break-up.
Dr Craig Morris, who led the study, explained it in terms of biology:
“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.”
This evolutionary explanation can also be applied to men, Dr Morris said:
“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.”
People experience an average of three breakups by their 30s.
At least one of these will usually affect people strongly.
Dr Morris said:
“People lose jobs, students withdraw from classes, and individuals can initiate extremely self-destructive behavior patterns following a breakup.
With better understanding of this emotional and physical response to a breakup — Post Relationship Grief — we can perhaps develop a way to mitigate its effects in already high-risk individuals.”
The study was published in the journal Evolutionary Behavioural Sciences (Morris et al., 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Breakup image from Shutterstock