The stereotype is there: men enjoy being single and breaking up with their partner, taking the opportunity to go out again with their colleagues to burn down the city and make up for a lost time. In contrast, they are the ones who stay home while they watch some romantic drama on television, and they eat a giant ice cream bucket shedding some sad tears. At least, it’s what we’re used to seeing in movies. A breakup is just as painful for men and women, but our way of dealing with it is different depending on the gender stereotypes imposed. “Holding on like males” and “crying like a girl” are still common expressions in society. But what if we found out that women are, in fact, more resilient than men when it comes to ending a relationship and facing a breakup?
BUT IS IT TRUE?
Apparently not. Men yearn for relationships and marriage as much as women, and, according to some studies, women are more likely to take the first step in divorce than men. Also, on average, they seem to suffer less after the breakup: marriage is strongly associated with overall happiness for both genders, partly because it is related to financial well-being. But it appears that they are happier in marriage and have the most to lose (in terms of health) in a divorce. In several studies, heterosexual couples had to sleep in separate beds. Their sleep quality improved compared to theirs. Divorce is associated with a worsening of physical and mental health, and they are more likely than women to have suicidal thoughts after a separation. On the other hand, they may experience some benefits after a breakup: In several studies with heterosexual couples, they were asked to sleep in separate beds and their sleep quality improved compared to theirs.
WHY ARE THEY MORE DIFFICULT FOR THEM?
Some will think that the answer is in a recess of the brain, in a neuron that makes it take men longer to recover from breakups than women, or that both sexes process emotions differently. The reality is that there is no evidence at the neuronal level of these differences. Everything is in society and in the roles that we impose on ourselves according to gender. According to a 2003 study, much of the negative effect of divorce on their health can be explained by lifestyle changes, such as tobacco and alcohol use. They encourage healthy behavior from their husbands, but divorced men can quickly slip into old unhealthy habits without the’ positive influence. Men obtain part of their self-esteem from the social status of having a partner, while women obtain it from connecting with their partner. When asked who they would turn to first if they felt depressed, 71% of the men selected their women.
In comparison, only 39% of women chose their husbands. That is not to say that men do not have friends or family, but they may be less used to seeking or receiving non-marital emotional support. Harmful effects may be more substantial for men, who may also receive less help from friends or family, partly because they are less likely to seek it out.
On the other hand, divorced women are less likely than they are to remarry, but in the short term, it may be more difficult for men than for them to recover with a new partner. There’s also the fact that dating sites are often overloaded with men. On the other hand, it is not very clear if they do not marry a second time is more related to a question of ability or simple desire (that is, they are less willing to do it again). Many women, especially widows, but also divorced with children, do not want second chances, according to various studies conducted in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as they often associate marriage with more significant obligations of care and reduced freedom.
It is not strange that a broken-up woman takes refuge in her friends and shares the breakup details. Instead, it is common to see a man who has just broken up practicing a new sport, going on vacation, or looking for a new relationship. It gives the impression that women are better seen socially to open up emotionally to the people around them to cope with regret and sadness faster than men. If a man did the same, society would probably consider him weak. Yes: there are still many millions of men who have been taught that part of their masculinity lies in swallowing their suffering and moving on.
SAME GRIEF, DIFFERENT EMOTIONS
After a breakup, it is statistically more common in men to find behaviors such as drinking, partying, and getting involved in short relationships or with little or no commitment. But, in conclusion, breakups are difficult for everyone—both men and women who divorce suffer from poorer physical and emotional health. But the damaging effects may be more substantial for men, who may also receive less support from friends or family, partly because they are less likely to seek it out. Therefore, it is essential to put stale stereotypes aside and help those having a hard time without prejudging.