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Women experience more emotional and physical pain after breakup, but recover fully

Posted August 13, 2015

Survival of human race largely depends on relationships and dating. It is a social construct that most societies adopted and most of us will have to go through dating and try to create a long lasting relationship in order to create a family. However, breakups are too part of this process, which is why it makes sense for science to research it.

Breakups cause more pain for women, but they tend to recover fully and come out of this state emotionally stronger, while men never fully recover and just move on. Image credit: Frank Vincentz via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Breakups cause more pain for women, but they tend to recover fully and come out of this state emotionally stronger, while men never fully recover and just move on. Image credit: Frank Vincentz via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientists at Binghamton University and University College London now conducted a research about how different genders deal with ending of relationships. Turns out, women experience more emotional pain following a breakup, but they also more fully recover.

In order to get this knowledge scientists had to put a lot of efforts into this research. They asked 5,705 participants in 96 countries to rate the emotional and physical pain of a breakup on a scale of one (none) to 10 (unbearable). Results showed that women experience stronger physical and emotional pain after breakups. In average they rated their emotional pain at 6.84, while men experiences less of emotional anguish, rating it at 6.58 on average.

Difference is bigger in terms of physical pain – women averaged 4.21 versus men’s 3.75. However, even though women are hurt more by breakups, they tend to recover more fully and come out emotionally stronger. Men do not recover after breakups. They just move on without any emotional benefits. Scientists think that the different between different sexes comes down to biology.

Researchers say that women are hurt more by breakups because they have more to lose. Craig Morris, lead author of the study, said that it is because women are evolved to invest far more in a relationship than men. He explained – “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.” Men, on the other hand, were evolving for far different situations. Men were evolved to compete for the romantic attention of women, the loss of a high-quality mate for a man may not “hurt” as much at first.

Losing a potential partner for men means they have to start competing all over again to replace what he lost. This causes deep emotional damage which can last a long time. This suffering may end up with realization that the man simply cannot replace what he lost. This is why men can never fully recover after a breakup and have to just move on, while women come out emotionally stronger. And it is quite important, as most of us will experience an average of three breakups by age 30.

Furthermore, at least one of these cases of termination of relationships will affect us much stronger and will decrease our quality of life for weeks or months quite substantially. In fact, scientists note that some people lose jobs, withdraw from classes or even start even more self-destructive actions after painful breakups.

Relationships are essential part of our lives and we all wish they lasted as long as possible. However, sometimes they end very painfully and people have to deal with emotional damage. This is why this research is so important – understanding this emotional and physical response to a breakup scientists hope develop a way to mitigate its effects in already high-risk individuals. In the meantime, we have to learn from past experiences and take care of ourselves after painful breakups.


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