We may feel the pain deeper, but at least we heal eventually. New research says men may move on, but they never truly mend
Here’s hope for your heartache: While women experience more pain after a breakup, we recover more fully than men ever do, reports new research from Binghamton University in New York and University College London.
Researchers asked almost 6,000 people all over the world to rate the pain of their breakup. Women reported higher levels than men of not only emotional pain, but also physical. And the ache of heartbreak is the real deal—previous studies have shown that the same areas of the brain are activated when we feel emotional discomfort as physical and pain relievers like Tylenol can actually help relieve the ache of grief. (Should You Be Friends with Your Ex?)
That tangible pain is so strong because a relationship really does mean more to us—at least on a biological level. "Put simply, women are evolved to invest far more in a relationship than a man," said lead study author Craig Morris, research associate at Binghamton University. "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.” Simply put, whom we choose to get involved with is a higher risk to our future, so we become more attached to whoever makes it through the selection process—and losing a partner is losing that potential future.
Interestingly, though, while breakups hit women the hardest, it was the men in the study that had a harder time healing. The study authors actually found that many men never fully recover—they simply move on. (The question as to why can eat you alive. Consider if it's one of The Top 10 Reasons for Breakups.)
"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," Morris said.
It’s this last part that is typically the hardest to come to terms with for either gender—that the person you lost is irreplaceable. Personally, we think knowing we’re more likely to heal before he does actually provides some kind of—admittingly selfish—solace. Until then, though, make the time less torturous with 5 Healthy Habits To Get You Through a Breakup and 5 Ways to Deal with the 'Blindsided' Breakup.