Men take longer than women to recover from a romantic breakup, but women initially feel the emotional pain of a breakup more intensely, according to a recent study.
In some cases, researchers also found that men said they never fully recover emotionally. The study looked at responses from 5,705 participants in 96 countries who answered questions and rated the emotional and physical pain of a breakup on a scale of one (none) to 10 (unbearable).
“My experience counseling people who have gone through breakups is similar to the findings in the study,” says Dr. Kevin Krippner, an Advocate Medical Group clinical psychologist at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “Although it’s important to seek support from friends and family when recovering from a divorce or breakup, women seem to do this more regularly than men.”
The gender differences appear to be partly due to biology and human evolution, the researchers said.
“Put simply, women are evolved to invest far more in a relationship than a man,” study lead author Craig Morris said in a press release. “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.”
Morris added that since men have evolved to “compete” for romantic attention from a woman, the impact of a breakup is slightly delayed.
“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,” he says.
When it comes to breakups, Dr. Krippner recommends looking at how a person was in the relationship and taking responsibility for changes that could increase his or her chance of having a more successful relationship in the future.
“But, equally important is to avoid taking ownership for problems in the relationship that were really not your fault,” Dr. Krippner says.
He adds that both men and women should avoid jumping into another relationship too quickly before they are emotionally healthy and “over” the previous relationship.