Big break-ups are horrible. You may never speak to your ex again, and you grieve in a major way. You vent to your friends, you fall apart in front of your family, you write, and you cry.
If you’re a woman.
But the typical guy quickly finds a new girlfriend and moves on. Women marvel over how quickly men seem able to get over the relationship. But is this romantic stereotype true-to-life? Do men really get over break-ups quicker than women do?
As it turns out, pretty much like everything else regarding relationships, a break-up for a man is more complicated.
Men break up longer, while women break up harder. In general, women emote heavily, they talk to their friends, and they spend time analyzing the relationship in hopes of gaining perspective or closure. The process may be difficult, but it usually leads to cleared emotions and a willingness to begin a new relationship.
But generally, men bury their feelings. Their process of moving on is to deliberately begin dating again as soon as they can. They delay processing the break-up and their feelings therefore often come back to haunt them in future relationships.
A survey by Binghamton University of more than 5,000 people from nearly 100 different countries found that after a break-up, men engage in what are considered to be more “self-destructive” behaviors. The study’s lead explained that men report more feelings of anger than women do after a break-up. Women often feel more depressed and will participate in more social behaviors than men. Women’s behaviors are considered to be more constructive, due to their tendencies towards relationship preservation. Men participate in destructive behaviors as an attempt to maintain their self-esteem.
Women’s self-reflection and reduced self-esteem after a break-up can be helpful. A related 2011 study found that women almost always identified a heightened sense of personal awareness and greater perception related to future relationships. This helps women to more fully recover, and to emerge from the process emotionally stronger.
Unlike men, women generally have been taught how to be comfortable with their emotions, and how to express them freely. Women cry, share sorrows, go to therapy, and do other things to actively feel their feelings, and then they try to feel better. Women’s emotions are generally on display for everyone to see.
But men have generally been brought up with a “manly” approach to emotions, encouraging them to retain their independence, to never ask for help, and to always appear strong and in control. That may be why guys engage in destructive behaviors, with little attention to emotional processing. They drink, party, bury themselves in their work, sleep around, or start dating again right away. In other words, they’re putting band-aids on their bullet wound.
Men definitely get over break-ups in a different way than women do. But that doesn’t mean that men get over them faster. Both men and women experience hurt, anger, grief, and other emotions. Men generally go to great lengths to mask those feelings to try to appear more masculine. Women often need to share their emotions with family and friends, and to take time off from dating to heal.
So, “moving on” isn’t always what it seems to be. One relationship expert noted that men adopt an attitude of “fake it ’til you make it.” They repress their feelings of grief and basically do whatever they have to do in order to take their thoughts off of the pain. The end of a relationship is a failure. The mourning men experience is more about the failure than it is about the loss of the person. This detachment is why men are so prone to “rebound” relationships.”
But really, women need to be on the lookout against rebound relationships, too. Actively pursuing rebound flings is a quintessential “guy thing” to do immediately after a -breakup. But women are inclined to seek them, too. Men fresh out of relationships certainly physically enjoy what it feels like to be with someone different. But more than physical, that rebound relationship is psychologically important to him. It helps him signal to himself and to the world that he’s okay, he’s strong, and he didn’t let his feelings slow him down.
It’s best for a woman to stay away from guys who are on the rebound. It doesn’t matter how she feels about him, or how aggressively he may pursues her. If she really likes him, she should just be friends with him for a while, and wait to see if a relationship blossoms after he’s taken time to heal.
The most important thing to remember is that men are not less emotional than women. They aren’t as well-equipped to handle their feelings as women are. A break-up will hit both people involved with anger and grief. You just may not see his.
Keep in mind that while you’re over-thinking, venting, and batting self-doubt, you’re healing. And if he’s relationship-hopping, or has transformed into a workaholic, he may not have fully moved on from what the two of you had.
So when you’re truly ready, getting back out there dating will probably be the best and most healing thing that you could do.