Women experience more emotional pain following a breakup, but they also recover fully as compared to men, according to a new global survey which included respondents from India.
Researchers 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). The five countries with the most respondents were the US (63%), India (7%), Canada (5%), and the UK and Germany (3% each).
Researchers found that women tend to be more negatively affected by breakups, reporting higher levels of both physical and emotional pain. Women averaged 6.84 in terms of emotional anguish versus 6.58 in men. In terms of physical pain, women averaged 4.21 versus men’s 3.75.
While breakups hit women the hardest emotionally and physically, women tend to recover more fully and come out emotionally stronger. Men, on the other hand, never fully recover – they simply move on, researchers said.
Put simply, women are evolved to invest far more in a relationship than a man. 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.
Conversely, as men have 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.
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 realisation that the loss is irreplaceable.
People lose jobs, students withdraw from classes, and individuals can initiate extremely self-destructive behaviour patterns following a breakup. With better understanding of this emotional and physical response to a breakup – Post Relationship Grief – we can perhaps develop a way to mitigate its effects in already high-risk individuals.