Breaking up is hard to do, as the song goes — but it’s even harder on women, according to a new study published in the journal Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences. The good news is, though, that women also heal better.
“Breakups seem to ‘hit’ women harder at first, but they do recover, often in better ‘relationship shape’ than before,” said lead author Craig Morris. “Men react differently initially, but also seem to never truly ‘recover.’ They just sort of move on.”
Morris and his team of researchers surveyed 5,705 participants in 96 countries about their breakups. They asked about the severity of the breakup, who initiated, and what went wrong. Participants also had to self-report their emotional and physical pain on a scale of one through 10, with one being totally fine, and 10 being unbearably hurt.
In terms of emotional pain, women fared worse. Women averaged a rating of 6.84, while men averaged 6.58. Though the difference may seem small, researchers considered it statistically significant.
In terms of physical pain, women scored 4.21, while men scored 3.75 on average.
After breaking up, women reported experiencing more depression, fear, and anxiety, while men reported feeling more numb, unfocused, and angry.
The study also found that women were more likely to initiate the break than men were, despite facing a more treacherous road to recovery. What’s interesting is that previous research shows women are more likely to initiate divorce, too. In about 70% of legal cases, women are the ones who first begin the process and seek out divorce lawyers.
This might seem sad, but it means that women are more likely to walk away from a caustic relationship, even at great expense to their well being.
Even better, women ultimately come out of their hardships emotionally stronger.
“Most women, broadly speaking, seem to be hit hard and fast by a breakup, but are less self destructive, utilize more social support, and recover faster and more fully,” said Morris. Men, however, “seem to react badly and in some sort of self-destructive/angry fashion often combined with depression. … This can last for months or years. Then they just sort of ‘move on,’ usually via another relationship.”