Men experience more emotional pain from a breakup

emotional pain
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According to a new study, men have a tendency to experience more emotional pain than women after a relationship breakdown

Despite the age-old stereotype that men are less emotionally invested in relationships than women, a new study has found that men are in fact more likely to experience more emotional pain than women following a breakup.

An international team of psychologists, led by researchers at Lancaster University, conducted the first-ever “big data” analysis to create a map of the most common relationship problems.

They analysed data from over 184,000 people who posted their relationship problems to an anonymous online forum.

The results revealed that communication problems were the most frequently mentioned, with nearly 1 in 5 people noting difficulty discussing problems, and 1 in 8 mentioning trust issues in their relationships.

They also found that the most common theme mentioned was about the emotional pain caused by the problems, rather than the problems themselves.

Social stigmas against men

Surprisingly, the findings showed that men discuss heartbreak significantly more than women and are more likely to seek relationship help than women in online settings.

“Most of what we know about relationship problems comes from studies of people in couples therapy, which includes a rather specific subset of people — people who have the time, money, and motive to work on their relationship problems” said Charlotte Entwistle, lead author of the study. “We wanted to understand not only what relationship problems are most commonly experienced by the general public, but who experiences which problems more.

“Notably, the fact that the heartache theme was more commonly discussed by men emphasises how men are at least as emotionally affected by relationship problems as women.”

Dr Ryan Boyd, the lead researcher of the project, noted that “Traditionally, women are more likely to identify relationship problems, consider therapy, and seek therapy than are men. When you remove the traditional social stigmas against men for seeking help and sharing their emotions, however, they seem just as invested in working through rough patches in their relationships as women.

“As we were conducting the study, we realised that this was an important opportunity to put a lot of common ideas about gender differences in relationships to the test. For example, are men truly less emotionally invested in relationships than women, or is it the case that men are simply stigmatised out of sharing their feelings?”

“One of the most important things that we’re seeing here is that we’re able to create an incredibly accurate picture of relationship problems that everyday people face based purely on what people say online” added Dr Boyd. “This gives us serious hope that we can use help-seeking behaviour to better understand all types of social and psychological issues, and in a way that we simply cannot do using traditional research methods.”

The full study has been published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

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