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Do break ups affect men and women differently?


It’s a stock chick-flick situation – the mending of a broken heart. The unrealistically sweet, always level-headed and necessarily likeable female protagonist will weep into a carton of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, get a makeover and be constantly affirmed of her sweetness, level head and likeability from her completely unbiased best friends when dumped. On the other hand, if our protagonist is doing the ditching, she’ll glide over like a glamazon to her soon-to-be ex, who is always in the wrong, and sassily lay down the line before rousing the cinema, living room or economy flight audience to brief woops and claps. We’re used to empowering women through break ups culturally, but we neglect what crosses the man’s mind when it’s all over. How does a man move on from the end of the relationship? Truthfully, it’s not all that different to women.

Emotionally unconnected

Amongst younger adults, it’s far more likely that a break up will impact a man more emotionally that a woman. In this case, the Ben and Jerry’s/makeover/bestfriends scenario proves a point, even if it’s slightly exaggerated. Women are socially conditioned to build networks based on sharing emotions and keeping confidence, whereas this is less common in men. With the lack of support from friends, the man may feel he has to process his feelings internally, and this can lead to a more damaging effect. On a more serious note, there is an increase in male sufferers of clinical depression triggered by relationship break ups. Romantic troubles are linked to a loss of identity and self-confidence due to a lack of experience in communicating troubles with other people from their partners. [How self awareness can improve relationships] 

Attraction and Distraction

Moving forward from a break up could also take longer in men than women. Whilst women are more likely to seek a new partner – permanent or temporary – following the end of a relationship, men will disregard the effects of break up as much as possible, which includes shying away from dating and intimacy with others. Psychologically, humans are wired to feel physical pains associated with break ups, in some cases causing soreness of limbs and stomach cramps. Pain receptors can cause types of people to react in certain ways, either retreating as men more commonly do, or obsessing over the ex, as women more commonly do. The desire for women to find a new partner is a way of keeping the feelings of romance alive and channel the obsessive thoughts onto someone else. [Don't obsess over your ex]


When it comes to the ultimate break ups, women are more likely to see it as a fresh start compared to men. As part of the empowerment culture, women are encouraged to work harder in their occupation or feel more motivated to make positive, life-changing decisions. Men on the other hand are more likely to take time off work and are less likely to socialise as they deal with the divorce. [5 ways to manage your emotions during a divorce]

Downward Spirals

Men are also more likely to indulge in negative behaviours from a relationship break up, as a way of ignoring their feelings. Studies at Wake Forest University show that men are more likely to drink alcohol as a coping mechanism in heartbreak, and other addictive behaviours can be triggered or reactivated due to the emotional turmoil break ups can cause.

If you are going through a break up or divorce, join our site for empowering  advice on how to understand your feelings at this time, rediscover yourself and move on via videos, eBooks and a community of support.

How do we move on from our ideas of men moving on? It might be time for the culture to change. Because of prevailing ideas of men as cheats, commitment-phobes and layabouts perpetuated by popular culture, we struggle to comprehend how the men of the real world might struggle with losing love. It’s time to encourage more men to share their feelings and lead them away from bottling up their emotions.


This article was contributed by Pink Moods.