Love Hurts Men — More

heartbroken-manContrary to the prevailing notion that women are more emotionally affected than men by relationship problems (and in general), studies on marital relations and mental health suggest otherwise. One of the latest, a study published in 2010 found that young men are more troubled by relationship issues than are young women. They gain more from being in a happy relationship, but they are better off single than in a rocky, uncertain relationship.

Earlier studies on gender differences have focused on older, married couples. These have found similar results — men and women seem to be affected roughly the same by marital problems. But the way men and women handle marital issues differ. Men tend to abuse substances while women become worried and saddened. These differences were explained by gender roles. However, a more recent study found a significant differences in both the degree and manner that relationship ups-and-downs affected younger, unmarried men and women. And it probably comes down to gender roles.

The study followed over 1500 young men and women over a two year period and surveyed them on their mental health. The survey included questions on depression, happiness levels, and substance abuse, in addition to their current and past relationship status.

The results weren’t what the researchers expected: men’s internal states varied with their relationship stability and quality. If their relationship was going well, men reported greater levels of happiness. On the other hand, if there were problems in their relationships, higher numbers of depression were reported. The status of their relationship didn’t matter nearly as much for women — what mattered was whether they were in one or not.

man-relationship-problemsThe researchers behind the study say the difference in emotional reaction may be due to social factors, particularly gender norms. Sociologist Robin Simon says that men rely more on their romantic partners for emotional well-being than women do, who have close friends and family to confide in. Men often come to their partners to talk about emotional issues and see their relationship as the one place they can show their true feelings. But if their partner and relationship is the cause of their worries, they have nowhere to turn. Instead they internalize their issues and become depressed or abuse substances.

Another cause of the difference may be that it’s socially inappropriate for men to show when they are feeling down. Simon continues: “Part of our emotion culture is that men should not feel sad, while women are free to feel and express these emotions.” The male participants in the study presented a cool demeanor, but their responses indicated they weren’t as steady emotionally.

A possible solution? The myth of the stoic, unemotional man should be laid to rest, finally. And men should be allowed to express their less positive emotions as freely as women do.

See also:

Advertisements

20 thoughts on “Love Hurts Men — More

  1. The results weren’t what the researchers expected: men’s internal states varied with their relationship stability and quality. If their relationship was going well, men reported greater levels of happiness. On the other hand, if there were problems in their relationships, higher numbers of depression were reported. The status of their relationship didn’t matter nearly as much for women — what mattered was whether they were in one or not.

    Interesting, but not surprising. I’m bothered by the frequent assumption that women are the primary ones emotionally impacted in romantic relationships. As if men are rational and logical at all times, and always move on quickly when in a bad relationship. Rubbish! Men are human just as women are, with feelings and emotions. As you noted, they just don’t express it the way many women do. I just watched a movie last night on Starz, Beautiful Girls, which was like a male treatise on romantic relationships. The dialogue was hilarious, yet genuine. It’s from the 90s, but holds up pretty well, I think.

    And yes, for many women I’ve known, they were more concerned with being IN a relationship than the quality of said relationship. They seem to be more likely defined by being in/out of a relationship than if they are happy or satisfied in it.

  2. I guesss I’ve been dating some straight up A-holes because I’ve never known them to be more affect than myself…then again, I can’t use my experience to extend across the genders.

  3. Daphne,

    “Men are human just as women are, with feelings and emotions.”

    Right. And the idea that they are less emotional marginalizes the many men that do experience strong feelings. They are assumed to be “feminine” or abnormal in some way, when they are

    “And yes, for many women I’ve known, they were more concerned with being IN a relationship than the quality of said relationship.”

    Yes, I wasn’t surprised by that result. I’ve always gotten the impression that some women are more concerned with simply being in a relationship, no matter its quality. Partly due to them not wanting to be seen as undesirable or lacking as a woman, and because they want to be validated as desirable and needed.

  4. Eliss,

    “I guesss I’ve been dating some straight up A-holes because I’ve never known them to be more affect than myself…”

    Maybe, like the researchers noted, they had a calm face but they were really hurting inside? 🙂

    Or you could have been dating guys who were truly less emotional. I tend to attract the more detached types as well.

  5. I used to date a thug from my township just before I went to JoBurg to work and study.. He took it pretty hard that I would not stay with him and he even said that he would marry me. I was young and almost did it.

    He was very broken up about it and almost cried for me to stay. But my mother would have none of it and even chased him away once with my fathers belt. Hmm, I don’t know how much you guys take your education for granted in America but if you get a chance to study at a higher level here it’s something the whole family is proud of and not an opportunity you throw away for a township boy.

    Hes dead now from Aids I think, but I think his wife and kids still live.

  6. Nkosazana,

    “my mother would have none of it and even chased him away once with my fathers belt.”

    LOL. That’s kind of harsh, yet funny.

    “Hes dead now from Aids I think, but I think his wife and kids still live.”

    Wow. Well then, I guess you escaped having that future.

    I’ve also known thug types that were pretty sensitive about their relationships. If I didn’t know better I’d think it was a prerequisite for being a “thug”.

  7. I’m not surprised either–I read about a study similar to this one a few years ago that talked about how women tend to think about what they would do if a break-up occurred and tend to have a support circle, while men rely on their girlfriends for the bulk of their emotional support. Zek definitely fits this–I think I’m more rational about the possibility of breaking up, while he doesn’t even like to talk about it.

  8. Jasmin, you should advise zek to talk more about relationship problems. For his own sake; we wouldn’t want him to end up like some of the men in the study. 🙂

  9. I always feel like I’m the only one hurting when a relationship ends. Silly, silly me.

    Nkosazana, when I read your story the first thing I thought was “why didn’t he see you as an example of what was possible? Why didn’t he try to better himself, or support you?

  10. Sherry,

    “I always feel like I’m the only one hurting when a relationship ends. Silly, silly me.”

    Well, you might be. The study found men’s feelings are more unsteady when they are in a troubled relationship. When they get out of it, they are better off. 😉

  11. Sorry Alee a bit off topic but I’m going to answer Sherry’s questions..

    It might be hard to understand what it’s like growing up in a poor township during apartheid and just after it.

    People have this mentality some (not all) but some “this is life and it does not get any better”. Especially since most of the people there during that time did only have, If that, what you would call a Middle school degree..

    But I have to say its looking better now, we still got poor people BUT! a growing black middle class 🙂

  12. I am not really surprised by the results of the study. Men are human beings, after all (who knew? 😉 ) and they do need emotional support. However, gender roles often don’t allow them to be as emotional as they need, so they either keep it to themselves or share it with a very limited circle of people, one of them being their girlfriends/spouses.

    Men often come to their partners to talk about emotional issues

    This is me, actually. I am very emotional, and this is the number one thing I need in a relationship. I don’t need him to provide for me or to be successful, but I need emotional support.

    I guess men do need it, too.

    On a possible unrelated note, I’ve notice that men tend to emotionally attach to women they have sex with more than popular culture- or men themselves- admit. Especially if they are young and this woman is his first (or one of first) sexual partners. What I’m saying is, women are often “accused” of not being able to tell the difference between love and sex, but in my opinion, men are no different. (I know quite a few guys who admitted they were in bad relationships because they were attached to the girl. Conventional explanation would be: they got sex in this relationship and that’s the reason they stayed- but there’s more to it. The guys really, truly got emotionally attached to the wrong kind of women just because of it).

  13. Two reasons I’m thinking love hurt men more: 1) their ginormous egos can’t let go when it goes wrong and 2)men actually don’t like change as in divorce/separation.

  14. Mira:

    On a possible unrelated note, I’ve notice that men tend to emotionally attach to women they have sex with more than popular culture- or men themselves- admit.

    I’m so glad you mentioned this, Mira, as I’ve long believed this, but people (at least Americans) always talk about testosterone and how it negates/blocks oxytocin, the hormone that makes women bond to men, and such. It’s all very technical, apparently.

    Alee, as the biologist, have you come across conflicting studies on this? In my rudimentary Google searches, I’ve not found anything.

  15. Wow, Alee, way to kick me when I’m down!

    Seriously though, I think we’d all be better off if we just let men express a fuller range of emotion.

  16. Mira, I’m with you on the emotional support angle. I have several woman who are friends, but I don’t really share my deep emotions with them. I’m only comfortable doing that with my partner.

    “I’ve notice that men tend to emotionally attach to women they have sex with more than popular culture- or men themselves- admit. Especially if they are young and this woman is his first (or one of first) sexual partners.”

    This is true. I’ve noticed that with male friends when I talk with them about their relationships/partners.

    foosrock,

    “Two reasons I’m thinking love hurt men more: 1) their ginormous egos can’t let go when it goes wrong and 2)men actually don’t like change as in divorce/separation.”

    Lol @ the first reason. The second reason: yes, I don’t think they do. Some men get so comfortable and used to things after some time in a relationship that they won’t leave even if its unhealthy.

  17. Daphne,

    “people (at least Americans) always talk about testosterone and how it negates/blocks oxytocin, the hormone that makes women bond to men, and such. It’s all very technical, apparently.”

    Lol. I was just going to say: testosterone is one of those molecules that gets too much credit in popular culture. But oxytocin decreases testosterone levels as well, so why focus on the effects testosterone has on oxytocin? Oh, I know, uphold the status quo. 😉

  18. Sherry,

    “Wow, Alee, way to kick me when I’m down!”

    Ha. Sorry. I didn’t mean it. 🙂

    “Seriously though, I think we’d all be better off if we just let men express a fuller range of emotion.”

    Indeed. And I always encourage my partners to talk about their problems and let me know how they’re feeling. I won’t think they are being “feminine” or a “wussy” (I actually know women who make fun of their men like that when they express emotion). Just human.

  19. I have 3 brothers and I’ve seen personally the aftermath of being heartbroken by someone they really loved. They all vary in terms of how much emotion they show but the one that showed the least emotion normally took his breakup the hardest. The stable factor between all of them is that these were girls they loved, thought they were going to marry…etc. and it took them awhile to move on. They obviously didn’t show it off to everyone but the girls usually knew and those close to them knew what was up. I never bought the myth that guys don’t express or really suffer from a breakup especially if it a serious relationship.

  20. df,

    Yes, it’s important to realize that men, like women, vary in how affected they can be by emotional upsets and general emotions. And that a person not showing their hurt outwardly doesn’t equal them not feeling it inwardly, in a very deep way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s