How to Understand Men in Breakups

Close-up of a male doctor with his hand on his head

Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

No one ever said that love would be easy, and when we consider how different men and women truly are; it is amazing that relationships ever work at all. Those differences become especially clear in the middle of a breakup, which means that understanding how men process the loss of a relationship can be a complicated task.

Men Have Less Support

When in the midst of a breakup, men release a hormone called vasopressin that actually makes them view other men as less approachable, according to social neuroscientist Brian Alexander in the "Glamour" article “Why Breakups are Harder on Men." Women, on the other hand, naturally gravitate toward other women for support in crisis. So while they are having their wounds tended to by friends and family members, men tend to become an island in their own grief. Their emotional outlets are limited, making coping with the breakup more difficult than others may realize.

More Likely to Disengage

As far as coping mechanisms are concerned, men are more likely to distract themselves and avoid their feelings, explained clinical and health psychologist Melanie A. Greenberg in the "Psychology Today" article “The Neuroscience of Relationship Breakups.” Men may not always outwardly express their sadness over a breakup, but that does not mean they aren’t experiencing grief over the loss of that relationship. They are just more primed to bury those feelings and attempt to move forward without openly acknowledging that grief to others.

They Lose More

People often assume that women are the ones who suffer the most in a breakup, a view possibly heightened by the fact that women are more likely to share outward emotional expressions of grief. However, men tend to have more of their emotional and practical needs met by a relationship, making breakups tougher on them than women because they feel as though they are losing their emotional "home". It is because of this loss that men are more likely than women to experience physical health consequences as a result of losing a close partner, according to Alexander

Men Focus on the Now

Biologically, men tend to think in a more compartmentalized manner than women, according to biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, as quoted in "The New York Times" article, “A Young Man’s Lament: Love Hurts.” This means that while they experience a sense of loss over a broken relationship, men are more capable of thinking of the breakup in terms of the here and now. While women may be more concerned about long-term reproductive chances now that this relationship has not worked out, men may be more focused on short-term losses and concerned about things like whom they will now spend Friday nights with.