4 November 2021

Breakup blues bad for boys

The Back Page

It’s the news aggrieved ex-boyfriends the world over have been waiting for: men experience more emotional pain during breakups than women.

This is the conclusion of a recent study by psychologists at Lancaster University, destined to be cited in a million weepy, drunken emails and serenaded into upstairs windows.

“It’s peer reviewed!”

Using natural language processing methods, the team analysed the demographic and psychological characteristics of over 184,000 people who posted their relationship problems to an anonymous online forum. They were then able to identify repeated themes across each post, creating a “map” of the most common relationship problems.

As expected, “communication” comfortably took the #1 spot. But researchers also found some unexpected patterns in the data, particularly in regards to gender differences.

While analyses revealed that both men and women were more prone to discussing the pain caused to them by relationship problems than the problems themselves, this tendency to talk about “heartbreak” (including related key words like “regret” and “cry”) was significantly more common in men. To be fair, they would have found the same pattern if they’d analysed my Yelp reviews instead.

In addition, the researchers found that men were more likely to seek relationship help than women in online settings.

Dr Ryan Boyd noted that “When you remove the traditional social stigmas against men for seeking help and sharing their emotions … they seem just as invested in working through rough patches in their relationships as women.”

Whether or not more emotive online language equates to more real-world pain, these results do suggest that the stereotype of men being less emotionally invested in relationships than women may not be entirely accurate.

If anything, they prove the importance of addressing relationship problem #1. If men don’t learn to communicate their feelings to their partner, they’ll just end up spilling them all out on an anonymous message board.

If you read something heartbreaking, send a regrettable email to felicity@medicalrepublic.com.au