*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I witnessed and experienced firsthand; used with permission.
Based on my observations, men really do handle breakups more poorly than women.
According to a recent article published by Lancaster University earlier this month, men experience worse pain after an emotional breakup than their female counterparts.
Based on my own personal observations, I believe that to be true.
There was a well-known man in my old hometown. Every day, rain or shine, he paced the neighborhood streets with a coffee cup in his hand. He muttered and mumbled to himself the whole time, shaking his head in disgust.
Nobody knew his name, but we all knew his story.
This man had been making his frantic rounds of the neighborhood since before I was born. My mother remembers the days when he had a wife and a job, and his actions were more, shall we say, typical.
Then one day, his wife left him for another man, and the entire neighborhood watched him fall apart.
All my neighbors and I knew about this man was what we learned from direct observation. I was too young to approach him personally and ask about his life, but the vast majority of the neighbors who watched him walk the streets in obvious distress could have reached out to him. They chose to watch him from a distance instead.
He didn’t look dangerous; he just looked sad.
If it were possible, I’d love to ask him about his relationship and learn more about why he had such a powerful negative reaction to his wife’s departure. Learning that your partner has been unfaithful can certainly be painful, but it shouldn’t be devastating. Yet he allowed his wife’s departure to dictate his life for decades.
I observed him, albeit from a distance, for the better part of twenty years. He was still in the same condition when I moved out of the neighborhood and lost track of him.
I had a personal experience that led me to the same conclusion.
Another observation leading me to believe the theory posited in “Dirty laundry: The nature and substance of seeking relationship help from strangers online” published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships hits much closer to home. Six years ago, I broke up with my boyfriend after eight years of dating.
I felt better immediately, and initially, I assumed he was doing fine. Two weeks later, he called me. When I didn’t answer, he left me a voicemail message. Two weeks after that, he left another message.
When I neither answered nor responded, his voicemail messages grew more frequent and frenzied. He sobbed openly into the phone and begged me to give him another chance, which he didn’t deserve.
The phone calls continued for three years, and they didn’t end until I changed my phone number. By then, he’d called me hundreds of times.
His messages proved the theory that men really do handle breakups more poorly than women was true, at least in his case.
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