The stereotype of men being less emotionally invested in relationships than women may not be accurate. According to experts men experience emotional pain more than women after a breakup. Why? Because men always just want to suck things up.
According to the recent study published in October, men tend to experience emotional pain more than women when the relationship takes a turn for the worst.
Psychologists, led by researchers at Lancaster University, conducted the first-ever “big data” analysis of relationship problems.
Initially researchers set out to create a map of the most common relationship problems experienced by people outside of clinical and counselling settings.
“We wanted to understand not only what relationship problems are most commonly experienced by the general public, but who experiences which problems more,” lead researcher and Lancaster University PhD student Charlotte Entwistle explains.
The verdict is in
Using natural language processing methods, the team analysed the demographic and psychological characteristics of over 184 000 people. They posted their relationship problems to an anonymous online forum.
Researchers were then able to statistically determine the most common themes that came up across each post, creating a “map” of the most common relationship problems.
Communication, difficulties discussing problems and trust issues ranked amongst the most frequently experienced issues in relationships, lead researcher Dr Ryan Boyd notes.
“Are men truly less emotionally invested in relationships than women or is it the case that men are simply stigmatized out of sharing their feelings?” Boyd asks.
“As we were conducting the study, we realised that this was an important opportunity to put a lot of common ideas about gender differences in relationships to the test,” he says.
Men hurt too
Contrary to their expectations, the team’s findings showed that men discuss heartbreak significantly more than did women. These findings suggest that the stereotype of men being less emotionally invested in relationships than women, may not be accurate.
It revealed that the most common theme mentioned by people talking about their relationship problems, was about the emotional pain caused by the problems, rather than the problems themselves.
“Notably, the fact that the heartache theme was more commonly discussed by men emphasises how men are at least as emotionally affected by relationship problems as women,” explains Entwistle.
The researchers also found that men were more likely to seek relationship help than women in online settings.
“When you remove the traditional social stigmas against men for seeking help and sharing their emotions, however, they seem just as invested in working through rough patches in their relationships as women.”
These findings have implications for both the general public and clinical settings, says Boyd. Researchers also note that developing an accurate picture of relationship problems, helps better understand when and why things go wrong in relationships. It potentially helps couples avoid the most common setbacks to romantic success.
Research authors hope to help destigmatise help-seeking by showing how common many relationship problems are. They also want to show that men are just as likely as women to seek help in the first place.
“One of the most important things that we’re seeing here is that we’re able to create an incredibly accurate picture of relationship problems that everyday people face based purely on what people say online” says Boyd.
“This gives us serious hope that we can use help-seeking behaviour to better understand all types of social and psychological issues, and in a way that we simply cannot do using traditional research methods.”