It’s one of life’s unavoidable truths: relationships end. And seriously, thank god for that.
Although in rare cases high school sweethearts do spend their entire lives together, the vast majority of us cringe when thinking of ending up with the person we swore to love forever in his or her high school yearbook.
We grow, evolve, journey through a litany of self-discovery moments and personality changes, and eventually find ourselves with enough clarity and self-awareness to know what kind of mate we need.
I call these “trial relationships,” and they are an integral stepping stone in our lives, and vital in discovering our own love language and needs.
But sometimes – and many of us have been guilty of this at some point in our lives – we just don’t know when to finally call it quits, genuinely thank our partner for everything learned, and move on. And because science shows that breakups are actually much tougher on men, it’s the Y-chromosomes that seem to be more likely to stay in a relationship long past its expiration date.
In fact, the NCHS shows a staggering 80% of US divorces are initiated by women.
So what psychological factors fuel this extreme exit anxiety? Let’s take a look at three common and research-backed reasons men have a tougher time calling it quits:
1. Guys fear they’ve wasted too much time.
Honestly, it’s so frustrating to hear anyone refer to a past relationship as a complete waste of time. If you can look back on the time together and say you’ve learned even one thing about yourself, dating, or merely the art of breaking up, then you are a more developed and cognizant person than before.
Never negate the value of introspection after a relationship – no matter how brief or long – because every experience further shapes the kind of partner you want to be. Yes, maybe your bank account took a hit or you turned down an the advances of an attractive co-worker a few months back, but what you’ve gained and learned about yourself is intangible. Cherish it.
2. They think they can fix the relationship.
Granted, relationships will have obstacles, but there’s a difference between a “rough patch” and fundamental dissonance that can’t be fixed.
Clinging tightly to something that’s already gone will only create further resentment and contempt, but research shows that 1 in 6 men will stay in a bad relationship for at least 6 months just in case things get better. The irony here is that this philosophy will create an endless loop with the previous reason, because it’s just more “wasted time.”
Breakups can activate the same part of our brain triggered by physical pain, so it’s too easy to get caught up. The best thing you can do?
Understand there will be a mental and physical feeling of “loss” (fueled by a drop in dopamine levels), and prepare yourself for a wide range of emotions. And please god, no social media stalking.
3. Guys feel the need to keep their emotions in check.
While women traditionally have no problem opening up to their friends and family when faced with an emotional crisis, men typically tend to keep topics of conversation light when around his peers.
During trying times, they’ll put on a brave face and maybe overindulge in vices, but a man’s significant other is usually one of the only people in his life he is comfortable completely confiding in. So when you threaten to take this away, he loses his main confidant, and it can be soul crushing.
So for the guys on the brink of breaking up, rather than throwing yourself into cheap tequila and a week-long video game binge, trust in a sibling or longtime friend.
Science is even on your side here, as a recent study by SPPS shows that openly reflecting on a recent breakup with a close buddy can act as a catalyst for the healing process. So grab a friend, a patio, and get ready to open up – it’s not nearly as hard as it seems.