Heartbreak is a difficult and painful experience for everyone. And we all experience it. But there is a common stereotype that men are less affected by heartbreak than women. This is often reinforced by societal expectations that men should be strong, stoic, and unemotional. Consequently, many men feel pressure to suppress their emotions when dealing with heartbreak.
The idea that men are less affected by heartbreak isn’t just a stereotype – it’s a misconception. I’ve been crippled by heartbreak on more than one occasion. Perhaps you have, too.
Research has shown that men can experience heartbreak just as intensely as women. In fact, several studies – like this study from Lancaster University – suggest that men experience more emotional pain during breakups than women.
Men are hardly immune to the pain associated with heartbreak. Men require support and understanding just as women do. Let’s take a closer look at how heartbreak affects men.
Understanding Heartbreak in Men
Heartbreak is a truly painful experience that can have a significant impact on a person’s life. While heartbreak is often associated with women, men also deal with extreme heartbreak and its effects. For men, heartbreak can be debilitating. It’s important that we better understand heartbreak in men.
When a man experiences heartbreak, his body goes through a physiological response. The stress of heartbreak can cause an increase in cortisol, which can lead to symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and muscle tension. Additionally, heartbreak can cause a decrease in the testosterone, which can negatively impact a man’s sex drive and muscle mass.
Of course, heartbreak also has a significant psychological impact on men. Men experience feelings of extreme sadness, anger, and rejection. Heartbreak causes men to struggle with self-esteem and self-worth. Depending on the nature of the relationship (and how it ended), many men also experience a sense of loss and grief, which can lead to things like insomnia and difficulty concentrating.
It is important to note that men tend to express their emotions differently than women. Men are more likely to express their emotions through physical activities such as exercise or sports. They may also be more likely to seek distraction through work or hobbies. Many men don’t express their emotions at all, which is supremely unhealthy.
Heartbreak can impact a man’s life in significant ways. Ultimately, it can be a catalyst for positive change. But it’s important to understand the physiological and psychological responses men have to heartbreak so we can provide the appropriate care and support.
Causes of Heartbreak in Men
Losing a partner, whether through death or a breakup, can be devastating for anyone. However, studies have shown that men may be more affected by the loss of a partner than women. A statistical study published in the British Medical Journal found that widowers had a significantly higher risk of mortality than married men.
Furthermore, women are more likely to end romantic relationships. Reports show that nearly 70% of divorces are initiated by women. Men are often blindsided by a breakup or a divorce, sending them into an emotional tailspin.
Heartbreak, however, doesn’t necessarily always come from the loss of a partner. Men can experience heartbreak for several other reasons, some of which include the following:
Relationship issues – like infidelity, communication problems, and lack of intimacy – can cause heartbreak in men. Many men find themselves in dysfunctional relationships, leading to a sense of betrayal and a lack of trust. Communication problems can cause many men to feel hopeless in their relationships.
Work stress can also contribute to heartbreak in men. Many men feel ceaseless pressure to provide for their families and may see themselves as failures if they are struggling to meet their financial obligations. This can lead to all the aforementioned relationships issues, which creates a vacuum of dysfunction at home.
Work stress can lead to exhaustion and burnout, which can also make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships.
Additionally, many men feel like they are stuck in jobs they don’t like, without any way to get out. Many men simply feel like they aren’t living up their potential. This in and of itself can be heartbreaking for men.
Health issues, such as chronic illness or injury, can also cause heartbreak in men. Men may feel like they are losing their independence and may struggle to come to terms with their new limitations. Additionally, chronic pain or illness can lead to depression and anxiety, which can further exacerbate feelings of heartbreak.
Loneliness and a Lack of Male Friends
Modern male loneliness can be attributed to a number of factors, some of of which are social media, porn, and the new narrative around toxic masculinity. Whatever the case, general loneliness and a lack of good male friends can cause a great deal of heartbreak in men.
The Stages of Heartbreak in Men
Heartbreak can be terribly difficult to navigate. Men, like women, often go through a series of stages when dealing with heartbreak. Understanding these stages can help men cope with the pain and move on with their lives.
Shock and Denial
The first stage of heartbreak for men is typically shock and denial, particularly after the loss of a partner. During this stage, a man may feel completely numb, unable to process what has happened. He may deny that the relationship is over and cling to the hope that things will work out. This stage can last for a few days, a few weeks, or a few months, depending on the individual.
Pain and Guilt
As the reality of the situation sets in, a man may move into a stage of pain and guilt. Again, this typically happens after the loss of a partner. During this stage, he may feel intense emotional pain and blame himself for the breakup. He may replay the relationship in his mind, over and over, looking for signs that he missed or mistakes that he made. This stage can be all-consuming and often lasts for several weeks.
Anger and Bargaining
After the pain and guilt stage, a man may move into the stage of anger and bargaining. During this stage, he may feel angry at his ex-partner, himself, or the situation. He may also try to bargain with his ex-partner, hoping that he can change things and get back together.
During this stage, a man might be tempted to make rash decisions. After all, it is difficult to maintain a clear head while in the throes of heartbreak.
The depression stage is when a man may start to feel hopeless and helpless. He may feel like he will never be able to move on or find love again. This stage can be dangerous, and it’s crucial that heartbroken men seek support during this time.
The final stage of heartbreak for men is acceptance. During this stage, a man will start to come to terms with the breakup and begin to move forward. He may start to re-focus on (or rediscover) his own needs and goals and start to see the future in a positive light.
Acceptance can take time, but it’s an essential step in the healing process. After a breakup, many heartbroken men find clarity during this stage. They are able to look back on their relationship with a sound mind and realize that it should have ended.
Coping Strategies for Men Dealing with Heartbreak
Men are often tempted to bottle up their emotions while they try to move on quickly. But it is essential to take time to process and heal. Let’s look at some coping strategies that can help men navigate the difficult journey of heartbreak:
Self-care is crucial for men dealing with heartbreak. This may seem obvious, but many men neglect to take care of themselves during difficult times.
Taking care of oneself reduces stress and improves general well-being. It is essential to prioritize self-care activities that promote physical, emotional, and mental health. Some of the basic self-care practices that can help men heal from heartbreak are:
- Exercise: Regular physical activity can help reduce stress, improve mood, and boost self-esteem.
- Sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for emotional and physical health. Men should aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
- Healthy Eating: Eating a balanced and nutritious diet can help improve overall well-being and reduce stress.
- Mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing, can help men manage stress and anxiety.
Therapy and Support Groups
Talking to a therapist, working with a coach, or joining a men’s group can be an effective way for men to process their emotions and gain support. Therapy or coaching can help men explore their feelings and develop coping strategies to manage heartbreak. Men’s groups can provide a safe and supportive environment where men can connect with other men who are going through similar experiences.
Engaging in healthy distractions can help men take their minds off their heartbreak. Healthy distractions can include hobbies, social events, or learning new skills.
- Hobbies: Engaging in hobbies, such as playing an instrument or painting, can help men cope with heartbreak.
- Social Events: Spending time with friends and family – or meeting new people – can help men feel supported and connected.
- Learning New Skills: Taking up a new hobby or learning a new skill, such as cooking or photography, can help men focus less on their heartbreak and more on learning and productivity. Learning new skills can also boost a man’s self-esteem.
The Impact of Society’s Expectations on Men’s Heartbreak
Unfortunately, societal expectations and gender norms seem to influence how many men experience and express heartbreak. According to an article published in the Journal of Men’s Studies, men are often socialized to suppress their emotions, particularly those associated with vulnerability and sadness. Consquently, men may feel pressure to hide their heartbreak or to express it in ways that are deemed more socially acceptable.
Society’s expectations of men can even contribute to heartbreak. For example, many men feel pressure to conform to traditional gender roles, such as being the primary breadwinner or the protector of the family. If a man fails and these, he may experience a loss of status or identity, which can lead to feelings of heartbreak and despair.
Moreover, societal expectations of masculinity can also impact how men cope with heartbreak. Many men feel pressure to “tough it out” or “suck it up,” and avoid seeking support from others. This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, which only exacerbate heartbreak.
Overall, societal expectations and gender norms can have a significant impact on how men experience and cope with heartbreak. It is important for individuals and society as a whole to recognize and challenge these expectations in order to promote healthier and more authentic expressions of emotion.
Healing from Heartbreak
The path to recovery from heartbreak can be a sinuous one. Simply giving it time is perhaps the only tried-and-true way to fully heal. But there are certainly some ways to heal faster.
First, it is crucial for men to allow themselves to feel their emotions fully. This can be uncomfortable, but it is necessary to process the pain and begin to heal. Again, men can benefit from talking to a therapist, working with a coach, or joining a men’s group to work though their emotions.
While experiencing heartbreak, it is essential for men to take care of themselves physically and mentally. This includes getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and engaging in physical activity. Men may also find it helpful to practice mindfulness or meditation to reduce stress and anxiety.
Men must also create a support system of friends and family. This can be challenging for men who may feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help. However, having a support system can provide comfort and help men feel less alone during the healing process.
Lastly, men must learn from the experience and grow from it. Again, heartbreak can be a positive catalyst for profound change. If their heartbreak is caused by a breakup, men should objectively reflect on the relationship to identify any patterns or behaviors that may have contributed to it’s demise.
It’s important for men to ask themselves questions like: What was my role in the relationship? What can I apply to my next relationship? Did I ignore any red flags? What kind of relationship was it – a healthy, mature relationship that came to natural end or a toxic, emotional roller coaster?
Men are happiest when they are conquering a challenge. Men can conquer heartbreak by setting goals for themselves and making a commitment to personal growth and self-improvement.
Frequently Asked Questions About Heartbreak in Men
How can men cope with heartbreak?
Men can cope with heartbreak by seeking support from friends and family, engaging in self-care activities such as exercise or meditation, and working through their emotions with a therapist, coach, or men’s group. Men must allow themselves to feel and process their emotions rather than suppressing or denying them.
What are some signs that a man is heartbroken?
Heartbroken men often withdraw from social activities, experience changes in appetite or sleep patterns, exhibit mood swings or irritability, and express feelings of sadness or hopelessness. However, it’s important to note that everyone experiences heartbreak differently, and not all men may show these signs. If you have a male friend or loved one who is dealing with heartbreak, make an effort to check in with him.
Is heartbreak different for men compared to women?
While heartbreak is a universal experience, there seem to be differences in how men and women deal with it. According to research, men actually have a harder time with heartbreak. Some research suggests that men may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors or turn to substance abuse as a way of coping with heartbreak, while women may be more likely to seek emotional support from friends and family.
Again, it’s important to recognize that everyone copes with heartbreak differently.
What are some ways that men can heal from heartbreak?
Healing from heartbreak can be a gradual process, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But men can heal from heartbreak by practicing self-care, engaging in new hobbies or activities, working with a therapist or coach, and allowing themselves time to grieve and process their emotions. Men must be patient with themselves while healing from heartbreak.
How long does it typically take for men to recover from heartbreak?
The length of time it takes for men to recover from heartbreak can vary depending on the man and the circumstances surrounding the heartbreak. Some men may begin to feel better after a few weeks or months, while others may take longer to heal. Men must allow themselves the time and space they need to heal, rather than feeling pressure to “walk it off” or “just get over it.”
What are some common effects of heartbreak on men?
Heartbreak can have a range of effects on men, both physical and emotional. Some common effects may include changes in appetite or sleep patterns, increased stress or anxiety, feelings of sadness or depression, and difficulty concentrating or making decisions. It’s important for men to recognize these effects and seek support if needed.
Looking for support to help you deal with your heartbreak? The Integrated Man Cave offers 1-on-1 coaching as well as a group coaching program. Click here to learn more about our coaching services.
Tony Endelman is an author, blogger, entrepreneur, certified transformational life coach, certified No More Mr. Nice Guy Coach and the founder of The Integrated Man Cave.