Why Don't Men Get Brokenhearted?

Ask Demetria: You'd be surprised by how much a guy can be hurt by a bad breakup.

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(The Root) --

"Why is it always the women who are heartbroken and disappointed, as opposed to men?" --S.D.

I'm unsure where this idea came from, but I've heard the assumption that "men don't have feelings" enough to recognize that among some people, it's a prevailing idea and one that couldn't be further from the truth. Of course men get heartbroken and disappointed. They are human. Those feelings aren't reserved for women.

It's as though women who say this have never heard of Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak. That was a whole aching album from an incredibly heartbroken man going through the five stages of grief. Take it old-school back to Lenny Williams and "Cause I Love You," in which he has a full-on meltdown singing about how lonely he gets: "Oh, oh, oh!" If you didn't catch it, that was the sound of a broken heart. Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes let loose on "I Miss You," making it clear to anyone listening that Melvin is disappointed, agitated and in dire need of his ex. Those are just a few of my favorites; I could make a list of hundreds if challenged.

For clarity, men are not women with penises. Via nature, they're wired differently, and via nurture (i.e., socialization) they're usually taught to respond differently from women -- for instance, holding back tears that women might let flow or clamming up when women would want to talk.

Some women make the mistake of assuming that men don't have feelings just because, in general, they don't express them the same way women do. And some women use that faulty reasoning to treat men with less care than they should, which is never OK. Expressing their feelings differently doesn't mean men don't have them. 

However, men get incredibly hurt when a relationship in which they are emotionally invested ends. In fact, a 2010 study by the Journal of Health and Social Behavior found that breakups take a greater toll on men than on women. The study also found that while women were more likely to be depressed after a breakup, men were more likely to turn to substance abuse.

Just because men don't engage in the stereotypical activities that are assigned to heartbroken women in films -- like consuming vast quantities of ice cream, crying incessantly or talking about their ex ad nauseam -- doesn't mean they don't feel anything. Again, they just handle it differently -- or, even better, they don't do it in front of you.

I'm privileged to have several close platonic male friends who have been around for more than a decade. And unfortunately, I've been a listening ear for more than a few who were going through what I like to think of as post-traumatic breakup disorder.

I haven't yet had one cry on my shoulder, but it wouldn't surprise me if, in quiet hours when they got to thinking after drinking, some tears were shed. And yes, post-breakup, guys do talk about their previous relationship and ex to an annoying extent, but they tend to share their confidences with close friends and relatives, not necessarily anyone listening, as some women are prone to do. Never seen a man binge on desserts, but I've seen more than a few react by consuming more tequila shots or cognac than seemed humanly possible -- not that it's any better. Just different.

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