Men experience worse pain from emotional breakups, online study suggests
A new study on online relationship support reveals that men tend to experience more emotional pain than women when their relationship deteriorates.
An international team of psychologists led by researchers at Lancaster University have conducted the first-ever ‘big data’ analysis of relationship problems. The study began as an attempt to create a map of the most common relationship problems experienced by people outside clinical and counseling settings.
“Most of what we know about relationship problems comes from studies of people in couples therapy, which include a fairly specific subset of people – people who have the time, money and motivation to work about their relationship issues,” said lead author Charlotte Entwistle. of the study. “We wanted to understand not only what relationship issues are most commonly experienced by the general public, but who experience what problems more.
Using natural language processing methods, the team analyzed the demographic and psychological characteristics of more than 184,000 people who posted their relationship problems on an anonymous online forum. The researchers were then able to statistically determine the most common themes that appeared in each message, creating a “map” of the most common relationship problems.
The results showed that communication problems were the most frequently mentioned issue, with almost 1 in 5 people noting difficulty discussing issues and 1 in 8 mentioning trust issues in their relationships.
Previously unexpected patterns also emerged from the data, including key gender differences in which themes were used the most.
“As we conducted the study, we realized this was an important opportunity to test many common ideas about gender differences in relationships,” said Dr. Ryan Boyd, principal investigator of the project. “For example, are men really less emotionally invested in relationships than women, or is it true that men are just stigmatized for sharing their feelings?”
The analyzes revealed that the theme most often mentioned by people talking about their relationship problems was about the emotional pain caused by the problems, rather than the problems themselves. The most common theme was about “heartbreak” and was made up of words like regret, to break up, shoutand sorry.
Contrary to their expectations, the team’s findings showed that men discuss heartache significantly more than women. These findings suggest that the stereotype that men are less emotionally invested in relationships than women may not be accurate.
Charlottle Entwistle said, “Notably, the fact that the topic of heartbreak is more often discussed by men highlights how men are at least as emotionally affected by relationship issues as women.”
Additionally, the researchers found that men were more likely to seek relationship help than women in online settings.
Dr. Ryan Boyd noted that “Traditionally, women are more likely to identify relationship issues, consider therapy, and seek therapy than men. However, when you remove the traditional social stigma against men for asking for help and sharing their emotions, they seem just as invested in working through the tough times in their relationships as women.
The team’s findings have implications for the general public, as well as for clinical settings. The researchers noted that developing a more accurate picture of relationship problems helps us better understand when and why things go wrong in our relationships, potentially helping couples avoid the most common setbacks to romantic success. The study authors also suggest the findings may also help de-stigmatize help-seeking by showing how common many relationship problems are and showing that men are just as likely as women to seek help. help first.
The researchers say this work also points to important future directions for further research. “One of the biggest things we’re seeing here is that we’re able to create an incredibly accurate picture of relationship issues that everyday people are facing based on just what people are saying online,” he said. Dr. Boyd. “This gives us serious hope that we can use help-seeking behavior to better understand all types of social and psychological issues, and in ways that we simply cannot do using traditional research methods. .”
Entwistle C, Horn AB, Meier T, Boyd RL. Dirty laundry: The nature and substance of seeking relationship help from strangers online. Journal of social and personal relationships. Published online October 23, 2021: 02654075211046635. do I:10.1177/02654075211046635
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