There’s a new study out of the U.K. that explains why it can feel like your ex is holding up a whole lot better than you right after a breakup. It found that women literally feel heartbreak harder after a relationship crumbles, and report higher levels of both physical and emotional pain—which explains a lot of things, including why Taylor Swift‘s “Blank Space” has sold more than 3,980,000 copies.
Researchers from Binghamton University and University College London studied 5,705 participants from 96 countries to rate the emotional and physical pain that they felt during a breakup. On a scale of one (none) to 10 (unbearable), women averages 6.84 in emotional pain and 4.21 in physical pain. Meanwhile, men rated their emotional anguish during a breakup at a slightly lower 6.58, and physical pain at a markedly lower 3.75 out of 10.
Interestingly, it’s the women that seem to be the ones instigating most of the breaking up, and also appear to bounce back from a split better than guys, with the study finding that men simply move on.
The lead author, Craig Morris, points to basic biology to explain the difference, and that women are evolved to invest more in a relationship than a man is.
“A brief romantic encounter could lead to nine months of pregnancy followed by many years of lactation for an ancestral woman, while the man may have ‘left the scene’ literally minutes after the encounter, with no further biological investment. It is this ‘risk’ of higher biological investment that, over evolutionary time, has made women choosier about selecting a high-quality mate. Hence, the loss of a relationship with a high-quality mate ‘hurts’ more for a woman,” Morris said.
Meanwhile, guys feel that emotional and physical pain for longer as it starts to set in that he must “start competing” for another woman.
“The man will likely feel the loss deeply and for a very long period of time as it ‘sinks in’ that he must ‘start competing’ all over again to replace what he has lost—or worse still, come to the realization that the loss is irreplaceable,” he said.