Plenty of people think that women have far more relationship anxiety than men, but new research shows quite the opposite. The big gender difference, when it comes to love life stress, is the way men and women deal with it.
A new study of over 1000 participants from Wake Forest University is published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, and is the first of it’s kind to really tease out what goes on in the minds of seemingly stoic men when emotional speed bumps happen in personal relationships. First, the good news: Men tend to reap far more emotional benefits from their love lives than woman do. Other research out this year from the University of Oxford might explain this. Women, it seems, have a wider emotional support system and can spread their vulnerable intimate selves among many “caregivers” (read: empathetic gal pals) while men tend to put their emotional eggs all in one basket, so to speak.
And this presents the other finding of the of the Wake Forest study. Men are more vulnerable to emotional pain when love hurts. A rocky relationship can impair a man’s mental health far more than a woman’s. And when women do have relationship problems it often results in depression, while men’s emotional stress is more likely to lead to substance abuse problems. While depression is no cake walk, women have better coping mechanisms through their other social relationships and, should the relationship end, do better than men when single. Men, it seems, are more likely to stay in a bad relationship and self-medicate.
But when things go well, when the relationship is mutually supportive and the couple has healthy conflict resolution skills, men tend to get the greatest boost in mental health benefits. The take away for men? If you find that your girlfriend or wife makes you want to check out with chemicals, remind yourself that a sober you will be in a better position to attract a more healthy relationship.