Who's More Affected by a Rocky Relationship: Men or Women?

Ask any guy and he'll tell you that he believes it's the women in his life who are the emotional or vulnerable ones. Though that may be true in some circumstances, a recent study has found that men are actually the ones who are most affected by rocky relationships.

Find it hard to believe? The proof is in the statistics. Sociologists at Wake Forest University and Florida State University studied the emotional reactions of 1,611 unmarried adults between the ages of 18 and 23.

This is what they found:

  • Young men view their romantic partners as their primary source of intimacy.
  • Young women are more likely than men to have close relationships with friends and family.
  • Problems in relationships  "seem to threaten young men's identity and feelings of self-worth," though it doesn't seem to be the case for young women.

The study seems to turn preconceived gender assumptions on their heads. Although women are more affected by a breakup, "support and strain in an ongoing relationship are more closely associated with men's than women's emotional well-being."

There is still much to be learned about men and women in early adulthood. The authors write that their findings  "highlight the need to consider the period in the life course, as well as experiences of specific cohorts of men and women, when theorizing about gender differences and the importance of intimate relationships for mental health."

So what can you do if you're in a tumultuous relationship? Consider the following tips:

  • Talk it out. If you're dissatisfied in your relationship, it's important to discuss the issues with your partner. Leaving problems unresolved could result in a snowballing effect.
  • Be honest. Try not to hide your feelings. If you think you may hurt your partner's feelings, address the problem delicately. Use "I statements" instead of placing blame. Example: "I feel hurt and worried when you stay out all night without calling."
  • Assess your relationship honestly. Does your partner appreciate the things you do? Is your physical relationship a healthy and regular one? Ask yourself questions about your relationships and consider the answers honestly.
  • If nothing is improving your relationship, break it off. You've done all you can and nothing has changed. If that statement resonates with you, it may be time to end it.


Simon, R. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, June 2010.