When I write an Ask a Guy, Sabrina and I will usually discuss the content before it goes live.
Recently the subject of guys and breakups came up and Sabrina and I went back and forth about what guys generally go through when they breakup. It came down to be too much to put into the article I was writing, so we decided that I should throw it all into an installment of “Decoding Male Behavior”.
To start, I wanted to write this article to dispel some of the misconceptions I’ve heard in regards to men and breakups.
I’ve heard things like “When a guy’s relationship ends, he replaces her. When a woman’s relationship ends, she mourns,” or “He’s just hooking up with such-and-such to spite the ex-girlfriend,” or “Guys just don’t care” and other nonsense.
To dispel the misconceptions, let’s take a look at some of the universal truths about guys and breakups – some of which may surprise you since they certainly are hidden from the surface.
Breakups are hard on all guys. Simple enough to say, but I know plenty of women will talk about some guy who was an insensitive jackass to her after the relationship fell apart.
The fact is: If a guy is profoundly obnoxious or terrible after a breakup, it is just testament to how rough the breakup was on him. Some people simply cope by lashing out.
But what about the guy who breaks up and goes totally cold?
Jerry Seinfeld once said that breaking up a relationship needs to be like taking off a Band-aid – One motion: OFF! In the same regard, when a relationship ends, it is much much harder for a guy to go back and discuss and revisit and talk through and explain, etc. etc.
In fact, guys like to keep their emotional spectrum focused on a tight range of emotions – somewhere between amusement and contentedness. So any interaction that a guy knows will bring him out of that sweet range of emotions is an interaction he’s going to do everything he can to avoid.
Personally, I have had breakups where I pretty much went cold. It’s not that I simply stopped caring. I wanted her to be OK, I wanted good things for her in life, but I knew that nothing was going to make the situation better.
No discussion was going to fix things, no clarity was to be had – it would have just been an emotional toilet for both of us. I realize it probably came off jerky, but when I cut off communication, my heart is in the right place. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a monster, I won’t completely cut a girl off, but I definitely won’t discuss anything along a relationship conversational thread.)
But what about the guy that immediately gets into a new relationship right afterward?
This is a no-brainer – a guy does this because he doesn’t want to be alone and he doesn’t want to “deal with himself.”
If he jumps into another relationship, he can still maintain his dose of external female validation and self-esteem. It has its cost though and eventually devolves into a crippling neediness. Guys need to work their internal issues out, which brings me to another question…
But what about the guy that “goes off the deep end” and just starts hooking up with every girl he sees?
A guy once told me that “A man is devastated at the end of a relationship to the extent to which he sold himself out.”
What does it mean for a guy to sell himself out (in the context of a relationship)?
Every guy has a set of core values for who he is, what he stands for, and what he really wants out of life. Sometimes in a relationship, a guy will really, really love a girl and may start to compromise these core values. Maybe he changes his lifestyle, stops hanging out with certain friends, or changes his habits.
It seems innocent enough, but over time the guy begins to starve for whatever it was he got from the things he gave up. It changes the guy and, in turn, changes the relationship. As a result, the relationship usually suffers and, in the case of this example, ends.
When the relationship ends, that guy is