While reading my Glamour magazine recently,
Blogger’s Note: I receive Glamour magazine because when my favorite interior design magazine was cancelled last year, the publishing company decided to fulfill my remaining subscription with Glamour. I have no idea what demographics they were relying on when they made that assignment. I am certain that I am 20 years outside their target audience. I read it rather than throwing it away because I like a good, trashy dose of brain fluff once-in-a-while. Anyway, back to the point of this sentence….
I came across an article titled “Why Breakups are Harder on Men than on Women.”
SERIOUSLY?! This I just had to read. But only after scoffing audibly while instantaneously calling to memory the countless hours I’ve spent crying and thrashing and eating ice cream and drinking wine (sometimes all at the same time) after my own breakups.
Now, if you’ve followed me for any length of time at all, you know I’m a huge, shameless fan of little relationship factoids. I collect them the way some of my guy friends collect sports statistics. In my quest to do better with relationships post-divorce, I devour and regurgitate relationship research constantly. My friends are abundantly patient with me, and I think some of them actually find this stuff interesting, too. But I’ll admit that when I discover some new little factoid that I’ve never heard before, I get a little giddy, kind of like when Separated Dad calls me to wax lyrical about the iPhone 5’s new features.
So, I set aside my skepticism (okay, some of my skepticism) and proceeded to discover why breakups are harder on men.
For those of you without the time or inclination to read the whole article (men should probably avoid the part about why size matters…), here’s the relevant part:
“Sex releases bonding chemicals oxytocin and vasopressin into female and male brains, and it’s vasopressin that helps a man bond with you. For an animal-kingdom example, consider the usually monogamous male prairie vole, a cute little mouselike creature. Larry and his colleagues discovered that without the vasopressin effect, the vole would turn into a promiscuous cad. No vasopressin effect, no monogamy. When a human male is under the influence of vasopressin, as all are during sex, he forms a bond with you that’s kind of like an animal claiming a home; your scent, your eye color, even your apartment all become cues that make him crave you. Another animal example: If you give a male hamster a shot of vasopressin to the brain, he’ll run around peeing like crazy to mark territory—that’s his place, nobody else’s. Release a guy’s vasopressin by having sex with him, and he’ll unconsciously start to view you as the territory he’s bonded to. You don’t have to like it, but this is where much of that famous male possessiveness comes from.”
The idea then follows that when the man goes through a breakup, he loses not only his girlfriend, but his whole sense of “home.” Apparently, the bonding chemicals affect females differently, causing us to nurture, rather than protect, our mates, so the breakup affects us differently, too.
A couple of things jumped out at me from this description, beyond the fascinating science. One was the author’s use of the word “crave” to describe a man’s attraction to his woman. I’ve often used that word in my own head when thinking about how some men seem to truly need that sexual –rather than simply some other physical — connection with me. I’ve often wondered if their need of me went beyond satisfying some basic urge like hunger.
I also had to acknowledge the male possessiveness thing. Almost without exception, the men that I perceived having the strongest sexual attraction to me were also the men who were the most possessive. I had never, ever linked the two until reading this article, but for me, at least, it’s true. I’m not exactly sure what that means. Naturally higher vasopressin levels on their part? Something in me that triggered more release of vasopressin during sex? I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter. But I find it intriguing.
But above all, I was captured by his use of the word “home” to describe how the man attaches to his mate. I have noticed that men — in songs, poetry, and Hollywood declarations of love — frequently invoke this sense of a woman as “home,” but, to be truthful, I’ve never really understood it. From my female perspective, some men have felt more comfortable or comforting or safe to me than others, but I don’t think I’ve ever described someone as feeling like “home,” nor have I ever heard any woman of my acquaintance do so. This is very curious to me, since women are supposedly hard-wired to nest, to create a home, to want to feel “at home.” And yet we don’t seem to invoke that lingo about our partners. Men, on the other hand, are “kings of their castles” and “masters of their domains,” but hardly ever talk about seeking a home or creating a home or whatever. And yet, when reaching for a word to describe their soulmate, they settle on “home.” So now I wonder: is that because, for a man, “home” is wherever his woman is? Does he not seek to create a home so much as to find one in a mate? Does her scent, her hair, her possessions become that home for him? If so, that is a positively lovely and precious and wonderful thing. And if it means that he hurts more when it’s over, then that is sad, to be sure. But also kind of wondrous.