Falling Out of Love? It's Hard-Wired

Uh oh.  A new study has found people are hard-wired to fall out of love and move into new romantic relationships.

“Our review of the literature suggests we have a mechanism in our brains designed by natural selection to pull us through a very tumultuous time in our lives,” says Brian Boutwell, Ph.D., associate professor of criminology and criminal justice and associate professor of epidemiology at Saint Louis University. “It suggests people will recover; the pain will go away with time. There will be a light at the end of the tunnel.”

As anyone who has endured a break-up knows, some break-ups take more time than others.  I didn't have a lot of serious relationships in my life (I met my husband in my late 20's), but they didn't all end the way I wanted and some of them certainly required much more time to recover (I remember, after one break-up, going running and as I circled the gym, realizing, well, I got through one minute.)

Drawing largely upon the field of evolutionary psychology, researchers say men and women might break up for different reasons. For instance, a man is more likely to end a relationship because a woman has had a sexual relationship with another man.

That makes sense.  But wouldn't that most likely be the reason for a woman, too?

Scientists say this reason is clear.  For evolutionary reasons, men should be wired to try and avoid raising children that aren’t genetically their own, the authors say.

“Men are particularly sensitive to sexual infidelity between their partner and someone else,” Boutwell says. “That’s not to say women don’t get jealous, they certainly do, but it’s especially acute for men regarding sexual infidelity.”

I'd say that's a pretty sexist way of looking at things. (Full disclosure: it happened to me!)

But researchers redeem themselves by reporting that a woman may be more likely to break up if her partner has been emotionally unfaithful partly, again, because of evolutionary reasons.  And I have to say, that's probably true.  When a man starts losing interest in a woman, when his eyes start glazing over when she's talking about her day, that's when you know it's over, too.

And, I agree, a woman might find that more painful than the other kind of disloyalty.

Turns out evolution has designed mate ejection in females to avoid the loss of resources, such as help in raising a child and physical protection, that their mates provide. 

As for moving on after a relationship fails, common knowledge has it that men do it first.  OK, so I couldn't find any stats that prove this.  But we all know it's true!

The stats do show that the percentage of men and women who have only married once has decreased in the last several years, with men from 54% to 50% and women, from 60% to 54%.  Not all that significant, but still. (I guess you could argue we do it more).

There are a lot of reasons for men marrying first.  Experts say it's because the help that's out there for women for rebuilding after a break-up isn't really there for men.  And according to a recent Pew study, women are more likely to say no to marriage a second time around.
Among previously married men, 65% either want to remarry or are not sure; 30% say that they don’t want to remarry. Among women who are currently divorced or widowed, only 43% say they may want to remarry, while 54% say they are not interested.

In the past, fully 64% of divorced or widowed men remarried, compared with 52% of previously married women, though that is changing slightly.  Interestingly, these days men are less likely to remarry than in the past, while women are more likely to do so. In 1960, 70% of previously married men had remarried, compared with 48% of previously married women.

Some scientists even equate breaking up with trying to end a drug habit!  Maybe that's why some don't do it so lightly.  

We've all known friends who stayed together "for the kids."  And during some tough years in my marriage, I'll admit that's one of the reasons I did.

So, in the end, I guess some stay because break-ups are painful.  But moving on, though it takes courage, is sometimes the right thing to do.  Is it easier for men than for women?  Nah.  They just find new mates quicker.


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