This article originally appeared on VICE UK
Earlier this week, it was revealed that adult men are all really a bunch of cry-baby pansies who can't get over break-ups. A study by researchers at New York's Binghamton University found that while women might be hit hardest right after a relationship comes to an end, it's men who feel it more in the long-term, with some apparently never truly coming to terms with a split.
This, supposedly, is because of our old friend, biology. Women, say the team at Binghamton, have more to lose by dating a loser—"a brief romantic encounter could lead to nine months of pregnancy," as research assistant Craig Morris put it—so are more adept at accepting someone's not right for them and moving on.
Men, however, suffer for longer, as the shock of what's just happened gradually "sinks in" to their little pea brains, before they finally come to the realization of what's just happened to them. Then they have to "compete" all over again for a new partner; and because men are naturally more competitive than women, so the study says, losing what they deem a "good catch" will hurt that little bit more.
We weren't sure that this theory necessarily holds true with every man to have ever been dumped in the history of men. So, to see whether or not all men are terrible at getting over break-ups, we asked some of our male writers to dredge up everything they remember about the most damaging split they've ever gone through, and share it with the internet.
My relationship was great. You know, like very relaxing. A long summer's holiday on the beach somewhere nice, with a seemingly endless supply of reading material, alcohol, and sex. But then it ended one day, and I had to wake up to the fact I was a pretty average bloke, back in an ocean of pretty average blokes: a bit chubby, terrible facial hair, José González on shuffle; I probably wore a pair of Toms at all times; I may have—at one point—known all the lyrics to a John Mayer album.
The break-up itself was clean. There were no tears (except for a few, from me, in bed, alone) and no arguments. It quite simply ended. Credits rolled. I woke up the next morning in a slightly low-budget sequel to my life, where certain characters, like my ex, had to be cut due to funding restrictions.
This is what I've done in the meantime: I go to the bar more. I play Football Manager. But I've discussed all this.
Of course, I've also been on Tinder. When I wake up, before I go to sleep, when I'm sober, and, of course, when I'm drunk. It's a horrible habit. (I also tried Happn, but found it a bit weird that I crossed paths with the same woman eight times a day without seeing her once. Was she stalking me? Was I stalking her?) I now have more matches on Tinder than Facebook friends, which is a really good way to emphasize loneliness.
When worms mate, they line themselves up like a sausage link and fire sperm into each other. Relationships are a bit like that: Before single people join up to create one double-sized worm, they are two smaller worms, blind and tiny, wriggling about with no idea their potential other half is busy churning subsoil somewhere in a plant pot nearby.
A break-up is simply going back to that state. There's no point crying over it. Once you've gotten over the emotional shock of having your big worm body ripped in two, you just go back to wallowing in the mud for a bit. Because one day soon—who knows when—you will find another worm to wriggle with.
My first relationship with a guy was an intense, physical, clandestine thing. I was 18, at university, and my encounters with this rugby-playing dreamboat played out like some kind of sexual espionage—making sure we weren't caught, carefully constructing alibis, double-checking I wasn't wearing any of his clothes.
We went through the first phase of questioning your sexuality together. We felt like we could take on the world, but only because we'd formed our own world under the sheets. In no time at all, I understood him—not by the things he said, but by the things he didn't, or couldn't; and our time spent together was like navigating a weird, euphoric minefield. Everything from happiness to shame was laced with gunpowder, making it bigger, louder, and more dangerous.
The relationship lasted until graduation, but by that point the happy landscape we'd carelessly skipped across felt barren and hostile. I'd come out, but he took comfort in people assuming he was straight. By the summer of 2010, he'd embraced it, and wore it like armor so nobody would try to hurt him. I could see he wasn't going to change, not even for me.
Our break-up was smooth and pragmatic, but it was the aftermath that became difficult. I moved to London, and he ended up taking a job that meant he moved country every two years. Through time I grew accustomed to the idea that he'd come back to me, because he was too scared to connect with another man. I'd be patient, and I'd wait, and he'd return, I thought, and we could go back to smoking by the window, looking down on our kingdom and feeling proud of being ourselves.
But that moment never came. One night, when we Skyped for a long-overdue catchup, he confessed he'd been seeing a girl casually. I felt my face sag, my chest tighten. I didn't understand.
It was just a fling, he said. A year later, he took that back, but he admitted it wasn't serious. A year after that, he took that back, but said it wasn't like they were going to get married.
Eventually, a gilded envelope landed on my doormat.
I wanted to wait for him to leave her. Or her to leave him. Then, in my lonelier hours, I stopped trying to figure him out; whether he was gay or straight, he'd stopped orbiting my world a long time ago.
That was nearly five years ago, and it was the worst break-up I ever experienced. Connecting with someone who was as bruised and lost as I was felt incredible. But when he went back in the closet, I suddenly felt alone. I felt like that friend I'd gone on such a long, arduous journey with might have been in my head the whole time. It took years to get over him, but that wedding invitation sealed the deal. Like him, a man who refused to be put in a box, I left both options unchecked and returned it to him: he'd know what it meant.
So I guess, in my experience, it's true that it takes a long time to get over an ex. You can feel the pang of rejection and abject misery in powerful, convulsing waves, so clinging onto the memory of a relationship is helpful. First as a coping mechanism, but later, when they're buying a house and
apparently enjoying the company of a vagina, it's nice to know that, for a brief period, someone who resembled a Disney prince used to gaze at me with nothing but lust, too.
I'm 28 but have only ever had one real break-up because that relationship lasted six years. Every other one I've had seems puny by comparison. There were still tears, still drunk texts sent weeks and months later, but when somebody leaves your life after such a long period, you're inclined to look on that heartbreak as special; as having the qualities that, over the history of humanity, have led to the creation of some of the best (and worst) poems, songs, and novels.
I met my ex when I was 21. Like many guys that age, I was an idiot—ego-driven, socially-retarded, and scared. My idea of what relationships were came from films like Sideways, where men like the one I was becoming were "saved" by smart, coincidentally attractive women. It didn't occur to me that I'd ever have to do anything in a relationship (or in life) other than exist in all my flawed, bedraggled genius. Surely that was enough to build a stable, healthy relationship around.
That my relationship lasted so long—and was so relatively stable—is a testament to both my ex and her gluttony for punishment. I can't say I brought nothing to the table, but certainly last November, when she came home from work one evening and confessed that she'd had enough, I could only hold my hands up and agree. We knew each other too well at that point to think anything could change—six years in, you know what you're getting, and if that isn't good enough, then the delusion required to stay together is just too monumental; or at least it was for us.
The past nine months have been the hardest time of my life. Deaths of family members have been easier to navigate, which is neither beneficial to admit—try picking up women with this stuff out there!—nor acceptable: People don't want to hear how badly you're doing; they want you to "cheer up" and "move on," which is fair enough, but if the past nine months have taught me anything, it's that, in order to get over someone, you first need to accept the pain.
For a while there, I went into denial mode, telling myself that I didn't actually miss this woman at all. But it wasn't long before the pain became so overwhelmingly obvious that, in order to keep denying it, I would've had to have done something a lot more drastic than what I eventually did, which was just admit that I'd fucked things up, and that it sucked, but that if I took responsibility for changing, I could meet somebody in the future and not fuck things up there.
Am I over my break-up? Absolutely not. But when I think about part of this heartbreak lasting forever, I can't help but feel there's a positive to it. As I'm learning now, the pain of a break-up pushes you forward; it improves you. Maybe, in the end—once all the tears have been shed and drunk texts —I'll even be grateful.
According to this recent study, men are more likely to suffer the adverse effects of a break-up because of their biological drive to compete for a significant other. Factor in that—for gay men—you're not only competing to be the one who doesn't die alone, but also for the same prospective partners, and perhaps it's no surprise that my first break-up was such a grade-A shit-show. Faced with the same dating pool as my recent ex in 2009, I did the sensible thing and methodically slept with boys I knew he fancied, and then made sure to tell him about it "so he wouldn't have to hear from anyone else." If that makes me a psycho (spoiler: it definitely does) he was no better, memorably bringing back a boy to the flat I shared with a mutual friend because his place was too far away (we are no longer flatmates). Living in the same postcode, and frequenting the same scene, we'd regularly bump into each other. This either resulted in fighting or fucking, usually both. Obviously, whenever he stayed at mine during this period, I'd wait until he fell asleep and then do a rigorous sweep of his Grindr to find out who he was messaging and confront him about it. Looking back, it's a surprise that nobody was murdered. There were definitely threats.
Am I over my ex? Yes, but it took a while, and there's a chance I'm still suffering from PTSD. We were only together for just over a year, but the fallout was so horrendous that I delayed making it official with my next (and current) boyfriend for a good two years afterward. In retrospect, I think the break-up was symptomatic of problems in our relationship—resentments, insecurities, one-upmanship—that only really bubbled to the surface once we'd called it a day. Hopefully age and experience will mean I'm never in the same position again, and I'd definitely never behave the way I did then now. I don't think he would either, and we're finally friends five years later. It probably helps that we're both in happy relationships now. And that he never found out I had sex with his dad (LOL JK).