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COMMITMENTS : After the Big Breakup : Women Don't Hurt More Than Men at Romance's End, Just Differently

August 29, 1994|REBECCA HOWARD

Who hurts worse?

Sometimes neither partner feels any pain at the end. As Cal State L.A. psychology professor Stuart Fischoff put it, it might be better to be in no relationship than a bad one.

"Sometimes there will be a complete liberation after the end of a relationship that has been suffering. It's like 'Escape From New York,' " he said.

One person controlling the end of the relationship will probably not suffer as much as the other party, experts said.

"If you're looking at it in terms of 'dumper' or 'dumpee,' the person who's dumped may have more of a narcissistic injury, a blow to self-worth," Fischoff said.

Do women hurt more than men?

"Men and women bleed in different ways," Fischoff said, acknowledging that the perception of a man hitting the singles bars following a breakup doesn't look like pain, but it could be.

"The guys are out there, frightened, trying to find validation through other women. It isn't a case where women's feelings are more authentic," he said.

But the hurt men and women experience post-breakup may be different because men and women often view relationships from varied perspectives, said Ken and Rochelle Fried, psychotherapists who have individual counseling as well as workshops and support groups for men and women through the Los Angles Center for Relationship.

"Men do not define self-esteem by success or failure of a relationship," Ken Fried said. "Their success in the world is more outward bound. Contrarily, women place more emphasis on inward bound and the quality of the relationships they have in the world."

Thus, a man's recuperative period may be shorter, because he feels less of a sense of failure when a relationship falls apart, Ken Fried said.

"He may even be relieved," he added, explaining that many men's skills at relationships aren't as developed as women's and the freedom from dealing with that provides relief. "But he will feel less competent in how he will relate to the next woman."

For women, the hurt may run deeper and last longer.

"The woman feels hurt, misled, deceived and her anger level is quite high," Rochelle Fried said. "She's ambivalent and having self-blame. She asks herself, 'Did I make a poor choice?' "

"After the breakup, this is a very important period, a soul-searching period where you can evaluate the relationship and let go of it with dignity," she said. "This is a time when a woman begins to identify for herself what she wants from a relationship."

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