Science has some bad news for men who still hold on to some outdated ideas about relationships.
I have discovered quite a bit about relationships—specifically what does and does not help them last. And here is the hard truth I’ve frequently encountered as a man: I am usually wrong.
That does not mean that I am wrong in all the personal arguments I’ve had with my girlfriend (although I usually have been wrong there, too). It means that my initial, typically-male ideas about relationships have mostly been wrong.
As an example, here are just three recent studies about relationships that teach something valuable that most men either don’t—or don’t want to—know.
1) Sorry, guys. But porn does not help your relationship.
Three studies in 2014 discussed by Psychology Today revealed something I have always suspected but obviously did not want to hear: generally speaking, porn hurts relationships.
While this is not true for every couple, the studies discovered that porn-free relationships had some surprisingly strong advantages over couples who regularly watched it, both alone and as a couple. The porn-free couples showed demonstrably lower levels of negative communication, more relationship commitment, lower infidelity and higher sexual satisfaction.
All three studies verified that watching porn in most couples isn’t the harmless thing many guys want to believe it is. And as much as I am sure there are numerous couples out there which go against these findings, I can say from personal experience that the absence of web voyeurism definitely improved and deepened my own relationship.
2. The argument that “women are just as guilty of domestic abuse as men” is a ridiculous myth.
Let me immediately make clear, this is not a study that has ever differed from my own point of view. In my own relationship book, I spent two very-emphatic chapters talking about both how sadly common—and incredibly destructive—physical and sexual abuse toward women is in relationships.
And for guys who have ever argued that women are guilty of this at a rate anywhere near their own gender: just stop. According to a US Department of Justice study covering domestic violence rates in relationships among couples from 1994 to 2010, women were four times more likely to be the victim of violence than their male partners.
Moreover, the CDC reported that 15% of women have been seriously injured (including physical abuse, sexual assault or both) by an intimate partner in their lifetime. The number for men? 4%.
3. For men, breaking up is ultimately harder to do.
After I was emotionally reeling from a break-up many years ago, a close guy friend of mine said to me, as if in utter disbelief: “what are you getting upset about? We’re guys. All we have to do to get over it is get back on the horse as quickly as possible.”
Back then, I foolishly followed his advice to try to get over my heartbreak by ignoring my inner voice and immediately restarting the dating life. What I discovered was that, while doing so may have stalled some of that hurt in the present moment, I hadn’t healed anything inside me by “getting back on the horse” (an incredibly dumb and demeaning metaphor, just to add).
Well, it turns out research has borne just how bad my friend’s advice was. A study by Binghamton University discovered that, while men experience less hurt immediately after a relationship breakup, they experience that hurt for a much longer period of time than women do. In fact, the study found that men were much more likely to never get over the “one who got away”.
So some advice to guys currently dealing with an emotional breakup: don’t listen to that "neanderthal" pal suggesting you can miraculously get better by quickly replacing the loved one you lost. Give yourself some time to deal with your hurt head-on, in the most healthy way that you can.
And don’t start dating again until you can honestly have a fresh start. You owe it to yourself, and you owe it equally to any potential new partner, too.*