The Break-Up: Women Dating Funny Men Struggle More With Separation

Couple laughing on bench
A funny man may make a woman laugh, but she may cry even more after the breakup, says new research concerning a woman's ability to let go. Marley Cook, CC BY 2.0

The sad songs on repeat, the Kleenex tissues all over the floor, and the tubs of ice cream stacked on the night stand are all tell-tale signs of a breakup. But what makes some breakups much harder than others? According to a recent study published in the journal Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, the greater a partner’s sense of humor is, the longer it takes to forget them, and the greater chance you will contact them.

A team of researchers from Wayne State University spoke to men and women to investigate sex differences and how they play a role in breakups. They recruited a total of 392 participants, with an average age of 32 and college educated, through Mechanical Turk, a diverse online form for survey administration. The participants were asked a series of questions to determine who was more likely to initiate a breakup and the differences in breakup emotions.

In the Relationship Dissolution Questionnaire (RDQ), items measuring baseline information about the breakup included how long ago the breakup occurred, how long the relationship lasted, and how long it took to get over the breakup (coping period). For example, time elapsed since breakup ranged from less than a week ago, less than one month ago, less than six months ago, less than one year ago, one to two years ago, and over two years ago. For the length of the relationship, item choices included less than six months, six months to one year, one to two years, three to five years, and over five years. Lastly, to measure the coping period, choices included less than two weeks, one to three months, three to six months, six months to one year, more than two years, or "will never get over it."

Additionally those who initiated the breakup (participant or his or her ex-partner) were included as a questionnaire item. The first section investigated emotions experienced following a breakup. The emotions in question included sadness, anger, fear, confusion, shock, sexual frustration, loneliness, humiliation, jealousy, vengefulness, indifference, happiness, relief, and guilt. Another section focused on the characteristics of the participant as well as the participant’s ex-partner (as provided by the participant) such as their level of physical attractiveness, ambition, intelligence, and sense of humor. The last category focused on specific behaviors engaged in by both the participant and the participant's ex-partner (as reported by the participant) as a reaction to the breakup, including which ones were performed most and least frequently. Behaviors ranged from avoidance to in-person contact with the ex-partner.

The findings revealed there was no statistical differences when it came to breakup initiation. When it came to sex differences in emotions, sexual frustration was the significant difference reported by men than women. Meanwhile, women reported significantly higher levels of happiness than men, post-breakup. Contact behaviors such as calling, texting, other online communication, apologizing, and asking for a second chance were all more likely for participants whose ex-partners initiated the breakup.

Although the researchers hypothesized differences in terms of coping would be tied to physical attractiveness and ambition, these traits did not have a significant impact on time needed to get over a breakup. Surprisingly, one characteristic that had a significant impact on the coping period was sense of humor. More specifically, researchers found women required a longer coping period for a partner with a good sense of humor.

“Other post-hoc investigations additionally revealed that for women only, they were more likely to make in-person contact with an ex-partner that they rated as having a good sense of humor,” wrote the authors, in the paper.

These results support past research suggesting that a sense of humor in their partner has often been considered more desirable by women than by men.

The researchers are not able to pinpoint why it's harder for women to get over their funny exes, but there may be evolutionary advantages to these partners. Geoffrey Miller, author of the book The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature, believes consciousness, morality, creativity, language, and art are all sexually attractive qualities that can influence women’s mating choices. Typically, women’s reproductive success is increased by a long-term mating strategy due to their increased minimal parental investment. This means it would be more important for them to seek a partner who is better able to fulfill the desire for neophilia (something new) over a long span of time.

Ladies, if a man makes you laugh, he might make you cry too. So laugh at your own risk.

Source: DeLecce T and Weisfeld G. An Evolutionary Explanation for Sex Differences in Nonmarital Breakup Experiences. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology. 2015. 

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