By Chris Seiter

Updated on March 21st, 2022

Today we’re going to do a deep dive into men and why they always seem to “process breakups later” than their female counterparts.

In my personal opinion how someone processes a breakup is wholly dependent on their attachment style. The reason we think men seem to process breakups later is due to the fact that in general there seems to be more men that exhibit avoidant type of behaviors after a breakup and we know that avoidant attachment styles usually take a bit longer before they feel the fallout of the breakup.

This article is going to argue three main components go into why men process breakups later down the road,

  1. Women (Anxious) Vs. Men (Avoidant) Research
  2. The Avoidant Mentality
  3. The Time Dilation Factor

Let’s jump right into it.

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Women (Anxious) Vs. Men (Avoidant) Research

Ex Boyfriend Recovery has been operating for close to ten years now and one of the things I’m most proud of is the fact that we have done a ton of research on the psychology of breakups. Lately one of those points of emphasis is taking a look at attachment styles.

During 2020 I conducted a poll on our private Facebook support group to ask our predominately female based members what type of attachment style they thought their exes were exhibiting,

Over 70% of the votes went towards avoidant styles. Of course, this is a simple poll on a Facebook group and not a peer reviewed document that has some merit to it. Nevertheless, when I decided to write this article on why it is that men seem to process breakups later I thought it would be relevant to take a look at the polls I did. We know from dealing with our audience that the vast majority of our clients have anxious attachments so it would be easy to just claim that,

Women = Anxious

Men = Avoidant

At least as far as how they handle breakups but I wanted something more concrete to back up that assertion so I went searching online until I found something from a credible source that could back up my hypothesis.

I got lucky and found this report.

Which essentially performed a test to find how gender influences attachment styles. Here were there findings,

We found statistically significant differences in relationship between gender and scoreon both scales. Women scored significantly higher on Anxious scale (t-test (493.427) =2.272, p = 0.006, d = 0.15) – Table 1. Men scored significantly higher on Avoidant scale (t-test (493.427) = -2.427, p = 0.015, d = 0.13) – Table 1

Again, if you’re confused as to how to make sense of the table here’s what the findings basically were.

Women are lot more likely to be prone to anxious attachment behaviors in their lives while men are a lot more likely to be prone towards avoidant behaviors. That doesn’t mena you can’t have a man that is anxious or a woman that is avoidant but the research suggests that’s how the breakout will generally work. My addition to this research would suggest that when faced with a high level of trauma (like a breakup) they are a lot more likely to exhibit these behaviors.

Now, how does this relate to why men process breakups later?

Well, let’s study avoidants for a little bit.

Understanding The Avoidant Mentality

I personally think avoidants get a bad rap. One look at the comments in my latest YouTube video will make you feel like dating one is the worst thing in the world,

And while I will admit that dating an avoidant or going through a breakup with one can present its challenges most of those challenges revolve around the fact that most people don’t understand the psychology of what makes them tick. If you did then you would learn they’re not the mystery they think they are. In fact, they’re rather predictable.

In this interview I did with Coach Tyler,

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He talks about this concept of a core wound in relation to attachment styles. Basically every insecure attachment style revolves around this core wound.

  1. For anxious styles it’s a deep fear of abandonment.
  2. For avoidant styles it’s around a loss of independence within the relationship.

So, when you have a guy that you’re in a relationship with that is considered to be an avoidant you are essentially their kryptonite if you exhibit any anxious tendencies because they are caught in this self fulfilling cycle.

  1. The cycle starts with an avoidant wanting someone to love them
  2. They find you and think that their troubles are over. Finally someone that “gets them.”
  3. As the relationship begins you exhibit some anxious tendencies that sets their avoidant tendencies off. All of a sudden these signals are worrying for them
  4. They start thinking that they might need to leave.
  5. Then they actually leave the relationship.
  6. There is an initial release of euphoria after they leave. Remember, they value independence above all else and they just got it back.
  7. Then the loneliness sets in which leads them to think…
  8. Why can’t I even find the right person?

Each revolution around this cycle becomes its own self fulfilling prophecy.

Really though what this article is exploring is this area of the circle,

This is pretty much the universal area where people will agree that the breakup finally hits the guy? So, why is it that it takes a while for the breakup to hit a guy?

Well, one potential explanation I explore in this video,

Essentially avoidants have this protective cocoon that they go into after a breakup. In fact, they don’t even really miss an ex until they feel “safe” to miss that ex. Of course, the natural question here is when do they actually feel safe?

Well the only time they feel safe is when they feel like you’ve either moved on to someone else or you are in a position to where a reconnection wouldn’t ever threaten them.

And if you really think about it from everything that you know about an avoidant this makes a ton of sense. Avoidants often fall victim to what I like to refer to as the phantom ex mentality. The perfect person for them is the one they can fawn over without running the risk of losing their independence in a relationship.

So, my argument would be that one potential explanation for why “men” process breakups later is they are waiting for that time where you have “moved on” because then it’s safe for them to think back to the relationship. This is often why you’ll see exes coming back months to years later after the fact.

Of course, one other additional factor can contribute to the “longer processing time.”

The Time Dilation Factor

Weirdly enough this is something I’ve noticed when dealing with clients who are implementing the no contact rule. We’ve noticed that more than 80% of our clients who implement a no contact rule will fail it at least one time.

The reason is pretty simple, they are anxious and it’s impossible to turn an anxious brain off when you are flat out ignoring someone you love and all you want to do is talk to them.

Often we’ll tell our clients that there are three time frames to no contact.

  1. 21 days
  2. 30 days
  3. 45 days

Generally for our anxious clients each of the time frames seem exponentially longer because of their anxious tendencies. Of course, we’ve also had the benefit of working with some avoidant clients. We find that no contact is actually pretty easy for them.

Yes, they want their exes back.

Yes, no contact sucks for them.

BUT it only feels like a few days for them.

You need to understand that since childhood avoidants have been learning to cope with emotional problems on their own without help. They’ve created coping mechanisms for it. They have a lifetime of practice doing it.

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Our very own Coach Anna once surmised that there’s a time dilation affect that occurs across the major attachment styles. Let’s just use the 30 day no contact rule as an example.

  1. For a securely attached person a 30 day no contact will feel exactly like 30 days.
  2. For an anxiously attached person a 30 day no contact will feel like 60 days.
  3. For an avoidant a 30 day no contact will probably feel like 15 days.

And that layers into all the areas of the breakup for an avoidant. So, one of the reasons it seems like it’s taking so long for an avoidant to “feel the sting” so to speak is that their own coping mechanisms are preventing them from experiencing time in the same way you do. So, there’s this gulf that gets created. If you have an anxious attachment style your sense of the time after the breakup will be inflated.

If your ex has an avoidant attachment style their sense of time after the breakup will be deflated.

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4 thoughts on “Why Do Guys Process Breakups Later?”

  1. Lily

    March 18, 2022 at 9:21 am

    This has been the most helpful article I’ve read so far. Figured out that my ex (that I love very much, and still loves me) is an avoidant while I’m an anxious person… I’ll work on that while going NC (started 4 days ago, 2 days after the breakup). I know we’re made for each other and both have to work on ourselves. Also he realised he wasn’t over his last breakup when she stopped texting pictures of the cat they had together… I hope he’ll ever get over her.

  2. Madilyn

    March 14, 2022 at 7:12 pm

    Hi! My ex broke up with me after coming back from a competition. He broke up with me the following day on the phone (our anniversary) after deciding we could work things through. Follow to the next Friday..I show up at his house to talk about stuff and return his items. He says he still cares and wants to be with me. After NC for about a month he calls and says “I don’t think we are compatible, I don’t see us getting back. You closed the door on yourself.” It seemed he was stone cold. Though I said my closure and sorrries, it seemed he just wasn’t having it. I lost myself in the relationship and then we broke up for space and to become independent again, and I was so excited for him to see that I was going to get myself back and independence and he was onboard for that until that day he called. So what can I do? I’m going to try and move on but I want to show him that I truly was the one for him. I felt it. We had promise rings too. I was controlling a tad and manipulative and I apologized but I didn’t mean any harm at all. I took care of him. What do I do now? I still do truly love him and I don’t know if he’s just going through soemthing…I know he’ll regret it.

  3. LilyG

    February 16, 2022 at 4:13 am

    my fearful-avoidant ex is trying to keep in contact with my family and consistently reaching out to my sister to try and visit- we’re wondering if it’s a good idea for her to talk to him or keep avoiding him until he makes it more clear what he wants. Any advice? It seems like he’s in that “i’m feeling lonely” stage. I’ve been in NC for several months now, because I know for fearful-avoidants it takes longer.

    1. EBR Team Member: Shaunna

      February 26, 2022 at 12:29 pm

      Hey Lily, you haven’t mentioned how long you have been in NC for so you need to be in NC for at least 30 days before you reach out to your ex again.