Dealing with a breakup? UBC study looks at healthy ways to cope

A new study is examining how men deal with breakups, with the hopes of helping those in particular who are dumped get through future heartache.

A University of British Colombia (UBC) researcher says his study has found that, after being broken up with, many men dwelled on why their relationships came to an end.

Of those who took part, the study found that a number of them tried to find a way to use the experience for personal growth.

This, Dr. John Oliffe explains, was the path that led to more positive outcomes.

“Men go through shock, disorientation, loss of purpose, and in some cases even loss of fathering roles when they go through a breakup.

When the breakup is initiated by their partner, there could be additional layers of emotions,” said Oliffe. “We wanted to understand how men see and represent themselves as a means to scoping potential paths for recovery.”

Oliffe says researchers interviewed 25 men, trying to draw a picture of how they dealt with breakups.

“Ten participants recounted how they withdrew from the relationship when problems and conflict arose. They recognized that their partner would eventually break up with them, but they were conflict-averse or passive and simply tried to weather the storm,” Oliffe said.

“An equal number painted themselves as active agents who engaged fully in the relationship battles, or actively sought to reduce the tensions and conflicts that dominated their relationship – but their partner ended up leaving them anyway.”

However, he says participants felt stuck anyway in the above scenarios, as neither working on the relationship, nor leaving was an option.


“Five of the men shared their efforts to gain positive personal transformations in the aftermath of their partner ending the relationship. They did the necessary self-work to understand and learn from the pain of the breakup,” Oliffe said.

“These men’s relationships were just as painful as the others’, but they avoided blaming their ex-partners. Instead, they held themselves accountable for their own behaviours and emotions. And they felt the better for it, and more equipped to deal with the breakup and future relationships.”

Oliffe says focusing on “how you’ve been unfairly treated for years and years” can be detrimental to your future self.

“Realizing that these narratives are unhelpful can help you focus on self-growth and move on,” added Oliffe.

He adds seeking help to identify a better path forward can lead to positive recovery, though he understands those kind of resources aren’t always available to everyone.

“If professional help is not available, you can still reflect on how you’re depicting yourself within the breakup story and then consider what you might have done better or how you want to show up in future relationships to build a better relationship,” said Oliffe. “It’s super important in terms of transition to think about what you have gained from the experience, and work the breakup through to a new beginning.”

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