According to a survey, men feel ready for a new relationship more quickly after a breakup. A search for the reasons.
Great euphoria on the phone. "Melanie, I’ve been struck by lightning!" Heinz Brennecke is on a roll. This comes as quite a surprise to his granddaughter. The 72-year-old buried his wife only a few months ago – after more than 50 years of marriage.
And now? Is grandpa newly in love. And in Anni. It has sparked on the Duisburg cemetery. Anni also comes there regularly to water the flowers on the grave of her husband, who had passed away a few years earlier.
Heinz’s family can’t quite share his euphoria about the cemetery romance. Of course, one is pleased that grandpa is in good spirits, that he doesn’t eat exclusively at the "American Embassy," as he calls McDonald’s. But the new love came a little very quickly after all.
Lightning often seems to strike men quite abruptly after the end of a relationship. Best-selling author Sebastian Fitzek, 48, made headlines with this in December. The separation from his wife, with whom he was together for eleven years and has three children together, was just four months ago when he fell head over heels in love again on the ICE from Berlin to Leipzig, a distance of 72 minutes. His new girlfriend is a personnel officer at Deutsche Bahn and 16 years younger than him. As the "Bunte" knows, the two are inseparable.
The "new happiness in love" of celebrities such as Helmut Schmidt or Reinhold Messner has also been reported in detail. How quickly can you actually be ready for a new partner when a decades-long relationship ends, be it through a death or separation? What is the rate of decay of love?? And what do the women? You seem to hear this kind of story less often in the reverse role reversal.
A survey by the dating platform Elitepartner confirms this impression: According to the survey, one in four men feels open to a new relationship after just four weeks. Women take much more time. On average, nearly 15 months pass before they are ready to commit again, according to the survey. Where does this discrepancy come from?
Women cope better with breakups
A call to Swiss psychologist Pasqualina Perrig-Chiello. For her book "When love is no longer young," she researched what divorce after a long marriage means for women and men, and how they deal with it. Their central insight: For both of them, it is a critical life event: "It is a basic human need to have a home and to be firmly anchored emotionally. Everyone longs for a deep connection with a person."Couples formed a strong "we" identity over time. In their years together, they established routines and role divisions that made it difficult to develop a lifestyle independent of their partner.
But Perrig-Chiello’s research also found that the majority of those affected cope well with the breakup in the long term – women generally better than men. On the one hand, women help their closer social network: If the partnership breaks down, they can fall back on significantly more close relationships that give them support. In addition, they are often the ones who end a long-term partnership, so they have already dealt with the separation longer than their partners have. Likewise, they would have more often wanted to seek help in advance, while their husbands tended to reject that. When the women finally end the relationship, the partners are often deeply shaken.
This was also the case with Norbert Menge, a 52-year-old entrepreneur from near Freiburg, Germany. After 13 years together, his wife opened up to him in the summer of 2008 that she was no longer happy. Menge, who like Hans, Melanie and Anni actually goes by a different name, was perplexed: the relationship was harmonious, family life was intact, they had a large house and no financial worries at all. "And our intimate life was fine too."Only a few months later, his wife moved out of the house they shared, taking their children, then nine and twelve years old, with her. "That pulled the rug out from under me," Menge says. He had racked his brains as to what the problem might have been. So really he does not know it until today.
Men suffer more from loneliness
The hurt of being dumped affects men more, says Perrig-Chiello. This was also due to traditional role models: "A man is not abandoned."
Men, the psychologist explains, are more likely than women to rush into a new relationship to repair their self-esteem and fill the vacuum left by the end of the old one. They suffered more from loneliness than women after a breakup, feeling both emotionally alone because they lacked intimate relationships and socially alone because it was usually their wives who had maintained contact with relatives, friends and acquaintances.
Men are therefore more likely to end a relationship only after they have already found a new partner. In the study, 50 percent of the men said they had given up their old relationship for a new one. Only 30 percent of the women said the same.
The Berlin therapist Tina Steckling, who specializes in relationship problems, lovesickness and separation pain in her practice "Soulmates," experiences that men still find it difficult to show weakness and talk about emotional injuries. "The James Bond ideal is still in their heads today," she says. In other words, a real man knows no pain. Feeling one’s own vulnerability feels threatening. Many had not learned to integrate feelings of weakness into their strong masculine self-image. Precisely because their self-esteem was so severely attacked by a breakup, some men would try to date a lot again as quickly as possible. This is her way of coping.
Heinz, too, was not a man of big words, his granddaughter recounts. She remembers her late grandfather as a pragmatic man, a craftsman who would not have allowed himself any excessive emotionality. If something hurt, it was no longer talked about.
The separation as an emancipatory act
In her counseling sessions, Steckling notices that awareness is slowly changing, at least among her clientele in the Reuterkiez: metropolitan, cosmopolitan, more on this side of 50. Even more men than women asked her for an appointment. "Many of my clients realize they are still stuck in the old patterns, but would like to overcome them."They wanted to deal more intensively with their feelings. For this, they sought, quite pragmatically, an expert.
Psychologist Perrig-Chiello, on the other hand, knows that many women experience a breakup as an "emancipatory act" and appreciate their new independence. Precisely because they had often been responsible for the household, the children and the social life of the family during their first marriage, they now wanted to concentrate on themselves and not fall into a comparable service role again.
Norbert Menge, at any rate, is happily married again today. "But the first year was hell."He met his new wife about a year after their separation on a dating site where a friend had registered him. He was already fascinated by her voice during the first phone call – and by the third meeting, he had fallen in love. Some time later, she and her son from her first marriage moved in with him.
Men also date "down, Women do not
The number of men who remarry after a divorce is higher than for women: In the survey, three-quarters of men aged 40 to 60 were remarried five years after the marital breakup, but only about one in two women were. The discrepancy is even greater in the over-60s: one in two men are in a new relationship, while only one in four women are.
However, that might not just have to do with a decreased interest in recommitting, but also with the fact that women in their mid-40s have a hard time finding a partner on dating sites. It is well known that men also date "down" in a figurative sense, that they certainly choose partners who have a lower standard of living or less education than they do.
Women, on the other hand, are looking for partners who are at least as well-educated and well-off. If they don’t find such a partner, they prefer to stay alone.
Anni was also six years younger than Heinz. The two knew each other from before: when their spouses were still alive, they played gin rummy together now and then. If the ticket office allowed it, they all went away together for the weekend. But these meetings were years ago when Heinz and Anni met again at the cemetery. Heinz’s wife was no longer fit enough for it in the last years of her life. "With Anni by his side, Grandpa has really blossomed," says his granddaughter. The two of them travel a lot together, they like to go on "spa vacations" to the Czech Republic or the North Sea. They would have had over ten more wonderful years together.
Then in 2016 they both died within 24 hours. Heinz suffered a heart attack on the highway while on his way back from visiting Anni, who had been hospitalized a few days earlier. When he walked through the door that day, she had just been whisked away to the emergency room. Heinz could no longer cope with the fact that things were so bad for his Anni. This time the lightning hit him right in the heart. A few hours later, Anni was also dead.