The Truth About How Men Handle Heartbreak
Maybe you're tired of wrestling with anxiety every time your man takes two hours to answer your texts or perhaps you don't trust the week-long disappearing act he pulls every time you have an argument. Or maybe it was something that had a little more bite to it, like that text he accidentally sent you about how he can't wait to tear your behind up again like the night before…even though last night you were working a double.
Either way, it's OVER, and while you're sitting around in your roller set re-enacting Ciara's “I Bet You" dance moves in the mirror while trying not to spill the Pinot you've been sipping, you can only imagine that homeboy is pulling a Meek Mill with his newfound freedom.
With every minute that “Heyy…" text doesn't come through your imagination starts running wild about how dude is really handling the healing process. Is he at the nearest “Shaky Butts" making it rain on a pair of twins “surfboardting" on the pole? Maybe he's in bed with his shady behind co-worker that never liked you while you're crying your heart out over an online shopping cart of Michael Kors' slides. Or just maybe he's fighting back the tears right along with you attempting an off-key version of Boyz II Men's “Doin' Just Fine" with the help of some brown liquor.
When it comes to breaking up, the media is filled with clichéd images of women sobbing over a pint of Rocky Road for weeks before cutting their hair off and doing something dramatic like moving to Tuscany to start a new life. Men, however, can't seem to get over their ex's fast enough before getting on top of someone else. But do men truly handle heartbreak better than women, or does it only appear that way?
A recent study may prove that although it appears men aren't fazed by break ups, the truth is they just handle them differently. Last summer, Binghamton University and University College London teamed up for a study about how men and women compare when it comes to breaking up. Researchers surveyed 5,707 men and women, with an average age of just under 27-years-old, from 96 different countries and discovered that while women experience more emotional extremes in the aftermath, men take longer to recover. So although ex-bae isn't crying into the cookie dough, you can rest assured that somewhere down the line, he's still probably being haunted by the ghosts of girlfriends past. Don't bust out with the “Why you so obsessed with me" just yet, because that may not be a good thing, especially for the next girl.
Researchers determined that instead of processing their feelings and reflecting on the part they played in the relationship's demise, men simply just move on to the next partner. Meaning that if you broke up on Thursday, and he's already dating Crystal by Tuesday, although the rest of his anatomy is probably in it, his heart and head aren't. The study looked at this behavior from an evolutionary perspective and determined that men are more likely to date on the rebound because historically they are used to competing for the attention of women, and it may take them longer to realize what they've lost. Women, however, tend to be choosier about the relationships they enter into in the first place. When it's over they may take the break up harder since they didn't approach it as casually in the first place.
Another surprising find from the study: Women tend to be the dumper more often than the dumpee. This is important because the one who has already given up in his/her head can already begin moving on before the break-up is common knowledge. The Binghamton study revealed that the “dumpee" experiences more relationship grief since they are forced to move on abruptly. In theory, since men have had more practice at getting over it, they are able to do so more quickly.
The way we problem-solve has a lot to do with how we handle the break-up as well:
“The woman often looks at a breakup as a problem to be solved, whereas the logic-oriented man looks at the same breakup as a problem that has already been solved."“For men, the breakup is the end. For women, the breakup is the beginning of a larger psychological dilemma."
It might shed some light on why after a break-up, many women find themselves initiating a new project to conquer: Going to school, starting a business, checking that “trip to Spain" off your bucket list. We need to prove that we can be successful and solve a problem. And there's nothing wrong with that as long as the goal is to improve yourself and not to try and fix the problems of previous relationships vicariously through new projects…and people. Maybe we need to take note from the guys and stop looking at a break-ups as “another relationship I just f--ked up" and more like “that problem I just solved."
In other words, ladies, keep up the good work with the vision boards, inspirational quotes and sun salutations. Reflecting on what you want in a relationship and focusing on ways to improve will only make you a better mate for the next man, instead of wandering around aimlessly cuffing up anything like our male counterparts.
Next time you find yourself playing the woulda, coulda, shoulda game with how you could've made things work, take the end of the relationship for exactly what it is: the end of waiting for hours for him to text back, the end of wondering what he's been doing for a week before popping back into your life and the end of a situation that one or more of you is unhappy in.
Meanwhile, I asked a few real life guys to honestly reveal how they've handled heartache in the past. (We will call them Brian, Darrell, and Michael). Take a look at how they handled being told, “to the left, to the left."
How long has it been since your last break up?
Michael: 6 maybe 7 years.
Darrell: October. 2 years ago, maybe a little more.
Brian: 4 years.
Were you the dumper or the dumpee? How did things end (through text, an argument, caught cheating etc.)?
Michael: Dumpee. She moved on to someone else.
Darrell: Dumper. Honestly we discussed how we felt, and where we both were concerning each other at that time, at which point I suggested separation.
Brian: Dumper. I was immature and wasn't ready to live with someone. We ended up arguing over whether to get a dog or not and I felt disrespected because she was determined to do what she wanted and get the damn Yorkie.
What did you do immediately following the break-up? How long did it take you to get over the relationship (or did you ever get over it)?
Michael: Hung out with a close cousin. About a year, but never fully got over it just accepted it for what it was.
Darrell: Pursued friendships I'd developed outside my relationship to see what could happen.
Brian: I moved out the next day. In fact I moved a couple of hours away. When I think of it, the argument was probably about way more than the dog.
Did you do anything in particular to get over it or "heal" (Date someone else, have sex, drink, go to strip club, focus on work/school)? What do you feel was most effective in helping you heal?
Michael: I dated and had sex with a few women but it just didn't feel the same, I guess cause my heart couldn't get there so I focused on work. Work helped a lot cause when I went out with women I would always think of her. So being at work allowed me to bury thoughts of her.
Darrell: After realizing that a close friendship I'd developed wouldn't be able to become anything more, I started looking at the random girls I was dating; their goals, their situations (kids, ex's), what they had going for them (car, living situation, education). I started questioning what the hell was I doing, and what had I done to my relationship to be out here dating from scratch, women that in some cases were starting from scratch (still living with parents, no mode of transportation, not in school).
Brian: S—t, I did all of the above and I feel like they all helped me get through it. Having sex with other women definitely was the only time I completely stopped thinking of her.
How long after the break-up did you have sex again (whether it was with that person or someone else)?
Michael: About 6 months.
Darrell: Couple of weeks.
Brian: A few days later.
How long after the break-up did you enter into a new relationship?
Michael: Never, since I take a long time to open up no one would stay around long enough to see where it goes.
Darrell: About 6/7 months later. Around March/April I got back with the ex.
Brian: A few weeks later. I don't like to be alone. Who honestly wants to be alone? No man really is that hype about being single. If he says he is, he's lying.
Do you think the break-up was your fault, your partner's or no one's fault? If someone was at fault, how so?
Michael: Partially yes, she gave hints of how to keep her, but I was too dumb to realize it. Instead of listening I would rebel, try to out-do others and be disrespectful to her, which turned into arguments that in the end pushed her away into the arms of another man. I thought I needed to be something I wasn't when all I really needed to do was just be me and better myself, which in the end is what she liked about me most. It was how I got her in the first place.
Darrell: Definitely my fault. I was unhappy and I suspected she was, too. All I did was verbalize the inevitable.
Brian: It was both of ours. I was rushing to get over the relationship I had before her. She was rushing to make the relationship more than it was too soon.
Are you still friends/still keep in contact with this person?
Michael: Yes and yes.
Darrell: Yes, we're still together to this day.
Brian: I married her.
Featured image via Tenor
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Writer, sexual health superhero, and #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackBoy curator regularly featured on @Madamenoire. Toya can usually be found in between her earbuds, listening to trap music and refreshing her browser for concert tickets. Tweet her @thetruetsharee.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Janelle Monáe Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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