A new study on online help for relationship problems shows that men are more likely to suffer emotional pain with relationship problems than women.
The idea of this first large study of big online data on relationship problems was to provide an overview of the most common relationship problems. But without using data from a clinical setting, such as therapy sessions. Most studies look at this, but this is for a fairly limited group of people. Namely: people who have the time, money, and incentive to go to treatment.
So in this study they looked at an anonymous online forum with millions of users. A subreddit is entirely devoted to relationship issues. They analyzed the language use of 184,000 people in various ways and in this way they were able to see, among other things, what most of the problems mentioned were. For one in five people, it was mainly due to communication problems, and one in eight reported trust problems.
The difference between male and female
What the researchers noticed was an unprecedented difference between men and women. The most common topic on the forums was not a problem, but the emotional pain they caused. This pain is discussed in words such as: regret, dissociation, crying and sadness. And it wasn’t women, but men who mentioned this emotional pain the most. Also, these men talked about their relationships in a continuum way—that is, they talked more about “us” and “us” and were often more positive about the relationship itself. In addition, more men sought help online than women.
Of course you can’t just draw all sorts of conclusions from this. It’s not about professional help, so it doesn’t say anything about whether sharing this information with anonymous strangers actually helped these people. But what it does indicate, according to the researchers, is that men are no less emotionally affected by problems in relationships. They also hope that this shows that you as a man are not alone in seeking help and that it contributes to better couples therapy by showing people the help that people are looking for. In this case, the solution was not primarily a solution to a problem, but rather a support.
In any case, it appears to be a new and interesting way to research these types of topics outside of the clinical setting.
In this audio you can hear researcher Charlotte Entwistle of Lancaster University. The paper can be found here: Dirty Laundry: The Nature and Essence of Seeking Relationship Help from Strangers Online.