This Kind of Breakup Really Does Hurt the Most, According to Science

girl on couch with wine and pizza

As the Swedish pop group ABBA phrased it best: "Breaking up is never easy." Well, science has now confirmed that there's one type of breakup that's truly the farthest from easy. In fact, it's the most painful. Are you (emotionally) ready for it? 


The most painful kind of breakup one can experience is when someone rejects you for someone else, according to this Cornell University study, which called this kind of breakup variety "comparative rejection." This type of rejection feels a lot worse than the other main type, which is "non-comparative rejection," or when someone says good-bye for whatever reason (but it's definitely not you, it's them, right?).

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"Even the luckiest among us will not be chosen for some jobs, dates, or friendships that we want," the study's authors wrote in the full paper, according to Time. "And while nobody likes to be rejected, these rejections vary and some feel worse than others."

Anyone who's ever been rejected can probably agree with that.

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To get to their conclusion, the researchers conducted four experiments with a total of 608 participants. For the first experiment, men were put into a group with two women who were in on the experiment. One woman was given a puzzle and could pick between working alone or with the other woman. The last three experiments dealt with people being rejected in larger groups, in an attempt to reproduce rejection in different scenarios. 

Generally, the participants said they felt worse when someone else was chosen instead of them. 

"This may be because such rejections lead to an increased sense of exclusion and decreased belonging," the authors wrote in the study. 

You know when you don't know why you were dumped or rejected and you end up falling into a vortex of social media stalking? That's normal -- well, relatively.

The researchers also noted that people will dig for answers on why they were rejected, even if it's emotionally painful. And if they aren't told why they were rejected, then they'll assume it was for someone else, which makes the whole thing feel extra sucky. 

But hey, we still think you're great (and deserving of that pint of ice cream).

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