Breakups hurt, period. But as it turns out, some rejections are worse than others.
According to a recent study from Cornell University published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, there are two types of rejection.
The study found one type of rejection was leaving someone for someone else, while the other type was to leave someone for other reasons. This includes wanting time alone or taking on a new job, for example.
“This may be because such rejections lead to an increased sense of exclusion and decreased belonging. Furthermore, we found evidence that, by default, people react to a rejection as though it were comparative — that is, in the absence of any information about whether they have been rejected for someone or no one, they react as negatively as if they were rejected for someone,” researchers note.
Breaking down the results
To determine which type of rejection was worse, researchers conducted four experiments with 600 people. In one, men were assigned to a group of two women (who were secretly working with researchers), and one woman was asked to choose a partner to finish a puzzle. Sometimes, the woman choose the other woman and other times, she chose to work by herself.
Following the experiments, researchers said people felt worse when someone else was chosen over them.
Why rejection hurts in particular
According to psychologist and author Guy Winch in an article for Psychology Today, rejection can also damage our psychological well-being, beyond just going through the initial pain.
And in the long run, it can also destroy our self-esteem.
“Most romantic rejections are a matter of poor fit and a lack of chemistry, incompatible lifestyles, wanting different things at different times, or other such issues of mutual dynamics. Blaming ourselves and attacking our self-worth only deepens the emotional pain we feel and makes it harder for us to recover emotionally,” Winch said.
Relationship expert and therapist Nicole McCance, says being left for someone else is the hardest type of rejection.
“You don’t feel like you’re enough compared to the other person, but also feeling like you’re not going to be good enough for the next person,” she tells Global News.
How to break up with someone
McCance says when you’re doing the rejecting, there are ways to ensure the other person doesn’t feel completely blind-sided. For starters, make sure you write down your thoughts before you approach them.
“It’s very uncomfortable to hurt someone’s feelings and in these moments, you can go blank or can’t do it,” she says. Make sure you are very clear as to why you’re breaking up and use very specific reasons. “You hurt somebody more if you’re not clear in the beginning, or you string them along and the conversation is too long.”
She adds focus on expressing why you’re not a good match and avoid pointing out their flaws. “Rejection hurts, but it hurts more when you’re telling them what’s wrong with them.”
And as a rule of thumb, always do the breaking up part in person. If you’re worried about how things will go or can’t find the courage to do it, write an email first and and ask to meet up in person.
Dealing with rejection
McCance says if you’ve been rejected, especially for someone else, the most important thing to do is to surround yourself with loving family members and friends. Next, you should get closure from your ex.
“If you don’t find out what happened, it will be difficult trusting other people,” she says. “Don’t try to figure it out yourself.”
And because you are probably a combination of hurt, angry and confused, she also recommends counselling to move on.