Why Are Breakups So Hard And How To Cope

Break up And Loss | | , Content Strategist & Blogger
Updated On: February 6, 2024
why are breakups so hard

Why are breakups so hard? It’s like trying to make sense of a puzzle missing half its pieces — confusing, frustrating, and downright messy. I remember this one breakup that hit me like a ton of emotional bricks. You know, the kind where you’re left wondering if heartbreak is some secret initiation into the mysteries of adulthood.

So, there I was, cruising along in the relationship, enjoying the scenic route of shared dreams and inside jokes. Then, out of nowhere, we hit a pothole, and suddenly, the wheels started wobbling. It was like trying to fix a flat tire with a band-aid; you know it’s not going to hold up for long. And it didn’t. That’s when the “why are breakups so hard” question slapped me in the face, and I had to figure out how to cope with the mess of emotions that came flooding in.

The memories that used to make me smile were now landmines triggering a waterfall of feelings. I was perplexed by the realization, “I ended the relationship but it still hurts.” It was a crash course in the complexities of love, loss, and the awkward dance of moving on. In this article, with insights from Dhriti Bhavsar (MA Clinical Psychology), a relationship counselor, I hope I can help you have a slightly less painful experience by sharing what I’ve learned about the psychology of breakups and why breakups feel so hard.

Why Are Breakups So Hard — 10 Reasons You May Be Struggling With Heartbreak

Breakups, right? Making sense of them is like trying to untangle earphones — frustrating, messy, and you always end up with a knot. So, why is it so hard to break up with someone? It’s like we’re all stuck in this emotional labyrinth, wondering how we got here, how your ex moved on so fast, and if there’s a cheat code to make it easier. In the world of heartbreak, it turns out there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

As this Reddit user who was hurting from a breakup says, “It’s been about 6 months post-breakup, I’m back to myself for the most part, I’ve even started going out again. Why am I up at 3 am crying over him right now? I know that this is a temporary sadness but I wish I understood where it is coming from. At least, now I can say that I don’t miss him and really mean it. I can’t wait to find the love that was meant for me.”

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So, grab a metaphorical flashlight because we’re about to dive into the 10 reasons why breakups can feel like you’re trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded. It’s a wild ride, especially if it’s your first time, so buckle up, and let’s explore the psychology of breakups and why is it so hard to leave someone you love.

1. You are letting go of more than just a person

When you’re trying to get over a breakup, it’s not just about waving goodbye to a person; you’re bidding adieu to a whole chapter of your life and a part of yourself. Breakups feel so hard because it’s like closing a favorite book, knowing you won’t revisit those familiar pages. Dhriti says, “You are not just letting go of a person, you are letting go of all the memories, the effort you both made, and the possibilities and plans for the future. It’s a loss across the past, present, and future.”

Related Reading: Why Can’t I Get Over My Ex? Top 10 Reasons To Know

2. Letting go of love is like experiencing withdrawal symptoms

Dhriti says, “Love alters your brain chemistry. When you’re in love, your brain produces oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin — that gives you that happy, giddy feeling, like you’re on top of the world. The same reward pathway is activated in your brain when you’re on drugs. Essentially, love is addictive. You’re restructuring your mental chemistry after a breakup.” This is why hurting from a breakup is a very real and visceral experience.

3. Life changes like this are always scary

Why are breakups so hard? Well, because they thrust you into a world of uncertainties and changes, and let’s face it, change is downright scary. It’s like being handed a map to a completely new territory without any GPS. This is why breakups feel so hard. “There is a fear about the future — what happens next, will you find love again? These uncertainties that everyone experiences make things more difficult,” says Dhriti.

Related Reading: 9 Ways To Cope When Your Ex Moves On

4. It makes you feel like a failure

Breakups have this uncanny ability to tap into our inner scoreboard, and suddenly, we’re tallying up wins and losses like it’s the championship game of life. The end of a romantic relationship can leave you feeling like you’ve got a giant “F” stamped on your emotional report card. This is why breakup hurts so much.

As Dhriti says, “It feels like you failed at something, even though, logically, you might know that there was nothing more you could do. It still feels like a failure.” And if you can’t seem to get over the breakup, you feel like even more of a failure. Just remember that there’s no average breakup recovery time. You will heal in your own time and with your own breakup healing process.

5. You are grieving a love that was once true

Breaking up means grieving the loss of a love that, at one point, felt like the most genuine thing in the world. It’s a mourning process for something that was once vibrant and alive. Dhriti explains, “There is still love there, and ‘what is grief if not love persevering?’ (Vision’s famous line from Marvel’s Wanda Vision). The love that is left over has nowhere left to go.” So, if you’re wondering, “Does the person who breaks up hurt?”, you bet they do.

Related Reading: 12 Ways To Find Happiness After Breakup And Heal Completely

6. You have a natural fear of being alone

Have you ever wondered, why are breakups harder at night? One of the tricky aspects of breaking up with a romantic partner is confronting the fear of being alone forever. Suddenly, you find yourself standing on the solo stage of life, and the spotlight is both glaring and intimidating.

why is it so hard to break up with someone
It becomes more difficult for sensitive people

Humans are wired for connection, and the idea of facing the world without that familiar sidekick can be downright frightening. “You might be scared of being alone and might associate your sense of self-worth with being in a relationship/being desired,” says Dhriti. So, if you’re thinking to yourself, “I ended the relationship but it still hurts,” this is possibly why.

7. It is incredibly hard to get closure even if it’s a clean breakup

Closure, the elusive endnote to a long-term relationship, remains a complex puzzle even in the cleanest of breakups. You’d think that a clear-cut separation would come with a neatly tied bow of resolution, but alas, it’s not that simple. This is a harsh reality in the psychology of breakups. Dhriti says, “You’re looking for a rational explanation, a ‘why’, or closure which is not available. You’re looking to answer a question that has no answer. It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t feel fair but you still have to move on with your life. Of course, that is difficult to do!” Which is why moving on without closure might be your only option.

8. Physical pain is a common after-effect

Dhriti says, “It can cause physical pain. Emotional and physical pain are closely tied together and studies have shown that intense emotional pain triggers the same areas of the brain as physical pain does. Due to the mind and body connection, you might even experience physiological pain around your chest, throat, neck, and head.” No wonder breakup hurts so much.

Related Reading: Expert Advice On Coping With Feeling Empty After A Breakup

9. It is a traumatic experience

Why are breakups so hard? Because it is a traumatic experience. The trauma of a breakup is often underestimated. It’s not just a matter of moving on; it’s about rewiring your emotional responses, untangling the threads of attachment, and learning to breathe in a world that now feels altered.

“So much pain is perceived as a threat to your well-being by your brain, which triggers your fight/flight/freeze/fawn response. Your body goes into a state of overdrive and that can manifest as anxiety, palpitations, breathlessness, etc.,” says Dhriti. So, don’t overlook this aspect of the psychology of breakups when you feel like you can’t stop thinking about your ex.

10. Breakups trigger an ancient survival instinct

Back in the day, when we roamed the Earth in tribes, being part of a group was vital for survival. Getting kicked out of the tribe meant fending for yourself in the wild, which, let’s be real, wasn’t a promising scenario. So, our brains developed this nifty little survival instinct that makes us cling to relationships like a life raft. This is why we so often deal with loneliness after breakup. Dhriti says, “Your breakup may trigger this evolutionary survival instinct. Breakups feel like rejection, and for our prehistoric ancestors, rejection from their fellow man was a threat to their survival.”

Related Reading: Why Am I Sad When I Broke Up With Him? 4 Reasons And 5 Tips To Cope

Why Do Some People Take Breakups Harder Than Others?

Why is it so hard to break up with someone? Why is it so hard to leave someone you love? Why are breakups so hard to deal with? I hope you found an answer to these very puzzling questions that leave us confused as we struggle to make sense of our emotions and try to find a way forward after the end of a relationship. But have you noticed that not everyone responds the same way to a breakup?

While some get consumed by the pain, others may brush it off like a scrape on the knee and push forward. Of course, the response to a breakup depends on a variety of factors, such as the level of attachment to a romantic partner, one’s attachment style, and the duration and nature of the relationship. It also depends on one’s personality and emotional make-up. Let’s delve deeper into the psychology of breakups to understand why some people take breakups harder than others:

Related Reading: How To Break Up With Someone Without Hurting Them: 10 Rules

1. Sensitive souls feel the breakup pain more

Highly sensitive people become more invested in relationships and are thus more by breakups. Individuals with a practical outlook can rationalize the breakup even if they’re hurting, whereas sensitive souls struggle to recalibrate. Since they are easily and more deeply affected by emotional upheavals, breakups are particularly hard on them.

Learning how to cope with a breakup might lead them to wonder, “Memories of my ex make me sad. Why is it so hard to get over someone?” This is especially true of those who are burdened with an insecure attachment style.

2. Seeing oneself in low light

Feeling disoriented, distressed, and depressed after a breakup is natural. However, if you see your partner’s rejection of you as a verdict on your worth as an individual, the impact of the breakup can be a lot more profound. These questions tend to escalate quickly and plunge you into a dark abyss of negative thoughts and self-doubt. “Why are breakups so hard for me?” you may be left wondering as a result. Because you’re viewing the failure of a romantic relationship as a personal failure.

Related Reading: The Right Way To Use Power Of Silence After A Breakup

3. You experience disturbance in biological rhythms

Romance is an addiction that fosters attachment and a sense of belonging between couples. Slowly, a partner’s thoughts, values, opinions, and feelings start having a powerful influence on your life. They calm you down when impulsive, drive you to your goals, and support you in everyday life.

Needless to say, you become addicted and deeply accustomed to your partner, physically and psychologically. When that equation falters, your whole life and its functions turn upside down. This disruption of harmony turns surviving heartbreaks into an uphill battle as it affects the mind, body, and soul.

More On Ex

4. Highly committed relationship breakups bring torment

Breakups in a committed relationship are an invitation to the cycle of doom. Your faith in the idea of love is shaken and you suddenly feel lost, unhinged, and exposed. Like a child lost at a busy fair. A lot of people struggle to overcome such a setback, the loss of a partner who’d become an integral part of their lives. They find it harder to get over a breakup than, say, someone who is getting out of a casual or short-term relationship.

Constructive vs destructive ways of coping with a hard breakup

Is your breakup pain unbearable? Even aside from the emotional distress, a breakup has the power to cause physical afflictions such as insomnia, lack of appetite, elevated heart rate, and withdrawal symptoms. It can leave you wondering, “Why are breakups harder at night?” or “Why have I lost my appetite after a breakup?

Now that we have discussed why are breakups so hard to get over, let’s look at how to deal with the breakup blues in healthy ways. Before getting into the sensible ways of dealing with rejection in love, it’s important you take a look at this comparison chart because even the best of us fall into this self-destructive trap after the loss of romantic love:

Constructive Destructive
Try to have a conversation to solve the issue or to get closure but without pestering your ex if they are not interested Begging them to come back (a sign of insecure attachment style)
Unfriend your ex on social media if not block them because stumbling on their posts will make it harder for you to move onStalking your ex on social media and plotting revenge
It’s okay to grieve initially but sooner or later you have to make an effort to get back to your normal lifeAvoiding all your responsibilities and shutting yourself in for days on end
Accept that the more you suppress your emotions, the more time it will take to get over the breakupPlunging yourself into work to ‘not feel anything’
Try to channel your pain through something productive like journaling or meditation instead of depending on alcoholAnd the worst of all, self-blame, self-harm, and substance abuse

Related Reading: Why Do Breakups Hit Guys Later? 7 Intriguing Reasons

7 Expert-Backed Tips To Cope With A Breakup

Is your breakup pain unbearable enough to make you feel helpless? If you can’t get out of bed after breakup, don’t beat yourself up about being weak. Don’t get into the blame game and self-destructive phases we just discussed. It would only make things more difficult for you. Instead, follow some of these effective coping tips to feel better after a breakup and emerge stronger than ever.

1. Don’t pull away from people

why is it so hard to leave someone you love
You have to allow yourself to grieve

Reach out to friends, family, or a support group to share your feelings and experiences. Surrounding yourself with a strong support system can provide comfort and perspective during a hard time. “Don’t isolate yourself from others. Being in the company of your loved ones can thwart feelings of loneliness and emptiness often accompanying a breakup,” says Dhriti.

2. Remember to take care of yourself

While it’s completely okay to spend a couple of days in bed feeling sorry for yourself after a breakup, you cannot let go and ignore your own needs because you’re consumed by the “memories of my ex make me sad” thought. Practicing self-care is a great way to navigate the emotional aftermath of a breakup and feel secure.

This includes prioritizing activities that bring you joy, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and being kind to yourself throughout the healing process. Dhriti says, “Continue to practice basic self-care, especially when you don’t want to. Not skipping meals, staying hydrated, some form of physical activity, and at least one thing that brings you happiness.”

Related Reading: 13 Helpful Tips To Get Over The Love Of Your Life

3. Embrace the grieving process

Healing from a breakup is a slow process, and it can happen only when you go through the 7 stages of the breakup. Initially, you may need time to overcome the ‘shock’. Then the ‘denial’ of it may make you overlook the ground reality. You may even try to negotiate with your ex over calls and texts in an attempt to reconcile.

Dhriti advises, “Allow yourself to feel your emotions, without judgment, even if they’re uncomfortable. What you don’t feel today will come out in different ways tomorrow. Experiencing your emotions thoroughly is the only way to move forward.”

4. Find hope in moving on eventually

In the weeks following the breakup, you might find yourself asking, “Why is getting over someone so hard?” But if you give yourself ample time, the pain and hurt will begin to fade away. Breakups are normal and moving on, with or without closure, takes a while.

Dhriti says, “Remind yourself that this too shall pass and that the end of this relationship does not mean that nothing new can ever begin.” You may not even realize when it happens, but at some point, you will begin to feel secure and confident enough to leave the past behind and walk toward the future with hope in your heart.

Related Reading: What To Do After A Breakup: Post-Breakup Feelings

5. Take one day at a time

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer in mindfulness research, emphasizes the importance of staying present. Instead of overwhelming yourself with the future, focus on taking one day at a time. Practicing mindfulness and staying grounded in the present moment can help alleviate anxiety about what lies ahead.

There is no average breakup recovery time that you need to aim for. “Give it some time. It is not that pain fades with time, but we grow to accommodate that pain in such a manner that it no longer consumes us,” says Dhriti. When you’re ready, you’ll start dating again after a breakup.

6. Go easy on yourself

As you navigate the ups and downs of post-breakup life, remind yourself to go easy. Take breaks when needed, engage in activities that bring you joy, and avoid self-critical thoughts. You’re not perfect, and that’s perfectly okay.

“Treat yourself with patience, kindness, and compassion. That means doing the things you know need to be done while also acknowledging that it is difficult and appreciating yourself for doing things. Also, take the time you need to rest and recover,” says Dhriti. If you can’t get out of bed after breakup, don’t stress. Just take baby steps.

Related Reading: Does The No Contact Rule After Break Up Work? Expert Responds

7. Seek professional help if you need it

It’s normal to feel lonely after breakup. Breakups can hit like a ton of emotional bricks, and sometimes you need more than just a pint of ice cream and a rom-com marathon to deal with it. That’s where the pros come in. Talking to a therapist can help you untangle the mess of emotions, understand why your brain is doing its emotional gymnastics, and give you some effective coping strategies for post-breakup depression. This goes double for those of us who have an insecure attachment style.

If you’re finding it hard to feel better after a breakup, Dhriti advises, “Seek professional help. If things get out of hand, or if you feel stuck somewhere you can’t get out of on your own, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help.” And if at any point, you need professional help to stabilize your mental health, skilled and experienced counselors on Bonobology’s panel are here for you.

Key Pointers

  • Breakups are hard because you don’t just lose a person, you lose a part of yourself. The scary feeling of being on your own, the withdrawal of feel-good hormones, and the uncertainty of the future can make moving on harder
  • Some people take breakups harder than others owing to factors like attachment styles, depth and duration of the relationship, self-worth, and self-esteem issues
  • The key to working through these uncomfortable feelings is to avoid destructive behaviors like binge drinking, stalking your ex on social media, or begging them to take you back
  • Engage in healthy coping mechanisms like spending time with loved ones, practicing self-care, and treating yourself with kindness and compassion

Although some days are harder than others after a breakup, there are many ways to move on and lead a healthy, happy life. Bonobology’s relationship counselors agree that your breakup recovery may be difficult, but not impossible. No matter how full of obstacles the journey seems, we’ve got faith in your ability to persevere and we are sure you will make it to the other side.

FAQs

1. Which gender hurts more after a breakup?

Breakups are hard for everyone, but women are more affected by the aftermath. They report more emotional pain and struggle with a host of negative feelings. Current evidence suggests that they feel the loss more intensely.

2. Who moves on faster after a breakup?

The jury is kind of divided here. It has been believed that men move on faster and date others after a breakup. But new findings indicate that men dwell on past relationships longer than women do. It takes men a while to ask (read: admit), “Why are breakups so painful?”

3. Which gender is more likely to break up?

A study conducted on US adults found that women are more likely to end a marriage. But both men and women are equally likely to end a premarital relationship.

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