Breakups never feel good, and if you’ve ever been cheated on, you know they feel especially bad—and according to new research, feeling like you were rejected for someone else makes breakups feel a whole lot worse.
This finding comes out of a Cornell University study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. For the study, researchers had 600 volunteers do a series of four experiments. For the first experiment, a woman was given a puzzle to solve and had the option of choosing a partner to help her. Sometimes she would choose another woman in the group, and other times she would choose to work alone.
For the other three experiments, people were asked to recall times they’d been rejected in the past and asked to imagine being rejected. Across the board, people felt a lot worse when rejection was comparative—in other words, when they were being rejected for someone else rather than the old “It’s not you; it’s me” line.
Interestingly, when the people being rejected weren’t given a reason for why it happened, they desperately wanted to know if it was because of a comparative rejection. So if you’re breaking up with someone and it doesn’t have to do with someone else, it could help soften the blow if you give a reason.
“Even the luckiest among us will not be chosen for some jobs, dates, or friendships that we want,” write the authors. “And while nobody likes to be rejected, these rejections vary, and some feel worse than others.”