According to a new study from Cornell University, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, the most hurtful breakup comes from being dumped for someone else—scientifically coined as “comparative rejection.”
The study involved 600 people who participated in four different types of experiments. The first experiment included two women who were secretly working with the scientists and a man who was not.
Here’s the interesting part. To find out how the man felt about rejection, the scientists handed one woman a puzzle to solve and she was given the choice to either work with the other woman, the man, or alone. She only ever chose to work with the other woman or on her own, excluding the man.
The other experiments carried out were in bigger groups, where people expressed a time in their lives when they had felt rejected.
Both studies revealed that comparative rejection triggers greater heartbreak than non-comparative rejection, because “such rejections lead to an increased sense of exclusion and decreased belonging.” (That’s science-speak for “rejected and lonely.”)
The researchers offer some personal advice for dealing with rejection: If you are leaving your partner for someone else, don’t blab about it—or at least not too much. And if you’re leaving for another reason, it’s a good idea to reassure your partner that there isn’t anybody else.