You’ve been through breakups before and they all hurt on some level. But research shows that one kind of breakup actually hurts the most…and it involves your partner choosing someone else.
According to a study conducted by Cornell University, “comparative rejection,” or the act of a partner choosing someone else over you, feels much worse than “noncomparative rejection,” in which a partner just rejects you.
Not only can hurt from comparative rejection come from a breakup, but it can also be caused by situations like losing an employment opportunity to another candidate.
Time reported that the researchers worked with 600 people in a series of experiments revolving around the two types of rejection. In the first experiment, one man was put with two women who were secretly working with the researchers. One woman was given a puzzle and told to choose a partner to help her complete it.
The woman either chose the other woman, leaving the man to feel that he had been comparatively rejected, or the woman chose to complete the puzzle herself, rejecting the man in a noncomparative manner.
In each experiment conducted, researchers found that people felt worse when they were rejected for someone else compared to being rejected with no one else involved.
Being rejected for someone else also introduces another rival into the situation, the researchers stated, which makes the situation feel worse.
So if you’re looking to let someone down easy, you may not want to let them know it’s because you’re interested in someone else (if, in fact, that’s the situation). You probably already suspected as much, and now there’s actual proof to back it up.