Three-Week Relationship Breakups Can Be More Painful Than Three-Year Ones - Here's Why

According to a popular study cited by The Telepgraph, the average woman will kiss 15 people, have seven sexual partners, and start three relationships that fizzle out within a year. By comparison, the study also noted that the typical woman has only two relationships that surpass the one-year mark. If our math is correct, that means that the majority of romantic connections last no more than a night, a few weeks, or a handful of months.

Though long-term relationships are often more life-changing than short-term ones, most of us have had at least one or two brief encounters that made a major impact. That impact is perhaps most felt when the relationship comes to an end. You might find yourself crying for hours and numbing yourself with pints of ice cream after losing a blink-and-you-miss-it relationship, just as you would after breaking up with a partner you were with for years. That may be why memes have popped up all over social media, from Twitter to TikTok, expressing how hard it can be to recover from three-month situationships and other short ill-defined relationships.

Sometimes, the relationships that were never meant to last can be the most painful to recover from. If you're struggling to move on from a short-lived romance, these reasons may explain why.

Closure can be harder to get

Grieving a breakup is difficult, especially when there's no closure. As relationship therapist Stephanie Ambrosius explained to Stylist, closure helps you identify what went wrong and the lessons that can be learned from it: "Once you've got some clarity on this, it can make it easier to understand what's happened and move on."

However, closure might be harder to get after a short-lived relationship dies out. With a long, multi-year relationship, you have time to assess your differences and incompatibilities. When things go awry, you might feel heartbroken, but you likely also have some sense of what led to the breakup. And if you don't, you can often at least start a dialogue with your ex to understand their point of view.

These conversations can be crucial in gaining closure, though they can be harder to start after a brief relationship ends. A partner you've only been with for a few weeks may break up over text or abruptly call it off without offering any real explanation. Or worse, they may ghost you completely, something that is less likely to happen if you, say, live together or co-parent a child.

Your grief may be ignored

When you think of an earth-shattering breakup, you probably imagine a long, deeply connected relationship coming to a heartbreaking end. If your relationship only lasted a few weeks or a couple of months, you might believe that your grief is unreasonable, and this may be reinforced by friends telling you to just get over your "fling." If your breakup had followed a longer relationship, however, there's a good chance they would be quick to offer support.

Even if others brush off your experience as a forgettable blip in your romantic timeline, it's important to show yourself empathy. Grief can follow any life change, including the loss of a relationship you had high hopes for. Feeling upset is a totally normal response, and trying to force yourself to get over the breakup may only make it harder to heal in the end.

Another reason why your feelings are valid: You're coming down from a natural high. According to a 2010 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, the early stages of falling in love are marked by intense spikes in brain chemicals including oxytocin and adrenaline, creating a euphoric effect. Breaking up after a few weeks, when you're likely still drunk on this chemical cocktail, can be incredibly distressing. In this way, ending a short-lived relationship might even be more shocking to your brain than ending a longer-lasting one.