Can The Breakup Actually Be Harder On The Instigator Or Is That A Myth?

Breakups, at least in monogamous relationships, involve two people: the dumper and the dumpee. Once it's clear that the relationship is over, the dumpee — that is, the person who was broken up with — is typically offered an outpouring of sympathy and support, while the dumper is often vilified for initiating the split.

Of course, calling it quits doesn't make anyone a bad person, nor does it guarantee that they'll come out on top post-breakup. Breakups are hard on both people, no matter what role they played in the relationship's ending. Some people (probably those who have firsthand experience being a dumper) even believe that breakups can be harder on the instigator than the person being dumped. According to a 2017 study published in the journal Emerging Adulthood, there's some research to back this theory up, yet there's also nearly just as much research to refute it.

So do dumpers really suffer more than their partners after deciding to leave their relationship behind? Here's what the experts have to say.

Breakup instigators may experience dumpers remorse

Sometimes, you know in your gut that a relationship must end. Maybe you want different things, or perhaps your interactions have recently taken a toxic turn. Even if you're sure it's best to let go, it's common to experience post-breakup regrets, especially if you're the one initiating the split. There's even a name for this agonizing feeling: dumpers remorse. Elena Touroni, consultant psychologist and co-founder of London's The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, explained to Refinery29, "We may find ourselves ruminating over the break up and the role we played in it and feeling like we're a 'bad' person for ending the relationship." When this guilt festers, it can lead to feelings of shame and self-doubt, Touroni added.

Unsurprisingly, this guilt is often tied to the hurt inflicted on the dumpee. "We're conditioned through parenting and role models to be authentic and trust our gut, but also to make sure we don't hurt another person's feelings," Scout Smith-O'Leary, a relationship therapist, told Fashion Journal. "It can feel as if we're abandoning our partner when we leave a relationship, but you need to remember that the other person has the necessary connections and services outside of you to support their own healing." Think of it this way: Dumpers often have their own emotions to grapple with already, and by taking on the weight of their exes, too, they might have an even harder time bouncing back.

Grief can strike dumpers in different ways

It's normal to grieve a breakup no matter which side you're on, and breakup instigators tend to face their own set of struggles. In Psychology Today, psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein writes that there are several barriers to breaking up, including emotional attachment, fear of being alone, financial dependence, and even social pressure to stay together. If you've decided to part ways, it doesn't necessarily mean that these issues go away.

Dumpers can also struggle with wanting closure, just as a dumpee might. "We all need to construct narratives to make sense of our lives. If we have a coherent story about what happened, we can understand our life experiences," relationship and breakup counselor Lisa Marie Bobby shared with Vice. If you seem to have had a perspective on the relationship that contradicted your ex's, you may wonder how you saw red flags and your partner didn't.

Finally, one of the hardest parts of breaking up is accepting that the future you hoped to share with your ex was never meant to be, and instigators are just as likely to experience this as dumpees. As Chelsea Leigh Trescott, a breakup coach, told Elite Daily, "Just because you ended the relationship doesn't mean you weren't invested in the longevity of it or believed it might last forever. Those who initiate a breakup are still left to grieve the future they'd anticipated as well as the familiarity and comfort they had developed with their ex."