Rewire Logo
A nonprofit journalism
website produced by:
Twin Cities PBS Logo

There's No Shame in Feeling Breakup Regret

by Julia Ries
February 22, 2019 | Love

There’s no denying that having your heart broken is devastating. The pain of being rejected by someone you love and care for can be downright excruciating — even if you’re the one doing the dumping.

Yes, the breaker-upper often gets a bad rap. But it’s not an easy job to do, and they’re oftentimes in just as much pain as the dumpee.

Here’s what it feels like to be the dumper, what can trigger breakup regret and why you shouldn't necessarily get back together.

Your brain doesn’t want you to suffer

Our brains have the very important — and necessary — job of keeping us happy. This is one of the main reasons why, when you’re planning to break up with someone, your brain starts to say, "Hey, are you sure you want to go through with this?"

Illustration of woman with tangled lines for brains. Breakup Regret pbs rewire
Rather than getting stuck in this cycle of self-doubt, focus on the lessons you learned from the experience.

“Anytime we anticipate any kind of pain, whether emotional or physical, the brain will try to find a way to avoid it, even if it tricks us into staying or going back by using regret — even if in the long run there will be more pain by staying,” said Jianny Adamo, a licensed mental health counselor and certified relationship coach.

In other words, the brain is looking for a quick and easy way to skip out on suffering. It can be hard to ignore these thoughts, so make a point to reflect on the reasons you ended it. Remind yourself of how you felt when you made the decision to break things off. And know that regret might be your brain's way of coping with a big, difficult change.

It’s normal to miss an ex, but that doesn’t mean you made a mistake

If you were in a long-term, serious relationship — or, hey, even if you weren’t — it’s par for the course that you’ll miss your partner to some degree. After all, you just shared a lot with this person and your lives were likely very intertwined.

In fact, many people will experience withdrawal symptoms for the first six months or so after a split. That’s because when you’re in love and soaking up all the physical and emotional intimacy of your partner, the brain experiences a surge in dopamine and oxytocin. These feel-good chemicals cause us to feel attraction and attachment.

So, when you break up with someone, your body literally goes through a withdrawal from all those intoxicating hormones. Common symptoms include anxiety, confusion, irritability, lethargy and fear.

While these feelings might be overwhelming at first, with time the fog will clear and you will heal.

Your ex’s social media may start to get to you

Once the breaking up is over with and the grief seems to be finally be dissipating, you may decide to check in on your ex’s social media.

It can hurt to see that your ex has moved on — and you may even feel envious if they've found a new partner.

“For some people, they may second guess their initial thoughts because they may see the positive highlights online and neglect the other feelings that they may have had in the relationship,” said Brandi Lewis, owner and lead therapist at Reach Counseling Solutions in Charlotte, North Carolina.

This is a common experience and isn’t indicative that the breakup was a mistake, she said.

“It is a very normal reaction to think of the more positive times as it is often easy for many people to romanticize relationships,” Lewis added.

She recommends blocking the person on social media until you’re able to healthily manage your feelings about them.

[Read this: 3 Ways Social Media Might Be Hurting Your Love Life]

Don’t fixate on what went wrong

Some people begin fixating on what they could’ve done differently to make the relationship a successful one. Rather than getting stuck in this cycle of self-doubt, focus on the lessons you learned from the experience.

“For example, instead of saying, where did I go wrong, ask, what did I do to honor my own feelings?” Lewis said. “What is good about me that my partner may not have appreciated? What did I learn from this relationship about myself and my partner?”

Remember: you aren’t a terrible person for breaking up with someone. Chances are your partner simply wasn’t meeting all of your needs or the two of you weren’t entirely compatible.

Use your relationship with your ex as a framework to determine what you want your next relationship to look like. For example, maybe you now know you need a partner who is a strong communicator, or more ambitious.

And having feelings of regret doesn't mean you made the wrong choice.

The ending of any relationship is typically mucky for both the dumpee and the dumper. Regret is a completely normal and healthy part of breakup recovery. The key is to learn from it and keep moving forward.

Julia Ries
Julia Ries is an L.A.-based writer covering health, wellness and life-type stuff for Rewire, HuffPost, VICE and Healthline, among other publications. You can see her work at
Are you here? So are we!
Rewire LogoFor a better life and a brighter future
A nonprofit journalism website produced byTPT Logo
©2022 Twin Cities Public Television.Privacy PolicyTerms of Use