Breakups are often incredibly difficult and painful experiences. When someone decides to end a relationship, they are usually called “the dumper”, while their partner who got dumped is “the dumpee”. There are many myths and assumptions about who hurts more after a split – the dumper or the dumpee. In this article, we’ll explore whether the person doing the dumping also feels pain and heartbreak.
Does the dumper feel regret?
One of the most common assumptions is that the dumper feels relief or even happiness after ending a relationship, while the dumpee is left distraught. But the truth is, the dumper often feels regret, sadness, grief, and even guilt after initiating a breakup. Even if they know ending the relationship is the right decision, they can still feel sad about losing someone they cared about and the life they built together. Dumping someone they once loved can cause the dumper immense emotional turmoil.
According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, dumpers experience a post-breakup rise in regret and depression. Out of 159 undergraduate students who had recently experienced a breakup, 63 were the dumpers. The study found that the dumpers showed more post-breakup regret and depression than the dumpees. This suggests initiating a breakup can be just as difficult emotionally as being broken up with.
Why might a dumper feel regret?
There are several reasons a dumper may feel regret after ending a relationship:
- Missing their ex – They may miss the comfort and companionship of their former partner.
- Loneliness – Dumping someone means losing daily contact and interactions with them.
- Guilt – They may feel guilty about hurting their ex by initiating the breakup.
- Loss of hopes for the future – Ending things means giving up dreams and plans made as a couple.
- Doubting their decision – They may have moments of uncertainty if breaking up was the right move.
- Seeing their ex hurt – Watching their former partner grieve can stir up feelings of regret and sadness.
Even when dumpers feel they made the best decision for themselves long-term, it’s natural for them to experience post-breakup regret and sadness over what they’ve lost and given up by ending the relationship.
Does the pain differ for dumpers versus dumpees?
The emotional pain of a breakup is still very real for the dumper, but there may be key differences in how dumpers and dumpees experience heartbreak.
Some key differences:
|Had more time to emotionally detach before the breakup
|The breakup comes as a shock
|Experience more regret and guilt
|Feel more rejection, desperation and protest
|More likely to move on faster
|Slower emotional recovery
|Miss the relationship less over time
|Longer grieving period; miss their ex more
The dumpee is often blindsided, while the dumper has had more time to process the idea of breaking up and detach. As a result, the dumpee tends to feel more initial despair and heartbreak. However, the dumper isn’t immune to post-breakup depression and hurt. Each side faces their own challenges and painful emotions.
How long do dumpers tend to suffer after a breakup?
There is no definitive timeframe – each person’s grief process is unique. However, research provides some insights into the dumper’s post-breakup recovery timeline:
- In the first weeks after initiating a breakup, dumpers often report regret, depression, guilt and distress. Their grief is more pronounced in the initial post-breakup period.
- Most studies find dumpers’ emotional pain peaks within the first month after a split and begins declining after that.
- One study found dumpers’ grief and depression lowered to pre-breakup levels within about 8 weeks post-breakup.
- It’s common for dumpers to continue thinking about their ex and feeling pangs of sadness for several months after ending a longer-term relationship.
- Long-term regrets may occasionally resurface even years later, especially during significant life events like marriages or births when they reflect on what could have been.
The dumper’s acute grief seems to follow a faster decline than the dumpee’s mourning process. But the dumper still feels the very real pain of heartbreak in the initial months after deciding to end a relationship.
Do rebound relationships ease the dumper’s pain?
Some dumpers seek out a rebound relationship soon after a breakup in hopes it will help them “get over” their ex faster. But research suggests rebounds don’t truly ease post-breakup distress:
- One study found dumpers did not report less distress from rebounds. The regret and sadness over their recent breakup still persisted.
- Starting a rushed rebound has risks. The dumper may not be emotionally ready for something new and end up hurting the new partner.
- Rebounds are often more about distraction and avoiding grief rather than real connection. This prevents the dumper from doing the emotional work to heal.
Rather than jumping into a new relationship, dumpers need time for self-reflection after initiating a breakup. Processing their emotions and allowing themselves to grieve is key to accepting the loss in a healthy way.
Healthier ways for dumpers to cope:
- Spend time with supportive friends and family
- Join a breakup support group to not feel so alone
- Express their feelings through writing, art, or music
- Start a new hobby or take a class as a positive distraction
- Get therapy to work through any guilt and process the breakup in a healthy way
- Be kind to themselves and allow themselves to feel what they feel without judgment
How can you support someone who initiated a breakup?
If your friend or family member has recently ended a relationship, here are some tips for supporting them through it:
Listen without judgment
Let them share their feelings openly without criticizing their decision to break up.
Acknowledge their pain
Remind them it’s normal to grieve the loss of a relationship, even if they were the one to end it.
Don’t diminish their feelings
Comments like “you’ll be fine” or “everything happens for a reason” can invalidate how much they’re hurting.
Offer specific help
Ask if they need support with errands, meals, childcare, etc to ease their load after the breakup.
Suggest healthy distractions
Plan friend outings to movies, concerts, or restaurants to lift their spirits.
If they’re craving a rebound fling, gently remind them it may prolong the pain rather than help heal it.
Giving them space to vent while also reassuring them the hurt is temporary can help dumpers process the emotional turbulence of being the one to end a relationship.
Breakups involve intense heartbreak and grief for both parties, including the initiator. Dumping a partner can come with regret, loneliness, guilt, and depression. While the dumper’s pain may peak sooner than the dumpee’s, the emotions are still real and often long-lasting. Rather than rebounds or repression, the healthiest way forward is giving themselves time to reflect, feel their feelings, and engage in self-care. With support from loved ones, the dumper can slowly make peace with their decision and eventually move on.