Breakups are hard for everyone, introvert or extrovert. But if you’re an introvert, your breakup experience might be even worse than others’ — simply because of who you are, how you view relationships, and how you process your emotions.
For example, the introvert’s introspective and reflective nature means you might feel every single emotion intensely and end up overwhelmed by painful emotions. You might endlessly rehash old conversations and arguments in your head, unable to think clearly or even to function properly in your daily life.
It makes sense, therefore, to know what those differences are so you’re more prepared and better able to bounce back — stronger — after your heartbreak. Let’s explore three reasons why breakups are worse for introverts than they are for extroverts, and three ways to start feeling better.
Why Breakups Are Worse for Introverts
Here are the three key differences:
1. Need for Emotional Depth
As an introvert, you likely have a greater need for emotional intimacy and depth in your relationships than your extroverted counterparts. When you fall in love, you really let yourself be vulnerable, sharing with your partner your deepest desires and fears. After all, you’re not interested in a surface-level connection.
Therefore, when an intimate relationship ends — for whatever reason — it can be absolutely devastating for you. It might feel like your whole world is crumbling. You might start to mentally and emotionally unravel, falling into depression or engaging in unhealthy behaviors such over-eating and drinking in order to numb the enormous pain you feel.
Solution: Emotional Resilience
I’m a big advocate for feeling your feelings, not trying to stuff them down or numb them and pretending that everything is fine. Trust me, I tried, and it backfired.
However, it’s one thing to feel your feelings and quite another to wallow in them. Too often introverts cross the line and end up drowning in their emotions.
Emotional resilience allows you to find the balance between being with your pain, and at the same time, not dwelling on it endlessly; it teaches you to tolerate negative emotions by recognizing and labeling them as they are, rather than inflating or minimizing them.
According to research, the simple act of labeling your emotions can greatly reduce their potency and therefore your reactivity to them. Why? It forces you to leave the fight-or-flight part of your brain and move into the neocortex, where rational thinking takes place. Also, it allows you to distance yourself from your feelings, so you can start to see that your feelings are not you.
This can be done simply by pausing and saying to yourself, “I’m feeling ___.” Or, better still, “I’m having the feeling of ___.” This way, you make it crystal clear to yourself that you are having a feeling, but the feeling isn’t you.
Instead of your feelings owning you, you own your feelings.
Ideally, it’s better to learn to tolerate painful emotions in small doses, because you need to build up your emotional muscle just as you would build up physical muscle by working out at the gym. However, it’s never too late! The more your practice, the easier it gets.
2. A Smaller Social Circle
Because of your greater need for emotional intimacy and depth, you also tend to have a smaller social circle. It’s not hard to see why: As an introvert, you prefer to have meaningful connection with a handful of close friends rather than surface-level connection with a large group of acquaintances. It’s also less draining for you.
There’s nothing wrong with your preference. After all, it’s quality over quantity, right? However, because your social circle is smaller to start with, a breakup can potentially overstretch your social support.
An unfortunate thing that happens during a breakup is that you will lose some friends. Sometimes friends feel the need to choose sides, and other times, they simply find it too hard to deal with your enormous pain.
Whatever the reason, you may find yourself isolated and dealing with not just the pain of losing your partner but also of losing your friends or other people you were counting on to support you through the tough days ahead.
I know this sounds counterintuitive — you’ve just been hurt, and the last thing you want to do is to open yourself up again to potentially more hurt and betrayal. Indeed, it’s very natural to feel jaded and to want to close your heart forever. So instead of reaching out for support precisely when we need it the most, we shut down.
However, research studies have shown that social connection does wonders for everyone — extroverts and introverts alike. This is especially true when we cannot rely on our old social circle, and we need to start building a new one. So the question isn’t if we should be open and vulnerable, but how to do it, and with whom.
Vulnerability isn’t about being vulnerable to everyone. It’s about being open with a select few people who have earned our trust to hear our story, even if it’s just one person to start with. They are what the famous social researcher Brené Brown calls “compassionate witnesses.”
Even though you might have to fight every fiber of your introverted self to do it, now is the time to enroll in a new class, join a meetup group, or reach out to an acquaintance that you could turn into a friend. Of course, make sure that you don’t overdo it — while socializing (in the right dosage) makes us happy, over-socializing drains us because of too much stimulation. Experiment and find your own perfect balance!
3. Incessant, Obsessive Thinking
Unlike extroverts who are doers, introverts tend to be thinkers and observers. You’re more self-aware, reflective, and introspective. Your thoughtful, caring ways are what make you a great partner in the first place.
However, your tendency to think and reflect about everything can also be your biggest downfall in a breakup.
Right now, you can’t get out of you head, and you obsess and ruminate endlessly about all the things you or your ex should have said or done differently — as well as all the times they have hurt you (or vice versa). You may start questioning your own value as a partner and a human being: What’s wrong with me? What did I do wrong? or Why wasn’t I enough?
Solution: Movement, Rest, and Play (aka Self-Care!)
Yes, you heard me right. Movement is one of the best ways to get you out of your head and into your body. And notice I didn’t say the dreaded word exercise. Exercise carries with it a sense of heavy obligation, like it’s just another chore we need to cross off our to-do list.
Movement, on the other hand, is light-hearted and fun. It could be any type of movement, but personally I find yoga and dancing particularly helpful.
There’s something to be said about going back to the basics when everything around you is changing fast. So apart from moving your body, getting plenty of rest is essential for your breakup recovery. We often forget the important connection between our body and our mind; but the reality is when we have a strong body, we start to feel emotionally strong again.
Last but not least, while play may seem like the last thing on your mind when you’re going through a tough time, reconnecting with your inner child and incorporating some fun and play into your life — through movement, new interests, or adventures — actually helps you heal.
Also, it allows you to rebuild your sense of identity independent of your ex and start creating amazing new memories. You don’t need to wait for anyone’s permission or for things to “get better.”
You can start today.
Emotional resilience, vulnerability, and self-care will help you navigate the messy aftermath of a breakup when your emotional depth, smaller social circle, and tendency towards overthinking may conspire to make your healing journey long and arduous.
Try one of these solutions today. You can bounce back better and stronger after your heartbreak.
You might like:
- 12 Things Introverts Absolutely Need to Be Happy
- What to Do When You Feel Overstimulated and Overwhelmed
- 7 Tips for Introverts to Make More High-Quality Friends
- 8 Confessions of an Introvert Living in a World Made for Extroverts
- If You Relate to These 21 Signs, You’re Probably an Introvert
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