Why does love hurts so bad

Why Does Love Hurt? And How to Make it Stop

photo by milada vigerova

by Andrea M. Darcy

Just out of a relationship, or love someone who doesn’t love you back? And can’t keep wondering, why does love hurt? 

Why does love hurt?

Feeling ‘in emotional pain’ isn’t just you being dramatic.

Researchers have discovered that your brain processes emotional upset with the same brain circuitry that processes physical injury. Social psychologist Naomi Eisenberger  calls this ‘the physical-social pain overlap’.

It’s uncertain how our emotional pain ‘piggybacked’ onto the part of our brain that deals with physical pain.  In a review of current research around this subject, Eisenberg suggests that it is because in our tribal days we needed to be part of a group to survive. So our brain evolved to give us warnings if things weren’t going so well socially. 

Is heartbreak worse than breaking a leg?

In fact our ability to constantly relive pain from social experiences might mean that we end up with more pain from things like breakups or rejection than if we actually had a physical injury.

Research from Purdue University in America found that between an equally painful past physical injury and a past betrayal, participants in a study were far more able to still feel intense pain over the betrayal than the injury. 

Love and physical illness

Anxiety and emotional distress not only leave us disorientated, they can and do cause physical symptoms.  

Anxiety can cause things like muscle tension, an upset stomach, headaches, and a racing heart.

And a rare heart condition caused by acute emotional distress, stress cardiomyopathy, is also nicknamed by researchers ‘broken heart syndrome’. The heart muscle develops a weakness that mimics a classic heart attack, with a surge of adrenalin and other stress hormones

photo by: Sydney Sims

temporarily ‘stunning’ the heart.

Most people make a quick recovery without permanent side effects. But in rare cases, it can be fatal, giving all new meaning to the idea of ‘dying of a broken heart’. 

Is it really love that hurts? 

Yes, emotional pain is as much pain to our brains as a physical injury. But is that emotional pain you are experiencing really ‘love’?  

From a psychology perspective,  a loving relationship is a safe space to be accepted and encouraged, even as you accept and encourage in return. If that doesn’t ring a bell, then it might not be love at all, but lust, codependency, or love addiction. 

  • How long did you know the other person?
  • Did you get to know each other slowly, in a trusting, safe way?
  • Or was your relationship full of fire and drama? 
  • Did you manipulate and control each other?
  • Did you keep secrets?
  • Do you feel you don’t know who you are without them?
  • Rush in?
  • Was it volatile?

Love and romance addictions hurt because they come with highs and lows. While the highs feel euphoric, the crashing lows can leave us feeling physically exhausted and ill, particularly in comparison to the highs.

Is it present love that hurts, or is it your past?

Didn’t have a dramatic relationship? But feel huge, painful emotions your friends have said mean you are ‘overreacting‘? Or feel hurt by someone you hardly knew very long? 

Unresolved past experiences or traumas can be triggered by present day interactions, meaning we are actually living out emotions from something in the past. 

A classic example here is sexual abuse, which can leave a child with a core belief they are unworthy. As an adult, a tiny bit of rejection can leave them gutted and hating themselves. Or even overreacting and attacking the other person, if their childhood issues have evolved into a case of borderline personality disorder.

How to stop being hurt by love

Breakups and rejection can feel bad, and we need to process our emotions, not hide from them. But if you can’t move past them, it’s time to try new tactics.

1. Stop ‘telling the story’.

There are ways of telling the story of how your heart was broken that help heal it. This can look like journalling about it, or working it through in therapy.

But if you are constantly telling anyone who will listen about how so-and-so treated you wrong, broke your heart, etcetera, etcetera? You are actually keeping the pain going.

2. Use your ‘love pain’ as an opportunity.

By: Nicolas Raymond

Each time you find yourself thinking ‘love hurts’, notice how you are treating yourself in that exact moment.

We can use our obsession of being hurt by another as an excuse to abandon ourselves.

We give the responsibility for self care to this person from the past, and then we go and treat ourselves just like they treated us.

If you feel abandoned, how are you abandoning yourself?  Are you taking care of your health? Are you around people who are nice to you, or choosing to spend time with those who put you down? Have you found time to notice your accomplishments for the day, or are you too busy criticising yourself?


Seek support.
  • Is your love pain a pattern?
  • Are you a wreck for months after each relationship ends? 
  • Always chasing the emotionally unavailable and feeling rejected?

Sometimes we are repeating a way of being and thinking we learned as a child that is so deeply entrenched it’s very, very hard to change alone. We need support.

A counsellor or psychotherapist can help you clearly identify these patterns, and learn and put into action new ways of seeing and behaving that actually attract the real love you long for. 

Time to stop feeling hurt and start feeling loved? We connect you to some of London’s most highly regarded psychotherapists and counselling psychologists. Or use our booking platform to find UK wide affordable therapy and online counselling now. 

Still have a question about why love hurts? Post below. All comments moderated. 

Andrea M. Darcy is a popular health journalist has penned thousands of psychology and self-help articles and is the editor and lead writer of this site.  

20 Painful Reasons Why Love Hurts so Much

In This Article

Everything you see from the time you were a child watching fairytale cartoons to a teenager reading about love in books or seeing romance in movies or on TV,  these tell you love is supposed to be perfect and exhilarating. 

None mention that there is pain in the mix or that you’ll need to endure hurt along with the emotion. Love is supposed to be the ultimate conqueror of all the bad in the world. Unfortunately, sometimes it uses its power to bring the strongest person to their knees.

While love is responsible for some of the most blissful moments in our life, it can turn these moments dark in a matter of seconds. So why does love hurt so much? 

It’s not always the sole culprit. It generally has a little help in sort of an “entourage-like” effect. (Entourage effect is a term used with CBD therapy)

It will work “synergistically” with things like insecurities and fears to culminate into pain, hurt, and despair, especially true in cases when partners are simply incompatible.  

That doesn’t mean you’ll never experience pain again. It simply means you need to nurture and coax true love to stick around. Learn how to let go of pain caused by love from the past with this podcast.

Why does love hurt so much?

Experiencing loving relationships is almost like enduring growing pains. The wrong partnerships eventually end in hurt but out of these come life lessons you might not want to face about yourself. 

Still, you’ll learn things you need to work on personally, gain insight into what you need and desire in an ideal mate, and get guidance on coping with conflicts or rough patches in the future. 

The pain of love is not genuinely in the emotion you experienced but the ending and the need to move on. It’s sort of a kick to the ego, maybe. Read about “The Pain Of Love” in detail with the attached book.

Why is love so painful?

Love typically hurts under imperfect circumstances. 

When you love someone, and the two of you face challenges, rough patches, or the relationship is not necessarily a good matchup, love combines with disappointment, anger, or your ego gets bruised at the notion you can’t make it work. Each of these causes you to feel angst. 

Plus, loss, particularly with someone you’ve come to love, brings grief regardless of the situation was not ideal or the partnership saw difficulties. There are, in fact, stages that each person needs to follow to heal from the experience. 

Leaving something that has become comfortable and familiar in favor of what’s unknown, not knowing what to anticipate or even if there is something else, is scary. Fear can magnify the pain.

Love is as painful as physical pain

Emotional pain is processed within the brain using comparable circuitry to that which processes a physical injury causing a “social and physical overlap,” to quote Naomi Eisenberger, Social Psychologist who is unsure how this “piggyback” occurred. 

Check her research here.  

20 painful reasons why love hurts so much

Love is painful primarily because people often place too many expectations on the emotion. In many cases, it can’t live up to that high of a bar.  

Let’s look at some things that occur to cause pain in love.

1. Fear of the unknown

When you love someone so much it hurts, there can be fear associated with the future. Many people worry if their partnership will progress forward or if a mate’s feelings might begin to fade. That apprehension can be painful. 

2. Love is not always a given

If you love someone so much it hurts, and with the expectation that the feelings will be reciprocated, but the partner is not as enthusiastic about the relationship as you hope, you will be hurt in the end. 

Related Reading: 5 Relationship Expectations That Are Harmful for Couples

3. Exercise to alleviate withdrawal

Is love supposed to hurt? Well, physical pain is associated with love due to chemicals released from the brain reminiscent of those sent out when you exercise. 

These are released when you’re enjoying a wonderful time with your partner. Once the date ends and your partner goes home, the body goes through what feels like withdrawal, ultimately seeming to crave that interaction again. It can appear as pain.

4. Control is not yours

When it hurts to be in love, it’s often due to a lack of control. You can’t ensure the other person develops the same feelings at the same pace or with the same “strength” as you believe you’re experiencing. 

Not being able to “push” your partner along can send you spiraling and be scary and painful.

Related Reading: Relationship Quality Control

5. Loss is difficult

One of the reasons why does love hurt is the fact of loss. If the partnership doesn’t work out and the partner disappears from your life, partners feel responsible for the loss causing the extensive hurt. It’s often harder to deal with death.

Related Reading: 25 Ways to Cope When Someone You Love Leaves You

6. An addictive quality

Addictions are painful, and love can be comparable to an addiction for some individuals as they are willing to do anything for their partners and will drop everything to be with that person.  

The idea of not seeing them brings them actual physical pain. That borders on the extreme, however.

Related Reading: Love Addiction – Signs, Causes & Treatment

7. Dreams are destroyed

When you fantasize and “dream” about what will be and then a mate decides things are not working out, your dreams, plans and goals that you have set for yourself that likely include this person are destroyed, leaving you feeling empty, alone, and hurting from love.

8. Rejection is painful

When pondering after a break-up why does love hurt, a primary reason is that no one wants to be rejected. That in and of itself is painful and can carry into future partnerships determining their destiny.

Related Reading: How to Manage the Psychological Effects of Rejection

9. Life lessons are never easy

Loving someone so much it hurts can often mean that you fail to see things you might be doing to push that person away. Generally, these missteps aren’t recognized until the break-up, and then the life lessons are learned.

10. Why is love so painful

It hurts to be in love with the wrong person because these incompatible individuals are meant to be stepping stones or strengthening opportunities that help you grow and change into the person emotionally and mentally capable of handling a mature relationship. 

Many contribute to that pain, even the fifth-grader who gave you a first kiss and then punched you in the arm, each a notch of strength and maturity.

Related Reading: 21 Ways to Stop Falling in Love With the Wrong Person Every Time

11. It brings caution, which isn’t always a bad thing

While there are hurts in love, these bring a sense of caution to carry with you as you progress from one partnership to another, not only in romance but in all relationships. 

That’s not always a bad thing. It’s good to heed the side of caution because not everyone will have the best of intentions.

Here is a video by Dr. Paul  detailing why we hurt the ones we love the most.

12. Why does loving someone hurt

Relationships are not always meant to be. Sometimes, the person you’re with is not compatible with you, causing a loss of confidence and self-worth. In order to recognize your true value and realize greater confidence, it’s in your best interest to allow the pain and walk away. 

Related Reading: 20 Things You Can Do To Feel More Confident In A Relationship

13. Flaws surface that you might have to tolerate

Once the infatuation wanes and you’re left with the reality of who this person is, you’re unsure if you can tolerate the flaws and imperfections you recognize. 

At the same time, you expect that you’ll be accepted as is. You will need to deal with the painful reality that can cause either contention or growth.

14. Self-doubt and confusion can arise

If you find yourself asking why does love hurt so bad, you could be experiencing confusion as to whether your mate is the ideal partner for you or if you’ve made a mistake with this relationship. 

Perhaps the perfect partner is still waiting for you, and you’re missing out. Doubt can bring hurt not only to you but to a significant other who will likely sense this.

Related Reading: 5 Things to Do if You Are Confused in a Relationship

15. Projecting is always painful

A partner might ask why does love hurt or have to hurt when they feel blamed for baggage that you carry? 

Whether it is the previous rejection or the past trauma that a former partner inflicted or even a loved one might be responsible for, this can show up in an otherwise healthy relationship.

16. Not necessarily the love but what it’s reflecting

If you wonder why does it hurt so much when you love someone, there might be something more profound happening. Love might be reflecting elements that aren’t of the same vibrance as the love you brought into your life. 

You need to focus some attention on relieving those hurtful areas and the things that get you overwhelmed so that you can actually enjoy the comfort and happiness of love.

17. The commitment is too great

Sometimes, we don’t allow ourselves the time to have love in our life. 

That can be painful, particularly if there is someone who wants to bring love into our lives, but we’re too overwhelmed and consumed with life circumstances to give of ourselves. Why does love hurt – because we turn it away.  

Related Reading: Significance of Commitment in Relationships

18. Change is good but can be painful

If you ask why does love hurt so much, you could consider a new partnership when reflecting on that question. 

With a new partner comes someone to adjust to, different circumstances, a person you need to make concessions for perhaps change your schedule, maybe not joke so much or laugh a little more, be a bit more serious than you usually would.  

Life comes with changes, and often these are good, but they can sometimes turn a life upside down and sideways with adjustments that can be painful to get used to and uncomfortable to deal with. 

19. The cause of the pain is not always a mate

Sometimes, a partner might look at you and ask, “why does love hurt,” and you’ll feel the pain you caused them. It’s not always intentional. 

Hurt is often not meant, but it doesn’t hurt any less whether you’re the giver or receiver; depending on your conscience, the giver will feel far worse.  

20. Perfection is unattainable

The pain of reality is often too hard to bear, but bear we must when we take the blinders off and realize that our partner is not capable of being the hero that we envision in our fantasies. 

No one should anticipate perfection from a partner. Unfortunately, that can happen when dating, with disappointment setting in when pretenses come down.

Is it emotionally normal to love someone so much it hurts?

Whether it’s “emotionally normal” to love someone to the extent that it would be painful doesn’t seem entirely accurate. It appears the emotion would need a negative counterpart in order to become hurtful. 

When experiencing positive love with no challenges or difficulties, love is pleasant, happy, and joyful in each situation. It doesn’t become a painful experience unless problems develop or there is a likelihood of a rough patch, a break-up or loss, disappointment, fear of someone leaving, all negative experiences.

It is possible to love someone too much, particularly if it’s not returned, perhaps the other person is losing interest, and you’re holding on. This can hurt tremendously. 

But if you both have a fantastic love for each other for a lifetime, love is happiness and joy until the time comes that death is approaching. Then love hurts because someone will face loss. 

In those cases, the suggestion is one will pass on and the other will likely die of a broken heart. That is another anomaly altogether. Ultimately, there is a negative spiral in each scenario that causes love to hurt or become painful instead of just being in love.

Final Thought 

Why does love hurt is a question we often ask ourselves, but the answers are tough to find. In reality, if we took a few minutes to consider the idea of love and instances when it hurts the most, there’s generally a negative occurring. 

Whether we’re at a pivotal point in our lives and have no time to give to a new partner, so we push them away, or we love someone too much, and they don’t share those feelings, so they walk away. When it’s good, it can be wonderful. It’s a matter of finding that positive.

Why does love hurt so much? | Prose of life

When does disappointment come? When everything gets boring, when you stop noticing white gaps through the black curtain? I always did not believe that love has a time limit ... but what if it is so? Gradually, rose-colored glasses wear out and all our distrust of the outside world seeps through them, all our pains rush in one minute and it becomes nauseous that even if you strongly desire, you cannot forget some act-misconduct of another, once so dearly loved person. ... And so you want that there are no dirty spots on the clean tablecloth of life ... And who will win? Who fights and all the time erases all impurity from the memory or who humbly waits until it covers him all ... Sometimes our fears play a cruel joke with us ... But how to find the line between fear and reality?

I feel like I'm always fighting, with someone or something or myself. Maybe from a groan it looks like a habitual vicious circle... But I want to relax, flow, forget even for a minute...
Learning to forgive is a gift... But won't the owners of this gift become a universal laughingstock and weaklings? Oh yes... I'm also afraid of being weak and this fear makes me so. I tighten my noose myself, without realizing it ... Too much thinking, too many tags "good", "bad", "betrayal", "lie" ... Everything is measurable. Good, of course, too. And then inevitably there comes a moment when you think about what kind of tags there are more. Is it worth living in such a situation or is it necessary to change something. We are afraid of change. We love stability. But in our world, this is a great luxury and the most flexible of us win here. They are more resistant to the vagaries of life.

The word “humility” strikes me. Many believe that this feature, of course, should be inherent in women. I think, because of this label, we can observe so many pseudo-independent women who do not need a male gender. They resist the whole world, proving that they were called the weaker sex in vain, and there is so much hatred, anger in their words, and behind them only pain and disappointment ... Nevertheless, I do not perceive humility as the main female trait. I want to believe in equality and interaction. Therefore, I just can not come to terms with things that seem unfair to me. For example, when you tell a person about your pain, about your rejection of any situations, and all this is perceived as a boring notation or attributed to my bad mood. It's not that simple. Another great fear of mine is falling out of love with someone who is nearby ... I know that I am a sensitive person, that it is easy to offend me, although my firm bravado can hide the outward manifestations of this and in appearance I am “simply evil” ... But in fact, in my soul, it’s not that cats scratch, but just greedily tear off pieces from love ... She struggles, groans, does not want to leave, clings to my flesh with her sharp teeth, but these cats (resentment, disappointment, jealousy, sadness) are stubborn creatures, sooner or later they achieve their goal . That's why it hurts so much to love. When she arrives, there is no baggage of negativity, everything is in lacy warm colors. There is a boundless bright feeling in his eyes, he protects both him and you . .. So sweet ... And you soar ... Until the first quarrel. And who is going through this experience. Who boldly steps over this barrier and pushes back all the troubles, uniting even more, and who beats his head against him and experiences even more pain.

And I'm sad... It's sad that I'm involuntarily torturing myself with such barriers, beating my head or my heart against an obstacle that just needs to be bypassed. But here, at the turn, another formidable guard appears under the name “Fear of being deceived” and will remind you for the hundredth time “Here I tell you that it will be so!”. And now I am in such a thoughtful state ... The thought pops up that if he does deceive, then so be it, I tried, I trusted, without making mistakes you can’t achieve anything. But how can I catch up with the milestones of these cats and make them return all those pure, tender memories that previously did not let me feel sad? How to keep feelings, despite these torn gaps in the soul? After all, they are in a hurry to be filled with quarrels, angry phrases, tears, pain. Forgive? Maybe, but I won't forget. I will try to understand, listen, and once again talk about my pain, only without curtains, without attacks, without fear of seeming weak and naive. Sometimes the fetters and armor with which we surround our heart, afraid that it will not withstand numerous blows, are compressed too much, and then we become hostages of our fears. Away! Who is afraid, he does not try, who does not try, he stands still, and I go, slowly, stumbling, but I go!

"Love is impossible without pain" | PSYCHOLOGIES


We fall in love not so much with a person as with a fantasy about how a person can fill our inner emptiness, says psychoanalyst Adam Philips. He is often called the "poet of frustration", which Philips considers the basis of any human life. Frustration is a range of negative emotions from anger to sadness that we experience when we encounter a barrier on the way to our desired goal.

Phillips believes that our unlived lives - the ones we construct in fantasy, imagine - are often much more important to us than the lives we have lived. We cannot literally and figuratively imagine ourselves without them. What we dream about, what we crave are impressions, things and people that are not in our real life. The absence of the necessary makes one think and develop, and at the same time disturbs and depresses.

In his book Lost, the psychoanalyst writes: “For today's people, who are haunted by choice, a successful life is a life that we live to the fullest. We are obsessed with what is missing in our lives and what prevents us from getting all the pleasures we desire.

Frustration becomes the fuel of love. Despite the pain, there is a positive grain in it. It acts as a sign that the desired goal exists somewhere in the future. So, we still have something to strive for. Illusions, expectations are necessary for the existence of love, no matter if this love is parental or erotic.

All love stories are stories of an unmet need. To fall in love is to receive a reminder of what you have been deprived of, and now it seems to you that you have received it

Why is love so important to us? It temporarily surrounds us with the illusion of a dream come true. According to Philips, “all love stories are stories of an unmet need… To fall in love is to be reminded of what you were deprived of, and now you think you got it.”

Precisely "seems" because love cannot guarantee that your needs will be met, and even if it does, your frustration will be transformed into something else. From the point of view of psychoanalysis, the person with whom we really fall in love is a man or a woman from our fantasies. We invented them before we met them, not out of nothing (nothing comes from nothing), but on the basis of previous experience, both real and imagined.

We feel that we have known this person for a long time, because in a certain sense we really know him, he is flesh and blood of ourselves. And because we have literally been waiting for years to meet him, we feel like we have known this person for many years. At the same time, being a separate person with his own character and habits, he seems alien to us. A familiar stranger.

And no matter how much we waited, and hoped, and dreamed of meeting the love of our life, only when we meet her, we begin to fear losing her.

The paradox is that the appearance of the object of love in our life is necessary in order to feel its absence.

The paradox is that the appearance of the object of love in our life is necessary in order to feel its absence. Longing may precede its appearance in our lives, but we need to meet with the love of life in order to immediately fully feel the pain that we can lose it. Newfound love reminds us of our collection of failures and failures, because it promises that things will be different now, and because of this, it becomes overvalued.

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