Why Does Love Hurt?

06 Jan 2024
9 min read
Why Does Love Hurt If We've Been Told It's a Good Thing

Why does love hurt if it’s started as a good thing? Maybe you remember the old cartoons where Bugs Bunny or some other character would fall deeply in love and be carried away on a cloud with singing birds and floating hearts. No doubt, in the first days of love, you’ve felt the same way! But now… Now you don’t. Now it hurts – quite literally.

How could it happen? Why does love hurt that much? The simple answer is that it involves a lot of complicated feelings, relying on another person as a source of happiness, and brain chemistry. That combination can lead to a mix of emotions, acute emotional distress, and even some physical pain. For a more detailed answer, let’s ask the researchers and look at how love was thought to have originated in the heart.

This Is Your Brain, Not Heart, on Love

“Love is a biological necessity—it’s as needed for our well-being as exercise, water, and food. And from a neuroscientific viewpoint, we can really say that love blossoms in the brain.”

Stephanie Cacioppo, PhD and author

Have you heard the saying that love often hurts so good? There are brain chemicals released that are essentially your brain’s way of rewarding your body as you experience emotional pleasure. It is quite similar to the brain impacts of addiction. But the way you experience this may vary, especially if you are in a very new relationship at its most intense stage. Those giddy feelings of excitement and love can feel like anxiety, heart palpitations, and flushed skin. Depending on how your body responds to that kind of stimulation, you might even feel nauseated or experience headaches.

Love is also associated with a decrease in serotonin levels. That can lead to an increase in obsessive thoughts and worries about your relationship insecurity. Meanwhile, as serotonin goes down, dopamine goes up. That can be quite pleasurable. However, it can cause a racing heart and other intense symptoms that closely resemble the body’s response to using speed or other stimulants.

There are several brain regions involved when you fall in love. It may help to see love as more than experiencing a deep emotional connection. It is really a combination of emotions that are associated with the release of a torrent of brain chemicals.

Thus, the love pain is entirely of your own doing. There is a neural pathway that controls your capability to make good social judgments or experience fear. This can lead to bad judgment in romantic situations, and that can be a painful thing. You are simply at more risk of making yourself vulnerable and simply not seeing that things are going to end badly. Have you known someone who messed up their life over love? This is usually why.

Now, remember that all of the above is happening at the same time. So, you end up feeling pain and feeling pleasure – often at nearly the same time.

That’s why love is sometimes treated as an emotional roller coaster. And that’s why even healthy relationships can cause you to feel hurt.

Why does love hurt emotionally

Emotional Pain From Love

It doesn’t matter if you are in an unhealthy or healthy relationship, love can hurt anyone at times. And emotional pain is the most common type of pain you’ll experience:

  • Things in your relationship may feel overwhelming
  • You may struggle with inevitable arguments and disagreements
  • Your partner may cause you disappointment

All these things can lead to painful emotions. The truth is that as you gain insight into a new partner, you begin to realize that they aren’t perfect. That’s why you are hurt by love because of the other person’s imperfection. It stings to hear or read that first criticizes you or indicates in some way that you disappoint them.

Unhealthy relationships and dysfunction make you feel pain, too. Worse, they can bring up past trauma for you and your partner. For example, if each of you brings bad memories and experiences from former partners, you will both experience pain. These are the emotional burdens from the past caused by our present partner – and when we’re wise enough to look into this darkness inside us, we will find the strength to heal.

Related reading: 8 Signs a Karmic Relationship Is Ending

Physical Pain From Love

Broken heart syndrome is the sudden stress caused by the loss of a romantic relationship, accompanied by a weakening of the walls of the heart.

The pain of love can really feel like a physical illness, known as broken heart syndrome. It’s not much from physical symptoms of stress or other overwhelming emotions:

  • Hot flashes, stomach cramps, or headaches
  • Sudden strikes of discomfort and anxiety in a healthy relationship
  • Physical pain during or after the romantic relationship ends

Can a broken heart syndrome kill? Well, in rare cases, love can lead to a kind of stress cardiomyopathy. something similar to a heart attack caused by feelings of love or the pain of a broken heart. This can but doesn’t always cause death. But it can lead to shock, congestive heart failure, or low blood pressure. The exact consequences depend on how stressful the broken heart is and the health of the person struggling.

Social Pain From Love

“Maybe I was destined to forever fall in love with people I couldn’t have. Maybe there’s a whole assortment of impossible people waiting for me to find them. Waiting to make me feel the same impossibility over and over again.”

Carol Rifka Brunt, an American novelist

As you consider the question of “Why does love hurt?”, remember that feelings of love aren’t always returned. That’s painful even if the other person lets you down as gently as possible. Now, imagine how much love is agonizing when the rejection is harsh or includes ridicule. That can lead to discomfort that can make an injury seem preferable.

Social pain includes spiritual, emotional pain, and even physical suffering. If you’ve been hurt by love, you may have experienced that hot feeling of embarrassment, searing stomach pains, and a lump in your throat. Worse, people tend to replay experiences like this over and over. Not only does it hurt so much the first time, but each mental replay is often accompanied by difficult emotions and physical pain. That’s how unmet expectations make us blue.

Pain After Lost Love

Is love supposed to hurt only when you’re in the middle of it? Unfortunately, no. You may feel physical and emotional pain when a relationship ends.

This hurt may even happen if breaking up was your idea. Remember that ending a relationship can lead to a range of very complicated emotions. So, if it was your idea to break up, you would still feel that love pain that makes you question whether you should have ditched your former partner or not.

What to do if love hurts emotionally or causes physical pain

5 Things to Do When Love Is Painful

The question isn’t always “why does love hurt?”. Sometimes it’s “How do I make the pain stop?”. There’s no easy answer to that. It depends on the situation.

1. Relieving Social Pain of Love

Pain caused by social embarrassment, shame, or rejection can feel devastating. You want to hide away to avoid losing face. But, that just increases your isolation and gives you time and space to relive the moment over and over again. Sure, in the early stages, it might help to retreat for a while.

However, that’s not a long-term solution. It just leads to low self-esteem and the agony of loneliness. It’s worth it to your self-worth and health to stay connected to people who care about you. Think of it this way. The pain of romantic social rejection is best treated with social support.

2. Dealing With the Physical Hurt of Love

“Love hurts, love scars
Love wounds and marks
Any heart
Not tough or strong enough
To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud
Holds a lot of rain
Love hurts
Ooh, ooh, love hurts”

Nazareth – Love Hurts

When the feelings of hurt you experience are manifested physically, that’s no fun. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to relieve that pain.

First, remember that this hurt is only temporary. If you can try to use relaxation techniques, deep breathing, and other methods that you would use on a minor physical injury. You can also try distracting yourself with a new activity. This is also a great way to connect with others and seek support.

3. Protecting Yourself From Serious Injure

Heartbreak syndrome is exceedingly rare. If you are generally in good health, you aren’t very likely to suffer any significant physical damage from a romantic relationship. Also, if someone is at risk for this kind of devastating illness or injury over a heartbreak, they are also at risk if they are faced with grief, sudden shock, or other over-stimulating sensory overload.

If you are concerned about your heart health, talk to your doctor. They will recommend any treatment needed which might include some dietary changes and regular exercise.

Related reading: How To Maintain Your Individuality While In a Relationship

4. Recovering From the Emotional Pain of Love

If your feelings are hurt because your relationship went wrong, the best healing agent is time. Good relationships start with a lot of intensity and emotional upheaval. Then, they settle into a much calmer pattern. When that happens, it won’t hurt so much anymore. You will feel a sense of contentment and affection.

If you are hurting because your relationship isn’t in a good place right now, take action. First, decide if the relationship can be saved. If not, you owe it to yourself to break away. If it is worth saving, commit to doing that work, but only if your partner is up for making an effort as well. Self-improvement is great, but no person can save a relationship all on their own. Otherwise, it just makes sense to move on.

When Love Shouldn’t Hurt, or True Love Love Is Still Worth It

“I’ll never tell you to stop loving. You see, I believe in hopeless love. Oh yes. I believe in it with all my heart, though you may discount the heart of an old nanny like me. For real love brings pain. Real love means sacrifices and hurts and all the thousand shocks of life. But it also means beauty, true beauty.

Anne Elisabeth Stengl, author

Is love supposed to hurt always? No, it isn’t. But, it isn’t supposed to be always perfect, never uncomfortable either.

When love is difficult, it grows. You go through tough things on your own and with your partner. That brings new meaning to your relationships and makes them stronger. Eventually, you can build a strong life with someone as you spend time in every part of your relationship, not just the easy parts.

But remember: accepting that love can hurt has nothing to do with accepting abuse of any kind. When a person deliberately hurts or controls you to the extent that you fear them, this isn’t something you should endure. If you are in this position, please seek out support as you are able. Don’t let anybody tell you that you must endure mistreatment in the name of love. This goes for emotional abuse as well. Someone who is constantly telling you that you are worthless doesn’t love you.

You deserve better here and now – and to become a better person tomorrow, you need pain to grow.

Love&Sex Expert
Cherie Hamilton
I’ve always been inspired by women who are outgoing, very sure of themselves, and not afraid to be who they were, including their sex lives. Under their tutelage, I gradually shed my old self, hung out and socialized with them, and, over time, became the empowered, self-confident, and sexual woman I am today. Happy to share my insights with other women today!

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