7 Most Common Tattoos People Get After A Breakup, According To Tattoo Artists

by Eva Taylor Grant
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Getting a tattoo after a breakup can be cathartic. Tattoo artists see people coming in after the end of a relationship all the time. Through it, they've learned what the most common breakup tattoo ideas are, and a little bit of why.

Getting a tattoo after a breakup can be a healing experience. Physically and metaphorically, it can be a way to release pain. "As per my experience, typically people get tattooed or pierced after a breakup, myself included," Jason Ackerman, Resident Artist at SOHO Ink, tells Bustle. "Many use tattooing and piercing as an outlet to purge built up, stored energy or pain. Instead of feeling the pain emotionally they would rather feel the pain physically in a safe, self-expressive way." As long as you don't make the decision to get your tattoo in a state of emotional recklessness, the decision can be quite empowering.

This tattoo can be a lasting symbol for what you learned from this breakup for the rest of your life. "A 'breakup tattoo' is a symbolic badge for some who really want to wear their heart on their sleeve," Lisa Barretta, author of Conscious Ink: Mythical, Magical, And Transformative Art You Dare to Wear, tells Bustle. "In other instances, a break-up tattoo can represent newfound freedom. Only the wearer can determine what emotional energy they want imbued into their ink." Getting a tattoo can be quite spiritual, and getting it in a moment like the aftermath of a breakup can really amplify that.

Here are the seven most common tattoos people get after a breakup, according to tattoo artists.


A Cover Up

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Getting a tattoo covered up can be a lot less painful and expensive than getting a tattoo removed. It can also feel more meaningful.

"Typically a coverup is the go-to choice after a breakup to rid the person of their ex's name forever," tattoo artist Michaelle Fiore at NY Heart and Dagger, tells Bustle. "This will usually come as roses, panthers, or anything larger, darker or distracting to the eye from the name that lies beneath." So although tattoo artists advise against getting a partner's name tattooed in the first place, there can be options for healing from the decision.


A Quote

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After a breakup, certain lines in poems and songs may stick out to someone more than they did before. Sometimes, they become meaningful enough that the person gets them tattooed.

"Generally speaking people will get a quote, lyrics, or word regarding perseverance, as a reminder to help them through the tough time as well as other tough times they’ll face down the road, without it always having to remind them of the breakup specifically," Fiore says. In the moment, these tattoos may relate to the breakup, but later, they can take on all sorts of new meanings.


A Metaphor


A lot of post-breakup tattoos are symbolic. Not everyone is coming in and getting the same design, because people have all sorts of different metaphors they relate to in the wake of a breakup.

"This could come in the form of a more cryptic version of a quote," Fiore says "[...] Gone are the days where a simple broken heart tattoo is common place but could still happen!" Wolves and phoenixes are more common, but all sorts of symbols can be inspirational to clients.


The Word "Freedom"


Not all post-breakup tattoos need explanations to understand. For many people, the word "freedom" says it all.

"Aside from cover ups, the next most popular tattoo would be the word 'Freedom,'" Ackerman says. Getting "freedom" tattooed has the versatility to last throughout all sorts of life circumstances, and allows for both simplicity and creativity — since there are almost-endless scripts and fonts to choose from.


Bird-Related Imagery


For a variety of reasons, people tend to feel comfort in bird imagery post-breakup. Luckily, this symbolism also translates well to tattoos.

"Those who prefer something a bit more artistic tend to go for a flock of birds flying out of a cage or fading out of a feather," Ackerman says. The metaphor is clear, and the pretty design can keep it from being a more obvious breakup tattoo.


A Broken Heart Or Split Arrow

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Not everyone getting a post-breakup tattoo wants something cheerful. For those looking to go in an equally-meaningful but a bit darker direction, broken hearts and split arrows fit the bill.

"A tattoo of a broken heart and split arrow are a common and obvious choice for many people who literally want to wear their heart on their sleeve," Barretta says. "Be careful with this choice of tattoo because even though you are crossing a threshold from partnership back to single life, you may regret this image once a new partner comes along." If, however, you feel that its meaning transcends whether or not you're single, this tattoo can pack a punch.


An Impulse Tattoo

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Sometimes, post-breakup tattoos aren't thought-out and planned. Tattoo artists have noticed a lot of impulse tattoos spurred by breakups.

"Usually people use the tattoo itself as coping and use it as a meditative outlet to close a chapter," Fiore says. "Not everyone, however, deals with loss the same way." Luckily, a lot of tattooers won't tattoo a client who is visibly inebriated. Emotionally impulsive tattoos, however, are a bit more complicated.

If you're considering getting a breakup tattoo, it's probably a good idea to go through some of the initial stages of grief first. "Before you choose to get a breakup tattoo, it is best to let your emotions settle and not get inked impulsively," Barretta says. "You may find that by grounding your emotions, the image you choose to have tattooed will most likely be a more positive symbol of your experience with someone. Every failed relationship holds valuable life lessons and in a sense represents not only a lost love but also a teacher in life's journey." Whatever those lessons are, they can be turned into a tattoo.