Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth: The Price of a Broken Engagement

Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth in better days (Photo: Getty Images)It's for real this time: Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth have called off their engagement, according to a story published Monday on People.

The two got engaged in June 2012 and their relationship has been tabloid fodder ever since. But this week, the reports seemed worse than usual. Cyrus unfollowed Hemsworth on Twitter and E! reported that Hemsworth was “embarrassed” by his fiancee's controversial “We Can’t Stop” VMA performance and duet with “Blurred Lines” singer Robin Thicke.

And although the reason for the split is unknown, one thing is clear: Navigating a broken engagement can be the toughest type of heartbreak.

When a couple divorces, however painful, both parties follow a protocol — hire divorce lawyers, divide assets, and if there are children involved, agree on custody terms. Friends respond appropriately with home-cooked meals and housewares, and there are plenty of support groups to attend or divorce parties to throw.

However, broken engagements are a unique brand of heartache that can feel more devastating than a broken marriage, says Beverly Hills-based psychoanalyst Bethany Marshall. “Engagements are a special time of hope and promise so when one ends, so does the dream of a perfect, idealized life together which can feel jolting,” she tells Yahoo Shine. “How do you grieve a marriage you didn't have?"

Broken engagements evoke a confusing set of emotions: The union didn’t last long enough to weather the marital highs and lows that solidify a relationship, but it’s progressed beyond a run-of-the-mill breakup remedied by a girl’s night out and a fling with a bartender.

There’s also a sense of shame that goes along with broken engagements, says Marshall. If you've changed your Facebook status to "engaged," you've experienced the blissful high of those never-ending "congratulations!" on your news feed, and reversing your relationship title so publicly can feel downright humiliating.

Then there are logistics — bookmarked Web pages of must-have wedding dresses (assuming one hasn't already been purchased), time spent researching honeymoon destinations, and pinned inspiration boards. And if you've received congratulatory gifts or sent out wedding announcements, facing people can feel daunting, never mind dealing with those who may struggle with how to lend support to a relationship that wasn't "official" in the first place.

But there is hope for the brokenhearted: According to Marshall, broken engagements can serve a valuable lesson, especially if both parties are young (Cyrus is 20 and Hemsworth is 23). "In many cases, when a young couple walks away from an engagement, it's unlikely that they had the maturity to commit to a marriage in the first place," she says. "It's better to realize that now, before walking down the aisle."