Heartbreak is hard. Heartbreak is essential.
Alanis had it right when she said, “I recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone.” Millions of books and blogs are dedicated to helping people get over heartbreak, but few to the true beauty of it. There’s something simultaneously horrendous and magical about that moment it hits you because while you feel everything has been ripped away from you there is an overwhelming feeling of freedom to do, be, see whoever it is you want. Whether you were ever actually with that person or not, love ending is usually the best beginning.
I’ve defined myself by my caring nature. I am the glue that holds my friendships and relationships together. I never let anyone go. This can be a gift and a curse. It’s wonderful in the sense of friendship because I have successfully maintained close relationships with almost all of my kindergarten BFFs. But in love, this quality is so self-detrimental. It wasn’t until a recent heartbreak that I realized I was sacrificing my needs and wants for the sake of simply maintaining a connection with someone. I never wanted to be the person who moved on first in fear it would mean I didn’t care enough. I always felt the need to prove to him how much I cared. So much so I would allow behavior that simply was unacceptable. I was led on, used, toyed with, undermined and disrespected, but I swore up and down that I could fix him. I cared enough to fix him. I would be the one who could make the asshole know love. So much so that even after he told me I was too fat, too needy, not mysterious enough, not intriguing enough, I still held out hope that one day my love would permeate his icy boundaries against commitment and intimacy. He said these things out of fear. I could show him through endless affection that there was nothing to be afraid of in love. I disregarded every piece of advice from every friend and family member who knew our story, maintaining my status as the ever hopeful but hopeless romantic.
For four years, every few months I would get a bit of what I desired. He’d break down and tell me that he loved me, I was maybe even his soul mate, he pictured us being together and that I was the only one he was 100% real with. Hearing those things, though so few and far between, fueled me. He must have felt something.
There was always a physical distance between us due to his career, but I thought that only made our mental connection that much more fascinating. That two people could mesh so well in conversation and remain such close friends despite such intense circumstances had to mean something. We did have a connection. There was no denying that. It was only natural to believe that connection would easily translate in person, and it did. After finally getting the satisfaction of being in person with him I was only more convinced things were well on their way. He said things felt so emotional and so right with me, a statement I was happy to hear. But in classic asshole fashion, days later that opinion changed and everything positive he’d told me over the years was disregarded as his feelings were lumped into a simple, “I’m just not into you like that.”
Easy to say after you’ve gotten me into bed. Easy to say after you’ve told me you loved me.
I couldn’t and still can’t wrap my brain around these contradictions. I felt like I’d been on cloud nine but quickly punched in the stomach. It all felt like a terrible nightmare I couldn’t wait to wake up from. I’d been insulted by him before, but it wasn’t until he allowed things to get to a physical level and then dropped me that I realized there really was no value to our friendship in his mind. No one who truly cares about you can treat you that way and be okay with it. He apologized but also said that sorry wasn’t enough. He’s right. He broke what I always had thought was at the very least a cherished friendship. He broke me.
In that moment of heartbreak, curled up in sobs on the bathroom floor, visions of the past four years rushed as I tried desperately to cling to the happy memories we had together, but the sting of his betrayal washed them away. I never wanted to see him that way. I never wanted to believe that he really was capable of being that selfish. I knew he had a reputation of hurting people, abandoning people, changing his mind about people at the drop of a hat. But I thought I was different. I never thought he’d go so far as to use me that way. In that moment on the floor, I felt crushed, limp, lifeless- a balloon with the air let out. Yet at the same time, I felt a sense of self that had been missing for a very long time.
The beauty of heartbreak is that you can finally be who you are without someone, and I think that’s the truest version of yourself. To really face life and reality without the possibility of security with another person is harsh and hard, but unbelievably rewarding. Getting to ask yourself the question, “Who am I?” as opposed to, “Who do they want me to be?” is freeing and exciting. The greatest gift of heartbreak is your identity back. Maybe I don’t have a rockin’ body. Maybe I don’t leave much to the imagination by playing games. Maybe I care a bit too much. But those are all things that are uniquely, beautifully and wonderfully me. All things I can now be proud of because I don’t have someone telling me they aren’t worthy. All things someone will see one day and love me because of. I get to be me. Not who he wanted me to be.
After a heartbreak, you can read all the books, listen to all the angsty playlists, watch all the movies about scorned lovers’ revenge, maybe even plot your own. But in the end, the thing that will get you through the heartbreak is knowing that no relationship is as important as the one you have with yourself. Without heartbreak, how would we find our way back to ourselves? How would we decide what it is we want and don’t want in a partner? How would we set the standard for what we deserve?
They say to truly know happiness, you must first know sadness. The same goes for love. I now know how it feels to be truly, utterly and completely unloved. Heartbreak has opened up the possibility for me to know how it feels to be fully adored, honestly cherished, totally loved, because I now have the strength to demand absolutely nothing less.