I hate to admit, especially so close to my 25th birthday, but I have never truly been heartbroken. Sure, I’ve had tragedy, drama, and difficult obstacles, but romantic heartbreak was not something I was privy too. And then I met him… he doesn’t need a name because, well, aren’t they all him? He was older, and smart, and everything I had on my list in my head of a guy I wanted to be with, so it’s not hard to understand what happened next.
To be honest I didn’t even realize I’d fallen in love with him until after it was all over. I spent so much time during our brief period of dating trying to convince him to fall in love with me that I hadn’t even processed my own feelings or how they had gotten there. As a little girl I wasn’t exactly convinced of the whole “happily ever after” prince and princess thing but I was sure that falling in love was always going to be the most romantic time any one person could have with another. And yet there I was, in love but with no recollection of the time leading up to it – somehow I just was.
Boy was I. Everything I did and said became about his happiness. I wanted what he wanted, I was intoned to his needs, his desires, his goals. I was like a version of some love sick puppy just waiting for my pat on the head in acknowledgment that I was cared about and loved. In reality that couldn’t have been further from the truth. In reality he didn’t really care about me at all, something that was confirmed by all my friends, my mom, my co-workers, and my therapist. Of course when I have everyone in my life telling me not to do something, it only drives me to dig my heels in further and try to weather the storm, which for him I probably would have braved a category 5 hurricane before I realized he’d already swam to shore and left me to drown.
That reality included a lot of hot and cold, push and pull, and black and white. He was never truly sure of how he felt about me, which in hindsight is incredibly sad for me to admit. It’s embarrassing and shameful that I, a strong, intelligent woman, would stay in a semi-relationship with someone who was having an internal conflict with the very thought of me. He was constantly pushing me a way which caused me to feel confused and worthless even if his reasons made logical since. He used his “brokenness” to justify keeping me at arms length and I bought it hook line and sinker because I believed in everything he said, all the time, without question.
Except, after a while, I always had one question I was never really satisfied with the answer of – “do I matter to you?” Verbally and nonverbally I never felt like I had any proof of it. Verbally he would say it but every action felt contradictory and I began to build up layers of distrust that contradicted my desire to be close with him. I didn’t trust his words, his actions, and even just being around him filled me such a feeling of inauthenticity that after it was all over we ran into each other and he automatically went in for a hug which I physically recoiled. I felt shaky and panicky which made me think the feeling I felt when I saw him was sadness and it wasn’t until days later that I realized it was actually disgust.
That’s how bad it was. I don’t know if it was like that for him but I imagine my inability to let go of something that clearly didn’t work was partially to blame. Which brings me back to having never been heartbroken. Sometime in between the run in incident and maybe three weeks prior to that things had run cold between us. It wasn’t intentional, rather a slow acknowledgment by both parties that as much as we wanted it to work, it didn’t. For me our shared history and fond memories (tainted by my rose colored glasses maybe) made the extraction of him from my life feel hard, and heavy. My heart felt broken and angry, but I resigned to the fact that when something breaks sometimes you can fix it and sometimes you can’t and this was the latter situation and that hurt. Of course I laid in bed, ate ice cream for dinner, and cried every time I thought of him. Every. Time.
Yet there’s something incredibly powerful about having your heartbroken, the fact that after it breaks it starts healing. Oh sure, it takes time for it to ever feel the exact same, but just like every generation of the iPhone it becomes harder and harder to shatter into a million pieces. Your body, the amazing organism that it is, doesn’t have to be told to heal it just does it, like breathing – taking energy and resources from other areas of your body to heal the broken part. Learning that, understanding that is maybe the most important lesson I’ve learned about love so far.