Learning to Love Again
We’ve all been there, broken heart in hand unsure of how to go on. Our friends tell us “time heals all wounds” — it doesn’t really help.
Be it the job you got fired from, the special someone who broke your heart, the dream that never came true , or the loss of the life you thought you would lead, heart break doesn’t get any easier from 16 to 60.
Often someone says some motivational phrase like “look for the silver lining” or “everything happens for a reason” or even worse “better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all.”
I call bullshit. It hurts. End of story. And much like a hangover, there is nothing you can do but to ride it out.
I know first hand.
A Tale From Inside The Trenches
My last relationship ended badly. It wasn’t just that it ended, it was how it ended. Abruptly and without warning. Leaving in it’s place the death of the life we shared together.
Even though it has been 4 years I can almost immediately go back to that night.
One minute we’re walking down the street without a care in the world, the next I’m laying on the floor in a puddle of what was left of my relationship, completely inconsolable. It was as if my entire life had been run over by a mack truck.
I didn’t want to get out of bed … my day always started with them and after 10 years together, I literally didn’t know how to start my day. Even the good memories seemed to hurt.
The next 6 months were rough. Like really rough.
There was the time I said cruel things to my sister because I needed someone to hurt the way I did. Or the brilliant decision to become best friends with wine — because wine was obviously going to solve this problem.
I just quit showing up in my life.
It wasn’t just mourning the loss of a relationship, it was the loss of an identity. Who was I on my own?
We had been together for such a long time I didn’t know life without them. In fact this relationship had been the only real constant in my life. We did everything together and I loved every minute of it.
It’s crazy the things you take for granted until they’re gone.
Time Heals All Wounds … Or Does It?
After the first year or so people started wondering why I was still hung up on this. It had been a year.
Everything takes time, but in hindsight I understand how easy it is to get stuck in the victim mentality. “This horrible thing happened to me and I’m so sad” my subconscious whispered every morning.
I swore off ever getting into another relationship again. I didn’t want to be alone forever but the scars seemed to be so fresh I’m not sure they had even begun to heal.
But as the saying goes, “never say never.”
One day, I was out with friends not even looking for someone new. A friend showed me a picture and I just knew.
Of course I hesitated. I wasn’t sure that I was ready to open myself up in that way again. How could I trust it wouldn’t end abruptly and painfully again?
But you don’t get ready by waiting. You have to get in the water to learn how to swim. And good things don’t wait around for long, so I said yes.
I jumped in with both feet … or so I thought.
Turns out I wasn’t really ready. So I held back, withholding parts of my love I hadn’t before. It was as if my heart had actually shrank. I had lost the capacity of loving in the same carefree way as before.
And the comparing, oh the comparing.
My last relationship wasn’t like this or like that. I never gave this new relationship the fresh start it deserved. Their ghost was still haunting me, reminding me no one would ever fill the hole they left. And they were right.
This new relationship was completely different. And I still yearned for what I had even though I knew it was over forever and there was no chance of getting it back.
How could my new relationship ever live up the the ghost of someone I remembered as perfect?
When I looked into their big brown eyes it was as if they said “ I know you’re hurt and trying to pick yourself up piece by piece. So I’ll just sit here and wait.”
I wanted to be ready to begin again but I was haunted by the memories. Paralyzed by fear. I wanted to love like I’ve never felt this pain — but forgetting proved to be a hard battle.
I tried — I read the books, talked to my friends … but my effort of conditional and inconsistent.
At the end of the day I had a list of excuses as to why this new relationship was hard.
- They were just more difficult
- Too sensitive
- Always wanted to be with me
In the end it came time to make a decision. Do I endure this difficult relationship? Do I end it? Or do I change it?
Starting Over Starts With You
What I’ve learned in every area of my life, no matter how big or small the pain — starting over isn’t easy (and the first step is usually the hardest). But it doesn’t get easier until you start.
So I did what any sane person would do. I hired a professional who helped me move past my limitations and start really showing up in this relationship.
And that was how I met my dog trainer — see, my first (dog) relationship ended early and tragically when we were hit by a car, and it took me a really long time to start to heal from that pain.
My new dog James is teaching me that it may not be easy but if you do the work, you really can fall in love again. It may not be the same, it might even be better if you let it.
Be it the end of a dream, the loss of a loved one, or any other painful ending — starting over might not get easier, but learning to love again is definitely worth it.