Hacking Heartache

How I went from heartache to happiness

My girlfriend and I recently celebrated our two year anniversary.

Now, I know for all you old married couples and serial monogamists, two years is a walk in the park. My parents have been together for 35 years. My grandparents were married for 60 years.

No big deal, right?

But for someone like me, someone who spent nearly their entire 20s perfecting the bachelor lifestyle and avoiding monogamy like the plague, two years in a committed relationship is a monumental achievement.

I’ve only been in one other relationship before this. It was right after college, and it lasted roughly for four years (“roughly” is not only an approximation but also the perfect adjective to describe it).

As is common in first romances, the excitement, novelty, and passion of young love were complemented by insecurity, jealousy, miscommunication, and emotional turmoil. In short, our relationship was as toxic as it was intoxicating. There were good times for sure, but mostly it was a turbulent roller coaster and we both were guilty of “seeking other attractions” and “riding other rides” when taking a break from our own.

We broke up and got back together more times than I can recall, and it only finally ended because I had the courage to walk away.

And even though I was left with a heartbreak that took years to recover from, now that I’m older, I am actually grateful for that experience.

So often we see failed relationships as time wasted. I know I did.

I spent years resenting my ex and regretting the mistakes I made.

Now I see that those mistakes actually helped shape the man I am today, and I can reflect on that pain and appreciate the lessons it taught me. I learned so much about myself from heartbreak, about what I want and don’t want in a relationship. I learned how I manage (or mismanage) conflict. I learned how I show love, and how I expect love to be reciprocated. I learned what I value in a partner. And I learned that I struggle with intimacy.

For me, intimacy in a relationship is more than just a physical closeness.

True intimacy means allowing yourself to be completely vulnerable with another person.

It is trusting your partner enough to let them in completely, exposing your flaws, your secrets, your weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies. Intimacy is a bond formed between two lovers, achieved only when you trust your partner enough to share everything with them. Some people never allow themselves to experience true intimacy, often because they are too scared. Others make the mistake of giving this gift to someone who does not deserve it, and end up being hurt or taken advantage of. I was incapable of intimacy in my early 20s. I was too insecure and self-conscious to give anyone that kind of power over me. Now that I know myself better, I feel blessed that anyone would be willing to share true intimacy with me.

About four months ago, I took a job that required me to move to a different city. My girlfriend and I often joke that after two years of stability, our relationship was getting too easy so we needed to make it more challenging.

Ten years ago, a long distance relationship would have been terrifying, but with her, it’s merely a minor obstacle. Even though my girlfriend and I live about two hours away, and cheating would be as easy as downloading an app or flirting at a bar, infidelity is the furthest thing from my mind. For the first time in my life I am completely satisfied in my relationship, and I have absolutely no desire to be with anyone else. I value what we have, and I would never want to compromise that. And you know what I’ve learned? Trust feels good. Intimacy feels good. I’ve never been happier.

Be grateful for heartache friends, for it teaches you so much about life.

You learn about yourself, about your expectations for a relationship, about what qualities you find attractive in a partner. You learn how to communicate, how to resolve conflict and express feelings. You learn about the power of emotions, and about the impermanence of emotions. If you were cheated on, like me, you learn the value of fidelity, the importance of trust, and the freedom that accompanies honesty.

Looking back, the heartache from that failed relationship and the subsequent years of bachelorhood led me to find myself and in doing so, led me to my current relationship, which has been without a doubt the most stable, most mature, most positive romantic experience in my life.

P.S. If you are going through a heartbreak, download iExhale!