I didn’t even know why I was crying. It had ended well. It had concluded like it was supposed to. Yet, with my knees pulled tight to my chest in the loveseat of my college apartment alone, my mom on the other end of the phone, I felt myself falling apart. “Well,” I said. “It’s over.”
The words tasted so strange on my tongue.
I had seen it coming a mile away. His slow withdraw from me, the way our conversations constantly lulled and stalled as if there was nothing else for us to talk about. Then the text the day before—can I come by? I need to talk to you. In my head I tried to mentally prepare myself.
I imagined he would sit on the couch across from me and say what he needed to say. Maybe he would be angry, maybe I had done something wrong to make him change his mind. I formed his words and his argument a hundred different ways in my head. But by the time he was at my door, a kind of stranger to me almost, my heart rocking in my chest, I was not really prepared.
Because that is the thing about a breakup: no matter how big or small, no matter six months or three years, no matter if it is your first or your last, you cannot ever really be ready for it. Because it hurts like hell. Because nothing makes sense. Because all of the sudden, someone who really mattered to you is just….gone from your life.
I’m not going to pretend that I am any sort of expert on the heart. In fact, I’m probably at more of a loss when it comes to understanding it than most people. But I’ve tasted that strange pain that comes at you all at once, the weird moods and sleepless nights, and I’ve sat next to a lot of friends whose hearts ended up more mangled than mine.
I’ve told myself things that weren’t true to numb the pain. I’ve told other people things that weren’t true to smooth things over. And I know you have too. So here are some things we need to stop saying, internally and outwardly, after we’ve been dumped, crushed, and trampled on.
Stop saying you are fine.
I gave myself ten minutes of tears before I decided I had to be strong and move on, brush it off my back like it wasn’t too big of a deal.
I stayed busy. I didn’t talk about it. If I did, I said I was ok because I honestly believed that. I held tightly to the notion that I didn’t need him, or anyone, to fill me up and this whole thing was for the best.
Then I hopped into a car full of co-workers I had just met on the way to a staff retreat and ten minutes into the drive, some dramatic Lifehouse breakup song came on the radio. I slid my sunglasses over my eyes, pretending the sun was bothering them, and tried to gloss over the fact that I felt like a bomb about to explode.
Because I wasn’t fine. Because I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Because I had spent almost six months getting to know this guy and suddenly he wasn’t supposed to matter to me anymore.
The heart and the emotions intricately woven into us never make much sense. They go silent when we think they should be going crazy and they explode when we are supposed to be holding it together.
One of my closest friends told me candidly a few weeks ago, “I tell people I’m doing ok. Because I should be over this by now.”[clickToTweet tweet=”We tell people we’re fine, because we think we should be over a breakup by now” quote=”We tell people we’re fine, because we think we should be over a breakup by now”]
But guess what? It’s going to take time. It’s going to hurt. Weird things like music, like food and specific places and topics of conversation, are going to drag up old memories and send you into a tailspin. There is nothing wrong with that, and nothing wrong with taking a break-up hard. And there is nothing wrong with moving on quickly, either.
Stop saying your heart is broken.
We use the term all the time, right? He broke my heart, she broke yours. But no matter the wreckage left behind, no matter the pieces or wholeness of yourself that you gave to that other person, you still have a heart. It is still there, it is still functioning, and it is still intact.
Something that is broken doesn’t work anymore. It is useless, dead. But whether or not your heart aches like it’s been stabbed clean through or whether you are so numb it doesn’t seem possible you still have an organ in your chest, your heart is still working and it still belongs to you.
I think that is why I wish people would stop saying it, that their heart is broken. I know we are damaged, bruised, shattered. We need a lot of stitches and a lot of time to mend. But never, never, allow yourself to think that because someone took your heart and stomped on it that you are useless now.
So often we believe that with the severance of a relationship, we did something wrong. We weren’t good enough. We screwed it up or we are wrecked beyond repair. We forget about healing and we forget how much we are really worth.
Even if you messed up, there is forgiveness. Even if you feel abandoned, you are loved. Even if you feel thrown away, there is a God who holds your heart still intact and people around you who can help you put the pieces back together.
So no, you don’t have a broken heart. Just a healing one.
Stop saying you are hopeless.
With a break-up comes one of two serious fears: that we will never find love again, or that we don’t want to. It’s easy to swing one way or the other.
We can run after the next quick fix, hoping someone else can fill in the gap and pick up where the last guy or girl left off. We search for the antidote for the pain in another person before our bodies have even had the chance to register that something significant is missing.
It’s called the rebound, and no one wants to be one. Why not? Because rebounds don’t last. Because rebounds are all about comparison to the ex. Because rebounds inherit a lot of mess and not a lot of actual love. The truth is, you need time to yourself to recover. Trying to rebuild yourself with stones from another person is only going to lead to collapse for them and for you.
The other option is to grow bitter. To be angry at love for throwing you under the bus, to lose heart that a lifetime with someone is definitely not possible for you and you should no longer try.
I admit, it would be easier to just give up on love altogether. To not even bother. If you try again, you likely will get hurt again. It is likely I will not get through my lifetime unscathed by one or two or three more disastrous endings.
A friend of mine told me recently that we should view break-ups as ultimately a blessing. I told him off backhandedly, because no one wants to hear in that moment that something painful is a “blessing”. Ew.
Yes, heartbreak and losing love and memories is hard. The emotions are hard to reconcile and control, the insecurities and anger and fear abound. It’s easy, and rightly so, to in the moment only think of all the ways that the pursuit of love sucks.
But there would not be hundreds of books, hundreds of movies, poetry, hours of thoughts, holidays, stories, and professions dedicated to love if it wasn’t ultimately worth it. It’s true, love might not be for everyone, and that is a decision that you will have to make for yourself. But make it because it is not right for you, not because you feel that it will only lead to heartache.
Love can be beautiful, pure, adventurous, true. Love can be lasting.
So while getting dumped or broken-up with can hardly be called a blessing, see it as just one more step towards the person who will make the journey worth the thrill ride.