“I love you, but I’m not in love with you” – that was the line my second girlfriend and first love uttered when she broke up with me. I thought we were going to get married and have kids. We had been together two years. I was twenty-seven.
I didn’t eat or sleep for weeks. I cried. And cried. And cried. That’s honestly all I could do. I couldn’t function. I felt as though my soul had been crushed. The days when I did manage to drag myself into the office, I sat in my chair looking out the window, with my office door closed. And I cried. I honestly felt in every fiber of my being that the pain from that first broken heart was literally going to kill me. Grief is tiring and it scars your soul. BUT, it is also temporary, and with some time, the pain started to lessen. My days eventually resumed to a normal semblance of life. And with some more time, I realized that the pain hadn’t actually killed me and I was still alive. And then with some more time, she actually came back knocking on my door realizing she made a mistake, wanting to try again, but perhaps that is a story for another time…
Once my heart healed, I fell in love again. And then my heart broke again. And then I fell in love again. And then it broke again. Each time I fell a little harder but each time I also healed a little faster and a little stronger. And then I met my (now) ex-wife, and I fell in love HARD all over again.
“I love you. I do. But I’m not in love with you” – that was the line my ex-wife uttered in our last couples therapy session when she said she didn’t want to be married anymore and that marriage just wasn’t for her. She just wanted to date other people forever and be a couch-surfing free-spirit with no address… We were married and had just talked about having kids three months before. We had taken vows and promised to always be together. We had been together seven years. I was thirty-seven.
As I was telling my checkered love history to a new friend one day, she stopped me mid-sentence and said that I was someone who loved big and loved hard and she loved that about me, she admired it, because that wasn’t her at all. She had been married before and would NEVER get married again. Any new love that came in was always held at arms distance. What she said really struck me because I AM someone who wears her heart on her sleeve, and dives in, heart and soul in hand when I’m falling for someone…I don’t hold back. And even after all the heartbreak I’ve had in my life, I’m still open and willing to love hard and love big again. Why is that? I know so many people who once they had their heart broken, they close off and shut down and swear off love forever for fear of being hurt again. To me, that’s letting fear run your life. That’s letting yourself get consumed by the “what ifs” that plague our minds on a daily basis. What if it doesn’t work out? What if they break up with me? What if they don’t like me? What if they break my heart? Do you know how many experiences and people I would have missed out on if I let the “what ifs” control me?! And granted, not everyone that I gave my heart to deserved it, but everyone I gave my heart to sure did have a lesson to teach me. Because everyone we meet in life is a teacher to us. And I never would have learned some of my most important life lessons had I not let myself be completely vulnerable and exposed. Had I not loved that particular person big and hard.
The thing is, I believe that a broken heart is actually an open heart. It is in the breaking, when our hearts are peeled back on themselves, that our truths have a pathway to come in and out. If we’re lucky, our hearts will break over and over again to reveal new ways of being, new ways of thinking, new ways of looking at the world, and new ways of loving. Each break allows our hearts to heal bigger and stronger than the time before. Yes, there is pain every time we’re cracked open. Immeasurable pain. Excruciating pain. But with each break, with each sting of pain, our hearts are able to expand and strengthen our capacity to love more and more and more. And isn’t that what life is really all about anyway? We humans are wired for connection and wired for love.
We all know the saying, “It is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.” Sounds cliché, but to me, it holds true. Loving is always a risk, but it is an even bigger risk not to love. It is an even bigger risk to close ourselves off and shut down. Even though I came out hurt time and again, I grew and I learned. I love a little bigger and a little harder each and every time. Each love is a new love and a learning experience.
I have been broken and broken over and over again, yet still, I have the capacity in my heart to give more of myself. I still, after all these years, have so much love inside me to give. Dare I say I actually have more love to give today after my multiple broken hearts than before that first soul-crushing heartache.
I’ve never once questioned if loving big and loving hard is a defect. I have more than what most people could hope to find in a partner. I have more love. I have more patience. I have more loyalty, more passion, and more empathy. I’m stronger because I love harder.
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