Lessons In Heartbreak

By: Liann Herwerden

Some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned have come from the hardest seasons. Heartbreak is never easy, never comfortable, but I’ve decided to embrace the parts of it that have helped shape me into who I am today. These are a few of the truths that heartbreak has taught me (after all the tears dried up).

  1. What is meant for me will not miss me

I heard this quote a little while back, and it has stuck with me ever since. What is meant for me will NOT miss me. I use this mantra in all areas of my life, but for the sake of this message, we’ll stick to relating it to relationships. For the longest time, I was convinced that if only I had done something different or if that conversation had gone differently, if we both just changed a little bit, we could be “The One” for each other. Playing the game of “what if?” is dangerous. There’s no way to tell what would have happened, but if this was what was right, it would not have come and gone the way that it did. Maybe I wasn’t ready. Or he wasn’t ready. Or the timing was just a little bit off. I believe that if you gave what you could, make peace with the outcome (even if it’s not what you thought you wanted).

  1. There is purpose in every relationship

My first long-term relationship was when I was 16 years old. I was a sophomore in high school and I was dating a senior with a couple of pretty bad habits. A lot happened during the two years I dated my first boyfriend, and I thought I was truly in love. After we broke up, it felt like a veil had been lifted, and all of the sudden, I saw all the ways he had abused and manipulated me (I don’t believe there is any excuse or purpose for abusive relationships*, but I choose to focus on what I can gain via perspective rather than what was lost). For a long time, all I saw when I looked back on those years was regret. However, I saw a lot of what I didn’t want my love to look like. I saw a lot of my own weaknesses, and I saw mistakes I wanted to learn from. That first relationship taught me that I deserve to take up space. I have a voice, and I shouldn’t be afraid to use it. My next relationship taught me what a positive and caring partner could look like. It also taught me that sometimes people fall in love with their perception of you, and you don’t have to try to fit that mold to be lovable. My third relationship taught me a lot about growth. It taught me what love truly looked like. It also taught me that sometimes the person who loves you might hurt you. And sometimes you might hurt the person you love. And if it feels like you are drowning in your emotions, it might not be love anymore. Someone I met last year told me that not every or anyone you meet will be your Mr./Mrs. Right. That’s okay. There’s a purpose in a Mr. Right Now, too.

  1. No other person is worth sacrificing the root of who I am

I think my biggest mistake in the past was turning to relationships with other people when my own insecurity got to be too much. I compromised some morals/beliefs/values that were important to me because at the time, not being alone mattered more to me. In one of my classes, we’re discussing different sociological theories. In the social exchange theory, there’s a term—comparison level of alternatives. In the context of relationships, this means how much value you see in your current relationship over any alternatives. When I was younger, the only alternatives to a relationship were relationships with different people. Now I know that sometimes being single is the best alternative. The person I want to be with will not ask me to forfeit the things that make me who I am or the causes I am passionate about. The type of relationship I want is one where our priorities and views complement each other.

  1. You can miss someone and not want them back

This was my life for a good year and a half after my last break up. I missed the way things had been in the beginning. When the relationship was good, it was SO good. But when things got bad, they got really, really bad. And I had to keep reminding myself of all the mess and all the issues that corrupted the relationship. I missed the highs and this person that had been so important to me for so long, but in the end, I knew in my heart that I did not want that person back. Things ended for a reason, and I no longer have space in my heart or in my life for something that was so clearly not meant for me.

  1. Time does heal—if you let it

In the immediate aftermath, it feels like nothing will ever feel normal again. I swear, there were days I couldn’t believe I had any tears left. Then a few months went by. And I was still hurting like HELL. A year went by, and I still felt like it might just be a bad dream. I was so confused—it had been so long, so why did it feel so fresh? And then I realized time only heals if you let it pass. I was having a hard time letting go of my ex, and I think he was having a hard time, as well. We texted occasionally; we even went on a few dates. And this was why the time that was passing was not helping to heal my heart. It was like every time part of the wound got stitched up, I was ripping it right open again. It’s hard to close the door on something that still feels like such a big part of you, but trust me. You deserve it– let yourself move on. Let time do its thing. (No more texting the ex!!)

  1. Community is everything

My first line of defense when I feel like my life is falling apart is shutting down and shutting out the people in my life that I probably need the most. I think it’s perfectly healthy to take some time to process things alone, but text your friends back and show up for wine night. Call your mom, dad, grandma, best friend, brother, sister when things feel too heavy or you need a distraction. Let your roommate drag you to the gym for a late-night lift. Community is so important all the time, but especially in particularly fragile or overwhelming times. When you feel like giving up on love (relatable, am I right?), remember that friendships are love, too. Community is love, too. Family, whether biological or chosen, is love, too.

At the end of the day, you are so loved. And you are deserving of love. And your worth never comes from another person. It’s okay to mourn the end of relationships you thought were going to last forever. But eventually, you’ll find the lessons and the growth (no matter how painful), and next time you’ll know love a little better.

*If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship and needs help, there are highly trained expert advocates available 24/7 to talk confidentially with anyone in the United States who is experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship at the National Domestic Violence Hotline

Call: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Deaf/HoH: TTY 1-800-787-3224.

Online Live Chat: https://www.thehotline.org/what-is-live-chat/

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