It’s come into my consciousness lately that we are expected to hide our heartbreaks. This might seem contrary to popular belief with people airing their dirty laundry on Facebook or the musician who creates a best-selling album based on it. I’m talking about something different. A little more personal. (Although the musician might say it’s the same thing.) I mean the crushing pain from loss where you wonder if you can ever get up again but are to remain stoic on the outside. It seems we’re shamed for giving love a chance and we curse ourselves to never speak the topic when it fails. Even more, we are never to admit how much it hurt. How much it changed us. Detoured us from one path and started us down another, for better or worse. Today, I’m breaking through that old idea to explain why we must change this perception and embrace our relationships. Heartbreaks and all.
My daughter entered 4th grade this year. I’ve been especially dreading this grade because it marks the pivotal year where my best friend in the whole entire world turned against me and broke my heart. I didn’t know to call it “heartbreak” at the time. Instead I thought she was a monster who tormented me for pleasure. I cried for the loss. I seethed with anger for being so stupid. I never admitted how bad it hurt to other people because I didn’t want to look like the fool; labeled the one who cared too much when she obviously cared nothing at all. Even the other night this girl, now a grown woman, showed up in my dream. (I haven’t spoken to her since about 4th grade.) In my dream she said “I always thought you hated me” and I could only respond, “I do.”
Is it worse with boys? I think it amplifies the stupid feeling factor. I never questioned my 4th grade friend, whether our relationship was all a lie. I knew we were friends at one time. Even after it ended badly. With boys (or girls if you swing that way), sexuality brings in an even more crippling silence. Did he ever feel anything? Was he only using me? Was it ever real?
My smokin’ hot and super cool single lady friend fell in love. The boy seemed to love her too. He made promises. Then he took them back. It hurt. She hurt. She doubted herself for even giving love a chance. She mentally punished herself for being stupid enough to believe him. It was easy to see reality from my point of view. I know she’s worth loving even though she didn’t believe it in the moment. I wrote her, “You were great when you were honest, vulnerable, and raw. When you opened yourself to love him. You’ll be great again.”
She was brave to love. We all have been if we’ve dipped our toe into that murky water. We put ourselves out there to care for someone deeply without regard to how bad it could hurt when taken away. We should be proud. We shouldn’t be scared to share our heartbreak. We might be daring with our trusted friends, but why stop there? Why not admit it if the conversation comes up with acquaintances? Instead of avoiding eye contact and pretending like our past didn’t really mean anything, we should tell people, “I really cared for someone and they broke my heart.”
A harder question is should we tell the heartbreaker? Could we tell the originator about the pain we created? (Because no side in a relationship is void of responsibility.) I know I have a problem with this. It’s a power problem. I don’t want to feel like the chump all over again. Maybe he/she has a wooden heart mounted where he/she notches each crushed soul. My attempt to save face by never admitting the importance of the relationship does the exact opposite of my intention. I’ve made myself a victim by being embarrassed about something I should be very proud.
We shouldn’t forget it’s their story too. Maybe they gave up rights to it when they stopped calling, but can’t we be the bigger person? Wouldn’t it be a great if we told people they meant a lot to us even if it didn’t work out? Although I’m pretty sure I haven’t broken any hearts, if I did I would want to know. Even explain it really did mean something special to me as well. We both were impacted by the relationship we once shared.
Don’t think I’m keeping this purely in theory. I’m taking action. I’m telling past loves, where we lost touch or had a falling out, about how they helped me discover the person I am today. Being honest about how much the person meant, even if I meant nothing to them. I’m not going to search anyone down with some kind of heartbreak hit-list to scratch off one name at a time. But if I ever run into my 4th grade friend and she asks if I hated her, I’ll let her know it was quite the opposite. I loved her and she broke my heart.