I can still feel the visceral pain of heartbreak long after healing. The knot tightening in the stomach, like someone’s fist is squeezing me from the inside out. The dark and busy mind swirling with the fantasy that I can’t let go. The pain of my heart becoming hard and brittle and swollen shut. Although it always heals eventually, it’s impossible to forget.
After witnessing a friend’s suffering from heartbreak recently, I’ve been thinking about my own experience with it. I want to understand how my own HEARTBREAK*RINSE*REPEAT* cycle has worked.
My heart has been broken a handful of times, both in plutonic friendships and romantic relationships, committed and more casual.
Looking truthfully at my past, I realize that I too have broken a heart, thankfully just one. I broke it after he broke mine without even realizing it. In this case, I could argue that he broke his own heart by holding on to me without giving enough of himself to justify his grip. Still, it did happen and I contributed to it. I felt I had no choice but to let go. I felt he had already left and that I finally saw and accepted the truth of us and moved on. Eventually he woke-up and turned back toward me, but it was too late. I let him down as gently as I could. It’s sad to think about. I didn’t intend to break his heart and I have no intention of breaking another – it felt just about as bad as it did when I was heartbroken all alone.
There is a difference in my version of “the heartbreaker.” Mine involves being injured too and being kind in ending it. As the heartbroken though, I can’t think of even one occasion where my heartbreaker was injured too, at least it didn’t appear that way at the time. In hindsight I realize that none of them were in deep enough or tuned in enough to be broken-hearted themselves – or even to feel bad for breaking my heart. Therein lies the problem. They were limited or lacking in empathy, either in their willingness to become deeply involved or in their approach to ending it. It’s interesting though that without exception, they all eventually got it and felt badly. People can become enlightened I suppose.
Why couldn’t I see what was most likely inevitable? Why couldn’t I predict the outcome? (In hindsight the eventuality was often plain as day.) Would it have mattered if I could have? Why have I been willing to dive deep with the flow of the current instead of going with the flow on the surface? I was like the scuba diver trying to connect with the snorkeler…why? Why didn’t I recognize that while we shared the same water, we were too far apart to experience it in the same way? Their air supply was unlimited at the surface, mine wasn’t. There was an imbalance. Did I miss it or ignore it? How could I miss it? Why would I ignore it?
Either way, the truth is that I didn’t plan for my safe return to the surface. I was too busy being in flow my way. I miscalculated. I didn’t read the gauge correctly despite my knowledge and experience. I was aware that the tank could break, but did I think it was possible for me to misread it once I was down deep? Or worse, did I know I could throw caution to the wind, or in this analogy to the depths and do it anyway? Why did I not prevent having to desperately scramble to the surface to save myself – did I not see? So I was willing to continue with known threats, would I have been willing if I had realized that it could be my own undoing?
To fully connect, the surface-dweller has to be willing and able to meet the deep diver, deep enough to forgo his unlimited air supply, or the diver needs to hold back, at least for awhile. It’s more rational that they both dive deeper or remain at surface together, going with the flow of the current at the same level. But people don’t always operate based on what is rational, especially in matters of the heart.
Perhaps it’s just best for those inclined to dive deep and those inclined to linger on the surface, to remain separate, knowing they are fundamentally incompatible. The trick is identifying one from the other and deciding from there. I think it’s on the diver to make the call. Because while the diver is in deeper, the snorkeler is maintaining clarity by remaining at the surface. In this way the diver is taking on more risk.
I’ve have looked at the proportion of my relationships, both friendships and romantic, (not including professional here, but if I did, it would be in my favor), that ended with me heartbroken and how many just ended. As I look, I’m not certain that I’m comfortable with what I see. While my ratio has been good, there are self-destructive patterns that I could have learned from, that I can learn from now as I explore what happened.
I have asked myself, have I been a chronically delusional diver? Have I been clueless about the nature of relationships and how to keep them thriving until it’s time to set them free, if need be, without heartbreak?
I have figured out that while I have not been chronically delusional or clueless, I’m have been sometimes. I know this to be true because I am successful in so many. It’s not like all of my relationships end in a fracture, or even end at all. In focusing in on those that I have ended – and there are a lot of those – I feel almost proud of my handling of them. My way of letting go didn’t crush anyone beyond belief. I was sensitive and adept and kind enough to let them go with the current, not smack them in the face with the water and leave them gasping for air. I left them gently on the surface to either remain there or go off and choose to become a diver, or not, with someone else. It was almost as if I was taking care of them while I was taking care of myself.
So take note all you self-centered heartbreakers out there: it’s possible to take care of yourself AND not hurt the other person, even nurture them along the way. It is possible to end a relationship well, you just have to care enough to do so. The other may have entered at their own risk, but you can still try to call them up and ease them out.
I know myself well enough realize that when I fall, or am thrown, I go down hard. So why did self-destruction become a pattern, albeit a less ingrained pattern than self-preservation? Why couldn’t I see the self-destruction?
The pattern was choosing foolishly and/or impulsivity. I stop and size things up better now – either the person or the situation – and proceed accordingly to meet my needs. I distinguish a surface dweller from a diver and plan accordingly. Regardless of who I see, I no longer dive in quickly. I now look, see, tell the truth, and take authentic action. I now create flow because I realize that every single one of my break-ups was caused by not being in flow with the other person. Where they initiated, I was in too deep for them. Where I initiated, they weren’t in deep enough for me. In every heartbreak, I failed to see things clearly, dove in, and stayed down.
I’m trying not to flog myself for my errors in judgement and see them as history, grateful for them as being opportunities for personal growth on my path. I look at all those relationships where I did see shallow waters and I wisely waited to dive until they wanted to with me. This more typical dynamic is a testament to my sense of self-worth, favoring consciousness and health in relationships over self-destruction. But I can’t overlook the times when I failed to notice the reality by not looking closely enough (or worse, seeing it and ignoring it), and just dove in. In those relationships I was in the water with my beloved or my friend, but I took it too deep and I suffered as a result more than once.
I’m fully aware now. (I thought I already was but I have newfound realizations.) I will forever be wiser in relationships and truly go with the flow. In forming relationships, I will be open-hearted and prevent major heartbreak by remaining at the surface longer and letting go when the time is right. I will look at the reality and not indulge the fantasy. I will not allow myself to get swept away. I’m bothered by the need for this a bit – it seems so lame and boring – but I get that it’s smarter to go in with clarity, focus, ease and grace so that I can get out with the same. Some pain may still come, but I will decide how much and for how long. I will decide whether the pleasure is worth the risk.