The Heartbreak After THE Heartbreak

The other day, I was on FaceTime with one of my close friends who has been going through something similar to me: a “double heartbreak,” as I call it. Or, in other words, the heartbreak after the heartbreak.

Not enough people talk about it: You get your heart broken—shattered, really—in the most blind-siding way imaginable. One day, you’re at dinner with the man you share a home with, talking about your future kids and what they’ll look like, where you want to buy a house years from now, and then suddenly, you wake up the next day to tension in the air and find yourself asking him, meekly, in utter shock, “Are you breaking up with me?”

The pit in your stomach makes you feel like you’re falling from what once felt like heaven with no parachute and absolutely no one to catch you. You have no time to prepare for the landing, no choice but to break into a million pieces.

And then the healing begins. For me, it was leaving the state and finding a new town to call my home. It was a year-long process of putting myself back together. Of re-finding myself. Building confidence. Fighting the urge to reach out to the man I used to sleep next to every night, who I once called my “best friend,” who would read my articles before I hit “publish,” who would encourage me to try spoken word poetry so I could find a voice, who played with my hair and held me until I calmed down after a panic attack—who eventually walked away.

I remembered all the good times. I still do, and I value our time together. I value him and always will.

But of course, there was the damage, too. The arguments and miscommunications. The weeks of separation. The laying awake with racing thoughts while he was fast asleep next to me, dreaming. The loneliness of knowing you love someone more than they love you, of losing yourself to become someone else—for him.

I promised myself I would never do that again—not for anyone.

I healed so much from that relationship and breakup that I barely recognize the girl I was before. And I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, because in many ways, I lost my innocence. My passion for romance, the idea you could fall in love in the span of weeks, that soulmates really do exist, that there is one person made just for you.

I don’t believe in that stuff anymore.

For a whole year, I steered clear of anything serious. I couldn’t bring myself to commit to a relationship, not because I didn’t desire it—I did. I wanted to fall in love again. But everything became a “red flag.” Every date triggered immense fear. I didn’t want to kiss someone new, and when I finally did, I felt nothing.

But then I met someone.

And with him, I felt everything.

On our first date, I was shaking. I made dirty jokes without thinking. I apologized for how quiet I got during our conversation, but he thanked me for how well I listened. I started to love the parts of myself I’d rejected.

One date turned into another. One message turned into paragraphs sent back and forth. “I’m not in a good place for a relationship” turned into “I want to go slow, but I want to pursue this.” Days turned into weeks turned into months, and eventually, I felt comfortable in a way I never had before. I felt safe. Appreciated. Seen. How I’d always dreamed.

I hadn’t known what I was missing until he was laying in bed next to me, looking at me like I was a work of art when I felt more like a work in progress.

I tried so hard to live up to the idea he had of me, but somewhere along the way, we lost our footing, and I clung to my independence like a life ring. I reached the same destination by taking a completely different path.

The first heartbreak after the heartbreak feels like yet another nail in your coffin that you mistook for a rose on your casket. It feels like proof that things don’t work out.

You told this person everything. All the ways you’ve been hurt. Why you were so afraid. And they quelled your worries with promises they didn’t—couldn’t—keep. Your initial hesitancy feels validated by their absence. You curse yourself for not listening to your gut.

I was angry at first, for some time after, and even to this day, in certain moments. Angry at myself. Angry at him. Angry at everyone who’s ever hurt me.

But I realized, while wallowing in my victimhood, that maybe the heartbreak was all a self-fulfilling prophecy I created and, well, fulfilled. Maybe I just needed someone to blame as I sat on the hardwood floor, head in my hands, sick to my stomach, crying as hard as I did when I first moved in a year prior—a new version of myself suffering the same fate.

Or maybe there’s no one to blame. Maybe we all are just trying our best. And maybe love is difficult. Maybe it hurts. But maybe it’s worth it.

(It is.)

As I look back now, I consider the role I played. The character I was in his story—and all the stories I starred in before. Does he no longer believe in love at first sight because I debunked the myth? Will he be more jaded in his next relationship? Or perhaps—hopefully—he’ll have more confidence. He’ll know not to settle for anything that doesn’t set his heart on fire.

Two or more things can be true at once.

Heartbreak is inevitable when we choose to open our hearts. We will continue to experience pain and loss until we find someone who stays and makes us want to stay, too. But even then, there’s really never any guarantee.

There’s a reason there are so many gut-wrenching songs about breakups, so much emotional poetry about longing for someone you love with your entire being. What a beautiful tragedy: to love and lose.

Dating after a massive heartbreak isn’t easy. You’ll question yourself, and you’ll question the other person and their intentions. You’ll have a hard time letting go of the past and pursuing the future; and when you finally find the strength to do so, you might end up with yet another broken heart.

And that’s okay.

Feel it. The anger. The grief. The betrayal. The regret, guilt, and shame. The overwhelming sadness. The sense of failure.

But, most importantly, feel the love.

There are many types of love. I’m not sure one is better than another—just different. One man loved me in black and white; the other dove into the gray area.

Maybe the next will be in color.


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