22 Aug What I Learned from a Broken Heart
When friends or clients share with me about painful breakups, I am transported back in time to age 21. It was the summer after college when I took a trip to Cape Cod with my sister and met James. He was amazing. I had dated the same guy for five years, who was blue collar and felt so stagnant. James was a writer, very intelligent, Irish (like me) and handsome (like my dad). On our first date I was struck hard with the thought, “I am going to marry this man.”
James took me hiking, told me what books to read, and inspired me to dress with more sophistication. I loved everything about him. We dated for only three months, a mere summer. When I started at a local graduate school in the fall, James decided to travel across country and have an adventure. When he left, the plan was we would reunite for the holidays. I would miss him, but was very confident in our love and soul connection.
After James left I received a warm letter from him within a week filled with news. Then nothing. This was in the days before cell phones and I had no address. It was like he vanished. This marked the beginning of a very long and painful obsession.
In the beginning I thought about James every minute of every day. I would dress for work and think, “I look pretty. Wasn’t I pretty enough?” Or I would be out with friends having a laugh and think, “Didn’t James think I was funny enough?” I ruminated over every date, every conversation. And the worst was having a close friend who also got dumped. We would spend entire evenings talking about our exes as if that would keep us connected to them somehow.
I began to date and have more fun, but James remained in the back of my mind. It was a whole year later when I was working at an internship at a counseling center that I sat down with my supervisor and shared the pain of this OBSESSION. Here it what she said, “You are not grieving him. You are grieving the fantasy you built about him. If he was who you thought he was he would still be here.” Then she shared, “You made him into a false god. We all go around with our unfinished childhood business and think a relationship will help us complete it. You have given him too much power. You have everything you need to be whole.” Finally, she said, “He introduced you to new things and more of who you are. You haven’t lost that because he is gone.”
Somehow this advice freed me up and gave me my power back. I realized I will not have resolution for every relationship that ends. Questioning whether I was good enough? pretty enough? gave me the illusion of control in that if I were somehow different, he wouldn’t have left. I also learned that obsessing and talking about HIM gave me the illusion of still being connected and helped me avoid the grieving I needed to do. Looking back I wish I didn’t waste all that time giving my power to “some guy,” but as with all experiences, I learned a lot. Mostly, I learned to fall in love with me and get busy with my life. That is when I attracted the right guy!
By the way. Jim contacted me three years after he left. We met up and guess what? HE WAS HUMAN. He was shorter than I remembered, pigeon toed, and very narcissistic. I got to tell him how much he hurt me and hear all about his life. I came home, bawled my eyes out and was really free!