When it is your heart that has been shattered into too-many-to-count pieces, it is often hard or even impossible to see what lessons there might be to learn from this. At least I feel that way. I often find it hard to see beyond my massive container of Ben & Jerry’s or the wine bottle I have been steadily nursing for the past hour. But when my friend’s heart gets broken, mine does a little too, because seeing them in pain can feel almost unbearable. But I can see the bigger picture, and even if they might not realize it yet, every heartbreak is a lesson — for someone, at least.
1. Love isn’t always enough
When we are little, we are taught that love conquers all. Disney, fairytales, and the love stories we imagine for ourselves all lead to us believing that one universal truth. Or at least it did for me. Even though my parents weren’t together, I just assumed that their love wasn’t the true fairytale kind; that’s how I explained it to myself, because love conquers all, right? I never doubted it. Then I grew up. And the saddest truth I’ve come to accept is that love doesn’t conquer all, and that’s okay. My friend was in a long distance relationship for a year and he tried everything, but ultimately, immigration laws kept them apart. Love doesn’t conquer all. My best friend and her boyfriend planned their lives together, but she never wanted kids and he did. Love doesn’t conquer all.
2. Everybody needs to be shown love in their own way
Recently, ‘The 5 Love Languages’ quiz has been making its round. I think a lot of people struggle with figuring out what their love language really means. I’ve seen a lot of my friends get their hearts broken because of it. I’ve had my heart broken because of it. We all show love in different ways and expect different things. And it can be very hard if someone isn’t compatible with you on that level. It doesn’t mean the love isn’t there, but the validation of it can be harder to see. Figure out what you need, what your love language is, and how you need someone to show you they love you so that you can feel safe and secure in it. Once you figure it out, communicate it. Don’t let a miscommunication of your love language be the reason your heart or relationship breaks.
3. Love needs limits
Using love as an excuse for unacceptable behavior is, well, unacceptable. And it can be so hard, because when your love for someone is all consuming, it is easy for it to overshadow all the bad. But even love needs limits. You cannot get lost in someone else when you see the warning signs. If someone hurts you, no matter how much you love them, it is not okay. It might not need to be the end of the relationship, but it needs to be a limit for yourself.
4. Love is worth fighting for
People mess up. It’s only human to do so. Even people who love you with everything they’ve got mess up. People cheat, people lie, people make mistakes; it’s the messy part of life, the one we all wish weren’t a thing. But it is, and so is the ability to forgive. If something happens, if someone lies or cheats or hurts you, you need to set a boundary and have a conversation with yourself. Is this person worth it? If they are, fight for the love. Fight until you can’t anymore, until you reach your limit. People are complicated and love is tough, and both are worth fighting for.
5. Sometimes, love is worth the pain
Inevitably, at some point, when you love someone, you will get hurt. But you can bounce back —you can turn that pain into fuel and let it drive you to resolve the issue and bring you closer together. If the person and the relationship is worth it, the pain is too.
6. And sometimes, the price for love is just too high
Sometimes, no matter how much love there is, you have to walk away. You have to know when you’re fighting a losing battle; you have to recognize when the pain outweighs the good. It’s not failing to give up on a relationship or a person if there is just too much pain, too many lines crossed, too many things you can’t go back from. I’ve watched my friends hold on to someone with all they had, even though it was killing them a little more each day. It’s okay to let go. It’s the end of a chapter, and it’s an impossibly difficult step, one that will take you into a period of pain, only to release you into a world of new possibilities for new love. It’s not failing to put yourself first.
7. Love isn’t an excuse
It just isn’t. It’s not a reason to not spend time with your friends. It’s not a reason to forgive everything. It’s not a reason for acting like a jerk. Don’t let love be an excuse, because it is not. It may be an explanation at times, but it is certainly never an excuse for any bad behaviour.
8. Love isn’t rational
No matter how level-headed my friends may be, sooner or later — especially after or during a break up — all rationale goes out the window. We all act out of character for love at some point, and usually that means it’s not quite right. Love isn’t tangible; it isn’t always rational. And that’s okay. It’s something to keep in mind or to have your friends remind you of, but it’s okay to lose your head sometimes.
9. Love is scary
Love can be terrifying. Feeling so consumed by someone else, so affected by their actions and choices, is scary. Love makes you vulnerable, and most people aren’t comfortable with that. It seemingly gives away your power, shifts it to someone else. But you know what I learned? It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to be scared of how deeply you love someone. Feelings are wonderful and intimidating and freeing and scary. Embrace them all—at the end of the day you won’t win fighting them, anyway.
10. There are more than just one epic love out there
So many times when my friends cry to me after a breakup (and I am certainly guilty of this myself), what inevitably comes up is that they think they’ll never find someone like that person again. That they were soulmates and it’s all downhill from there. That isn’t true. They might have been your soulmate, but they aren’t the only ones. I deeply believe that epic love exists, but there isn’t just one for every person. Yes, the next one won’t be exactly the same, and that’s the good thing about it, because clearly something wasn’t quite right. Epic love isn’t a once in a lifetime thing, nor is it a weekly occurrence. Some stick a lifetime, but if its doesn’t, there is another out there. I promise.