Nothing in my life has defined and shaped who I am more than love. Love has made me stronger, as my family and friends have bestowed more of it on me than I deserve, but love has also broken and tore me down more than my worst enemy could ever hope to do. I am never more alive, selfless, productive, and confident as I am when I am in love with an incredible person. I’m at my best when I’m in love, and I believe that is how it should be—that is the only way that love can last.
I am also never more lost, selfish, and out of control as I am when my heart is broken. There are different kinds of heartbreak, and I’ve experienced the spectrum. Heartbreak of every kind can be an invaluable experience, as I truly believe that someone doesn’t know what love is until they have experienced a heartbreak that so utterly shatters their heart, in a hopefully once in a lifetime way, that they will never be the same again. My first was when I was 21 from a girl who is now my best friend and who has taught me more about myself and relationships than I can begin to explain. I went years without really feeling love or loss, until I experienced two soul shattering heartbreaks exactly one year and one week apart, the most recent being a few months ago. Both were by the same girl—the one that got away—the girl who will never again be a part of my life.
There is the saying that one day you will stumble upon someone who will start a fire in you that cannot die; however, the saddest, most awful truth you will ever come to find is they are not always with whom you will spend your life. I am in the midst of discovering that truth, a truth I wish I would have found and held onto before I gave her a second chance, before I let her break me a second time.
I have always been the person that either loves too little or far too much. My mother has cried over the girls I have broken up with that I didn’t feel any regret over losing. However, in the once every half-decade moment, I would find someone I believed to be worth pouring everything that I am into. And that’s what I did with this girl. I poured everything and left nothing back. I met this girl in the most unromantic way—we matched on Tinder as I was 250 miles from home interviewing for jobs in her city. I was still in my final year of law school and had the whole world ahead of me. Maybe I should have listened to fate when I was offered a position at a great law firm a few days after we met, but in the city I was currently living—250 miles from her. I took that job and thought that would be it, that she would be just another girl that was out of my life as quickly as she entered. However, our messages quickly became daily phone calls, and just as quick I fell for a girl I had yet to actually meet.
This girl was able to instantly capture my attention like no other girl had ever done. Her whit, charm, self-confidence, beauty, and a whole other list of traits I could spend the rest of the article describing, made it impossible to not envision something between us. I got her to agree to go on a date, so I drove the 250 miles to take her out for a dinner of sharing pasta, stories, laughs, and our first kiss. I was smitten. There was no turning back for me. The fire had been lit.
A year and a half later, I wish I had never sent that first awkward message telling her how she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I wish she had never messaged me back. I wish she had never won me over with her first phone call full of passion. I wish we had never talked for hours each day so I wouldn’t learn of her brilliant depth, beauty, and self-awareness. I wish I never took her on that first date where I looked into her eyes and connected with her soul. I wish all of these things because she broke me.
I have always had this personal rule of never dating a girl a second time after we have broken up. Usually, this isn’t a problem because I am the one doing the breaking. I am the one that chose to walk away, and that is always easier. But getting back together with someone who broke up with you is something that your heart usually wants more than anything, but your brain knows is setting your heart up for catastrophe. There are so many issues with getting back together with someone that shattered your heart. Which is why when this girl broke up with me, she knew that I would cut off all contact, and that would be the end. It would be too hurtful, damaging, and unhealthy for me to try and remain friends.
I spent the next six months dating several girls, attempting to move on and fix myself. But I fixed myself woefully, imperfectly. It’s not that I was not okay with who I was, but was overcome constantly by the pain of knowing that the most amazing person I had ever encountered didn’t believe I was worth it. This constant regret led me to hurt the hearts of girls who didn’t deserve to have their hearts broken by a broken man. The problem wasn’t with any of these incredible girls, the problem was with me, it was with her, as she was an impossible act to follow. I couldn’t imagine ever wanting anyone else because every new person I met didn’t compare. I would look for hints of her, hints of the way she made me feel, and never find them. Some of the biggest accomplishments in my life, and some of the saddest, seemed insignificant compared to the fire that she had started and left. Graduating from law school, starting my career, and burying my grandmother seemed either unimportant or even more painful without her there with me.
Then one day, in a moment of weakness, I texted her to let her know that I was buying a house. We had often toured open houses together and spoke about our dream house, so I knew she would want to know. I broke the promise I had made to myself to never speak to her again. She began crying when she heard the news, and that message was all it took to stoke the fire into a full blaze. Within a matter of weeks, we both ended things with the respective people we were seeing. She said that she had grown a lot in the time we weren’t together, that nobody cared for her the way that I had, that she looked for me in other people as well, and that she was ready to give this another try. And that’s what we did.
This was something that I wanted more than anything. I wanted it so bad that I spent months ignoring the fact that she wasn’t ready to give it another try or that I wasn’t ready to trust her. It’s hard to trust someone while you’re still gasping for breath from the last time they let you drown. I believed that if I was there for her, cared for her, loved her, and fought for her, that it would work out. I allowed myself to open up and poured everything back into this girl that had broken me so completely. I was so broken that I didn’t recognize myself with her. I was timid, jealous, angry, and sad, all while I was so incredibly happy to be near her.
If I’m honest, things were only ever really good with us that first month back together. We were so confident in our feelings for each other, that this would last, that we even booked a vacation six months down the line. But I was naïve and she was lying to herself. We weren’t going to last. Deep down I knew that early on, but I couldn’t imagine not having this person that started this fire in me not being in my life again, keeping that fire blazing. She was the one—the one I would forever regret if I didn’t fight with everything I had to make this work. And so for months I fought, cried, and hoped, ultimately in vain, as she was introduced to my family and I grew to love hers, as she told me that many of our issues stemmed from her seasonal depression and there was a light at the end of the tunnel (literal sunlight) and begged me to be patient with her, and as I emptied out who I was trying everything to not lose her.
By pouring every part of me out, however, I extinguished any flame that existed in her for me, if there ever really was one. I was, I still am, a shell of the person I was when I first met her. Her words and promises towards me grew from being so incredibly full of a future and optimism to being utterly empty. Her hands moved from being unable to keep them off me to pushing me away. Her wishes changed from wanting me with her, holding her at night, to wishing I would leave her alone as she repulsed at the thought of my touch. Her sarcastic jokes turned into spiteful and hurtful comments. I moved from being a priority to being a chore. I went from being someone who was worth doing anything to make it work to someone who wasn’t worth putting forth minimal effort. I was everything until I suddenly became nothing to her.
The worst part of all of this is not knowing that the person I love more than anything doesn’t love me anymore or never loved me, or that she is happier without me and with someone else, but knowing that deep down, I would take her back in a heartbeat. Holding on in vain can be one of the most damaging things to an already broken heart, but I don’t know how to let go. She deserves to be let go—she was selfish. She allowed me to give her my heart knowing full well she would never give me hers. By the time she let me go, I was already so broken and she had pulled back so much, she had become a stranger. She broke me with ease, shattering my heart like she didn’t care that it was filled completely with her.
It is hard to write about her in the past tense, because I want nothing more than a future with her. I don’t want her to just be painful memories. I want her to find herself, to realize what she gave up, to say she made a mistake, to say that she let the wrong person go, and fight for everything that we once were. But I know she won’t. I know when she said that she cared about me more than I will ever acknowledge, that it was a lie. I know that she has already moved on, and that my departure is a sigh of relief. I know all of these things—and yet I still love her. That’s why I wish I would have never sent that first message. That’s why I wish I had never given her another chance. My brain knows that the person who broke you can’t be the person that puts your heart back together, even as my heart aches for nothing but her. I loved her. I love her. I will always love her. I just wish I had never met her.