Things You Learn After Your First Heartbreak

You learn not to assume things. You learn not to assume that the day you spent together in bed and took photos of each other against that white wall was important to both of you. In reality, only one of you will ever care about that day. Only one of you will flinch when you see the white wall again. The other person will forget it ever happened. You’ll have to remind them, years later when you meet for coffee, about the pictures and you’ll feel so stupid for holding it so dear. Why do you have to be the one who remembers that day? You assumed that your memories would be the same. You didn’t know that one gets to forget and the other has to remember.

You learn that the person who once protected you from all harm could one day become the harm. They could become the thing they spent so much time shielding you from. That’s how it always seems to work though, doesn’t? We give people power over our lives, we let them dictate the rhythms, and then we act surprised when there’s scratches.

You learn about the cruelty of time, the cruelty of fickleness. You learn that it’s possible for the person who knew you the best to eventually know nothing at all. You counted on them always knowing. You took solace in someone keeping score. But reliance is the first thing to go in a break up. You lose the right to call someone. You lose the right to ask how they’re doing. Imagine that. One day you had a VIP pass to their life and the next, you’re shut out completely. They’ll tell their grandma more things than they’d tell you.

You learn how bad heartbreak can hurt. All of a sudden you’ll be relating to sad love songs and feeling like such a chump. You listened to them before but never quite understood why they had so much resonance with people. Then you realized that it’s strictly for people who’ve dealt with the loss of love. To get the full effect of a Patsy Cline song, someone has to take an emotional dump on your face. Otherwise you’ll just be like “Gee, this lady sure sounds sad!

You’ll learn terrifying things about yourself. Most notably, the fact that heartbreak will turn you insane and obsessive. It makes you irrational and cripplingly nostalgic.  (Your friends will even get fed up with you for a bit because you’re so cray cray.)  There’s no real way to fix a broken heart other than time and sleeping with the next person you could potentially love. It takes someone’s else dick to get over the last one.

Most importantly, you’ll learn that it will all be okay in the end. Just like time killed your relationship, it will also be the thing that repairs you. Eventually enough time will pass that you’ll have nothing left to mourn. You’ll develop swiss cheese holes in your memory about the relationship. All you’ll recall are occasional flashes of happiness and feel grateful for it. You understand that this is just how life works. You fall in and out of love with people until you land somewhere that makes sense. You’ve learned a new secret about life and people. You get it now.

It’s bitter to know. It’s better to know. TC mark

image: cuatrok77

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


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  • Rachel Helen

    Love this! It’s so true and hit super close to home. Thanks for sharing!

  • Joanna

    You don’t forget the things that hurt. You just don’t get hurt by them as much. And you remember so that they don’t happen again.

  • John

    First paragraph was my favorite… I have a microsoft word list of my favorite memories, I’m sure she has forgotten 90% of them.

  • Ryan O'Connell


    • Guest

      How is the use of “biter” instead of “bitter” not a typo? 

      • Ryan O'Connell


    • Emily Huizenga

      Love the last line!

  • Guest

    I needed this today. Thank you.

    • Will

      Yes you did. 

  • Sophia

    That’s the worst — the way you remember every single thing, every laugh, every touch, every awkward and beautiful moment (I keep a Microsoft Word list of moments too!) and you realize that you’re the only one who remembers or cares. Sometimes I secretly hope he does, too, but I know my own abilities to romanticize too well to believe it.

    • Karl Ian Hall

      I keep a Microsoft word list of worded memories too. OMG.

  • Duh

    You never get over the people you love, not really. Time doesn’t ruin a relationship, people do.

    • Karl Ian Hall

      Some yes. Your first love, never.

  • Meghan

    the grammar and wording in this is pretty terrible

    • guest


  • Sahar Soos


  • Lz649303

    Do you actually do anything with your life? I mean … all you ever do it seems is write and comment and reply to comments day in and day out. And … they were entertaining at first, this whole teenage romance heartbreak stuff. Everyone goes through them. I’ve been through them. But it’s just constant, non-stop. Day in and day out. Oh look another post about love and relationships and how break ups suck, I wonder who wrote it … or yes, that guy. Do you need help Ryan? Because if you do, then it’s no shame, we’ll get you help. Just … for god’s sake be happy, learn to be happy, do something with your life. It’s so sad and depressing watching a perfectly functional human being almost crumble in front of my eye s (in writting really) Everything is just so … fucking depressing. 

    • Age

       He says none of this ever about him and he promises he’s ok. I’m with you, but maybe he likes all the comments that he’s reading minds and what not. I’m just convinced that he feeds off of his friends’ misery just so he has something to write about.

      • Guest

        This just happens to be what Ryan writes about best…everybody has different subjects they articulate that best and relationships happen to be his. I would imagine that he does most of his writing when he’s in an emotional place that is way beyond the experiences he talks about. When you’re in the middle of a breakup or any other major life experience, it’s a lot harder to have any perspective on it at all. You almost HAVE to be sort of over it to be able to reflect on it from a distance and write something coherent about it. EVERYONE carries around baggage like this in the back of their mind every day, I don’t care whether you admit or even consciously notice it, but it’s true. The only difference is that Ryan acknowledges that baggage and uses it to create something.

      • joe

        Indeed! I also remember him posting something awhile back basically saying “this is what i write about, because it’s what im good at writing about, and that’s that.” 

    • Guest

      If you hate his writing so much why do you continue to read all of his posts?

    • beatrice

      And yet though it seems like Ryan is writing these articles for himself, he’s writing it for us as well. He’s that savage garden love song on the radio that cradles you when you’re love sick. His articles are a pleasure to read and though arguably of low standard, a pleasure all the same.

  • HMS

    I can’t bring myself to dislike the “Swiss cheese holes in your memory” line. Charming.

  • Guest

    “You’ll learn terrifying things about yourself. Most notably, the fact
    that heartbreak will turn you insane and obsessive. It makes you
    irrational and cripplingly nostalgic.  (Your friends will even get fed
    up with you for a bit because you’re so cray cray.)  There’s no real way
    to fix a broken heart other than time and sleeping with the next person
    you could potentially love. It takes someone’s else dick to get over
    the last one.”

    This paragraph is pretty pathetic.  Generally  a heartbreak will teach you wonderful not “terrifying” things about yourself.  By being left alone you become self reliant.  You gain back your ability to cope through situations not as a couple but as an individual.  You re-realize what makes “you” special which sometimes gets lost/taken for granted within the confines of a relationship.

    “Insane/Obsessive/Irrational/Crippling Nostalgic.”  Maybe you, honey, but the majority of us can survive a breakup without resorting to stalking, acting crazy and making impulsive decisions that jeopardize our friendships.  In fact as adults we understand boundaries within a friendship and while we rely on our friends as a support system, we also understand what is and what isn’t inappropriate behavior. “Crippling Nostalgia?” Don’t misuse the word “crippling” ascribe it to people who are actually suffering, for real.  Nostalgia is our natural tendency to be fond of the past because its safer/better than the present.  This feeling will pass.

    Last but not least, the getting laid=getting over a broken heart.  Maybe if you are shallow or maybe if sex was the focal point of the relationship that caused the “heartbreak,” but dirty snuggling with someone whether they be one night stand or a potential love interest could be the worst thing for a someone recovering from heartbreak.  Sex equals vulnerability and vulnerability is the last thing someone raw from rejection needs to deal with…

    • Jacqueline Rae Shuman

       You, Guest, are a fucking moron.

      • Jacqueline Rae Shuman

         Who are you to dissect someone’s emotions and attempt to condescendingly nullify each one?

    • M.J. Corey

      I don’t think I’ve met one person who hasn’t been afraid of him or herself in the immediate aftermath of heartbreak – it’s a unique kind of pain that is usually chemically comparable to actual craziness. Some people are already in touch with their capacity to be nutty in times of stress, but most people I know have been terrified by how bad they’ve felt after a relationship gone wrong. Most people do in fact “feel crazy” for a while. 

    • Joe

      Jeez, how about a little, “cheer up, ryan! you’ll be alright!” instead of belittling his emotions? not everyone can morph into a Terminator when they end a relationship. Have you ever been on this website before?

    • kbes

      Guest, you’ve clearly never been in a meaningful relationship before.

    • Anonymous

      apparently most people actually CAN’T “survive a a breakup without resorting to stalking, acting crazy, and making impulsive decisions” ….say hello to Adele and her fanbase aka a lot of people

  • Denden

    I will stuff cocks in my mouth till I forget what his looked like!!! Brilliant!!

  • Claudio Merino

    clap, clap. thanks

  • Claire

    I’m sorry have you just read my mind or something?

  • Anonymous

    So brilliantly written. Although this topic has been covered countless of times, this one’s written exceptionally beautifully and hits all the right places. 

  • Nah

    i know you’re trying to be deep and introspective but everything you write seems somehow shallow and trite.  so, so trite.

    • Claire

      Haters gonna hate.

      • Tan

        Looks like there are alot of haters

      • Joe

        who still somehow manage read everything he writes…


        time to love the haters


      Absolutely spot on.

  • MC

    “You didn’t know that one gets to forget and the other has to remember.”  Truth.

    Hoping time will dull the memory of my worst heartbreak, but his damn band keeps breezing through my town and wrecking everything! Musicians are a curse.

  • Laura

    Songs about heartbreak make me sad that I’ve never known anyone capable of breaking my heart.

  • CYP

    It’s gotten to the point where I can tell by the title and little preview that it’s a Ryan O’Connell piece. I liked your pieces at first… but it’s like reading the same thing over and over again. It’s like you have a formula, or a mad-libs kind of thing, where you just plug in different words to the same template. Your prose is painfully predictable.

    • beatrice

      I would agree with that yet with this consistent bombardment of almost identical articles, it never fails to hit the bulls eye at one point or another

  • elaine

     “You didn’t know that one gets to forget and the other has to remember.”


  • joe

    “It’s bitter to know. It’s better to know.”

    This is my favorite line ever and i will remember it forever.

  • Anonymous

    OMG. You referenced the ‘swiss cheese holes’ from Chelsea Fagan’s article. ABSOLUTELY LOVEEEED that incorporation <3

  • Alias Grace

    Everybody try to remain calm.  As Ryan has noted before, not all of his articles are about him and his experiences.

  • vanessa

    Obsessed with how accurate this piece is. Thank you, thank you, THANK you.

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