Why I’m Glad That My First Love Broke My Heart

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I have been in love 3 times. I am not one of those people who believes in soulmates or who thinks that the universe only sends us one love in our lifetime. I can say this because each person was completely different & each relationship consumed me in a different way than the former. F Scott Fitzgerald summed it up best when he wrote: “There are all kinds of love in this world, but never the same love twice.” Following suit, since that love cannot be duplicated, each break up was a unique loss. This post is all about the first one. I’ll preface this by saying every story has two sides – this is mine & I won’t alter it.

Lesson "people do not get to invalidate how they made you feel just because they don’t like the perspective; your experience is yours."

So why am I focusing on this particular one? For many reasons – it was my first & it hurt the most. I still feel every part of that heartbreak & reflect about it often; not because I still ache for it, but because it taught me so very much about myself.

It was a textbook fairytale. No, seriously. We could have been characters straight out of a Nicholas Sparks book. We were best friends – the kind that tried dating when they were younger and it didn’t work out but the universe brought them back together anyway. And it was all-consuming. From the time I woke up in the morning until the time I fell asleep, I was either with him or trying to rush the hours to get back to him again. If soulmates did exist, for sure this was it. It didn't take work to be with him. I felt secure & valued & at 20 years old, I had no plans of ever dating again.

My relationship was literally perfect until it wasn’t.

And that’s how it happened – one day it just wasn’t. He didn’t want to talk to me. He didn’t want to answer phone calls or text messages. I can’t remember what I asked him but when he finally texted me back he asked something to the effect of “Are you still happy?” Obviously, my answer was yes. I had experienced nothing but happiness. Well, apparently, he wasn’t anymore & he couldn’t tell me what changed. In short, I woke up and the love of my 20-year old life didn’t love me anymore & he couldn’t tell me why. Even after a tear-filled face to face conversation – and let’s make it clear that it was only tear-filled on my end – the best answer I got was “I need to find myself.” Well, guess what he found?

Another girl about two weeks later.

Enter – the worst summer that I can remember. I cried e v e r y  s i n g l e  d a y that summer.  We’re from a small town & everyone knows everyone and frequents the same spaces. I’d run into mutual friends who’d say that he was actually on the way there so I’d leave ASAP. I worked at a restaurant and served his family (who still loved me) with a smile, even though I’d cry in the bathroom right after. I worked extra hours to not think about it. I went on walks just so that I could cry without my parents hearing me.

But none of those things were the worst of it. What was? The fact that I spent every minute of every hour wondering what the hell was wrong with me. I needed an answer to make sense of it all. My entire self-esteem was on the line – I needed to know what was so bad about me that someone could literally wake up one day & want absolutely nothing to do with me. I criticized my appearance and my personality. I wondered if I wasn’t pretty enough, funny enough, popular enough. I would replay the day before the break up over and over again trying to figure out what had I done so bad to deserve being left high and dry like that.

Reflecting back, I was clearly depressed: barely eating, either sleeping too much or not at all, developing unhealthily coping mechanisms. This went on for months & I was exhausted. More than the lack of sleep/food, I was over asking and searching for answers to questions that he was never going to answer for me. And I know my friends and family were tired of me crying because I was tired of crying to them about it. One day, I went for one of those good ol’ crying walks and told myself that I was done crying over this guy. Was it really the last day? Not at all BUT it was a start.

It took me 6 months to feel better, 1 year to forgive, 2 years to let that fairytale go for good. Now, 4 years later, I can look back on that period with a nostalgia that doesn’t hurt & I can appreciate every single that it taught me.

Here’s why I’m so happy that a man woke up on a Sunday morning & decided not to love me anymore:

I learned that forgiveness wasn’t about anyone else but myself

I didn’t get an apology until 2 years later. It was a beautiful apology & it fits right into the fairytale theme that was our love. The thing is, it was too late. I had forgiven him a year earlier and he didn’t even know it. All of my tears and soul-searching had taught me that I was never going to be able to reach true peace until I had forgiven him – even without an apology. I wrote a letter to him that he never received, but in that letter, I forgave him. Without that letter, I would have never been able to move forward with my growth. I didn’t need the letter be to be delivered because it wasn’t for him – it was for me. I carry that reminder in every friendship and relationship that I form today. Nobody knows what your heart really needs to heal like you do. If you wait for someone else to apologize to you, it will always be too late.

I learned that negative self-talk can be devastating

I wasn’t pretty enough. I wasn’t popular enough. I wasn’t cool enough. I was too pushy. I was too feisty. I needed to be more delicate. I was too thin. Every day I came up with some flaw that had to be responsible for this break-up. I was waiting for him to call & invalidate all of these negative feelings because my self-esteem was below the floor. That was my mistake for not realizing that no one is responsible for making me feel good about myself. If I could talk myself into negativity then I could definitely talk myself out of it. Those days were filled with me looking in a mirror and telling myself to chill the fuck out. I started writing compliments to myself on sticky notes. I stopped giving attention to every guy that gave me a compliment because I didn’t need their validation either. My happiness + my peace was self-influenced.

I learned how to be alone & be okay with it

This guy used to fill every space of time that I had in my day and now I couldn’t talk to him or see him. I picked up extra hours at work to keep busy but at some point, I had to come home and face myself. For 3 months, alone time strictly meant time to cry. What’s weird about that is that I started to look forward to those times. I’d get overwhelmed with emotions and search for spaces of solitude so that I could cry because, at the time, crying is what made me feel better. Crying was self-care. I had secluded myself and didn’t need to check my phone because I knew he wasn’t texting me & the reality of that hurt, too. So, unplugging during free time became self-care. Anytime that I could get away from everyone & process my feelings was yearned for. When the crying stopped, the alone time didn’t. I’d take myself out for lunch or to the public library for hours on end. I’d learned that I looked forward to these dates with myself. I liked my company.

This translated to my love life, as well. In the beginning, I thought that I needed male attention to fill the void of him, but all it did was annoy me. I stayed single for a year after that breakup. If I wanted to go on a date, I would. If I didn’t, I went home happy. I poured my energy into my friendships and we made some of the best memories during that period. The next person I would be with wouldn’t feel needed – they’d feel wanted & for me, that was better.

I learned how to not compromise

Like I said earlier, it took me 2 years to let go of this relationship fully. That’s two years of reflection and self-nurturing that I cherish to this day. I went from telling myself “I’ll change this if he takes me back,” & “I promise I’ll stop doing this thing that I enjoy if it means that he’ll love me again,” to “This is who I am. I’m not giving it up for you.” Now, yes, I know that relationships and friendships are all about give and take. I completely agree that there are instances where you should meet in the middle, but I built myself back up from rock bottom & had to confront each and every flaw along the way & I had to learn how to love them. For a man’s love, I was not going to compromise that type of comfort ever again. There are habits and there is the essence. Habits can be broken but my essence cannot be.

I learned that it is okay to still love someone who hurt you

When I forgave him, I gave myself permission to feel anything that I felt – even if he wasn’t deserving. This is important because I would often call myself “stupid” or “immature” for still loving someone who hurt me so bad. I still love him today. I still care about him & I always will. That does not make me weak – it just validates all of the things that I know about myself. I have a big heart. I love deeply. I forgive. I care. And I’m okay with that.

I learned that I could fall in love again fearlessly

My first love was all-consuming in the most passionate way. I am happy that I was able to experience that type of love in my lifetime. Remember Fitzgerald’s quote: “never the same love twice.” I accepted that I won’t get that type of love again and that is okay; I don’t mourn for it or search for it in someone else. I’ve since found love again & it’s a completely different experience that I’m so grateful for. Being able to open up to someone after that experience was hard – I guarded my new-found self-love heroically – but to know that I can love whole-heartedly again is enlightening, even if it isn’t always easy.

This reflection is so important to me because it was the start of my self-care journey. It was the first time that I went inward and dug myself out. It has influenced me and my relationships and attitudes towards myself and others arguably more than anything else has. There’s no hate here. This post is not about hate or regret. This is about love – mine.