Love is a risk. Loving someone means putting your heart out there in the hopes that they will treat it with the respect it deserves. Even if it’s not a romantic love, loving someone who doesn’t love you the same way hurts. And watching that person spurn your love again and again takes its toll. But how do you stop loving them? How do you stop the flow of hurt when every fiber of your being says they’re worth it? And how do you keep from turning into a heartless monster when their rejection of you becomes too much? I really don’t have the answer, but I’ll give it a try anyways.
I don’t think you can ever stop loving someone. No matter how much they hurt you, no matter how much damage they inflict upon you, I don’t think you can ever truly stop loving someone once you’ve opened your heart to them. They’ve left their mark, however painful it may be, and I think that makes it impossible for us to ever stop loving someone. So what’s the answer then? Don’t love anyone? I don’t think that’s the answer either. We’re human. We were designed to love, and we suffer when we cut ourselves off from love. Even non-romantic love is essential. Especially non-romantic love. Because we can’t guarantee that romantic love is always going to be there, and more often than not, its our friends and family who get us through the end of romantic love. So in my mind, non-romantic love is just as, if not more, essential to our lives than romantic love.
So if you can’t stop loving someone, how do you make the hurt go away? I don’t think it ever really goes away. Even now, even though I’ve long gotten over it and have moved on, sometimes it still hurts to even think about Steven. Even though I am so madly in love with Joe its ridiculous, sometimes I still cry about it. It’s not that I love Steven more. It’s just that he left his mark, and it’s always going to be there. But you want to know what hurts more? Not the betrayal on Steven’s part, but the betrayal of the two people I considered my closest friends, Michelle and Sarah. Even now, over four years later, that still hurts the most. and I’m pretty sure that in 10, 20, 30 years that is still going to be the most painful part for me. Why? Because I was supposed to be able to depend on them. I was supposed to be able to go to them when he broke my heart, but they left an even bigger scar on my heart than he did.
So what are we supposed to do then? The picture I’ve painted so far has been pretty bleak. Its impossible not to love, and the hurt people inflict isn’t ever going to go away, at least not completely. But you DO have a choice in the matter. As many are fond of saying, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. I didn’t react so well. I curled up into an emotional ball and shut out every person I thought ever cared about me because I didn’t want to get hurt again. The pain was unbearable. I cried for hours on end. I stopped returning phone calls of friends and family, and eventually they stopped calling. The people I had to deal with said I was impossible to deal with, that any little thing would set me off. I was in pain, and I was determined to make everyone around me just as miserable.
But then I realized it wasn’t their fault. They weren’t the ones who hurt me. They weren’t the ones who left my heart shattered. If anything, they wanted to help me rebuild my heart, help me heal. And I needed to trust that they were going to help me, not try to hurt me. Because if there is one thing I’ve found, it’s that you have to put your trust in people if your ever going to be a decent human being again. We weren’t meant to live alone, and shutting people out is what makes you a monster. Not letting people in makes you callous, turns you into a bitter shell of what you once were. So here’s what I did to help heal my heart:
1. I forgave Steven, Sarah, and Michelle. While I’ve made the decision that I’m better off without them in my life, I’ve forgiven them for what they did. I can’t honestly say I would have reacted differently, so I can’t blame them for doing what they thought was best for them. It doesn’t mean I have to like or accept what they did, it just means that I’m not going to hold a grudge anymore, because honestly, holding a grudge only hurts me, not them.
2. I let my friends do what they were meant to do. I got out, I did stuff. I went on dates. And I started to put my life back together again. I asked for forgiveness from the people I had shut out, and I didn’t hold a grudge against the ones who didn’t want me back in their lives. How could I expect them to let me back in if I wasn’t willing to do the same if the situation were reversed?
3. I got my priorities in order. While finding that special someone was important, it wasn’t my number one goal. I went back to school, I started working, and I started rebuilding the relationships I had abandoned.
4. I made the choice that while the pain was still there, I could live through it. I could work around it. And I could use that pain to make me stronger. I wouldn’t say I’ve been jaded, but I’m more careful about who I let into my life now. I realize that maybe I was a bit naive, that maybe I trusted people a little too willingly, and that I need to be more careful about the people I surround myself with. And I realized that its okay to tell people no, that I don’t think they’d be a good addition to my life.
5. And finally, I opened myself up to love again. I took baby steps, starting with friends and family. Then I opened myself up to the possibility of romantic love, and to be honest, I’m glad I did. I never would have been able to let Joe in my life if I hadn’t, and he’s made me the happiest person alive. I couldn’t imagine my life without him, and I’m pretty sure he feels the same way.