There are many ways of breaking a heart. Stories were full of hearts broken by love, but what really broke a heart was taking away its dream – whatever that dream might be.
Pearl S. Buck
If you’ve ever invested your heart in a relationship that crashed and burned, you know how devastating a break-up can feel. It’s like someone took a wrecking ball and smashed your life. The difference is that when a wrecking ball hits, the devastation is over in a few quick swings. The debris left behind is nothing but meaningless trash.
With a break-up, the blows keep coming. Your social life takes a hit as friends you had as a couple often can’t deal with maintaining a relationship with both of you. Odds are that at least some of them will choose your ex and others will simply delete both of you from their social circle. Social events that you used to attend as a couple often feel odd or off limits. Even if you parted on decent terms, it can be incredibly awkward to run into your ex when you’re out and about in the first weeks or months after the break-up.
The time you used to fill with or thinking about your sweetheart throbs like a toothache, reminding you of the hole the breakup left in your life. Simple things like shopping for groceries, listening to the radio, and watching movies trigger memories that remind you of what you lost for weeks, months or even years to come.
If the two of you lived together, the wreckage goes even deeper. You have to sort through everything into yours and theirs. You have to sort through and divvy up houses, cars, appliances, furniture, CD’s DVD’s, pictures, and even clothes and jewelry. This process can get ugly. A friend of mine who is an attorney told me someone who took a chain saw and cut the hot tub in half so that their ex couldn’t use it. Pets and children are even more difficult to divvy up.
All of this hurts, but the pain that cuts you to the core of your being isn’t about your ex or any of the subsidiary losses at all. Let’s face it. By the time you and your sweetheart broke up, things weren’t all that great. Those friends who dumped you weren’t really your friends. And stuff is just stuff. The thing that cuts you to the core, the thing that breaks your heart is the loss of your dreams. Even if you never admitted to yourself, you imagined some version of happily ever after. You created a wonderful story about what the relationship could have been and who you could have been in that relationship. You probably even imagined that “if only _____, then everything in my life would be ok.” The reality of the break-up completely shatters those dreams.
The problem isn’t that we dream. Dreams transport us to what is possible. The problem is that when we hold dreams too tightly, they imprison us. Dreams are fluid, even after they’ve been shattered, perhaps especially after they’ve been shattered. So when you’re ready to break out of the prison you’ve made for yourself, take out those old dreams and rewrite them. Just remember that they are guidepost to what is possible, not a window into what has to be.