In 1971, Al Green asked the immortal question (originally written by the Bee Gees), “How can you mend a broken heart?”
This is a question that has been asked for millennia, and will continue to be asked for future generations, until the earth is wiped out by a meteor, zombie apocalypse, or climate change.
Love, an emotion that afflicts most normal people, can either be the best experience of one’s life or it can be the worst experience of one’s life. What it is about this emotion that has the power to cause otherwise rational people to behave completely irrationally? As someone who has experienced numerous heart breaks, I’ve done my homework. The science behind love and it’s ability to cause infinite joy or pain is interesting.
First, let’s look at falling in love:
I was shocked when I first learned that the brain reacts the same way to both love and cocaine. However, the more I thought about it, the more sense it makes. Love is addicting. It makes you feel good. It makes the future look brighter and your troubles seem less intense. I have never done cocaine, or any other illegal drug, so to sum up what cocaine does, there is only one person to turn to:
If love is the most wonderful thing in the world, what happens when we lose it?
Essentially, we are hardwired to seek love and not be socially alone. Instinct leads us to bond with others to increase our chances of survival and reproduction. And it is this exact social network (in real life, not on the interwebs) that is designed to support us through loss. As we withdraw from love, we feel the pain just as if we were withdrawing from drugs. It is hard and painful and we reach out to others to alleviate the loss. (I also reach out to alcohol.)
Too bad these videos were not available for the dearly departed Mr. Green.
When we lose love, our brains go haywire. Heartbreak causes the most rational of people to do really stupid things. Case in point: me.
I spent my 20s chasing after emotionally unavailable men. I would get a taste of that first high of “love” and let it completely cloud my judgement. I can rattle off the names of the complete asshats I’ve wasted time on, but I’ll spare them the internet fame. Instead, I will just look at my actions. I would constantly make myself available. I was always there to help them when they needed anything. This included helping one boyfriend move into a new place. At 12:00 am. In the rain. We finished at 2:00, then went and had breakfast at the 24 Hour Hotcake House on Powell. I went home afterwards, and the next day I was back at his new place helping him clean and put things away.
I’ve cooked meals for men when they are sick, and even when they aren’t. I have helped clean numerous dirty boy apartments, helped them pick out clothes, covered shifts at work, drove them around when they are drunk, and numerous other things that may seem like perfectly normal thing to do in a relationship. The only problem was, I wasn’t getting anything in return. When I was sick, I did my own cooking. When I was drunk, I did my own driving. (YES, I know how bad that is, and I haven’t driven drunk since 2006. Except for that one time in July after a first date when I had way too much to drink because I was so nervous. Ugh. Such a fucking idiot.)
The point is, I sacrified and sacrificed, and kept going back for more, because the love drug was infecting every ounce of my being and I couldn’t see what I was doing to myself. Eventually, I wizened up, but not before I became afraid of love. I went from giving it out to every boyfriend I had, to not wanting to give it out at all. I spent a couple of years closed off from real love.
And then I met Rolando.
At the start of 2013, I had finally snagged my Tall, Dark, and Handsome. Rolando was smooth and charming, an impeccable dresser (his clothes looked like they were made for his body, and oh, the body he had…) One look into his liquid chocolate eyes and I thought I had scored the biggest jackpot in Portland. He had an MBA, a rags to riches success story, and he worked to fight social injustice in the community. It was like an immediate Lady Boner. I couldn’t believe he was interested in me at all. In an instant, all of my defenses dropped and I dove head first into the deep end.
The night we were out to dinner and he placed his hand on mine, looked at me with such force and intensity, and said, “I love you” was like a dream. The world stopped for a few minutes and I caught my breath, unable to concentrate on anything him. The surrounding room was blurry and I wanted to capture that moment in my mind for all time.
Immediately we were introducing each other to friends and family. We were making plans. We talked about our future. My parents loved him, and my friends thought I snagged the perfect catch. We looked at our finances to see what we needed to do to start a life together. He came down to the Burg every 2-3 weekends, and I was up in Portland constantly. Texts all day, talking on the phone for hours, we really couldn’t get enough of each other. It was magic.
The problem was, I wasn’t looking at him hard enough. I saw the red flags, but the love drug was so powerful, and his supposed affection for me was so intense, that I told the red flags to bugger off, and I disappeared into a fantasy world.
Five months later, just as quick as we came together, we fell apart. I figured it was just our first rough patch, and everything would be okay. We were at a fancy charity event, drinking and dancing and laughing, like we owned the world. “Someday we’ll be here as high rollers,” he told me, as he twirled me on the dance floor. He in his suit and tie, me in my dress and heels.
The next day, he was staring into my eyes telling me that it was over. His reasons were as follows:
- I’m too old
- I am potentially unfertile (Ha)
- I am an atheist
- I don’t make enough money
- I’m an introvert who doesn’t want to go full force 12 hours a day, every day
- blah blah blah
Mind you, these are all things were perfectly fine with until he broke up with me. I was in denial at first. I thought when I got back to Portland we would get back together. Four weeks later, when I saw his Facebook picture with him and his new girlfriend, I knew the truth. Our entire relationship was smoke and mirrors, nothing but a big ruse. I had been conned, and then dumped for another woman. A chubby, snaggle-toothed, big nosed broad I had never seen or heard of before. I wonder if he had just met her or if he knew her while we were dating. Did she know him and make herself available? Did she know the promises he was making me right before he hooked up with her? I was asking a million questions.
Once I calmed down, I knew I had two choices at this point:
- Become a bitter shrew cat lady who wears lots of purple, stops shaving her legs, and yells at the pigeons in the park, or
- Move the fuck on.
I chose the latter.
I should have given it more time before I jumped back into the dating world, but I was so afraid of becoming bitter and angry at love. I didn’t want to let life’s possibilities pass me by. I made an OkCupid account, and started chatting up a variety of men. I wanted to keep my options open. My plan was to date around and take my time. I was gearing up to move back to Portland from Roseburg, and I felt like things were finally coming together for me. I snagged a prime position that would leave me poor for one more year, but would open so many doors to me. My term of service in the Burg had been rough, but was coming to a very successful end. I came home for one last trip to use up all of my extra hours, and planned about five or six dates for that week home.
All was going according to plan, until I went out with someone I will just call T. The second he walked into that bar, I knew it was all over. He was the first date I went out on that week, and I only managed to see two other men while I was up there because all of my thoughts were on him. We spent four evenings together before I headed back to the Burg. I was on Cloud 9. (Our first date was the aforementioned drunk drive home. I should have known it was trouble then.)
Things progressed between T and I, but not in the smooth way that new relationships should. We played a cat and mouse game for a few weeks, but right before I moved home we seemed to have made a decision that we would be together. I was nervous, but proud of myself because I took a chance after such heartbreak and I felt like it was paying off. That is, until we hit an impasse at the end of August. To make a long story short, he pushed me away when some things in his life got hard. It was rough, and I felt my heart was broken all over again. But somehow we managed to make it through a rough patch so early, and things started moving forward again. This time, better and stronger.
Why did I stick around and not run away? There was something about T that had me hooked. Maybe it’s just the way his eyes light up when he smiles. Or maybe it’s the way he would look at me like I was the only woman in the world, as if he had found a rare book hidden in a bookstore that he knew he had to have. He once told me my eyes made diamonds look like loose change. So cheesy, and I immediately Googled that line when I had the chance because it was too good to be true. Turns out he stole it from a song. Such a little lothario, but I ate it up anyway.
Truth is, there were some yellow flags popping up, but when I looked at who he was as a person, I knew there was so much more than just his filthy sailor mouth and our shared love of afternoon cocktails. He was smart. He challenged me to think outside my preconceived notions. He made me laugh. He wanted a family. He was kind and generous. He was involved in the community, not for money, but because working with kids was important to him. His heart was always in the right place, even if his mouth wasn’t (figuratively speaking). With T, I felt like I had hit a different kind of jackpot. I could be myself around him. We had amazing conversations. It felt real and honest. There was no pretense like there was with Rolando. This was so much more than just a well fitted suit and smooth dance moves. This was real, he was real, and I saw so much potential.
We also had our differences. Sometimes I would look at him like he was a small town boy in an urban dweller’s body and wonder how such a crazy mix was possible. He was messy. He was on his phone way too much. He watched more football than I thought was humanely possible. He peed with the door open. (Let’s not get into the story of when he peed outside in the OMSI parking lot.) He would be charming one minute, and then spit on the sidewalk the next.
He frustrated the absolute hell out of me at times, but fuck if I didn’t start falling him love with him anyway.
As for the L-word, it was sometime in October when he first said “I love you.” I was shocked, and I responded completely differently than I had in the past. I knew my heart was under lock and key. I had no intentions of opening up on a deeper level yet. I didn’t say it back for a few weeks. During that time, I really started looking at him and how I felt, and knew I needed to make the conscious decision to love again. I had to force my walls down and move on past the hurt I experienced earlier in the year and make an honest effort.
And then I got pregnant. And things got really hard. And then I miscarried. And then he wanted to be alone. And then we broke up.
We talked about going on a date, but last night I officially let him go. I knew that a date wouldn’t solve our problems. It was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in a long time. It was devastating when I miscarried the baby, but this was harder because I had to make the choice to walk away. With the baby, my body decided for me that there was something wrong with the pregnancy, and from a biological standpoint, I understand that this was nature taking its course.
But this, this was a choice I had to make and then follow through on. In the past I would have stuck around, tried to help him, kept asking if he needed me, etc. But now I’m old and wise and tired. I hurt in every way possible. I want to grab him by the shoulders and shake this dumb shit out of him and tell him “DONT YOU SEE WHAT YOU ARE DOING? ”
Instead I just gave him a goodbye letter, we hugged and kissed, and I drove away wishing I had said: I may have given up on “us” but I will never stop believing in you.
So I left. Well, except for the part where two hours later, after an attempted retail therapy episode, I drove back to his house and parked across the intersection and sat there like a stalker wondering if I should walk up to his door or text him or call or throw a pebble at his window or honk the horn to get his attention or pull a Lloyd Dobler or perhaps just drive to the park and fulfill my destiny of yelling at pigeons or better yet drive into the Willamette river because Jesus Christ, this is a low point in my life what the fuck am I doing I AM OFFICIALLY A CREEPER.
If you want a visual of this moment felt like, click here and watch the first minute :
After about twenty minutes I texted my friend to meet me for a drink ASAP, just as I should, according to the science of heartbreak. Over Pendleton on the rocks and the biggest cheese plate in Portland, I drank whiskey and shoved cheese into my mouth and told him what transpired that evening, and how I felt like a fool, and that I think I’m losing my marbles. He told me I’m not a fool, I’m just human, and that my marbles are still in tact.
I think he was just being kind, but that’s what friends are for.
So as I sit here withdrawing from love, shoving the leftovers of my cheese plate into my mouth like a kid with contraband at fat camp, listening to sad songs (I hate you, Great Big World and your “Say Something” song. Did you write this just for me? Then fuck you. Oh wait, it’s time to hit “repeat.”) I am trying my best to work out my issues through words, as I so often do.
In writing this blog, I have just had an epiphany, which is what I will end this sad story with:
Despite knowing I had to walk away, I was hoping that T would pull some kind of grand gesture. When we made plans to meet last night, he said he had errands to run first. The hopeless romantic in me thought maybe he was putting something together. Maybe I would get there to a big bouquet of flowers, and a genuine “I’m sorry, I want to do whatever I can to work this out with you.” Maybe there would be a big speech, and he would say, “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start right now.”
There were no flowers. There was an “I’m sorry” but nothing more. Except for this: He said something as he stood next to my car, something like “I wish I could do something grand, but I don’t really want to do that. I don’t know what to do.”
A bouquet of flowers would have been amazing, but that’s not what a real grand gesture should be. In the movies, it’s always this declaration of love, but what it should be is a declaration of “this is what happened, and this is how I am going to fix it.” And it’s something that you have to want to do. You have to want that person in your life, and if you don’t, well, then it’s time to walk away.
This is the lesson that I am taking away from this relationship. Well, that and don’t get accidentally knocked up if he hasn’t put a ring on it. Also, don’t believe men when they say “I love you.” Oh, and don’t drive back to your ex’s house like a lovesick fool and stalk him for 20 minutes.
Yeah, I think that’s about for now.
Until next time ~ B