I had my heart broken earlier in the year. It was teenager-y, painful and physically hurt. As per my way of dealing with the situation was to research and read. I knew if I read enough on the subject a way of healing would eventually materialise, and it did.
I heard a psychologist talking recently about relationships. Her research suggested that we need to fall in love and have that dizzying, obsessive, chemical-drenched phase in our lives as payback for the procreation side. It’s a glue that will keep us together. What her evidence also suggested was that we can actually live without that one great romantic relationship in our lives. Pull the plug on it and we won’t survive. What we would soon wither without however, are our friendships. A fact being borne out by the current epidemic of loneliness afflicting the country, and something I see with the people I work with on a day-to-day basis.
While my heart was being ripped to pieces I went through the usual reactions, staring at my phone, willing it to ping up with a message. Replaying his last messages over and over in my mind trying to extrapolate any clues for hope – anything that would give me something to hang on to that we would reconcile. Dark nights of the soul where I very nearly climbed the walls in despair. As I think back to those painful stormy days now and visualise the person I was in love with I realise now what I was suffering from was some sort of addiction. This guy was so not right for me, at all. If we’d stayed together I would definitely not be enjoying the freedom and self discovery that I am now. But when I was in the middle of the storm none of this was clear, I was left clinging to the side of a boat at sea desperately hoping for sight of a safe harbour.
That safe harbour appeared in the form of one blog post. My lightbulb moment. ‘There are many ways in life that you can find love’ it said, ‘not just one’. ‘Actively seek out love from lots of other people in your life’. I got it. Instead of pinning all my hopes for happiness on one person I needed first and foremost to be happy with me and my own company, but then I needed to make and reinforce lots of connections with other people. For someone who was brought up on the ‘one big relationship’ myth, and as a consequence has kept many friends at the periphery of her life this was a big challenge to rise to. It would mean reaching out to people, making myself vulnerable, and simply loving other people and hoping they would love me in return.
And so it was that I went on a friendship odyssey. I reached out to people on the outer radius of my life and asked them in. I went deeper with a couple of people that I’d already considered myself pretty close to, but then went the extra mile, and I tried to find love in everyday encounters with shop assistants and random people on nights out. It worked. Ultimately I just needed to know that I mattered to someone, and that they mattered to me. Whether that was one person or many. My heart breaking apart had made room to let more than one person in and as a result I’ve become a more loving person who is ultimately less dependent on the idea of being in a relationship to be whole.