There are those of us who live life with our hearts wide open, approaching every relationship with a huge capacity for feeling love. Unfortunately, that comes with a large capacity to experience heartache too. If you’ve found yourself on the wrong side of this double-edged sword, don’t lose hope. Here’s how to stay strong and not succumb to the isolation of a broken heart.
If you’ve been hurt before, you know the feeling. You know how it goes—you’re deeply in love with butterflies, giggles, the works. You feel like you’re floating… and then something happens. You find your lover cheating, you start fighting, or some other catastrophe strikes and suddenly you’re alone on your living room floor sobbing and wondering what went wrong. I’ve been there and chances are, you have too.
It can be tempting to close yourself off from love. For a lot of us, the first reaction is to run as far from this whole love thing as possible. Why the hell would you want to go through that kind of heartbreak again? So you close yourself off to the very thought of falling in love. You put up a wall around your heart and vow to never even think about opening up to another person. Flings? Sure. Casual sex? No problem. Sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings? No way.
It seems easier to run away than face pain. The impulse to shut down emotionally is the easy way out. Not that it feels easy, but the alternative seems impossible. You’d rather remain a spinster, doomed to become a crazy cat-lady than ever risk that kind of pain again. What you’re doing, though, is delaying your healing. That doesn’t mean you have to go out and marry the next guy you meet (in fact, definitely don’t do that), but if you plan on being single forever for fear of getting hurt again, you’re only avoiding the pain, not dealing with it.
You’re only guaranteeing loneliness. The paradox with this kind of thinking is that it guarantees you’ll end up with exactly what it is you’re running from. You were hurt once before because the person you loved somehow didn’t return that gift. You’re afraid of rejection, of being left behind, of being alone. At first glance, it might seem like closing yourself off will protect you from those things, but what it’s actually doing is isolating you. You’re creating exactly the kind of loneliness you’re afraid of.
The thought of being truly known can be terrifying. The other side of this is the fear of being known. In relationships, my greatest fear is that I’ll be found to be unlovable, and I know I’m not the only one. Exposing yourself to another human being may be the single scariest and most liberating thing you can do. Because what if he sees me and doesn’t love me? What if I give him all my love and he doesn’t want it? What if this means I’m unlovable? As far as emotional risks go, this one’s a doozy.
Love is always worth the risk. Not because you have the guarantee of being loved in return—there are no guarantees—but because to experience love, even the unrequited variety, is a powerful and beautiful thing. Allowing yourself to care for another human being, when done genuinely, is life-giving. Being brave enough to expose your true self, even if it’s to someone who doesn’t appreciate you, is an act of bravery. Who doesn’t want to be braver and more loving? Love because you are loving, not because you’re guaranteed something in return.
Don’t lose your chance at love because of fear. I’ve met women who lived their entire lives, through marriages, mortgages and having children together, without knowing uninhibited love. They always held back a part of themselves so that no matter what happened, they could walk out of a relationship unscathed. Because of this, they never let go, never allowed themselves to feel fully. Don’t let this be you. Love like it’s going out of fashion and don’t come to the end of your life regretting that you never opened up.
Check your self-love balance. The best way out of this fear is by allowing yourself to feel loved by yourself. No matter what’s happened to you before, you’re a strong, beautiful, amazing woman, totally worthy of love, and totally capable of giving it! So start by giving that love to yourself! Take yourself out on dates, recite affirmations in the mirror, read a good book, take up a hobby, masturbate—whatever makes you feel loved!
Trust is the only way. At the end of it all, the only way forward is to trust. There’s no guarantee that you won’t get hurt again—in fact, in some way you probably will. That’s not the important part. The important part is that you’re open to giving and receiving love and, even if you’re afraid, you’re brave enough to open your heart anyway. It’s always worth it.
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