by Elliot Lyons
One of the worst things about getting your heart broken doesn’t actually have to do with the other person, but losing the part of yourself you’ve invested in them.
This is who we’re mourning when our partner suddenly walks out the door, as happened to me a few years ago.
Looking back, what shook me to the core was the destruction of the future we had envisioned. So, when she left, she took part of who I would become.
The vulnerability I felt was suffocating because I just couldn’t believe she didn’t think I was worth trying to work it out; I had always thought of myself as at least deserving of effort.
This sudden destruction of my world, though, was a good thing: it forced me to re-focus on what I wanted out of life. I had sacrificed a part of myself to be in that relationship, I learned, I shut off part of who I could have become.
We always sacrifice a bit of ourselves to maintain relationships, but there’s a difference between what version of ourselves is doing the sacrificing. In that relationship, I hadn’t fully begun forming and interrogating what I really wanted out of life—what did I want to be, what type of environment did I want to be in?
Sure, I had goals, but I was in large part still figuring out who I was and how to build my life around that. I had been sacrificing a version of myself that wasn’t really ready to be sacrificed.
The way I figured this out was through going to therapy, listening to friends and family, being with my pain, and searching out these different versions of myself. I asked myself what I wanted out of life, which was exciting because it implied there just might have been another version of me out there that would been even better than what I had envisioned.
Hence, what I was really missing was this best version of myself, not necessarily her. I thought she would help me get there, but this was complicated by the fact that I didn’t know who I wanted to be. She couldn't fully answer this for herself, either, which didn’t mean our relationship was doomed to fail, but we would’ve had to recognize that we didn’t know that we didn’t know, and commit to figuring it out together.
That relationship required different versions of ourselves, versions that weren’t realized enough to bear the weight.
For more on heartbreak, check out our "Why be heartbroken?" video.