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I have never really understood the human heart; it is selfish and it is kind. It can be broken… yet it still works.
But the thing that puzzles me most, is that our heart’s the only organ in our body that is willing to bear so much pain…so graciously. I mean, that’s probably one of the reasons why we do stupid stuff in life, even though our brain tells us “NO”. Right?
Well, when I was 13, I saw a different side of love…
My neighbour, who was the same age as me, had been dating her American-Korean boyfriend for about two years. It was a relationship her parents disapproved of, for mainly three reasons:
- He didn’t have a stable home and was a high school drop-out
- He was 3 years older than my neighbour
- He was hooked onto cigarettes
And to be quite frank, I didn’t know what she saw in him either. I couldn’t understand why after so many months of incessant arguments, she still chose to stay in the relationship. Whenever he was in trouble, she was there. Whenever he was drunk and cursing at her, she was still there.
I mean, yes, her boyfriend was aesthetically pleasing to look at. He was tall, with a strong, olive complexion from being out in the sun all the time. But that was pretty much it. Plus, whenever he hung out with my neighbour and I, he only ever did 2 things: drink and smoke.
So as her neighbour and her best friend, why didn’t I have more sense to talk her out of the relationship?
I don’t have a good excuse for that. But I was too young, and too ignorant to know what was best for us. Plus, she told me that she loved him. I thought she was crazy, but who was I to tear them apart?
And for the next 16 months, she continued her relationship with him. Until one day, he got too drunk to know what he was doing, and he attempted to rape her. I was in her brother’s room when I heard a loud scream. And as she ran out of the door crying, he ran after her, and into the kitchen to grab a knife.
I have a lot to be thankful for, up till today. Because I know that he could have very well hurt me. But as luck would have it, the family living opposite her apartment heard the commotion and came to help. And at the end of the day, I came out of the whole situation unharmed.
I was lucky. My friend wasn’t.
She spent the next two years in and out of therapy and support group. And even though it has been nearly seven years since the incident, she still struggles with the trauma that he left on her as a tween.
But she wasn’t the only one who took something away from this. Because I too, had my fair share of learning. And my first lesson was on heartbreak.
This is the most rudimentary form of pain. And by that, I don’t mean to say it is an easy fix. Instead, it is rudimentary because it is the most basic and raw concept of pain we will encounter in our life. It is rudimentary because a heartbreak has only one rule:
Love shall not be reciprocated
And we learn this from a young age regardless of the circumstance we go through: a loss of a loved one, a high school break up, a loss of a pet etc. In fact, a heartbreak doesn’t have to be a physical loss at all, but a sense of loss.
So if you were to ask me “what is a heartbreak?”
I wouldn’t know how to respond. That is because every one has their own unique definition based on what they have been through, and how they dealt with it.
As with love, [a heartbreak] neither has a corrective definition nor specific amplitude implied by the physical word itself […] There’s a never-ending limit to the definition of love [or heartbreak], because there are so many things we love and in so many different ways. And we don’t always get them.
– Ashley Cox, The Science Behind Heartbreak
But what I do know is that heartbreaks are inevitable. That’s because we are always going to find something or someone whom we enjoy investing time, energy and effort into. And when we are able to make them happy, there is a sense of satisfaction and pleasure from our accomplishment.
Maybe we don’t realize it, but we derive more joy from giving than receiving. It makes sense, doesn’t it? When you love someone, you are prepared to do anything for them; this is the investment that you make.
And in a perfect world, this cycle should continue. But we live in reality where things don’t always go our way.
When you end up losing the person or thing you love, you also lose the sense of purpose acquired in your relationship. Suddenly, you are no longer able to fulfil the little things that use to make them smile. And this is the sense of loss that breaks your heart.
But the real question is…why do we let someone we love, hurt us so much?
Heart ache is more than just a throbbing pain in your chest. It is more than a just a sense of loss or emotional defeat. It hurts longer and it hurts harder than a kick on your shin, or a scrape on your knee. For many of us, our worst losses become a heart ache that never really dies.
Because in most cases, we are forced out of situations that we don’t want to get out of…even if the situation no longer does us any good. But that’s the whole problem. We’d rather live with whatever’s hurting us, than to let go of something we aren’t prepared to lose. When you invest so much of yourself in something or someone you love, you are afraid that you’ll lose part of yourself when it gets taken away…
…and that’s when you start to realize the meaning of ‘codependency‘; you care far too much for another person despite their dysfunctional behaviour. You’ve always put them first, even if it’s at your own expense. And sometimes, they even take a little advantage of it, knowing that you’ll constantly feel unworthy and undeserving of a better relationship. So, as time passes, you get so used to this feeling or ‘unworthiness’ that you begin to willingly give yourself away instead of asserting your self-worth.
We let someone we love hurt us because it is our choice.
For the longest period of time, I never understood what my friend saw in that guy. I didn’t know why she put up with him despite his drinking habits and lying nature. But now I know.
It was more than just a fleeting moment of feeling smitten or infatuated. Instead, whatever she invested into make him ‘better’, became a piece of beautiful artwork she thought she was creating. The only problem was: he never acknowledged the artist.
“I love him, but he doesn’t love me,” she said. “And it will always be like this. He is never going to be mine, and I’ve known that right from the beginning. But I still choose to stay. And by me making this decision, I had it all written out long ago: this is how he’s going to break my heart. And it’s okay because I will let him.”