Danielle Sepulveres
August 07, 2015 8:35 am

I grew up believing that you only fell in love once. Just once and that was it. As I matured, the “one and only” concept waned or rather it evolved into a “I might love quite a few people before I find my forever person” attitude, but the one thing I didn’t really consider was heartbreak. I assumed that if a relationship didn’t work out, I might be sad but the overriding knowledge that I still hadn’t met my forever person would trump that emotion.

Turns out, I was wrong. Relationships like many other life changing experiences consist of trial and error. We won’t automatically know what works for us as soon as we begin dating and we’ll also all grow, mature and evolve between that first date and hundredth one. But if I could go back? Here’s what I wish I could tell myself after my first broken heart.

It’s totally OK to feel absolutely devastated

There were days that I couldn’t get out of bed and I was embarrassed to tell my friends or family. I wanted to show this façade of strength and attitude that I was fine instead of wallowing in misery. There were times wen being out with friends in public places made me feel claustrophobic, uncomfortable in my own skin and on the verge of tears. And then staying home made me feel pathetic and lonely. I was frustrated that I couldn’t just bounce back to feeling like myself, but I refused to accept that it was OK to feel so crushed. But it totally is! When your heart is broken, it needs time to heal and whatever emotions that entails to get there is our personal journey. Unfortunately there are no shortcuts. It’s like an emotional hangover. Time is the only remedy.

You can take all the time you need

My first heartbreak came after dating a guy for close to three years. We talked marriage, how many kids we would have and other serious relationship topics that were new for me. I had spent so much time envisioning my future with him that when it all fell apart, I was floundering and lost and unsure who I was without him as my other half. It took a lot of time before I could talk about him without bursting into tears. Longer before I felt capable of going out with a new person. Even longer before I was willing to call someone my boyfriend. During that time, when I had those recurring bouts of feeling sad, I was afraid to open up to anyone about it, fearing they would say, “you need to be over him already.” There’s no official timeline for when you’re going to completely feel over someone, and we don’t need to put pressure on ourselves to get there. We all move at our own speed.

Don’t ignore gut feelings

When I was younger, it was easy to always declare the other person to be at fault for a break-up. In the case of my first heartbreak even easier because he had been unfaithful. And yet looking back there had been times when his behavior had been questionable enough that I should have been able to see that he was not telling the truth. I let myself be so blinded by love and infatuation that I didn’t want to probe further. I accepted a weak excuse as to why his phone had been off or the bizarre reasons why he could never bring me to his work functions. If I hadn’t been so adamant in embracing the fairytale I would have seen the reality. It’s never easy to admit when you’ve been wrong but I can sheepishly say now that I ignored some gut instincts back then that were trying to warn me that he was not to be trusted. Always trust yourself first and your instincts even though you know it could lead to heartbreak. Accepting responsibility for your choices is important even when it’s difficult.

You don’t need to apologize for needing things in a relationship

My mom always says “when things go wrong, take a minute to figure out how to make them go right.” After this first break-up I felt so burned I forgot how to trust again. I tried to casually date without opening up to anyone and realized that it wasn’t for me. I did like monogamous relationships, I was just afraid to have one again after what had happened. But more cautious now, I chose to look at red flags when they pop up and confront someone when I’m not getting what I feel I need. I have developed the confidence to walk away when something isn’t working for me, instead of pretending that big personality clashes are only tiny bumps on the road to the fairytale bliss. I wish I could have told myself when to walk away in my first relationship.

You ARE going to fall in love again

I not only believed for a long time that I would never love someone again, I didn’t want to because of how terrible it felt when it didn’t work out. How could I possibly (or willingly) surrender my heart again to another person?! Absolutely not! But of course this is not the least bit true. You will, without a doubt, fall in love again when you’re ready. Someone will make you feel a certain way and it will outweigh the risk of opening your heart. And whether your first heartbreak was amicable or not, remember that we’re all falling in love the next time around a little bit wiser than we were before and that is a wonderful thing.

And lastly one of the biggest things I would tell myself? Not to focus so hard on happily-ever-after that I’m completely missing how to be happily-ever-current.

(Image via Shutterstock)

Related:

What I wish I knew when I started using birth control

How to have a breakup conversation that doesn’t totally suck

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