How a Heart Gets Broken

I’ve never experienced romantic-love heartbreak. I’m not sure I’ve experienced romantic love. All those movies and TV shows and pop songs are alien to me; flirting and dating and falling in love were never part of my personal narrative. I married the first person I had any sort of “romantic” relationship with, because I was terrified of being alone.

I don’t recommend this tactic, by the way.


I don’t identify with stories of attraction, romance, love, and loss. I understand them intellectually, but those stories don’t align with my life experiences.

It was with much resistance that I acknowledged recently that, despite this, I’ve experienced heartbreak dozens of times. Brené Brown describes it as the thing that’s bigger than disappointment. Disappointment dialed up to 11: that’s heartbreak. And I’ve felt that so deeply, so often. 

Heartbreak is about expectations. If I do X, things will go Y. It’s about “getting your heart set on something.”

I hadn’t thought about that expression until just now: “Getting your heart set on something.” I picture reaching inside my chest, scooping out that hopeful red organ, and placing it gently on a narrow, antique table in the hallway of some beautiful, magical dream. But if you set your heart on something unstable—something old or poorly-constructed—that thing could collapse at any moment.

And if it does, of course the heart will break.

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