The Gift of Heartbreak

Jef DeWitt Jef DeWitt Follow Jan 05, 2022 · 3 mins read
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Researcher and author Brené Brown (n.d.) contends, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all men, women, and children. We are wired to love, to be loved, and to belong.”

The older I get, the more important relationships are to me: platonic, romantic, professional. In the end, the connections we make are the most valuable, meaningful actions we endeavor in.

When a relationship ends, it can be hard to approach the situation constructively. But recognizing your own contributions is the key to growth.

How It Began

By the Spring of 2021, I had been in love for over two years. It was my first sober, long-term relationship. I thought she was the one.

That relationship seemed like the culmination of ten years of work toward life’s To-Do list: Get sober. Get an education. Get the career, the house, the girl. On paper, it looked great.

But It didn’t feel sustainable. I began to wonder if I had missed the point. I was in love but exhausted to my core.

What I Knew About Love

My background in love was that you had to earn it. It wasn’t something offered for free. So I tried being the perfect partner.

I obsessed over building a lasting, healthy, lifelong connection. As it began to flounder, I doubled down on my effort. I worked on myself even harder in therapy. I read relationship books. I shared articles that promised help for us.

I discovered that past relationships informed our conduct toward one another. Deeper emotional needs tried to get met in unhealthy and unsuccessful surface behaviors. Throw in the run-chase dynamic of avoidant-anxious attachment styles, and the heartache ingredients were all there.

When The Dust Settled

After it ended, I entered the deepest reflective period of my life.

Sober, I grieved more consciously. The more research I did on what went wrong, the more time spent in reflection, the more I saw the over-effort on my part. And this pointed to an undeniable fact: I had abandoned myself.

Learning Acceptance Through Heartache

There is no pain quite like heartache. You can’t reason with it. Analyzing it and applying logic won’t solve it. Even understanding why a relationship ended and believing the reasons were valid won’t help. You can’t process emotional hurt away.

I approached heartbreak like getting sober. I leaned into the strategies that saved my life. But while love and addiction share some qualities, they are not the same.

There’s no timeline for grief. Missing someone and simultaneously not wanting to be in a relationship with them is both healthy and normal. Accepting all that comes with heartbreak means allowing the sadness and unwelcome thoughts to simply exist. You don’t have to believe or assign value to them, they can just be.

The Takeaway

Relationships are profound contributors to, and barometers of, our mental health. When unhealthy or unworkable, they can test us in ways few other challenges can.

I had gone through breakups before. But being sober meant this one hit differently. A broken heart taught me lessons in impactful ways. The truth is, it transformed me.

I’m grateful for heartbreak teaching me the power of acceptance. There is some solace in that.

But don’t underestimate the toll a breakup can have on your mental well-being. We don’t have to struggle on our own. If you or someone you know can use more information finding a therapist, reach out to the folks running Psychology Today here.


Brene Brown Quotes. (n.d.).

Jef DeWitt
Written by Jef DeWitt