What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?

16, 25, even 30 years old–The specific ages prove irrelevant, but I can play the scene over and over again:  Crying in my mother’s comforting arms over another failed relationship or unrequited love.  At 30 and still single, you finally realize that the unrequited crush you had at 16 pales in comparison to the months or even years spent nurturing a relationship only to have it fall apart in a matter of days–sometimes hours.

Before I met my husband, I hated Valentine’s Day.  I had never been in a relationship on Valentine’s Day, and the one year I actually came close to having a decent Valentine’s celebration, the man I was dating invited me over to his house for dinner, gave me a plant (read, “Not a dozen roses”) in a cute little ceramic Valentine’s themed planter, and then ended the evening by ending our relationship.  I don’t remember what I ate that night, but I’m pretty sure he served me a well-done broken heart.

The next day, I promptly ran to the comfort of my mother’s arms, and after having collected myself and now being just plain mad, I demanded of her answers to the same questions I had been asking for the last 15-some-odd years: When is it going to be MY turn and how will I ever know when the right one comes along?  And she gave me the same answers she’d been giving me for the last 15-some-odd years:  I don’t know, and you will just know; he will be different from all these others.  And so I sat and cried in the comfort of her arms–again.

Needless to say, as I gingerly approached the dating scene in my early 30s, I was tired:  tired of having everyone ask me when I was going to get married; tired of being set-up by my friends and co-workers; and, tired of singles groups that were less social groups and more “catch-a-mate” groups.  I had refused to date anyone I worked with for fear of ruining a great working relationship and a great job.  So, I simply gave up.  I threw myself into my teaching career, and declared that I didn’t need a man in my life.  I was through with having my heart broken time and again.  I would rather be happy by myself than miserable with someone else.  I was single, and I was happy.  Quite happy.

And then it happened.

We met on the e-harmony website.  Because no matter how much I said I was through with dating, I really wasn’t.  And so on a dare from another single friend, I jumped nervously into the then relatively new world of on-line matchmaking.  Within the first few weeks of joining, I was matched with the man who would eventually become my husband.  For several weeks, we jumped through all of the website’s various “communication” hoops before we began talking on the phone.  Then several more weeks passed, and we met for dinner–a dinner that would last so long the wait staff had to politely ask us to leave because the restaurant was closing.  It was already an hour past their closing time.  I never dated anyone else after that dinner, nor did he.

On February 12, 2005, at the end of a quiet and romantic dinner, the man I was dating–the man with whom I had spent the better part of a year building an absolutely amazing relationship, the man with whom I had finally been able to mend my broken heart, the man who I loved, loved deeply, and who returned that love to me–got down on bended knee, presented me with a beautiful diamond engagement ring nestled among a plate of giant chocolate covered strawberries cut to resemble a dozen roses, and asked me to marry him.

I’m not sure what I had to eat that night, but I did say yes!  Then, I’m pretty sure I called my mother…and cried.  I cried because she was right, as mothers often are.  He was different from the others, but I had to have the experiences with the others in my life to know he was the one for me.  I had to have those unrequited crushes, failed relationships, and even my broken heart handed to me on a platter, so that I would know what true love felt like, and appreciate it, when it finally did come my way.

So, if on this Valentine’s Day you find yourself picking up the pieces of a broken heart, and you dread the love struck celebrations that seem to be all around you, grab a glass of wine and a box of chocolates, and allow yourself a good cry, because often it is through the tears and broken hearts that we discover our one true love.  I know I did.