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  • Writer's pictureNava Narayani

How To Risk Love Again After Being Hurt

Whether it's your first break up or the 15th, the heart might feel too weathered to try again. Perhaps jadeness has crept into your defenses and the innocent joy and hopefulness you had before about falling in love has been whisked away on the winds of life experiences. When you see people in love you notice your heart falls heavy in your chest, or your chest cavity feels vacant, like a breeze through an alleyway. Someone expresses interest in you and they're met with a thick black wall and hollow eyes. Or maybe you've banished love to the high seas- who needs it anyways? A client once replied to my question "How's your heart?" with that their heart had put up a sign "gone away" and left.

The challenge with love is that it is deeply needed and intensely painful to lose. You have to risk vulnerability to have your heart met and truly cared for. But, if it goes wrong, it hits where it hurts most. Everyone finds their own tactics for working with this conundrum.

During my first break up, I wrote a short story to express the experience. It was about two souls that fell in love. One soul reaches into its chest and pulls out something delicately wrapped in leaves. They unfold it in front of the other soul and reveal a raw, beating heart and a crooked dagger. The soul hands both to the other, for they cannot be separated. When you give someone your heart, you also give them the dagger. So be wise about who you choose.

And even if it does work out and they never stab you, loving someone deeply also signs you up for the profound grief that comes with losing your love eventually one way or another.

So how do we risk loving again?? What are your strategies that come to mind? Here are some that come to mine:

  1. Fuck it. Don't do it. Find fulfillment in other ways. Passions, art, ambitions, community, friends, family, animals, etc. You don't need all that drama. Create your sanctuary and relish it.

  2. Become a spiritual devotee and give your heart to something greater than you.

  3. Strengthen your connection and reliability to yourself. No matter what happens, you are always there for you, the only constant in your life. So make yourself someone you can depend on and enjoy. This will make you capable to risk love, because if it doesn't work again, you have you (and your support network!) to fall back on.

  4. Love those that you can and strengthen your support network. Whether it's family members, friends, colleagues, or whoever, give what you can to love 'em. Mend and fortify your social safety net. Take breaks from your self-absorption, be generous, think of others and be there for them.

  5. Study and learn about relationship theory. Being in relationship is a skill to be learned, and you can do it. Individual or group therapy are a great avenues to building your skill. Books and podcasts are another.

  6. Give yourself time and grace. No need to rush your healing. Balm your heart with the non-human things you can rely on. For me, it's nature. When I was single, I gave my heart to the mountains and became lovers with the moon. Nature can be a great way to practice loving in a safe way. A friend of mine was working with their anxious attachment style and practiced loving the clouds- because even when they can't see the clouds, they know they'll come back.

  7. Reflect on the past to the extent that it's helpful to integrate lessons. Then look forwards with faith and optimism. Be with your present experiences and cultivate the endurance and patience to get to where you're wanting to be. My mantra for long-term goals is, "it's not if, it's how and when."

  8. Clear out the gunk in your heart. Discern what are your triggers, what are coping behaviors that aren't needed anymore, and how to calm yourself when activated. Engage with what really nourishes and uplifts you. Learn how to hear your intuition. Remind yourself that love is a good thing. What hurts are people's confusions and distortions about love.

  9. Take your time falling in love. Some people can run at new loves with open arms. Some people need to titrate. What I mean by this is that you lean in to where's comfy or a little past, and lean a little back out to reflect and check the scene. As physical/emotional/spiritual safety is established and tested, do it again risking a little more each time.

Some final thoughts: The first Buddhist teachings I was exposed to was Pema Chodron's book, "The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times," and she caught me at a pivotal moment. The message I took away from this book was that it takes bravery to be sensitive and open-hearted to life. Pema said something along the lines of, When heartbreak happens you have two choices: you can turn away from heartbreak and let it harden your heart. Or you can turn towards the heartbreak and let it soften you to life.

You got this!

If you want professional support on your journey to love, check out my services or reach out to me here!

Photo from Unsplash, taken by Kelly Sikkema

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