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From Broken Heart to Open Heart: When Breaking Up Is a Good Thing

Sunny Girl

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change.” ~Dr. Robert Anthony

On March 18th, 2011, I received an email that forever changed my life.

“You got me—I’m seeing someone else.”

That’s the only line I remember. I had noticed that my boyfriend at the time had been acting “strange” and confronted him on it. He fessed up to me in an email while I was at work. There was nothing I could do and nowhere I could go.

I felt that burning sensation on the back of my neck. I wasn’t sure what to do next, so I sat there at my desk in my office in a haze for the rest of the afternoon.

I spent the next few days plugging along, assuming that since I had not shed a single tear, everything was just fine. It wasn’t.

Three days later, I walked into my house after an evening of hanging with friends, and all of sudden it hit me: He was gone. I was alone.

I broke down, sobbing uncontrollably. I saw no hope, just days and days of pain ahead of me. Unfortunately, that would come to be true.

Until that point, I was a “relationship jumper.” I’d move from one relationship to the next with little to no break in between, and had done so for fourteen years and four serious relationships.

Not once during that time had I stopped to think about what I wanted.

My fear of being alone far outweighed any desire to get to know myself, so I continued on from one relationship to the next, wondering with the ending of each one why it had failed.

Of course, I blamed all of them. There couldn’t possibly have been anything wrong with me. I was a good girlfriend—I supported them, was there for them, gave more than they did, kept my mouth shut and tried not to get angry with them, stayed with them even when I knew something didn’t seem right. 

I was accommodating. I didn’t take a job that was far from home to stay close to one of them. I didn’t leave a job I wasn’t happy with to stay close to another. I put myself aside.

In early 2011 it was no different. It was all his fault. He cheated on me. He left me. He did this to me. I was the victim. It ended because of him. Sure, I was thinking about leaving him, but I didn’t. Sure, there were major red flags, but a good partner just ignores them, right?

Then something changed. As I began picking up the pieces over the next few months, I started thinking consciously about why this had happened. I began to wonder if, in fact, I had played a role in this and in the ending of all my previous relationships. I began to take responsibility.

Sometimes, a broken heart isn’t such a bad thing; it can allow more love in than you thought you were capable of.

I made an executive decision to spend some time alone and form a relationship with myself for the first time in my life.

I started doing yoga. I rediscovered my love for writing. I graduated from pastry school. I traveled to Paris. I wrote music. I found a spiritual mentor. (When the student is ready, the master really does appear.)

I was finally becoming the person I was supposed to be. I wasn’t lonely; in fact, I was less lonely then I’d ever been.

I also realized that I was not the victim. All my actions, all my choices, and all their consequences were happening because of me, not just happening to me.

I began to notice that my relationships with others were improving, as well. I was letting people in and allowing them to really know me, something I had struggled with in the past.

I was finally asking for help and leaning on friends and loved ones instead of always trying to do everything myself.

I found that responsibility and forgiveness go hand in hand, and bridged the gap on two strained relationships, both with people I’m extremely close to today. One of them is the mother of two of my nephews, who I now spend more time with than ever before.

My broken heart brought me closer to my family and friends.

It was not an easy journey, by any means, and it is far from over. But two years later I’ve come a long way. I’m awake, aware, and alive. 

Every day is another chance to give love and receive love in return. You really do get what you give.

They say everything happens for a reason, even bad things, and I truly believe that. Out of the ashes of my sadness and fear rose responsibility, forgiveness, and love.

Sometimes we must suffer heartbreak to truly open us up and let out all the greatness we hold within. I’m thankful every day that my heart was broken. I’ll never allow it to close back up again.

Photo by IchSapphire

Avatar of Jeanine Reed

About Jeanine M. Reed

Jeanine is a baker, writer, runner, yoga-rat, and all around great gal. She studied Pastry Arts, and chronicles her confectionery journey in her blog, "Small Indulgences," complete with recipes, stories, ideas, and photos to inspire and delight. She recently converted a portion of the blog into a dessert cookbook.

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  • Lozzy

    Hi Jeanine. This was like reading my own life, I actually stopped for a second and wondered if I had written it in a dream! I am very similar. Have had three long relationships over 12 years, with hardly a break in between. Always acted the ‘good girlfriend’ and wondered why in the hell these relationships never worked. I have just broken up with the latest one, and still feel the victim. I look forward to spending time on myself, for myself and being in love with ME for once, instead of pouring all my love into these relationships. It’s a hard road. Good luck with your future :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/bill.allen.779857 Bill Allen

    Great article! I am definitely learning and growing with this stuff, but man is it excruciating slow and painful sometimes:(

  • http://relationship-consciousness.webs.com/ Claude Lagang

    This is helpful!
    You should love yourself first and the love from other people will just follow. Being vulnerable and true to yourself are required to have the life that you wanted. You have to accept and love the real you.

  • Chimchima

    Oh my God tht was beautiful.. My girlfriend cheated and left me.. My hearts been broken and i still feel sad.. But this story mkes me excited and glad it happened.. I want a relationship with myself too.. “Not just the one night stands ” hahahH srry couldnt resist…. Thank you jeneane reed

  • Julia

    This article really touched me as i have been experiencing something similar. Thank you for sharing!

  • Jeanine

    I’m so glad that others out there can relate! It is definitely a hard road, but learning to love yourself really makes it all worth it in the end. Good luck to you, as well. :)

  • Dave

    I agree – it is a slow and painful process. I’m just coming out of a twenty-year relationship. It’s harrowing, scary and overwhelming. But it’s also a great opportunity to get to know yourself for once. A tall task when you feel nothing but loneliness, but well worth the effort. I think – I’m nowhere near there yet. But I’m trying.

  • http://twitter.com/Grownupkidsonly Joanna Warwick

    Hey Jeanine, Thanks for sharing your personal story. It is hard to look in the mirror and really see the truth about how we behave with other people. Facing such a deep fear of being alone can be scary but it seems you got rewarded with the greatest gift of all a love affair with you… :)

  • lv2terp

    Beautiful!!!! :)

  • MMaltese

    Amen!

  • Stephen

    Excellent overview of this painful experience. A year and a half out I want this more and more…

  • Lia

    well written!
    and definitely will be able to help me go through my situation now.. :)

  • STELLASTARCORE

    ALL I CAN SAY IS THANK YOU
    YOU TOOK THE EXPERIENCE FROM MY HEART AND TURNED THE DARKNESS INTO LIGHT…..MY LIFE IS BLESSED IN SO MANY WAYS AND I AM DISCOVERING SO MUCH ABOUT MYSELF THAT I STORED AWAY FOR SO MANY YEARS…HE LEFT FOR ANOTHER WOMAN AND FOR MONTHS I CRIED AND BLAMED HER FOR DESTROYING MY LIFE…..TODAY I REALIZE SHE SAVBED ME AS WELL…NOT EVERYDAY IS EASY AND SOME DAYS I STILL CRY AND IT STILL HURTS BUT I KNOW THE PAIN ISNT PERMANENT AND ITS MY CHOICE TO HURT AND LET MY THOUGHTS WONDER TO PAINFUL IDEAS.
    I APOLOGIZED TO HIM AND TO HER WITH A LETTER FOR BLAMING THEM AND I HAVE BUILT OTHER RELATIONSHIPS AROUND ME….MOSTLY WITH MY SON AND MY MOTHER ITS BEEN A BEAUTIFUL JOURNEY AND I FULLY BELIEVE ALL THE PAIN WAS A GIFT OF SOME SORT BECAUSE THE WOMAN I AM TODAY STANDS TALL AND PROUD AND KNOWS DARKNESS BUT SEES THE LIGHT….I ALSO REALIZED THAT ALL THAT STUFF I WAS HIDING INSIDE ME WASNT ALL BAD STUFF SOME BEAUTIFUL AND AMAZING THINGS HAVE COME OUT OF THAT BOX AND SETTING IT FREE HAS BEEN SO EMPOWERING……
    SO THANK YOU BECAUSE TODAY I SEE ITS NOT JUST ME THAT IM NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO CHOSE TO SUFFER FROM A BROKEN HEART AND TURN IT INTO SOMETHING AMAZING
    IM NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO WAS FOOLISH ENOUGH TO DENY MYSELF AND LET SOMEONE ELSES OPIONON OF ME DEFINE ME
    SOMEONE IS OTHER THERE WHO WILL LOVE MY QUIRKS AND APPRECIATE THEM INSTEAD OF CONDEMING ME FIR THEM BUT UNTIL THAN I WILL SURROUND MYSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO LOVE THOSE THINGS ABOUT ME…..AND SHOW MY SON TO BE HIMSELF AND BE STRONG NO MATTER WHAT…BECAUSE LIKE CASH SAID THE STARTS DONT SHINE WITHOUT THE DARK AND WHO DOESNT LOVE THE STARTS!!!!!!!!

  • Charity

    This is a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing! I too always questioned why things never seemed to work out for me with love and relationships. I sometimes blamed myself but also put blame on them for leaving or cutting me off, whether it was with friends or men I’ve dated. It wasn’t until I had met someone else and really fell hard for them, only to be told that they don’t feel the same way. We do still remain friends and respect each other very much.That was heartbreaking for me. It was in that moment I realized that I need to focus on myself and who I am. What do I want to do with my life? it then made sense to me that I should focus on creating and getting my life together for once instead if helping others with theirs. For the first time, I feel more open and positive than ever. I smile more, talk to people and connect with those who I previously shut out. He opened a new perspective on life for me, seeing things in a different way. That was one heartbreak that I actually learned from and now, am on the road to improving myself and finding who I am. He came into my life for a good reason. I should be making a life that I would be proud and happy to share, and show who I am. :-)

  • Emily

    Thank you that was well written and timely for me x

  • Marissa Walter

    There are so many broken hearted people out there. I was one of them too 3 years ago and now I write to help others going through the same. Your article is wonderfully uplifting and supportive Jeanine. Good for you on getting your life back and making it better than ever. I truly believe that the end of a relationship is meant to be a gift to give you a better life.

  • Anonymous

    I am happy to see that you managed to turn weakness into strength, what doesnt kill you really makes you stronger. But I dont want to burst your bubble, but there are far worse things that happen, breaking up is just a chore for many people,cheating on regular basis,being alone nothing new. So many people are alone, you should be happy for what you have, cherish it because well…challenges will appear, but dont worry you will only get burden wich you can cope with. Its great to see you defeating obstacles, but be prepared for much worse, these are just warming up rounds.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasonleefreeman Jay Freeman

    You are a very strong person. this is really touching. Being honest with yourself has set you free. im turely happy for you.

  • Belinda

    My marriage has just ended. I made myself too available to someone who didnt appreciate me. Lost precious time that can never be recovered.

  • DifferentButSame

    I’m currently balancing a heavy decision to end a relationship which realy is struggling to get off. They are always busy and live far away. They simetimes get moments to message me and I feel happy, but then quickly realize it’s a long time in between. I feel shame because I used to have a lot of patience, I used to be alot more open and loving when I was younger. But years of so much rejection from others and now I’m finally not rejected, not being told to be someone I’m not. There’s always so much pain in even trying to get a relationship started. I’m the one who causes it I’ve learned. I’m the one who doesn’t love or respect myself enough so I never get to really experience such a taken for granted opportunity. I’m still always having expectations and still visualizing how I’d like things to be a certain way. Practicing buddhism is tough. It’s very confusing. Add to that I’m struggling to accept and live with depression, being a caretaker for elder parents and it’s a plate full. All these articles on tiny buddha open your eyes. This article opened my eyes. I’ll do what needs to be done, and continue to practice.

  • harini

    Thanku so much….

  • ann

    I have also become enlighted after my grief took its course. You have shared my own experience. It’s beautiful to see it’s true for others. Thank you.

  • ritchelleso

    http://www.fatburningman.com
    Thank you for sharing and for being an inspiration. Moving past something, especially a failed relationship can be difficult, a death of sorts but it’s not impossible. There’s no quick or easy way to fix a broken heart and no way to stop your heart from hurting so much. And, to stop loving isn’t an option. Been in a whirl wind marriage and the effect on me was big time! But once you have fully forgiven yourself you’ll embrace hope for the future. It wasn’t an easy process overcoming feelings like pain, rejection, anger, heartache and without these things you won’t be able to move on as the old Sufi quote goes, “this too shall pass”. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, the purpose of life is the journey, not the destination.

  • Candace

    Wow! I felt like I was reading my own story here. Almost 2 years ago, my boyfriend of 3 years cheated on me and left me for a girl he worked with. I was convinced something was up, and kept asking him about it. He always denied it. I finally received the truth in an e-mail titled “this is going to make you mad.” Did it ever! I turned 21 that summer and dealt with it in some really unhealthy ways. But now, finally, I’ve come to a place in my life where I’ve learned to love myself, to let it go, to recognize the role I played in that relationship’s demise. I am, for the first time in my life, grateful and happy to be single. I’ve realized that the relationship with yourself is the most important one you can have, and that I’m beyond settling for someone who isn’t worth my time and energy. This line really spoke to me: “Sometimes we must suffer heartbreak to truly open us up and let out all the greatness we hold within. I’m thankful every day that my heart was broken. I’ll never allow it to close back up again.” Thank you for writing this piece; very powerful!

  • jlt

    Many thanks for a beautiful article. After a ten year stint with one man I seemed to bounce seamlessly into a 24 year relationship with another and by being forever accommodating I never really got to know my own mind. Regular trips to my local Buddhist centre and going on retreats have made the past year fascinating, despite now struggling alone with chronic illness.

  • Karisa

    Just went through a break up that seemed life ending. Yet it renewed my faith in Buddhism and has resulted in a so many positive

    It helps to write everything you feel down and with time it will get better! I started a blog to help me remember my progress. Look at it if you feel like it will help you: practicingmodernbuddhism.blogspot.com

  • tried

    Before breaking up with my bf he made a comment about a relationship being about two happy people and that he wasn’t happy with himself. At that moment I felt I wad happy with myself bit realize now I was in denial. I had conformed my life into pleasing my bf but was losing who I truly was along the way. I spent so much energy on trying to make him happy. After 3 years I began to speak up and requested balance in caring for one another as I began to feel I was taking the burden of not receiving the same care from him. He got upset and it was prob because he was used to me doing most of the work in the relationship. During our relationship he went thru many life changes including separation to divorce, selling his house, adapting to living on his own, seeing his kids three days a week, and all the emotional aspects that go along with it.
    It brought me to the realization that he truly was unhappy. I let go of the thought that the reason was me. So I tried to be supportive and be there foe him after our break up silently to give him space.
    He was all over the spectrum with his emotions with me. They say you hurt those closest to you because you know they will always be there for you. I understand and have been guilty of this but I don’t think its right. This is what ive been dealing with with him. I feel concerned about him but I also am concerned how he treats me with disregard. But now I realize that he did this frequently during our relationship and now that we aren’t “together” I am not as willing to accept and brush the behavior off as easily.
    So I guess I’m trying to say that I was unhappy too. Unhappy with myself for letting the behavior be acceptable. After seeing what negative thoughts can plague a person in life crisis, it really made me step back and have to remind myself its not about me and I’m not to blame anymore for his lackluster sense of empathy. Sometimes people get so engrossed in their problems and stresses that they lose sight of the things that should matter. Things like peace, love, forgiveness, empathy, respect, understanding, and peace for others.
    I have put up with his rollercoaster of emotions since we broke up(and during) and its been hard. But everytime I see him now I do try to remember that I am not the one walking his path. So I try to be empathetic. But when his mind and heart are blocked, its hard too. I trust that this is teaching me to not stop being the loving person I am to all around me. It is also teaching me that I lost a part of who I was during the relationship. I stopped being the care free spirit I once was because I spent too much energy focused on him and neglected myself.
    I am glad to say that I am traveling more like I used to. I spend time with those who are positive forces in my life. Ive taken up new hobbies. And more important, I’m beginning to stand up for myself like I used to before I met my bf. Although he shows zero happiness for all the adventures and new things in my life, I still wish happiness in his.
    He is in a dark place right now with himself. One day I hope he steps into the light. I think I’m on my way….

  • laurie

    I am so grateful for this post and the accompanying comments. After leaving my 10 year marriage, which was devoid of affection and intimacy, I started dating to fill the tremendous void I was yearning. As a result, I dated three men and each experience, while painful made me grow and value myself even more. The most recent break-up is with someone who helped me regain my sense of womanhood; the intimacy we experienced was revelatory. However, in an overwhelming way, other aspects of our connection did not jibe and although I recognized that, I remained w/him because of the physical affection he gave that I had craved for so long. After ending the relationship (I discovered him sexting w/an ex and could not accept that so many of my needs in the partnership remained unmet—his mantra was to accept him unconditionally) I am just starting to heal through meditation, love, forgiveness, patience, and gratefulness. I am sad at times, and often lonely (especially at night), but know I must go through this process of rediscovering myself before I can begin to love again.

  • Lisa

    your so brave–how are you Dave?