The Beauty & the Tragedy of Giving One’s Heart to One Person.

Via Cristin Whiting
on Mar 6, 2013
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break open your heart

Three Lessons on Loving With an Open Heart.

I was talking to a friend recently. He has been with his girlfriend for several years and they are very much in love. She wants to get married and start a family. He would love to be married to her too….but only for about five years.

You see, as much as he loves his girlfriend, it is hard for him to imagine her being the last woman to whom he ever makes love. And he is not alone in that…

Men aren’t the only ones who stumble on this quandary. A female friend of mine, who has been married for about 10 years, shared a similar sentiment. She loves her husband very much. They have built a wonderful life together that includes children and relationships with friends and family. Yet, she struggles with the idea of never making love to another man. She struggles with the sameness of their sexual union.

This longing for fresh experiences led her to become involved in a month’s long flirtation with a man, a flirtation that would have developed into a physical relationship had her husband not caught wind of it and stopped it in its tracks.

The risk of losing his wife and the thrill of seeing her husband chase off her would-be-lover created a tension, attraction and passion between them that had been missing for years. They pursued couple’s therapy together and developed new love, intimacy, honesty and trust unlike they ever had.

All of that however, did not dissolve my friend’s yen for sexual novelty—only now she is no longer willing to break her marital agreement with her husband to get it, and she accepts that her husband is not willing to open their relationship to allow for her longings. The potential loss of her love and life with her husband now outweighs the still real pain of unquenched desire.

This brings me back to my reluctant-to-betroth male friend, when I asked him what he would be missing if he didn’t marry his girlfriend, his answer was simple.

“Intimacy” he said.

He would miss the intimacy of knowing and loving the same person deeply. He would miss the intimacy of someone being interested in and carrying the thread of his days. He would miss caring for and being cared for by another, year after year, and theoretically anyway, for the rest of his life.

In these times of contemporary relationships, any discussion of marriage comes with a corresponding discussion of divorce.

I asked my friend if part of his reluctance to get married is the fear of the heartbreak that could come from allowing someone to become precious to him, knowing he could lose that love?

His answer, “Oh, most definitely.”

And he is not alone in that either…

That is the beauty and the tragedy of giving one’s heart to one person. There is the potential for great love and great heartbreak, and as my friend said to me, “the farther you go into the relationship, the worse the pain would be.”

So what is the answer? Is the answer to play it safe? Is the answer to have strong connections with interesting people a handful of years at a time, long enough to enjoy some level of sustained contact and to create some satisfying memories together, but not long enough so that the person is able to penetrate past protective emotional layers?

Is that really loving? Is that really living?

Or is the answer to go all in? To risk it all, even if that means the sometimes painful sacrifice of personal pleasures and personal freedoms. To open one’s heart to get to experience, in the words of Robin William’s character in Good Will Hunting, Sean Maguire, “the good stuff,” for better or for worse?

Having been around the relationship mulberry bush a few times myself, I have been in the role of every person discussed in this article: I have been the one afraid to commit. I have been the one who wanted a commitment. I have been the one who longed for novelty and I have been the one who held my ground against intruders. Each role came with it its own challenges, and its own kind of heartbreak.

In the end, what I have learned is what the old adage teaches: It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

But easier said than done, right? So what I now share are the three lessons I have learned (and continue to learn) about loving with a heart wide open:

Lesson 1: To love with an open heart begins with a commitment, a commitment to the practice of loving fully and completely.

Any relationship of quality that I have had began with the commitment to love the other person the best way I knew how. Once, while preparing for my first date with a man, I found myself thinking, “If someone is going to get hurt in this, it isn’t going to be me.”

I was struck by the jadedness of my own thoughts and by my premeditated plan to hold myself back from him.  In the next moment I said to myself, “No, let it be me.”

What grew from there was one of the best relationships and greatest loves of my life, simply out of the commitment to love that man as open heartedly as I was able, each step along the way.

Lesson 2: Be Present.

This lesson has been said many times before, and for good reason. Love and aliveness exist in the present tense only. Fear brings us to the past and the future. When fear brings me to the past, I am trying to avoid some hurt I experienced before. When fear brings me to the future, I am trying to answer unanswerable questions like, “Is this relationship going to last?”—while simultaneously being afraid it will end and being afraid of that notion of forever.

But worrying about a love lasting forever is a little bit like (to borrow a phrase from Elizabeth Gilbert) trying to swallow the sun. That is not to say I don’t want a forever kind of love. Quite on the contrary, I do. The only way I can reasonable see achieving forever is to live and love fully one day at a time.

Lesson 3: No one ever died from a broken heart.

As painful as it is when a relationship ends, no one ever died from the pain. If anything, in the relationships when I did love another fully, not just until the end but through the end, those were the relationships that after all was said and done, after the resentments and regrets were washed away (of which there were far fewer than in the relationships in which I held myself back), all that was left was love.



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Ed: Brianna Bemel


About Cristin Whiting

Cristin is a writer, professor, clinical psychologist, and Catholic-Buddhist-Hindu-Ashtangi. When she is not creating evolution on the planet, you can find her making homemade lemonade and camping out in a tent in her back yard with her two children and their dog, Molly. You can follow Cristin on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.


9 Responses to “The Beauty & the Tragedy of Giving One’s Heart to One Person.”

  1. Steve says:

    I was married for 26 years and have been separated for 13 months. Though she talked about leaving for years, I was the one that left. I did not leave for someone else. I left because I was so unhappy. We had good years together, but those years were gone. I did not realize how unhappy I was, until I was happy again. I am truly living my life to the fullest now. I’m active and dancing and loving the arts and the outdoors.

    I have come to find out that dating sucks. But I keep trying. It seems that everyone is looking for the same thing, but never meshing with that right person. It shouldn’t be this hard. I’m not going to say that sex isn’t important, but it’s a connection that I need. I want to be with someone with like interests that I can share my life with. I’m all in. I want one person that I can count on, and they can count on me. Someone to walk with, and talk with. Someone to eat with, and sleep with. Someone to sit by a fire with and hear about her day.

    You can’t treat love like leasing a car. I’m going to make a deposit and invest in this every month for three years. And then I’ll just get a new one when I get tired of this one. That’s great… cars don’t have feelings. What if you were the car in this relationship? Wouldn’t you feel hurt? Perhaps if you did regular maintenance and took care of the car, you would never get tired of it.

    Building on what Cristin said, you can close yourself off to keep from getting hurt. But closing yourself off blocks any chance of happiness. But if you open yourself up to happiness, you open yourself up for hurt. I want to be with someone who wants to be with me. I will make time in my busy schedule to be with her. But if she has excuses why she can’t be with me, then she doesn’t want to be with me. So it is time to move on, before I get too attached. I want the same kind of commitment that I am willing to give. A true and whole-hearted commitment.

  2. Cristin Whiting says:

    Thank you, Steve for sharing those thoughts. I'm sure many people can relate to your experience!

  3. devacat says:

    No one ever died of a broken heart? Sorry. Many die from broken hearts. Always have.

  4. Cristin Whiting says:

    You may be right about that! I should just speak for myself…Thanks for your comments.

  5. Wow Steve is right on with his statement:”I have come to find out that dating sucks. But I keep trying. It seems that everyone is looking for the same thing, but never meshing with that right person. It shouldn’t be this hard.”

    I’m in a similar place in life, married 20 years, separated for 16 months. IT’s been quite the journey to happiness and healing.

    Once I felt fairly whole again, comfortable that i would not drag the past into a new relationship, comfortable with my self and my body. Even comfortable with my occasional loneliness I started dating, thinking that age and maturity would only be beneficial here…40 somethings who know who they are and what they want, have put the time in or are putting the time in wrangling with their demons.

    I found them but it’s still just as hard to find the right one…one i would have committed too but was left wondering what the hell happened? where’d he go? another who would commit to me but, whoa..hold on buddy…I’m not feeling so good….I high tailed it out of there super fast. Nothing says run like fear manifesting into physical illness.

    It took a minute but I realized there was nothing wrong with either of these relationships. with age comes a better and more trusted intuition, so I follow it and I count on everyone else doing the same.

    We all know: The reflection of yourself in another person can alter your whole world. So when the earth shakes and its good, i’m confident we’ll both know. For all the others I say take the lesson with you when you move on and nothing is lost.

  6. Cristin Whiting says:

    Yes! I love what you said, "So when the earth shakes and its good, I'm confident we'll both know." Beautiful! Thanks for reading and for sharing your experiences!

  7. kimberlylowriter says:

    Love this piece. BTW, I am a WFU psychology alumnus! C/O 1999-Charles Richmond was my advisor. Now I blog for elephant journal!

  8. Cristin Whiting says:

    Thanks, Kimberly! I look forward to reading your stuff. Please pass it on!

  9. ineke says:

    Thanks all for sharing your thoughts on this. I came out of a relationship of 19 years 18 months ago, when I realized I didn't want to grow old with that person. And landed almost straight into the next. We both had to process our fears and I think we did quite a good job, taking it one day at a time, not looking too deeply into the future. I think this relationship healed both of us. Still not sure if it will last, I feel more capable of living in the here and now of it.
    One thing I learned is letting go of expectations – what he should look like, where he'd have to be from, how I should feel even. Just be, and just love. And take it 1 day at a time.
    All the best of love,