• Robert Prendergast

Degrees of Heartbreak

Photo By: Andrea Di/Unsplash

Last week I met up with my old friend Ben. Our conversation went the same way it does every time we meet:

1) Reminiscing about the Tesco job we met at.

2) Crying over how much we miss the Wetherspoons sharing platter.

3) Voicing our outrage and disbelief that the 2015 Steve Jobs STILL does not receive the immense praise it deserves.

4) Ex-girlfriends.

Item four lead us quite naturally onto the big topic for the evening – Love. And from our experience what always follows – Heartbreak.

As he and I recount our romantic stories, next thing I know he and I are effectively acting out an episode of Seinfeld. Set as it would be if it were to take place in 2020 England… on a cold Tuesday night in a Somerset Wetherspoons.

At the time of our conversation we were in a similar position to one another, both very much in love with people who had recently moved to University and away from us. For him, a year long girlfriend.

For me, someone I had rekindled with post lockdown. Despite the differences in the duration of time we had been with these people, my friend and I both agreed we had never felt this way about another person, and despite the newfound geographical issues in our relationships, we would do everything to make it work.

We made this vow to each other, blissfully unaware that we would be sitting in the very same seats in 48 hours as two single men.

This is where the Seinfeld episode would end. Cut to black. Over. Back again a week later with a whole new relationship situation, feelings reset and no one hurt. But as I am constantly and often harshly reminded – Life is not a sitcom.

For a moment I find myself comparing my own situation to my friend’s. Foolishly I have the thought that I should not be THAT sad, because his relationship lasted longer. Much longer and appeared far more serious. Suddenly a feeling of guilt appeared. One that I found hard to shake.

Now I knew this thought was wrong when it first came into my mind. Unkind to myself. But that did not stop it spreading like a fire.

I experienced the same thing days later, while talking to another friend and finding out they had recently split with a partner they had been with for years. Again, I then felt guilty for burdening them with my situation, which now in comparison seems miniscule.

But this got me thinking.

What are the rules here? Where is the cut-off point for when we can feel this level upset? There are no goalposts when it comes to these things. No judging panel. Just feelings.

Then I had the thought, perhaps I have been looking at heartbreak as an absolute state, with qualifications in order to reach it.

With my situation, in comparison to others, giving a failing grade in the heartbreak test. Maybe this is wrong. Maybe there are different degrees of heartbreak. I am someone who tries to believe in love at first sight. It interferes greatly in my life and so far has only caused problems; distracting me from my studies and probably halved the amount of sleep I get. That being said, I hold no plans to stop.

But I know I cannot be alone. We are programmed to think this way. We put on Netflix and see an array of Rom Coms at our disposal, and by just looking at the poster we can see the point of the story, ‘This person ends up with that person’.

In these films we see life. We see ourselves and what we are ‘supposed’ to be striving towards. So in these films and tv shows we watch people meet at a bar, or bump into each other in a lift, having these picture perfect “I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes on them” moment. In those moments we think to ourselves “I’m going to do that. I’m going to have that moment”. What an insane amount of pressure to put on ourselves!!!

So we spot people from across the room and we imagine the moment is more than it actually is, and in our minds paint out a whole life similar to ones we have seen on screen. All for it to be wrong and disappear in a moment, and it leaves a painful feeling.

A feeling I could only describe – as heartbreak. It may seem to some as an over dramatic response. But it is the truth, it is a degree of heartbreak. But we move on from these and do it all again. Eat, Sleep, Heartbreak, Repeat. We go about our day trying not to acknowledge these feeling.

I’m not angry at Film and Television for misleading me about love. Suggesting it is something that is always about to strike and rejection is something that leaves no hangover. After all it has given me a lot. I’ve learnt a lot from it.

Any basketball knowledge I have comes from Space Jam. If it wasn’t for the show New Girl I would still mistaken say the word “Upmost” instead of “Utmost”. And honestly, how good is the 2015 Steve Jobs film!

But that does not mean that we have not been sold a lie. Or at least a variation of the truth.

So let’s say we agree with the idea that heartbreak can begin right from the moment of misjudged love at first at, and is still ever present when it comes to my friend splitting with a year long girlfriend.

Surely then it could be there at every level in between, and of course beyond. Different degrees. This to me seems obvious. So what do we do with this information? What’s the point I’m making? That we are destined to feel sad all of the time?

No. That’s not the point. This isn’t a rant where I am condemning the notion of love, far from it. But surely in life there is only a maximum of one time where love is not followed by heartbreak? But we can normalise this feeling. Because we all feel it. And we can certainly not make it a competition, not even in our own mind.

Be rid of the thought of that your pain is less that someone else’s because of how long you knew the person. There isn’t a league table where top place receives the most sympathy. Although, that does definitely sound like a Channel 5 game show.

Love isn’t a competition. And the pain caused by it definitely isn’t one. There are different degrees to heartbreak, with none greater than the other. This is the advice I would give a younger version of myself. When I say younger…I mean a week ago. Don’t feel guilty for falling in love so fast, we are programmed to. But it’s the way we deal with it that needs improved.

So let’s change the way we see heartbreak, lets lower the qualifications we need to be seen to be experiencing it. Let’s not be judging others for feeling it and certainly don’t judge yourself. Be kind.

It’s ok to feel shit. But with time, we pick ourselves back up. That’s always going to be a hell of a lot easier if we are doing it together.

Therefore, I find myself back in a Somerset Wetherspoons on rainy midweek nights. With a cold pint and still no sign of the fabled Wetherspoons sharing platter. But I sit with my friend again, comfortable knowing we both are hurt, but there is no competition. That with time we will heal.

In the words of Liam Gallagher: "It’s not the end of the world. It’s not even the end of the day."

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