I think most people have been there, sobbing into their Ben & Jerry’s, watching “Pride and Prejudice” after getting dumped for the third time in your twenties (not that it’s happened to me). You can’t help but wonder when you will find your Mr. Darcy while you continue to get your heart broken by men you lowered your standards for then fell in love with anyway.
Is the well-known quote from Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” just something people say to make the broken-hearted feel better?
My instinct used to call bullshit on this. How could romantic sorrow possibly be better than a blissfully ignorant heart? But with time and understanding, I’ve come to realize that Tennyson raises a good point: failed relationships improve us more than we’d like to admit.
According to a study published by Sage Journals in 2011, the biggest regret on most Americans’ minds is actually romantic. This study was conducted by University of Illinois’ Mike Morrison and Northwestern University’s Neal Roese. They surveyed 370 adults who were asked to detail their biggest regret. Almost 20 percent of those surveyed cited romantic regret as their primary regret, the largest of all categories. The most interesting aspect of this study is that most said their romantic regret had something to do with what they didn’t do as opposed to what they did.
We must ask ourselves, was the heartbreak worth the momentary happiness? Although amorous despair is difficult to get past, it’s important when moving onto future relationships. Whether you’ve endured traumatic love, puppy love, or true love, all are versions of life-shaping epiphanies.
What happens when you really get to know someone and you begin to see all their flaws? Are these flaws things you can accept, like not closing the cap on the toothpaste? Or are they more serious, like being told you can’t talk to the opposite sex without your partner getting really jealous? I believe that devastations are the preliminary experience to contentment. You must endure what you don’t want in order to discover what you do.
In doing this, you are given the opportunity to decide what you accept and expect from the people in your life. No failed relationship is a failure because we learn from them what we are willing to compromise on and when something strays too far from our own core values. Time will bring clarity on this, as it may be impossible to recognize this in the moment.
You mustn’t expect to find lasting love the first time around — it takes practice. Losing a love may feel like losing a piece of yourself, when in reality, you will gain undiscovered fragments of your personality and expectations that you didn’t even realize were there. Once you grasp the idea that settling is unnecessary on a planet with nearly 8 billion people, the world is your oyster. You cannot expect the wrong people to love you the right way. Do not give up on love, even if the love you thought was forever is over. Be vulnerable. Give your heart the chance to try again.
So, is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Yes, that I am absolutely certain of. Healthy love exists. The pain of loss does not overshadow the gratification of love, it instead makes it all the more valuable.
He was not your Darcy, he was just another Wickham.