Dating and Relationships: Can I Keep My Heart from Breaking?

It seems like every great romance includes an inevitable heartbreak, but is there any way to prevent it? I wish there was. The fact of the matter is that there is no sure-fire, ironclad, 100% effective way to ensure that you can keep your heart from breaking while you’re dating.

But before you swear off relationships forever, consider that heartbreak, while painful, is not a bad thing. Here’s why.

Relationships Require Vulnerability

“Guard your heart.” You’ve probably heard that one a million times in your dating life, but there is a certain amount of wisdom in that phrase.

It’s not the best idea to open yourself fully to every potential love that comes along. Trust needs to be earned and established over time. Giving free access to your heart and soul cheapens the privilege of truly getting to know someone.

But guarding your heart doesn’t mean keeping it under lock and key. C.S. Lewis said it best in his book The Four Loves:
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

A lack of vulnerability means that we are constantly keeping people at an arm’s length in an effort to preserve our own ego.

Vulnerability demonstrates the willingness to be fully known – for the good parts and the not-so-good – and this can be terrifying even for the most confident people. While this kind of openness invariably puts you at risk of getting hurt, that divine gamble is an essential element in the process of developing a relationship.

Your willingness to be vulnerable, whether it is through opening up about your fears or confessing insecurities, shows a level of trust that must form the bedrock of successful relationships.

People are Fallible

While vulnerability is paramount to healthy relationships, even the most carefully vetted people may hurt us. In some circumstances, you may come to the astonishing realization that the person you thought you were growing closer to is farther away than you ever imagined. The world of relationships is full of people who may hurt you intentionally, but even those with the purest intent will let you down simply because they are human.

In spite of what the movies may preach, Mr. or Ms. Right will let you down – and probably more than once. Maybe even to the point of heartbreak.

Being part of an authentic relationship affords you the honor and the responsibility of truly knowing another person – and this includes their flaws. It’s really just a matter of deciding if those flaws are outweighed by the person’s goodness.

Relationships May Not Satisfy

Ask any married person, no matter how long, and they will tell you that they’ve experienced deep, true loneliness, even after marriage.

We’re often sold the idea that relationships are the key to patching up all the holes left in our heart by loneliness. How could we ever feel unfulfilled when there is another person entirely dedicated to making us feel important and loved?

Hopefully, that question struck you as a bit strange. At the same time, I think if we’re honest with ourselves, a lot of us go into relationships hoping that this will finally be the thing to make us feel whole, attractive, needed, smart, and everything else.

Relationships – familial, friendships, or romantic – are a beautiful part of life. None of us is an island and we do truly need one another, but to allow your self-esteem to be based upon a single relationship places unfair pressure on another person who is, for better or worse, a human being with flaws. Even the strongest relationships can hurt your heart from time to time.

What You Can Do

You are going to get hurt. That’s for sure. But what you do with that hurt is the key.

Like Lewis said, maybe the fear of pain will cause you to lock yourself away and make a fortress of your heart. You may not hurt further, but you run the risk of shutting out those who truly want to know you.

Or maybe you’ll let your pain propel you. Perhaps you’ll let every heartbreak remind you that, while things may not get better, you can get better. Maybe you’ll rest in confidence knowing that every act of vulnerability after heartache displays courage and shows that you are worthy of love, however, and whenever it comes.

Worthy Of Love

I find it is of great comfort to lean on God's love, when imperfect love from other people fails. God's love for you will always remain steadfast.  It never fails. Even when life gets tough, God is still for you. He is waiting for you to turn to him and to see how he is at work in your life.

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Even so, God did create us to live in community with other people and to love each other.  So, take the risk and open yourself up.  And if you get hurt, remember, that while working through some of the issues on your own is important, support is also necessary for healing.

If you’re looking for a support network, TheHopeLine’s HopeCoaches are available to help you on your unique journey.

Putting yourself out there in the dating world can be stressful...for more on dating relationships read my blog, The Secret Behind a Healthy Relationship.

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