Writers & Their Broken Hearts

This post is a part of an ongoing series entitled MIP {Man In Progress}. After my 25th Birthday I decided to improve three aspects of my life {my physical well-being, my writing career, and my romantic relationships}. My philosophy is that a writer’s work and his life are irrevocably intertwined and in order to improve one we inevitably have to improve the other.

Today I want to talk about relationships.

Romantic relationships have been a rough ride for me. (Here, I’m just gonna quote the Micheal Buble song and say “I’ve broken my heart so many times, I’ve stopped keeping track.” Literally.)  But I’ve come across an important revelation recently that I thought is an important one to share.

The story starts with Plato’s Symposium and ends with Jerry Maguire.

Not many people know this, but the idea that one romantic partner “completes” the other, or that one romantic partner is the “other half” of the other came from a gay Greek man. That gay Greek man is Plato whose work The Symposium everyone should read. What is most interesting about this book is the conversations the characters have about love. One of the characters (I forget who) relates this wonderful story about how every human being was at one point stuck to another person. (You know, like Siamese twins, except not related.) So, according to the story, every man and woman started off their existence stuck together. There were even some men that were paired together with their same gender, and some women, too. As you may know, the Greeks were very open-minded. (Read: reasonable.)  Anyways, the character goes on to talk about how eventually the men and women who were stuck together were torn apart. The pairs of men that were stuck together were also torn apart, along with the women pairs.  After the pairs were torn apart, the “halves” that remained had to roam the earth to find their “other half” in order to feel “whole” once again. When the “halves” find their “other half” they will become “complete” and so will live happily ever after. The end.

Fast forward to 1996. Tom Cruise is playing the infamous character who the film Jerry Maguire is named after. He is facing his “true love” on the big screen and (gasp) is paraphrasing Plato with the now widely popular movie quote: “You complete me.”

Flash forward again. It’s 2010 and people can’t seemed to get over the same romantic idea that has been around for hundreds of years. That idea is this:

That there is some sweet guy or gal out there that we all have to wait for in order to make our lives worthwhile.

If there is anything my several broken hearts have taught me it is this: this idea is wrong. Before you call me bitter, let me explain.

Here is what I have learned:  No one can every make you happy, but you. No one knows what you truly wish or desire, but you. No one knows what you need to hear, but you. No one knows what you want from a situation, but you. No one knows what you fear, but you. No one knows what will make you feel better on a day-to-day, minute-by-minute, second-by-second basis, BUT YOU.

Why then must we insist that someone out there fill the role that only we can fill?

You see, just like everyone else, I wanted a guy who could sweep me off my feet, be romantic, know what I wanted without me telling him, have similar interests, know how to cheer me up when I was down, etc, etc. etc. But I didn’t realize until very recently that although I was insisting that my partner should do all of the above for me, I never once insisted that I do all of the above for myself. That’s where I made the mistake. That’s when I realized that a beautiful, healthy, committed relationship does not begin with choosing our potential partner.

A loving, long-lasting, happy relationship begins with us.

The idea that we must fix our relationship with ourselves first before we can have a healthy relationship with another person is not a bold or new idea, but I wanted to explain what this idea means for me.

First of all, it is unfair to demand that someone be our “one and only.” Our sole reason for “thriving.” We should be able to thrive very well on our own, without a partner. I’m not saying being alone is the aim, or that it is preferable. Certainly I agree relationships are part of what makes life wonderful and a part of what sustains us. But our partner should only sustain us in those aspects that we cannot sustain ourselves. There are things our partner can give us that only our partner can give us. These things are fair to ask for (like company, or someone to listen) and it is okay to make these particular demands. But there are many things that our partner can give us that we can give to ourselves first, so that, in the end, our partners do not feel drained, or resentful. So that they can be relieved of the overwhelming pressure of being our everything.

We can, for instance, encourage ourselves in our writing process. Set up a system of rewards for ourselves when we make any progress. We can take up a fun physical activity that keeps us invigorated and excited about life. We can make time for moments of quiet solitude and meditation so that we don’t have to complain to our partner that we feel like they are “smothering us.” On the other hand, if we are distant, we can go to therapy and work on our intimacy issues so that we can keep a healthy closeness with our partners.

In other words, what I am trying to say is that we must kill Prince Charming and Snow White (yes, I know straight men have their notions of “you complete me” romance as well.) We must kill the archetypes and stories that make us believe that we are not capable of taking care of ourselves, that we are not capable of loving ourselves enough without needing someone else’s love, that we are not capable of SAVING ourselves should things fall apart. Because the truth is we ARE capable of taking care of ourselves, we ARE capable of loving ourselves enough, we DON’T need to have someone else’s love to make us feel “whole” or “complete.” We are already whole and complete, and if we do not feel this way, it probably means that we are not taking care of ourselves as much as we could or should–but it does NOT mean we are missing our “other half.”

That last part is an important point for anyone who has not learned it yet. Trust me. Do not look for someone else to complete what you feel is lacking inside of you. That kind of relationship never works out. That kind of relationship is unhealthy and it will end. Trust me. The truly healthy, happy relationships last a long time because both members of the partnership feel whole and complete all on their own. An individual in this partnership feels like their partner compliments them, but they do not feel like they complete them. This is an important difference.

You might be asking:

You haven’t been in a long and healthy relationship, so how do you know what works?

That’s because I have good friends who are in healthy and happy relationships and I have asked them a lot of questions and compared their relationships with my past relationships and was able to see, as clear as day, what the difference was. (Sorry friends, I’ve been studying you. I hope you don’t mind.)

Therefore, my first step toward establishing a healthy, happy relationship with someone else, is to first establish a healthy and happy relationship with myself. I have already begun this journey and I have to tell you, it has made me incredibly happy. I can’t describe it, but once you start to enjoy your own company and are thrilled to spend time on your own, something wonderful happens. Something like… a miracle.

It is my firm belief that this is how life should be lived.

If you are alone and are seeking a healthy relationship, I urge you: find complete wholeness and happiness with yourself first. Only then will you discover that the partner you might find along the way will never complete you, but will certainly be a welcome compliment to the miracle that is already you.

much love²,


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33 comments on “Writers & Their Broken Hearts

  1. Ðanielle says:

    Couldn’t agree more! You must love yourself before asking anyone to love you. Great post! 🙂

  2. 83October says:

    I agree with you. My parents story very much boils down to thinking that ‘you complete me’ was enough. When my parents’ marriage fell apart I found my mother lost in who she was. She stood frozen by the separation. As I watch her unfold I discovered who she was wasn’t clear to her. Whatever was incomplete in her she thought my father could fill. Time and time again I see how this myth leaves a lot of people broken. Relationships are important, but our individual completion is ours to complete. Great post Ollin.

    • Ollin says:

      Yes, when relationships end it can be difficult, but it should not be devastating. We should be able to move forward and not feel like we are only a half a person walking around, only half-fulfilled until we find the other part of us. Fulfillment starts within US first. I’m glad you liked the post. 🙂

  3. krisceratops says:

    “Do not look for someone else to complete what you feel is lacking inside of you.”

    I think the key words here are “what you feel”. People are always looking for someone else to fill their voids, but I think the truly successful relationship comes when you can look at yourself and see that you are complete, and yet also be further completed by this other person. You are not any less whole without them, yet you are somehow, paradoxically, a greater whole when you are with them. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. …Maybe that doesn’t make any sense, but it is what I have drawn from my own relationship experience.

    Another thought-provoking post, Ollin! 🙂

  4. T.S. Bazelli says:

    I completely agree with you. I once thought the other way round, but it wasn’t until I was happy with who I was, that I was able to find a healthy long term relationship. Bad metaphor alert: I wasn’t a cake missing a slice or two. I was a whole cake, and the relationship was the icing.

    • Ollin says:

      Yes, although it sounds cliche, that is the PERFECT metaphor. You have to be the cake and your partner is just the icing. You can enjoy the cake without the icing, but you if you have it, its just all the more sweet! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! 🙂

  5. Agatha82 says:

    My dear, you are wise beyond your years, I only figured this out maybe about 1 year ago lol. Spot on. We must love ourselves and be happy with ourselves. Nobody can do that for us. Nobody can make us happy until WE are happy with ourselves.

    • Ollin says:

      Well, it wasn’t easy to learn. I went through about 5 tries before I finally got it, lol. 🙂 But in the end, you know, it was all worth it. As Pink says:

      “I wouldn’t trade the pain for what I learned.”

  6. This is fabulous Ollin, and what I love most is that you have figured out something that took me almost forever!
    When you love yourself I can’t help but think that you will be automatically better at loving others.
    What I love most about having come to the same conclusions as you and finally learning how to be happy by myself, is that I no longer have to worry about bad relationship decisions made out of either my fear of being alone, nor unrealistic expectations.
    Thank you for writing this!

    • Ollin says:

      That last part is a great point. Once we no longer fear being alone or go in without “unrealistic” expectations of our potential partner {as in we do not expect them to be Prince Charming or Tom Cruise} we can rest a lot more comfortable. You’re welcome Jenny! Always a pleasure.

  7. Artswebshow says:

    This is a very wise way of looking at it.
    Though broken hearts do make good writing material. lol

  8. Thanks for the well articulated reminder, Ollin! Someone along the way gave me a good visual: imagine two people walking down the lane… if they are leaning into each other and one steps away, the other one falls. If they are each walking tall and balanced, when the other steps away, they are still tall and balanced.
    Really enjoy your blog.

    • Ollin says:

      That’s such a perfect visual! That elaborates my point completely. We shouldn’t have to LEAN on each other we just have to stand BESIDE one another. Great point. I’m glad you enjoy it, feel free to recommend my blog to your friends! 🙂

  9. Liza Kane says:

    I was never one of those girls who always envisioned her wedding day as the most perfect day of her life. In fact, I never wanted to get married at all. But a funny thing happened: as I was set up on my road of happy independence, I met someone who enjoyed how independent I was, and I in turn, enjoyed how independent he was. Eventually, my friend and I became best friends, and as I’ve said last month, celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary.
    I have always believed that I had to work on myself, and ensure that I reflected the best person that I am meant to be. How can I hold someone accountable to specific behaviors that I valued, and yet not live up to those same values myself?
    You said, “You haven’t been in a long and healthy relationship, so how do you know what works? That’s because I have good friends who are in healthy and happy relationships…”
    That part resonated with me, because I felt the same way. I didn’t need to be in a string of long (and not so long) term relationships to know what I needed to be successful. I knew how to be a friend, a confidante, an encourager, a partner…I knew who I was, who I am. I knew what felt right, and to trust my instincts.
    Good luck to you on your “Man in Progress” journey…

    • Ollin says:

      That’s a wonderful story Liza. Thank you so much for sharing! Looks like I’m on the right track, then, eh? But the truth is there is something to be said for not being grasping and desperate to find someone. It isn’t very attractive and I wouldn’t find it attractive in my partner, so why would I feel the need to find someone to complete me right away? I think about the man I would be attracted to, and I would be very attractive to a person who would be very independent and who could have fun on his own without needing me to “complete” him. So, I guess it’s like what said. We have to live up to the values that we want in someone else. Thanks for the well wishes! 🙂

  10. junebugger says:

    Totally agree with you.

    And I was told once that no human being should be burdened with being responsible for the complete happiness of another individual. In other words, because we are all flawed human beings, to place my entire happiness on my currently-nonexisting-boyfriend, and to expect him to ‘complete me’, is unfair. That’s just asking for too much.

  11. I agree ollin. Love yourself first before you can go out a love someone else. Compliment Not Complete – wow..thats a good line.

    Love from your partner is a gift. Treat him/her like that…But eventually we succumb to our greed for attention, time, love. Thoughts like – “can’t be without you” can lead to fear of separation. This will drive a thorn of mistrust between the lovers.

    Don’t fear love. Most do because the loss of it takes a piece of themselves with the love (or say they think)

    Great one man. In fact just today I was going to work on another of my “Life Rules” concerning love. I’ll write it now.

    • Ollin says:

      Thanks Keshav. I thought of you when I wrote this post, it seemed to me that you would know a lot about establishing a healthy relationship.

      • Not really 🙂

        I’m just lucky that she is a wonderful person and bears with my experiments in our relationship. This is my first (and only) relationship, I don’t have a lot of experience.

        But I did observe a lot of friends & family

  12. jannatwrites says:

    I agree that you do have to accept who you are for a relationship to work. The other person shouldn’t have to fill a void, but they should be able to deal with the quirks (you know, the odd things that are cute in the beginning, but 15 years later, they drive you nuts.)

    And even when you do find a long-term relationship, you’ll no doubt encounter new feelings that will come through in your writing. Sometimes the old friends (loneliness, disappointment and sadness) will drop by for a visit.

    Good luck in your journey!

  13. I love it Ollin. Spoken from the heart and so very true. You’re not bitter. you’re just not settling with either real love or writing love. You must be secure in yourself before you can be confient enough to be secure in another

    • Ollin says:

      Very true Miss R. Thanks for the perfect summary. Hey, what are you doing here, anyway? Shouldn’t you be off to a German castle right now, or something? lol.

  14. Barb says:

    Kudos for discovering this at 25. It took me 35 to 40 years to reach this conclusion! 😉
    Love yourself and everybody will love you…

  15. Devon Begg says:

    I agree completely. I did not find a relationship that actually lasted until I learned how to find happiness and confidence in yourself. The attitude you have about yourself will affect the types of people that you attract, both friendships and relationships.

  16. Devon Begg says:

    oops typo. i meant happiness and confidence in myself.

  17. […] I feel like it: I could write funny posts, spiritual posts, technical posts, or even a post about relationships–without missing a […]

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