The Beautiful, Terrible Affliction Of Having A Big Heart

Written by Neve Robinson

There is one faction of my personality, one crucial point, that I both adore and despise. It is that when I fall in love, it is irrevocably. This is not just in a romantic sense (though one would think with the way that I overly romanticize affairs of the heart that I had felt adoration on the level of Heathcliff and Cathy before.) No, it occurs platonically also; it is crippling. I love intensely. Sometimes I love in an all-consuming, unhealthy manner, and, always, I love indiscriminately. Arguably without thorough, careful judgement of character, often rendering me doting over some seriously Snow White level bad apples. The problem is that if there is a warmth and inherent goodness to you, chances are that my soul will be intertwined with yours in some sort of way forever–whether you like it or not (even if that love is not at all reciprocated). This. This is the fundamental occupational hazard of having a big heart. When your ribcage is consumed with constant burning endearment and attachment to almost everyone you encounter in your life, it is essentially an open invitation for heartache. The biggest test of all here is of course, whether this pain is worth feeling. As I grow older, I am trying so very hard to learn this one vital tip: to not lose oneself in the fabric of another.

I realize I sound quite the obsessive Fatal Attraction type of lover, but hear me out. I’m not “crazy in love,” so to speak. Rather, I’m just devoted, and I simply can’t help it. I give all of myself to a person at the slightest drop of a hat – and as a result, my vast ventricles have often been my downfall in the past. I’ve only ever been, you know, in love, about two times I think. Three, if you’re counting the fixation I had on a certain glittering fictional vampire when I was around eleven years old. But by God, did I know it when I was in love. It was like the sun beamed right through their teeth, and sparkled on the strands of their hair, then shot right out onto the digits that caressed the tips of mine. The most average of Joes would transform before my very eyes into an Adonis. I’m normally quite strong of character and, in truth, I’m not one to shy from a debate. But a person could virtually do no wrong when I was in love with them. Arguments would end in a barrage of kisses and apologies because holding a grudge against my beloved was simply unthinkable no matter what the circumstance, and any crumb, any scrap of what I deemed to be romance would be hoovered up gratefully. I suppose a lot of this lurked within my low self esteem at the time. It was rather a sentiment of disbelief that anyone could feel this way about me, even if it was bare minimum behavior. Even though I loved being in love, and I reflect on those relationships as wonderful, jubilant ones, there’s definitely a tinge of melancholy to them. They deserved my adoration, certainly, but I’m not sure the level of love I put into these people was normal, nor do I think the level of expectation I put on them to regularly sweep me off my ruby-slippered feet was. One cannot ever accuse me of making them feel unloved, at least that’s for sure.

When I have misplaced this love, that’s when being a deeply loving person complicates things even more. Just because I have only been in love twice, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I haven’t loved others. Depressingly, I’ve got quite the impressive string of exes under my belt. Of these, I can certainly remember a few where we would both be ecstatically crying that we loved one another one moment– only to never converse again within a matter of months. I’ve not been in love since my boyfriend around two years ago, who is just about one of the kindest and most sensitive men I know. I don’t think this lack of love has been by choice, rather by necessity – I have struggled to replicate any semblance of a relationship as rich in emotional depth and mutual support as this one. My previous boyfriend was also incredibly lovely. I naively presumed that every man I dated from that point on would be equally as wonderful; how wrong I was. It’s been a game of trial and error since then. I was kept at arms’ length by a few men I dated. Others would initially seemingly be head over heels for me in the first instance, pursue me vehemently, and then scarper at the last hurdle. The worst were the ones that I let totally envelope me and swallow me up, until nothing but a shallow husk of a girl was left– robbed of all the things that make me magic. I tried the whole casual loose Lothario thing briefly, but it wasn’t for me – meaningless sex doesn’t really go hand in hand with uncontrollable attachment, does it? None of these men were really my boyfriends as such, but I still loved them at the time. How many times can I repeat it? I couldn’t help it! I constantly wondered how they were doing, took close and careful interest in their hobbies, and aimed to spend as much time with them as possible in the hopes that even a morsel of that care would mutually be awarded back to me. They were all futile. These men liked to sleep with me (they were men, let’s remember), they thought I was a laugh, and they thought I was a good drinking buddy. However, that was where they drew the line with me. When things got deep or difficult– when my ugliest, realest sides would start to shine through the cracks of my “Perfect Wannabe Girlfriend Exterior,” they’d leave. My heart would smash into absolute smithereens every single time, and it crushed me. Just because I wasn’t in love, it didn’t mean that I wouldn’t have wanted to let it slowly develop into love. They just never gave me the chance, I lamented at the time. I realize in retrospect that you shouldn’t be squeezing affection dry out of reluctant lemons. Love’s organic– if it’s not matched and nurtured from the get-go, it’s really not worth it.

I feel a bit embarrassed, sometimes, loving so much. I hate that when I spend weeks withdrawn and unable to eat or sleep over even the most minor breakup, the other person is likely carefree scrolling on Tinder for their next victim, barely being able to recall how to pronounce my name. I hate that I am so emotionally impacted by every person who waltzes into my life and straight out of it. As aforementioned, it’s not just proper love and almost-boyfriends – it’s mates, too. You know the natural way that friendships drift and evolve? Sometimes they wither up because they’ve had their time in the sun. Only now at age 22 am I okay with this. I have now accepted the natural order of things. In the past, I would take great offense to even a girl from school I’d barely spoken to in five years unfollowing me; I would be inconsolable over a friend no longer contacting me. This is, again, symptomatic of a hefty heart. If I’ve loved you once, I will always love you, no matter whether there is bad blood or not. Even girls that ended up bullying me under the guise of friendship when I was a lanky loser of a sixteen-year-old, I still think back on fondly. I kind of think in some ways that this is a pleasant trait to have, this unconditional love. I think I would rather be filled with love than the sheer burden of cynical hate a lot of us seem to carry around (understandably) these days. Criticise my troublesome heart all you want, but it is laden with good intentions and hopes for many. I can be sincere when I say I wish the vast majority of those from my past well. Apart from the boy who tore up my Valentine card when I was eleven– I’m still a bit bitter about that.

So, is there a cure for widespread adoration of even the cruellest of specimens? The coldest of hearts? No, I think this might be testament to my kind nature, or at least, I say this to reassure myself. There is, however, a way to manage it. Firstly, to try to make a conscious effort to not pour the energy and love I should be putting into myself into a man – let alone a man who doesn’t appreciate this energy or love. I cannot let myself get walked all over like a sticky pub carpet; after all, I’m a red Hollywood Academy Awards carpet, baby! This of course will take time and practice. Slowly, I am unlearning this self-deprecating behavior and reminding myself of my worth through therapy and self-affirmations, though I imagine this self-love is something that many women are still learning even into old age. Secondly, to step back and look at the bigger picture. Asking myself: is this love making me happy? Is it mutually emotionally beneficial? If it’s making me cry more than smile, chances are it’s probably something I need to walk away from. Just thinking about how much deeper and more painful my love would be if I dragged out the inevitable ending (as I often do) is enough to perturb me from remaining in an unhappy union.

Most importantly, just because men have made me feel difficult, like a burden, annoying and over-emotional for my loving nature, it doesn’t mean that it’s a totally bad thing. Rather, it’s one of the best things about you. To be warm and full of love is wonderful. I think it’s the reason that I have so many incredible friends, most of which I’ve known since childhood. The world can be very grey and loveless and bleak. It’s not healthy to constantly live in rose-tinted glasses, but it’s more than okay to put them on once or twice. I remember one man, who I loved very dearly, once said to me that I was “pure sunshine, never forget that.” I never did. Whatever I do, I hope I don’t ever lose this sunshine. I hope that I don’t ever stop losing this love. It can be painful,It can work to my detriment, but it can also fill me up gloriously. It can improve and positively impact on others. Remember that there’s other people out there who will love on your level– maybe even people reading this right now relate a little. There’s that famous mock-Latin misquote that translates to “don’t let the bastards grind you down,” and I won’t. For as long as there’s blood beating in my heart, there will be love in it– ardent, burning love, and that’s okay. One day, perhaps a few years from now, there will be someone who wants that love. But for now? I think I’m going to smother my friends with it. I think we could all use some right now, don’t you?