What My Broken Heart Taught Me About Love

Dawn Stergin
5 min readJan 3, 2020

Given that everything we do is an attempt to satisfy our five basic human needs, I have learned that I can live without love. At least, the romantic kind of love.

We hear many things about love. It is the condition that has most fascinated poets and songwriters and eludes lovers of love. Freud says it is merely neurosis. A reflection of our unmet expectations. It is a source of euphoria and heartache. But what is it REALLY? Is it even a THING? It sounds like a place when we talk about “falling in love”, like falling in a lake. “Guess what! I met someone! I’M IN LOVE!” Sounds a lot like “I went for a drive and now I’m in PARADISE!” Everyone wants to know, “How did it happen? Where did you find it? How did you fall into that lake?” It has been described as a tremendous feeling that motivates humans to go to great lengths or commit terrible acts. And when something goes wrong with love the pain is immeasurable. People have ended their lives over the pain from the loss of love. A friend’s 19-year-old grandson recently hung himself when his girlfriend broke up with him. A tragically permanent solution to temporary, overwhelming pain.

With love being so powerful you would think humans would have a better understanding of what it is and isn’t. We know it is an essential human need: survival, love, fun, power, and freedom. The need for love is the need to connect, give and receive affection, and belong. We get this from our families and peers and that enables us to grow into healthy adults. But what about romantic love with the opposite or the same sex? There is a sexual desire that drives us to reach for this. Is that all romantic love is? If it were, there would be no heartache. No one would kill themselves for the loss of a sexual partner. We would simply move on to someone new. So how does the heart get involved? What is that ache in the chest and where did those butterflies in the stomach come from? What steals our voice and numbs our minds? What causes the sudden rash of romantic fantasies?

What I know now is that it doesn’t always make sense, and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to. It’s not reasonable or rational. It’s often very messy. Have you ever tried to tell someone who is in love that they should stay away from that person? You could name a hundred reasons why that person is bad for them, but they still say, “But I love him!” (Anyone with a teenage daughter has seen this!) Once love takes hold, it is not easy to be logical about practical things. We sometimes twist…

Dawn Stergin

Former addictions counselor, empty-nester, activist, animal lover, writer and lover of what it means to be human.