There’s Nothing Romantic About The Pain Of Your Breakup, But Here’s How It Makes You Stronger.

For a while, a broken heart hurts so intensely that the pain is actually physical. You feel the smothering weight of sadness and loneliness, of rejection and isolation. But in addition to those internal emotions, there’s also bodily pain: nausea, headaches, lack of appetite, and an exhaustion so crushing that all you feel capable of doing is laying in bed all damn day.
So when someone tells you that your broken heart is actually making you stronger, it’s usually accompanied by an intense desire to throw something on your end.
How could anyone possibly classify you as being strong, you wonder. You’ve spent days, weeks, and even months sobbing against the wall, crying in bathroom stalls at work, needing your friends and family more than you’ve ever needed them in your life, sometimes staring unseeingly in the middle of a social gathering, unable to feel anything at all.

Who would call that “getting stronger”?

To you, this whole experience feels more like you’re breaking apart, piece by piece.

But here’s the thing about “getting stronger.” We don’t realize it’s happening to us until we’re already through the dark patch. How could you possibly have time to reflect on the strength and tenacity of your soul when all your energy is going towards just getting out of bed in the morning? How could you have any time to do some internal categorization of your supposed mental and emotional fortitude when you’re too focused on trying not to break down at work and on maintaining some semblance of a social life so that you don’t entirely lose your mind?
We romanticize breakups in order to survive. We want the pain and the aching to have meaning, so that it didn’t all happen for nothing. We need a way to wrap our brains around all the heartache. So we think about the movies we’ve seen, the books we’ve read, the sad One Republic songs they play during the montage that follows a breakup scene at the end of a dramatic television episode. And we want to be those people, those characters. We want to stare out of a bus window on a rainy day and experience ~growth~ in a ten-second take. We want to go on a long hike and get to the top of a mountain and then realize it was a metaphor! the whole time for our grieving process, and that now we’re okay. We want to stand alone and stare at the skyline of a beautiful city at night, and smile to the invisible audience watching us, to signify that we will get through this because we’re ~strong~.

But in real life, breakups are ugly.

The days are shitty and uneventful. You’re alone much of the time. Much of your grieving happens behind closed doors and you are the only one who will ever witness it. Falling asleep is impossible for a long time, because you’re still getting used to the fact that there is no longer a warm body beside you or a soothing, familiar voice to wish you good night. Work days are impossibly long.

Sleep is the only respite, and it is brief and not restful. Social outings are exhausting and obligatory for a long while. Nothing about the pain and sadness and loneliness is romantic. It’s just full of suck.

There are some really beautiful moments that happen throughout this time, sure. But they’re sparse, and sprinkled amongst so many rough days that we are fairly unaware of them. The healing happens slowly, because this is real life. We are unaware of the growth and the change happening within us because it is happening in quiet, unremarkable moments. Nothing about it is seemingly courageous or awe-inspiring. It’s just regular life. But it’s regular life that we’re forcing ourselves to go through and continue showing up to, despite the heaviness that sits on our shoulders. And that is where the strength is coming from, bit by bit. Each time we get out of bed we’re getting stronger. Each time we cry in the bathroom stall and then shake it off and go back to our desk, we’re getting stronger. Each time we force ourselves to go be with our friends when all we want to do is stay home and wallow, we’re getting stronger. Nothing about this behavior is sexy or fascinating to watch. It doesn’t turn ours into an exceptional story or turn us into some outstanding character. We’re just us, surviving despite how sad we are, how heavy our heart is.
But that is what true strength really is. It’s not for show, it’s not for the benefit of someone else, it’s not incredible our admirable. It’s small, and secret, and quiet. It’s average. It’s human. But that’s exactly what makes it so comforting. Sometimes we go through our breakups and our heartaches and we wonder why it’s not as fascinating and as beautiful as the stories we read and watch. We think that we’re never going to get better because we’re not matching up with what we expect heartbreak to be like. But when you think about it, the monotony of your pain should be comforting. It means you’re doing it right, that you’re on the right track, that you’re experiencing what millions of humans before you have experienced. Maybe you’re not going to come out on the other side of your heartbreak and create an Eat, Pray, Love kind of phenomenon. But the important thing is, you’re going to come out on the other side, and you’re going to understand in such a deeper way what it means to be strong, what it means to be brave, what it means to be tough.
It means getting up, showing up, and living – when there’s no promise of admiration or glory or fascination from others. You’re doing it just to do it, you’re doing it because somewhere inside of you, you know that you’ll make it through, that you’ll be okay, that you’ll survive.
You are building strength, slowly, steadily. And maybe there’s no Snow Patrol playing in the background, maybe there’s no close up shot to portray your growth on your face. But it’s real, your new strength. More real than anything you’ve ever watched or read or listened to. Your heart was broken, and your story probably fell very short of extraordinary. And that’s exactly why you should trust it. It’s real life, not a movie. You’re almost there. Stay strong, and just keep getting out of bed.

Written by Kim Quindlen

This article was originally published in

Facebook page:

Related Articles


  1. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this!!!! When you are living this you don’t see how you will live life again but you will and do. After 32 years of marriage, I found out my husband had had multiple affairs, he was also a deacon in our church. Needless to say, I thought my life was over!! You have to take it one second, one minute, one day at the time BUT you will and do live life again. I am living proof of that….started my life over again at 50 years old and I am happier than I have been in years!!! DON’T GIVE UP….THERE IS LIFE AFTER A DIVORCE OR BREAKUP

  2. That is exactly how I feel…love to see it captured in words…kudos Kim Quindlen!! My husband who I had been with for over 30 years (since I was 18) and married to for almost 27 years (almost 28 if you count when the divorce was final) left me on January 1st, 2014…5 days before my birthday. I knew something was going on in my marriage but whenever I would ask him he would deny everything, saying he was “just tired” etc…he had a heart attack and had to have a triple bypass but he had been cheating on me with a woman i had known for over 20 years who had been part of a group of friends (most og them couples) but she had left her husband 5 years before and I remember feeling sorry for her that her marriage had ended…little did I realize she left her husband to go after mine! And that he did nothing to try to save our marriage because he just wanted to be with her…it screwed up both families (because we all knew each other) and 6 weeks after he left moved in with her in the SAME apt complex as me! So I could see them together all the time…and he lied and said they were just friends, supporting each other through the breakup but that had been cheating for years at this point…I just wanted to believe him when he said if I could “get better” he would come home. It could have went either way…I suffer from depression and have a lot of medical issues and trust me the thought of committing suicide was on my mind constantly…but then I thought of my grown children and my family and God and I realized that I wasn’t going to go that route…it was extremely difficult to function (thankfully I wasn’t working) but I pull myself up, starting learning how to love myself and help others, starting going to Bible study and finding groups to attend and even though I still was hurting so bad I just pushed through…2 and a half years later I have met someone and I don’t know what come of this new relationship but I have healed to the point of trying again…I hope this helps anyone reading this who is at the beginning of it…trust me it DOES get better!

  3. This was written so beautifully and so describes every single thing I felt and still going through. Thank you for writing what I feel during this healing process!

  4. OMG!! You put my life into words. This is exactly how it has been and how I have been feeling. If one more person told me how strong I was, I was going to scream or throw something. I don’t feel strong. I’m just surviving. That’s what you do. You just survive one day, one hour, one minute at a time. My husband of 27 years told me 9 days after our daughters wedding that he was leaving to visit his parents, without me. That was just the beginning of the hell I have lived through since then. Didn’t start to see what was happening until almost one month later when he admitted he didn’t want to be married. Suspect he didn’t travel to his parents alone. I have believed a third person is involved, though he has denied this. Which is why he has been living with her for 8 months. Right. Just tell me the truth.

  5. This is so true…every single word…I am still living a day at a time, and every single time they lie to us, they take a piece of our broken heart away, leaving a hollow space, where someday hopefully the deformed heart will grow again, grow to love and care…

  6. This is totally true ! And should happens .. whenever u break up or divorces , it doesn’t mean the end of the world. the life goes on ! Really thanks for your words and for the positive energy u gave me while reading this paragraph !

  7. This is me.., lost of appetite not sleeping much… up most of the time & listen to all musics… in other words all if the above.. sad 😭..💔

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button
%d bloggers like this: