Well, this post will probably get me a ton of dates…and it somehow seems appropriate for Valentine’s Day.

broken heart love sad
Photo by burak kostak on

Sometimes I worry that I’m broken; I worry that, after being in love with the same person for more than a decade and a half, my capacity for romantic love has been diminished to the point of uselessness and ineptitude.

Of course, in the last 3 1/2+ years since my breakup, there was necessarily some time required for healing. How long? That’s difficult to say. I’m satisfied that I’m well past my ex (and am elated she has found a partner and is happy), that I have worked on myself as a person (though that is never-ending), and that I have come to a place where I, at times, am open to not just a relationship, but actually falling in love…in my mind, at least.

And what is it I want? Oh, not much…just true, deep, passionate, intimate connection. The last real love of my life. Despite how some of my other posts about dating, mid-life crisis, my recently-passed 50th birthday, and Christmas and New Year’s spent alone might make it seem, I’m not desperate.

Okay, maybe what that should say is “I’m not willing to settle.”

abstract break broken broken glass
Sometimes I feel like this inside                                             Photo by Pixabay on

Over the past few years, I have met some wonderful people, even spent a bit of time with some. When I look back, I see clearly that the reason none of these developed into anything more has nothing to do with the women involved; there have been a few who were beautiful, fun, strong, intelligent, and emotionally available, and I’m sure would have made wonderful partners. But each time, there’s been some bit of connection missing for me. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to identify what that was, other than simply saying I wasn’t in love. Why I wasn’t is beyond me, other than to worry that I no longer have the capacity.

The worry that I am broken.

There are some basic, surface issues that are easily identifiable, and I’m sure common to many people in my position…I don’t pretend for a moment to think there is something special and unique about where I find myself emotionally, that I am spelunking some new cave of the human condition. And the main issue is this:

close up of leaf
Photo by Louis Bauer on

Love hurts.

As distressing and hopeless as the prospect of being alone sometimes feels, the thought of being empty of emotion is often more appealing than the possibility of being filled with pain. Anytime you put yourself out there emotionally, the chance you will be hurt exists. Every time you pry open your rib cage and invite someone in for a stroll, there is the possibility that–carelessly or purposefully–they may grind your heart under their stiletto heel.

And therein lies the dilemma. When I was younger, I was in love–or what I thought was love–a number of times, as often happens when we are young. Since I’m not with any of those people, they obviously all ended in heartbreak, sometimes because of me (most times, really), sometimes through no fault of my own. And those hurt, in the way a broken heart always does. But the thing with age is that all that pain and heartache builds with time, layer by layer like a callus, protecting your heart, hiding it, toughening it.

Perhaps leaving you feeling broken.

affection board broken broken hearted
Photo by Pixabay on

And those of us with our callused hearts are left with decisions. Keep our brokenness to ourselves? Reach out to friends who invariably have their own hurts and issues? Open up to someone new and risk being hurt again?

Don’t fool yourself, that risk is very real. When everyone in the dating pool is in the same place–they’ve hurt and been hurt over and over again–the possibility of finding someone compatible on all levels, and open to really connecting, seems to decline exponentially.

I am reminded of a wonderful little poem by Atticus (if you haven’t read his work, you have to. Go buy his books of poetry and compensate him for me re-using his words here).

‘There’s too much risk in loving.’
The young boy said.
Said the old man.
‘There’s too much risk in not.’
a t t i cu s

Of course, there’s more to it than the simple fear of a freshly bruised heart, but what that is varies from one damaged soul to the next. I’m still trying to figure it out for my own part. When I do, I’m sure I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, some days I’m the young boy, some days I’m the old man.


4 thoughts on “Broken?

  1. You spoke everything I feel ! The feeling of being calloused is real and the energy and flow of this piece was so tangible and real !

    Still Broken,

  2. I am 48. In the fall of 2017 I let myself fall into the neurochemical cascade that is “in love”. Glorious, wondrous, so so sweet, open, vulnerable. After 8 solitary years, nothing short of delicious. To kiss and be kissed again? For a while there was barely room to breathe while my heart swelled, cracking the callous that I built to live after parting from the father of my child.

    My love and I parted this January, after a couple months of knowing it was never going to work. For sensible, mature reasons, we were not well suited to facing the world together.

    The grief of living without the kiss nearly swallowed me. The grief of preparing to live without the kiss was almost worse. I took up a martial art and still I gained 10 pounds trying to eat my way thru it!! I still feel awful 😦 sad. Disappointed. Worst of all!! I was outright mad at myself for letting the kiss take me into the abyss because I have to climb out all by myself! Turns out I’m too damn old to be gaining 10 pounds of chocolate.

    Aside from the emotional eating I’m almost ok again. Spring coming will line the rest of me up. 4 months walking in my way sad shoes and I can feel I’m nearly ok.

    It took a lot of courage to be vulnerable. A LOT. Your post helped me see that. I can feel forgiveness. I didn’t lose my house or my livelihood or my loved ones. I fell in and out of love without compromising my safety.

    It’s actually possible. I might do it again. Might not. I sure miss the kiss!!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, Janine. It does take courage to be vulnerable, and it also takes courage to indulge the double-edged sword of hope. But we just keep going, don’t we? Good luck. 🙂

  3. Bruce, you’re not broken, just scared, like all of us. I’m concerned that the fear you feel might be sabotaging you. Your behaviour might be affected by your expectations.

    I do find myself wondering if you secretly harbour some trust issues? If so, that’s understandable. But who is it you don’t trust? Yourself or all women?

    Are you perhaps injecting too much pressure into proceedings? You talk about being ghosted often, why is that? Asked any of them? Remember that free sites are flooded with flakey people ready to move on to the next date.

    It’s normal to be a little fearful; it keeps us on our toes. It heightens that giddy experience as the dopamine kicks in.

    Fears are rarely rational. Sometimes we just have to feel the fear and do it anyway.

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