Is Heartbreak Actually Good for Art?

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“Well, this will be good for my art.” It was something I heard others say when confronted with romantic disappointment — whether an unreturned crush or a breakup. Or just another night alone.

And I said it a lot myself. Perpetually heartbroken, I spent a lot of time as the one single person in a group of partnered friends. Once upon a time, I mostly had flings with people who would vehemently deny it later if anyone ever asked about us. Part of this was because it was the 90s and early 2000s, and these were mostly same sex hookups. It was a different time back then.  Plus, I was queer in the Maine woods, of all places.

When I did date someone “officially,” it didn’t last, except for one long distance relationship (and later on, I’d find out that this person cheated on me at least three times with people from their own school).

Really, until I met my first husband, love seemed fleeting, ephemeral. Something that other people found but wasn’t for me. Not in a lasting way anyway.

But things weirdly clicked when I met my ex-husband. We were set up together on a blind date by friends — since we were both the only single people they knew. And looking back now, I can see that we both settled A LOT to date one another. But we enjoyed one another’s company and there were no other takers, and so we were together for a decade. The first 8 of those years we were monogamous; the final 2 years of our relationship, we were open.

Being in a Long-Term Relationship Doesn’t Shield You From Heartbreak

I found something very strange when I settled into that relationship back then: It didn’t render me immune from heartbreak. Yes, I wasn’t single anymore. But those years with my ex-husband were marked by profound rejection.

I’m sure he has his own hurts and disappointments from those years. (Not my story to tell.) From my point of view, I always felt like I wanted to be closer to him than he wanted to be to me. Like I was reaching out over and over again, only to be rejected.

I was always too much. I always wanted too much.

And after 8 years of that, I had begun to feel like there was probably something deeply wrong with me.

When We Opened Up, I Thought No One Would Want to Date Me

The decision to open up was a joint one. He had wanted to for years, and when close friends of ours came out as polyamorous, friends I highly respected, it challenged my views of consensual non-monogamy. I had previously thought it was for irresponsible folks. Or that it never ended well. But they were making it work.

And so we took the plunge. It was a terrifying premise to me. I thought for sure that no one would want to date me. And that my husband would be scooped up quickly and leave me. I felt so inferior to him — because of how I reached out and was rejected or told I was annoying over and over — that I thought for sure he’d easily meet someone that he preferred to me and jet at the soonest opportunity.

And I’d be alone again.

This Wasn’t What Happened

It blew my mind when that wasn’t what happened at all. Instead, I was the one who clicked easily with people. And every new person I dated seemed to just plain like me better than my husband ever did. They didn’t reject my affection. They celebrated it. Many said they wished there were more people like me, people who weren’t afraid of putting themselves out there. Who weren’t afraid of looking foolish. People who could really connect.

And a funny thing happened once this began to happen not once, not twice, not three times — but again and again. When this began to not be some kind of fluke but the norm.

I realized I’d been living in a state of perpetual heartbreak for nearly a decade — and feeling grateful for it, thinking it was the best I could ever get.

The Heartbreak Spell Was Broken

We grew apart. Our relationship ended. Just like that, the heartbreak spell was broken. (Well, not just like that — I did some therapy.)

And something else slipped into its place. I built a supportive group of friends. While not all of my new relationships were meant to last, one managed to completely shock me with its longevity. Its warmth. And its deep understanding.

I used to think that heartbreak was good for art. But that was before I experienced real acceptance. Real stability. That was before I was able to even think about establishing something mundane like a writing routine.

Now that I have, I don’t think I’ll ever look at heartbreak that way. True, it can be an occasional muse — but it’s not a particularly giving one. It provides once and then leaves.

It’s not as sexy and probably not cool to admit, but I’d choose routine and habit — and stability and acceptance — over heartbreak any day of the week.

Featured Image: CC 0 – Pixabay