What You Should Know About Broken Hearts


It’s been a while since my last post, and though I could cite all sorts of truthy reasons for that extended silence, the reality is that I went and got my heart broken. And, you know, it was just kinda hard to write about romance, what with the blood and tears spewing all over the screen and gumming up the keyboard.

  • Wait, I take that back. I didn’t “get my heart broken.” I broke my heart.

To be more precise, I smashed my heart repeatedly against someone else’s, someone who was never gonna open that thing up to me no matter how hard I knocked, no matter how patiently I waited, no matter how many brilliantly creative tactics I used to sneak past his defenses. I did this until it was mangled to the point that I could no longer find enjoyment in the attempt, and so I left the arena.

Here’s the truth of the matter:

  • There is only one person who has the power to break your heart. I’ll give you one guess as to who that is.

That is not to say that there aren’t people in the world who will be happy to use, abuse, and betray you, who will fail to return the love you offer them, or who will up and stop loving you for no good reason. There are, and they will. But no one can take, break, or so much as breathe on your heart without your consent, and in most cases, with your full participation.

But here’s another, equally important truth to wrap your brain around:

  • There is no shame in a broken heart.

Quite the contrary. A broken heart is a badge of honor, a battlescar that bespeaks remarkable courage. Because opening your heart to another person is always a risk, and it takes true bravery to keep taking that leap of faith anydamnway.

The true shame is in keeping your heart locked up tight and never letting it play the bloodsports it was designed to play, dangerous and insane though they are.

Claim the honor that is rightfully yours. Stop giving your power away by claiming that someone else broke your heart. YOU did that. And not because you’re weak or foolish. Because you’re smart enough to know that opening your heart is the only way to win the game of love, and you’re strong enough to lose an alarming number of rounds and keep coming back for more.

Which brings me to my third and final truth about heartbreak:

  • Win or lose, the game of love is still fun to play.

Be honest with yourself: you got something out of it. Even if it was simply the exhilaration of attempting to surmount an insurmountable barrier, or the smug righteousness of being the lesser asshole, or a masochistic enjoyment of martyrdom. You must have gotten *something* out of it, or you wouldn’t have bothered in the first place. The more you focus on what you got out of the deal, the less you will feel like a victim. And only by letting go of your victimhood and seeing yourself as the active participant you were/are can you finally let go of your heartbreak and heal.

But what if there’s someone out there who’s convinced that you broke their heart?

As we’ve already covered, that’s not really possible. They are fully responsible for their own condition, and you are fully responsible for yours. But let’s say you did some things that, in retrospect, were kinda shitty. And let’s face it, it’s pretty damn near impossible to get through an intimate relationship without doing something, at some point, that qualifies as some degree of shitty. What’s the best way to go about attempting to repair that damage?

Step One: Check your intentions.

Really scrutinize ’em. Interrogate yourself to make sure that this is not simply a veiled attempt to win one last round, get the last word, relieve your guilt, or obtain forgiveness.


This is about offering the other person a no-strings-attached apology because it’s the right thing to do.

If you:

  • Are still feeling victimized by the situation yourself…
  • Can’t stop yourself from including an explanation (read: justification) of why you did what you did…
  • Will be devastated if you do not receive a positive response…
  • Need reassurance/recognition that you are a good person (or even worse, the “bigger” or “better” person in this situation)…


It is kinder, and just all-around better, to leave that person in peace than to make contact before you’ve fully worked through your own emotional baggage and made peace with the situation.

If, however, you are genuinely seeking nothing in return, proceed:

Step two: Write a letter of apology.

Make it clear that no response is necessary. As we’ve established, this is a no-strings-attached apology, so make sure the recipient feels zero pressure to offer forgiveness, acceptance, or anything else.

Step three: Explain your wrongdoing in your own words.

This is not what they or anyone else believes you did wrong, this is what you know in your heart was the wrong thing to do.

Step four:

Express empathy/compassion for any consequences that befell them on account of that behavior.

Step five: Wish them well.

Step six: Fully accept that you may get a strongly negative response, or no response at all.

Know that you did the right thing anyway.

I’ll give you a true-life example, which I sent out to an estranged ex just last week:

Dear ________,

This is a long overdue apology. No response necessary or expected.

When you set a totally legit boundary with me, I got irrationally angry and lashed out at you. I was a jerk, and you deserved better. I can only imagine how awful it must have felt to make yourself vulnerable like that, only to get a verbal smack-down from the person you most needed to be on your side. Thank you for bringing so much joy to my life, and for caring enough about our relationship to communicate your needs. I wish you peace, and so much love.

– A

Happily, I did get a positive response, but I wasn’t expecting one, and that’s not why I did it. God knows I’ve gotten plenty of nasty responses, too.

If you *do* get a negative response: remember that you are not obligated to respond either. Just listen. When it comes to their feelings, do your best to empathize. But when it comes to accusations or evaluations about your behavior or character more generally, take it with healthy lump of salt. If something strikes you as true, feel free to fix it. As to the rest? Just let it go. Arguing about it isn’t going to change their mind or make you either of you better people. It’s just going to degrade any hope of either reconciliation or peaceful parting of the ways.

Whatever you do, don’t take pity on the heartbroken party. They don’t need your pity, because as we’ve established, heartbreak is a mark of bravery and will only make them stronger in the end.

Instead, honor them both inwardly and outwardly. Honor the risk they took in opening their heart to you. Honor their hurt feelings without taking on any blame. Bow to them as you would a worthy, now injured adversary at the end of a particularly rough karate match. And then leave them alone to heal as they damn well see fit.

I <3 Drama

Drama. Games. Players.

These have practically become dirty words in the dating realm. And Drama is the queen of the dirty dating words.

We’ve all seen the righteous declarations/demands in online dating profiles and personals ads: “No drama!” “100% drama free.” We’ve probably even heard them on first dates. But what does it really mean to be “drama free”? What do these people mean when they say they don’t want any “drama”?

As a real live doctor of Drama (I got my PhD in Dramatic Arts), I know damn well that, in reality, people LOVE drama. At least, they love watching it happen to someone else. If they didn’t, there would be no dramatic films, no reality T.V., no daytime television of any kind. In fact, without dramatic tension there would be very little in the way of entertainment, period. Books, movies, video games, TV… anything that tells a story relies heavily on a problem to be solved.

Without a central crisis, there is no story.

And since we all like to tell stories, and to think of ourselves as leading interesting lives, it follows that we actually enjoy drama when it happens to us, too. In retrospect, anyway.

The same is true of games.People LOVE to play games. Yet, when it comes to dating, the same people who organize board-game nights and volunteer for intramural sports will earnestly declare that they HATE “game-playing.”

Trust me on this one: you don’t actually want NO drama, NO games, NO tension whatsoever. As a dating and relationship coach, I can tell you that a certain amount of tension is absolutely required to make a courtship feel worthwhile. If there are no risks and no stakes, then there is no sense of value to the relationship. There has to be some kind of barrier to overcome, some delay of gratification, however slight, in order for the reward to feel like a reward rather than part of the background to be taken for granted. If there are no lows, then there are effectively no highs, either.

In short, even if you manage to find someone with no baggage, no issues, no drama of any kind, I guarantee you that you would eventually either die of boredom or run off with someone who makes you feel more “alive.” But I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Because the truth is that

your odds of ending up in a genuinely drama-free relationship are about on par with your odds of ending up alive in the belly of a giant whale. Which, coincidentally, is almost as boring as being in a 100% drama-free relationship. Almost.

So what do people really mean when they say the don’t want drama or games? They mean that they don’t want abusive, fucked-up, dysfunctional people in their lives. 

We’ve all dealt with them. Some of us have even been them.

You know: the emotional vampires, the crisis-magnets, the guilt-trippers, the irrationally jealous ragers, the sexual sociopaths, the pathological liars, the stalkers, the shit-talkers, et al.

THESE are the characters, and the accompanying scenarios, people are really trying to avoid when they use words like “drama” and “games.” What they mean is that they want someone who is going to take responsibility for their own lives and their own emotions, who isn’t going to be a blame factory or a consistent drain of energy and resources. Someone who will give as much as they take, and who can offer security and stability in addition to passion and excitement.

Basically, when someone says they don’t want drama, they mean they don’t want so much drama that it overshadows everything else. They mean they don’t want the kind of drama that is toxic and will choke out and poison all other relationships and sources of happiness in their lives. And when they say they don’t want games, they mean the kind of games they have no chance of winning, the kind that are played without their consent, and at their expense.

So from now on, I hope you will no longer endeavor to be “drama-free.” I hope instead that you will seek out the drama that amuses and delights you rather than that which drains and degrades you. I hope you will endeavor to bring the right kind, and the right amount, of drama to a relationship.

And I hope that when you play games (and you WILL play games) that you make sure everybody walks away feeling like a winner.


Baby Steps: What a baby can teach you about attraction

Attraction Expert

I can just hear you thinking: “Really? A baby?”

Yes, really. A baby can teach you a lot about attraction.

Unlike us grown-ups, babies have no baggage. They haven’t had the time–or the need–to ensconce themselves in a fortress of defense mechanisms, and they haven’t yet been fitted with any cultural lenses to help them interpret the world around them. Babies are little bundles of pure reaction, so we can learn a lot about the basic laws of human interaction, and thus attraction, from observing their behavior.

Note, for example, how babies interact with toys. If you try to force a toy on a baby, shoving it in her face and waggling it around aggressively, she will push it away. But if, instead, you show her the toy and then slowly pull it away, she will reach for it.

Furthermore, once she takes the toy, if it doesn’t do anything new or interesting, she will toss it and look for something more exciting.

Same thing with food: if you try to force-feed a baby, he will rebel. But if you make it into a game, transforming the spoon into an airplane, or eating some yourself and smacking your lips in delight, he will bounce in his seat, open his mouth wide, and even reach out to take the spoon and feed himself.

Underneath all our acquired habits and social machinations, we’re just a bunch of babies. So remember, when you’re out there trying to interest someone in the new toy or delicious morsel that is you, that these rules apply to everyone.

– If you are too aggressive or apply any kind of pressure–even if that pressure takes the form of neediness–they will push you away.

– If instead you present yourself as valuable, and then slowly withdraw, they will reach for you.

– If you are too consistent, too agreeable, and/or too fact-based and dull, they will tire of you quickly and drop you in favor of something more dynamic, tension laden, and emotionally fulfilling.

– If instead you make every interaction into a game, and are genuinely enjoying yourself regardless of what they do or say, you will soon find them playing along with real enthusiasm, and even taking the lead.

If you follow these “Baby Steps,” you’ll find that attraction becomes (must… make… terrible… pun!) Child’s Play.