Introduction..............................................................vii 1. Super Sure It's Love?..................................................3 2. We Should Break Up for Sure ... Maybe..................................25 3. Nice to Meet You—I'm a Red Flag..................................35 4. Breaking Up Non-Horribly...............................................57 5. How to Get Breaked Up, Brokened Up, Broked Up With.....................77 6. Maybeeee ... Let's Work It Out.........................................95 7. Why It Hurts...........................................................103 8. Idiots and Geniuses....................................................125 9. Your Two Minds.........................................................139 10. Moving On: Part 1.....................................................163 11. Moving On Still.......................................................175 12. How Not to Move On....................................................185 13. Demons in Your Way....................................................193 14. Lonely, Sad, Loving, Happy............................................213 Notes.....................................................................223 About the Author..........................................................226 Acknowledgments...........................................................226
Love: a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection. —Merriam-Webster
To be loved is to be known, deeply, and we all want to be loved. —chad
This Absolutely Must Be Love ... Maybe
When you are a guy just starting college, already overwhelmed by everything new, you don't expect to run smack-dab into her the first week. Her. She was absolutely gorgeous, and I mean truly stunning, with crazy blue eyes, a wowing smile, and a super-awesome-looking face. Her name was Jen, but my brain immediately nicknamed her dream girl. (Also, ahead of time, this isn't The Notebook ... sorry.) When I met her, Jen had on running shorts and a beat–up college T-shirt, with a pencil between her teeth. I don't think the pencil was there permanently—probably she was just studying. Of course, she was even prettier because she laughed a lot, and the only wrinkles on her face were in the corners of her eyes, the kind people get from smiling, which are the best wrinkles, in my opinion. Not only was Jen breathtakingly stunning (and still is), but she was also really smart. And she turned out to be really, really nice to talk to. She was super friendly to me, and all I did was be kind of quiet and try not to look like an idiot barely keeping it together. I remember thinking, Wow, there really are girls like this in the world, even at my college, and right in front of me. They're classy and beautiful and fun and mature, all at the same time. Then I thought, Well ... that's pretty awful news.
Okay ... to make sense of that odd thought, here was my next thought:
Okay, self, now you know there are girls like this in the world, which is terrible information to know. Because someone will get to date this girl and get looked at all sweet by her, kiss her, and probably marry her. Some guy will get to smell her and hug her and stare at her whenever he wants. Here's the bad news, self: she can pick anyone she wants, ANYONE. She'll probably get all wooed by some smart, rich, dumbface, handsome, millionaire guy who doesn't care about money but has a lot of it. He'll probably have a private plane that goes to his private island that probably has dolphins. This means that Jen, on top of being happy and smart and pretty and sweet, will most likely get to own and name and play with ... pet dolphins. You can't compete with dolphins. On top of this, she'll probably tell this future jerk how special he is and brag about him to everyone at cool parties in neato places near the ocean. She'll probably even believe this jerk is special, but only because he most likely is special, and he's probably a jerk because he's not me.
Shortly after these punch-yourself-in-the-face thoughts, one of my friends decided to be extra cruel by telling me that Jen was saying nice things about me. A mean joke, most likely, I thought, so you can imagine my surprise when it turned out not to be a joke.
Jen did think I was nice and interesting, and this confused me greatly. Somehow, though, Jen and I hit it off. In fact, we hung out a handful of times and went on a few dates. We put futon chairs onto the roof of my dorm one night to watch a rare meteor shower, where we stared up at the sky all night and talked about life. It was an awesome night, actually. An incredible and beautiful girl just had a great time with me (which can greatly enhance a boy's self-esteem). But later, as I walked Jen back to her place on campus, that's when it got weird. She had a little look in her eye, and I kinda thought there was a kiss somewhere behind that look, maybe, lurking a little, or probably just me hoping. Because here was my inner monologue at that moment:
You did it, buddy. You didn't screw up. Good job, self. Now she's letting me walk her home. This is good. Okay, now wait. She's smiling at me and touching my hand. There's her door. She's slowing down. Wait, she touched my hand again. Accident? Messing with me? There's no way this girl wants me to actually touch her back. Why are her lips so amazing right now? Okay, wait ... does she want me to kiss her? If I kiss her, and she lets me, I'm gonna freak out. There's no way she actually wants me to kiss her. But why is she smiling at me so much, then? Okay, self, according to all the movies I've seen in life, this is a scene where a girl might let a guy kiss her. Man, this is gonna be terrible if she ... okay, wait ... she's telling me now how much fun she had, and she's not backing away. Do it, idiot, just do it. Dude, listen to ME, it's YOU! Go, man! Move lips forward, take look of fear off face. Okay, here we go ... this will probably end horribly ...
Then I did it. I kissed her—the wowing, stunning college girl I never thought would even look at me. And she kissed me back. And I mean ... it was a really nice kiss. The kind you see in movies, but without the music and film crew around. I started walking home in a daze, processing the new information about a world where a girl like that kissed me. Then ... it happened. I felt it. It felt like ... nothing.
Wait, what? ... nothing? No fireworks, no soft music in the background. In all honesty ... I just didn't feel what I was expecting to feel. And you know what? That's the stupidest feeling I might have ever had. Also, one of the most confusing. I thought I must be defective as a human being and a male, because who isn't deeply in love after that moment with that girl? That would be you, Chad, you idiot.
Here's the thing, though: I liked Jen a lot. I thought I liked her romantically, and I pictured what it would be like with her in a relationship and loved the idea. Plus, I couldn't believe she thought I was interesting enough to spend time with me, much less let me kiss her. For several days after that, I just sat and thought, which was important, because apparently my brain was broken, very damaged or defective, and needed fixing.
Fast-forward a little to what I know about it now: while I didn't understand it at the time—and it's weird to admit this on paper—I really had idealized Jen. (You've probably already figured that out.) The thing is, in the story in my mind, I made Jen out to be perfect, and that wasn't fair to her. In reality, I was being selfish, but maybe not in the "traditional" selfish way. I wasn't looking at Jen for who she really was; I was using her to show how important I must be. How could I not be important if a girl like that liked me, right? I really didn't mean to do that; I was just young and didn't know a better way of thinking. I've never really apologized to her for that specifically, mostly because I didn't know how to apologize for my brain not working. I can't see girls being cool with ... "Hey, sorry about my brain not working right; that thing is nuts sometimes. I know I might have confused you, but my brain confused me too. Anyhoo ... just letting you know that was why! Hugs!" I mean, I'd be willing to try it once ... but just for the story, really.
To my benefit, Jen and I stayed friends. It was actually fine after a couple of weeks. Mostly because she's awesome and is cool enough not to hold grudges about my confusion. It made me respect her more in the bigger picture. And now, I think it's insane that I only looked at her with the romance goggles, and I did this from the instant I saw her. To be blunt with myself, I didn't really see her at all. I saw who I wanted her to be for me.
I'll bet I'm not alone in that either. I think a lot of us make that mistake.
In Love with Love
In hindsight, my real problem with Jen wasn't a problem with Jen at all. It was a problem with me. I wasn't in love; I was in love with being in love. Maybe you've done this too. Most people do this at least once, or a thousand times.
Why? Why do we do this? And how do we know when we are really in love ... and not just in love with love? How do we know what love really is?
Love Is ...
Love. We need it to live, just like we need air and food. Love connects human beings, and being connected—to God, to one another—is why we are here. Love is the best tool we have on earth. The best moments in life always seem to include other people, and usually it's us loving and caring and experiencing life with one another. At least those are my best memories in life so far.
Love and romantic love are not the same, by the way. I think we should paint this on a wall a hundred feet high to remind ourselves. Romantic love is only a tiny, minuscule fraction of what love encompasses. If romantic love were a drop of water, the ocean it fell into would be the rest of love. But yes, for our purposes, people are mostly concerned with the romantic understanding of love. So let's talk about it. How do you know if it's really love? Because sometimes, as Marybeth mentions in her letter, love can be a pretty hard thing to make sense of:
I had this boyfriend named Brent. I thought I loved him, and he said he loved me. But he would completely smother, control, and disrespect me. If I didn't answer his texts or his calls right away, he'd star? blowing up at me or even come over. If I didn't pay for his meals, he'd say I was after his money, even though we only ordered off the dollar menus! He would say, "Why don't you wear short shorts, miniskirts, and string bikinis?" I told him it's because I'm modest, and I didn't like him saying this, but then he would get angry. How do you ever know if you are in love?
To be clear, Marybeth is asking about love, but she's describing the opposite of love. This is probably confusing to someone reading her letter and even more confusing for Marybeth. Love is probably one of the most misused words in the history of ... well, history. Why do people describe fear and call it love? Why do they describe confusion, control, disrespect, and heartache, yet call it love? No wonder life can be so confusing, especially as a teenager.
So how do you know real love when you come across it? Well, for starters, let's look at a different letter. This actually is a love letter, even though it's only a few sentences long. And ... it's different. It's from a young man writing on May 12, 1869, to a girl he intended to marry one day, expressing one way he thought about her:
Out of the depths of my happy hear? wells a great tide of love and prayer for this priceless treasure [Olivia] that is confided to my lifelong keeping. You cannot see its intangible waves as they flow toward you, darling, but in these lines you will hear, as it were, the distant beating of its surf.
—Mark Twain to Olivia Langdon, his future wife
Can you see the difference in how they view love? Marybeth's letter is filled with fear and confusion and stress, but the other shows gratitude and humility and selflessness. Guess which relationship I'd bet on? I mean ...
Love's Impulsive Cousin
Sometimes people in love ... aren't. They just aren't. Meet infatuation, the impulsive and loud cousin of love. Infatuation looks like love, smells like love, dresses like love, but it is not love. Emphasis on not. So let's first be clear about what it is then:
Infatuation is the state of being completely carried away by unreasoned passion or love. It "expresses the headlong libidinal attraction" of addictive love. Usually, one is inspired with an intense but short-lived passion or admiration for someone.
Infatuation isn't wrong, by the way. It almost always exists in the beginning stage of love. It's actually there for a reason—a good one, potentially. Here's why: when you are first interested in someone, infatuation allows you to look past people's small imperfections, which is important to do in order to want to get to know them more. There's nothing wrong with thinking highly of people, unless it's not accurate, and then it's, well ... not accurate. I think when people truly fall in love, the infatuation fades away and is replaced with a deeper, more realistic, and less fantasized version of love. In real love, no one is perfect or idealized; instead, a person is appreciated and understood for exactly who he or she is.
Infatuation—to put it simply—makes people's brains go a little bit crazy. In fact, left to its own neurotic devices, and without proper boundaries and guidance, the brain of an infatuated person very much resembles that of a drug addict.
It's not infatuation that's so addictive; rather, it's the chemicals (like dopamine and serotonin and oxytocin) our brains produce when we are infatuated that people get addicted to. Infatuation happens quickly. Simply put, it's an overreaction to someone, when you don't have enough real facts yet to validate your strong feelings. Three areas of your brain swing into action: the right ventral tegmental region, the medial caudate nucleus, and the nucleus accumbens. The chemicals produced by these three areas work together to shorten your attention span, cause short-term memory loss, and impact your goal-oriented behavior. You get an adrenaline rush, your heart rate goes up, you have trouble focusing, and your thoughts can become fixated on the other person. In other words, your judgment becomes impaired. So it's easy to see why people feel overwhelmed by their feelings in a relationship. And when you understand why something happens, it changes everything.
While real love is patient, trusting, caring, gentle, pure, and not jealous, infatuation gets carried away by passion and leaves reasoning and thinking in the trash. Infatuation, after all, is like a drug that just happens to be legal.
UR Simply Not Right—4 Me
It's really difficult the moment you realize that someone just isn't "the right person for you," especially when you really thought he or she was. It can be hard to change the direction of a relationship when your mind has created a slightly different reality than the one that is currently smacking you in the face. Here's something you should know: the ability to start putting the childish version of love behind you and start looking at things more clearly and more truthfully is critical for life. It's part of growing up, and it makes your brain grow up too. There are many lessons to be learned about love. And one of the greatest of them is that infatuation is not the same as love. It never has been. It never will be.
The Love Connection
Love is connection. Our lives—our joy, imagination, and yes, relationships—are shaped by love or the absence of it. We need to be connected to other people, period. We need to be cared about and known by other human beings, on a deeply personal level. We also need to give this same deep sense of caring to others.
Growing up, I didn't really understand much about God or the Bible, even when I tried. People at church told me that God is love. To be honest, it was hard for me to connect that idea with my everyday life. I didn't know what to do with "God is love" when I was sitting around my room on a Thursday night. What I did know was that I liked having friends, and I liked it when girls were nice to me, along with some other basic human likes and whatnot. It seemed logical that if a pretty girl liked me, and she was liked by a lot of other people ... then maybe, by default or something like that, those other people might like me too. I wasn't even really looking for true love. I was looking for people who might like me, or at least not hate me. It's not fun when people hate you and don't love you, in my experience anyway.
Now ... it's different, and I don't really think that way anymore. I have learned more about what the word love can mean since then, whether I meant to or not. I didn't always like the answers people gave me about God either, because they seemed ... small. So I had to go and look for myself—and I still do—and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made for my faith. I do believe that God is love, complete love, and that his love becomes infinitely bigger and better when you stretch it from a newborn infant all the way to a universal scale. Plus, with string theory, there may be multi universal layers separated by patterns in dark matter vibration sequences ... sorry, my bad. In other words, God is larger than measurement, and that means his love is also very, very big. Then there's the opposite too. If God is love, then that also makes love personal and more understandable ... even on the smallest, tiny little blue planet speck of dust, human, personal, you level.
Excerpted from The Truth about Breaking Up, Making Up, & Moving On by CHAD EASTHAM Copyright © 2013 by Chad Eastham. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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