A Breakup Is Only A Failure If You Don't Learn Something From It

by Katie Wilhelm

As human beings, we make promises to each other all of the time. They can be as simple as promising not to leave our friends alone at the bar, or as complex as promising to love someone for the rest of time.

Sometimes, the promises are concrete; we intertwine our pinkies with a sacred agreement based on mutual respect and love for one another. We lock in a physical embrace, ensuring that love will prevail in regards to both the assurance itself as well as the bond between the two people.

We wear a piece of gold around our ring fingers as a reminder of a sanctified promise.

In a recent journey to Paris, I spent a good chunk of my time examining the famous, “love-lock bridge.” The bridge has thousands of padlocks placed on it with names and initials inscribed, representing the everlasting love between two people.

The tradition is to put the lock onto the bridge and then throw the key into the river, signifying that the act of love cannot be undone, or unlocked, for that matter.

Being the blissful optimist that I am, I couldn’t help but wonder as I walked along the decorative bridge showered in overwhelming bliss and sunshine, how many of these relationships have ended?

How many people wish they could unlock the symbol of their lost love or violently break the lock off just as their heart was broken? How many of those locks represent a broken promise? The answer to all of these questions isn't hard to figure out.

With the divorce rate up to 50 percent, it is probable that nearly half of these promises have been broken. That leaves these locks as little permanent reminders of the love that once was and the promise that has unfortunately been broken.

As I spent more time on the bridge, I became sad at the sight of so many symbols of heartbreak and lost love. It must suck for these people to think about their locks, permanently on this bridge as a broken promise of everlasting love.

Apparently, the hurt can be so great that people go to great lengths to remove the lock. A local I got to talking with explained to me that there are tons of stories of people diving into the river in the dead of night to retrieve the key and unlock the love for good. Some people, in an impulsive fit of rage, even bring giant tools to break the lock off.

Now, this thought made me even more depressed. There I was, in the middle of one of the most fantastic cities in the world, sulking about the broken promises of the “love lock" bridge. After I overanalyzed the landmark for probably way too much time, I came to a different conclusion.

The affiliation of a broken promise is never positive. People associate breaking a promise with failure and disappointment; I’m sure that’s what a lot of these locks represent to ex-lovers now.

But there’s a silver lining to a broken promise: If you allow it, a broken promise can be a beautiful memory. It can be a learning experience; it can be a reason to smile.

These past relationships don’t always have to be synonymous with failure. The remnants of past love can be looked at as souvenirs.

The t-shirt in the back of your closet that still smells like him, the necklace tucked away in your jewelry box that you’ve ignored since the breakup and the sappy love letters in your desk are all souvenirs. And, one day, you will be able to look at them with pride.

An unsuccessful relationship should never be seen as a failure. There are lessons to be learned from every aspect of loving and losing. You will learn as much about yourself from leaving a relationship as you will from being in one.

You subconsciously exit a relationship with a better sense of self, and a newfound knowledge about loving someone else, which is one of the greatest gifts another person can give you.

When you end a relationship, you’re leaving it with so much more than that with which you went in. These broken promises are learning experiences. And though it may be hard to recognize this fresh off of a breakup, one day, the souvenirs and memories will be something to smile about.

Though not as magical or legitimate as a love lock in Paris, my initials are carved on a tree at my elementary school next to the initials of the first boy I ever really cared about. Though we haven’t spoken in years, whenever I’m in the area, I like to stop at the tree and think about my younger self being so infatuated with him.

The initials represent a beautiful time in my life and signify the feelings I once had, and in a weird way, will always have for him.

I feel sad for the people who feel the need to smash their locks off of the bridge. The locks represent a love that once was, and that doesn’t make it any less important.

Breaking up does not invalidate all of the time, effort and love that went into the relationship. It happened; it was real and it was beautiful. Let the remains of your past remind you of that.

Instead of letting the broken promises break us, we should let them remind us that we were lucky enough to discover that true love really does exist.

Photo Courtesy: Tumblr