I lived inside of books from the time I was about five years old. I didn’t understand the kids my age and they didn’t understand me…. So basically I became a hopeless romantic from the very first Harry Potter book in 1st grade and never really learned how to dial any of that back. I had a boyfriend pretty much always, and was usually pining for someone else in tandem with whoever I was dating. But because I firmly believed every single person was “the one” I stuck around and hurt every single time things started going wrong.

I don’t know if there is any way to gauge the amount of heartbreak I’ve put myself through in my short 24 years of life, but as an example, I remember after reading Twilight in 8th grade I convinced myself that my love could never be eternal and cried for about a week straight about it. I pined for a boy for years, stuck by his side even though he was aloud to have feelings for other people and I very much was not. But it didn’t matter. I dated tall guys, rich guys, poor guys, smart guys, dumb guys. I dated boys who ‘loved Jesus more than me’ and a guy who was five years older than me in high school. And the ending hurt every single damn time. Sure, there were some greatest hits – the guy who was my first kiss and backup plan for about ten years, the guy who used to text me Moulin Rouge lyrics, the guy who I thought finally understood how my brain works, the guy who broke up with me the day after I was diagnosed with clinical depression.

In fact, there had been so many guys in my life since the first grade that when I met my husband Zach I was super done with dating. Then this dorky, not smooth at all guy with questionable texting etiquette came into my life and made me fall in love with him.

I seriously questioned my feelings for Zach ALL of the time because everything was just so easy. There wasn’t any drama. There weren’t fights over why he was looking at so and so. He told me he loved me when we had been dating for a couple of months and I just KNEW that so instinctively that I forgot to acknowledge it until a couple of minutes later. “Oh, by the way I love you, too.There’s not a right way or a wrong way to fall in love. Hell, there’s not a right way or wrong way to live your life – if you don’t want a partner then that’s super okay. But if there’s anything my love story can tell you, it’s wanting that for yourself isn’t a bad thing. Wanting to be loved unconditionally and letting yourself hurt instead of settling for the mediocre is so okay.

Yes, it’s painful to have hopes and dreams and expectations. It’s painful to ask for someone to really see you and then have them turn away. But pain is a necessary part of the process of learning who you are and what you need. You wouldn’t know hurt if you didn’t know yourself. If you didn’t know that no, you can’t just be a pretty face to someone and it hurts that that’s all they see. Or no, you can’t just see someone a few times a month and be satisfied, but that’s what they want. Heartbreak – well it’s a hazard of the territory, but it has the ability to teach if we let it.

As much as I’m annoyed by that hopeless romantic who threw herself into any boy who gave her the time of day – those heartbreaks were the guideposts that made it clear that Zach was the partner I needed in life. He and I fight, we have slumps. He’s not super romantic at times and neither am I. But I know that he loves me and I’m never afraid of those same feelings that plagued my love life for so long. You can have them, too. Maybe I’m saying don’t give up. But if I’m honest, I think I’m saying let those heartbreaks fill the ultimate purpose: Know thyself. Learn why the hurts hit you the way they did and file that away under the: this makes me who I am category. It’s worth being seen for who you really are. It’s worth knowing love doesn’t have to cost us ourselves.

Happy Anniversary, my love, I’m glad every heartbreak led me to you.