Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Ben Nadel at CFUNITED 2009 (Lansdowne, VA) with:

The Girl Who Broke My Heart, And Made Me A Better Person

By Ben Nadel on

In the comments of my review of Whom Not To Marry, I believe Wendy was getting the impression that I don't draw enough from own relationships - that I learn a disproportionately large amount from others and their thoughts, their feelings, and their opinions. While it is true that I am always trying to learn from those who have advice to offer, I also do a good deal of inward analysis and self-exploration. The problem is, I don't much share the latter with you. I wouldn't say that I don't get personal; after all, I discuss programming non-stop - this is my love, this is my passion. This is who I am. But, there is a lot more to me.

In college, there was a girl that I was very much in love with. It was a young love - a naive love in some respects. And I remember, one night, we were driving in her car down Professor's Row (probably headed to a movie) and she mentioned something about a party. I don't remember what lead up to this; however, Professor's row was where the fraternities were, so it's quite possible that she simply saw something that sparked the conversation.

In response to her comment, I said something to the effect of, "Well, you can always party another night." And to this, she said something that I will never forget. She said, "That's what Saturday's are for."

This might seem like a totally innocuous statement; but, when you are young and your love is all encompassing, it is devastating to hear that there are parts of someone's life that you just don't fit into. When all you can think about is loving this one person and then you find out that they have consciously cordoned off parts of their happiness that don't pertain to you - well, that will mess you. And it did; it completely broke my heart.

This was a defining moment for me. Once the initial hurt of it wore off, I was able to calmly and logically evaluate what I had felt and what it all meant. What I realized was that my pain came from the sudden understanding that her happiness wasn't based entirely on me and that she, in fact, had whole areas of happiness that didn't involve me at all. While I am sure that I knew this on some superficial level, hearing it confirmed by my love was not something that I was necessarily ready for. What can I say, I was young - my views on love were naive, absurd even.

What I slowly came to realize was that she had done nothing wrong. While it may not have been the nicest comment, its intent was factual, not malicious. Her happiness should have never relied on me. I do hope that I influenced her happiness - that I added to it; but, it was unfair of me to ever suppose that her happiness hinged on me in some critical way. That would be a standard that no one could ever live up to.

Once I fully embraced this concept, it not only matured my views on love, it completely changed the type of person that I felt attracted to; suddenly, passion was unbelievably sexy! And, I don't mean carnality - I mean a sheer joy of life! I found myself drawn to the people who wanted to get up in the morning - to the people who wanted to attack the day with determination. It was as if the only people that I wanted to be happy with were the people who were already happy on their own.

And you know what? It was probably one of the better things that has ever happened to me. She may have broken my heart but, she left me a much better person.

It is quite a bit past my bed time; so, I am unable to come up with a powerful conclusion to really take my point home. As such, I will end on whimsical note, quoting Harrison Ford in Six Days, Seven Night: "It's an island, babe. If you didn't bring it here, you won't find it here." Ford's character was referring to love between people on island holidays. To me, however, this could just as easily be about happiness and relationships - if you don't bring happiness to a relationship, you're ain't gonna find it there.



Reader Comments

That wasn't actually what I meant. I was just trying to encourage you to see even more value in your own ideas and experiences as nobody knows you better than you do. I'm sorry if what was intended to be positive and complimentary came across as critical and/or negative.

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@Wendy,

Ah gotcha. I would say that no one has the ability to know me as much as I *potentially* might know me. But, I think learning from internal and external cues are both necessary for total understanding. In some ways, it might be external factors that truly force us to pick apart our own psyches more thoroughly as they force us to reconcile rather then, perhaps, delude?

Anyway, while I misunderstood what you were saying, I appreciate the words of encouragement.

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Very good point re. external factors and people forcing us to at least consider another perspective. In fact, I'm blogging about something related to that right now; please check it out and comment when you have time!

And, of course- anytime re. encouragement; that's what friends are for! :)

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Very nice post.
I also feel the same as you used to feel at your teenage.
Maybe my teenage has gone stretched way too much!
I am still in search of a nice girl of that kind to give me a blow (perhaps) and make me understand the same thing that you understood.

The mind knows what's right and what should be done, but the thought perhaps needs a kick to get firm in its place.

Thanks Ben!

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One of the things that I read once that made a huge impression on me in terms of relationships was the concept of:

"I love you and I can happily live without you".

The person I said it to the first time was crushed when I said it and I had to explain. To me that sentence means that I choose to be with someone, I don't have to be. My love is not about need, its about choice. I'm a whole person and the people I let into my life adds to to my life, they don't become my life. If something happens where they no longer are part of my life (breakup, death), I'll miss them but I won't stop living or loving.

Just as you realized you don't need to be the all encompassing part of someone elses happiness.

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I had some Pearl Jam going while I read this and it made me feel a little down...

Can you please have some more posts with half naked hot nerd girls?

PS In college you should be dating in quantity, not quality :)

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@Sandra- That is *perfect*! What you said is an absolutely brilliant synopsis of what defines a healthy relationship. I never saw myself as one of those people who would "die for love," but I have to confess that when my last serious relationship broke up over a year ago... I definitely fell apart. It's easy to get enmeshed and wrapped up in someone you love and give them such a central role in your life that when the depart, your rebuilding ends up being from, well, ground zero. I am now in a much more positive, healthy place (yay!), and I have to say that the lesson I took away from my breakup are that I need to be mindful of the good things in my relationships without letting them overtake or overwhelm me to the point where I lose perspective. :)

@John- You almost made me do a spit-take at my computer. Thanks, man. ;)

@Ben- Can I put a picture up for myself rather than that weird sideways G? If so, how?

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@Sandra,

Nice quote, and sentiment.

@John,

Ha ha, there'll be plenty of hot nerd girls on my site in the future; don't be concerned about that.

@Wendy,

Those images are managed through the Gravatar web service. You have to set up your email address there:

http://gravatar.com

@All,

With all relationships, there is a reality and there is the fantasy. While it is important to understand the difference, it is also important to understand that these two don't have to be at odds with each other all the time.

I am reminded of a story I heard in which the girlfriend of a math genius asked him what the chances are that he would ever find someone else that he could love as much as he loved her.

.... so he went about trying to answer the questions with math and statistical probability (this is for real - he was being interviewed on NPR).

His girlfriend was hurt by his answer; she didn't want to hear something plausible - she wanted to hear, "I could never love anyone as much as I love you."

Now, of course, this couldn't be a true statement; but, it's part of the dance of the relationship. It's part of making your significant other feel special. So while it is important to *know* that independence is required, it is a completely different matter as to how that is expressed and in what context.... but I think this point is fairly intuitive; unless you're a math savant, I am quite sure that most of us can innately feel the difference between these two concepts.

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Great post Ben!

It actually reminded me of my 'biggest heartbreak' though it sort of came from the other side, so I thought it might be interesting to share. Basically, I dated this girl through most of my college career. I was absolutely crazy about her, but she was always a home body, and I've always loved going outdoors, especially rock climbing. She tried everything that I enjoyed and I'd stay home with her most of the weeknights and everything worked pretty well for a while. Eventually she decided she didn't like climbing, which I was fine with. Eventually it just turned into her crying and getting (in my mind) overly upset when I'd like to go climbing with some friends on a Saturday.

At the time, I thought she was just tying to coerce me into staying home with her, but as time has gone on I've come to see that she just focused all of her attention on me, and I think I actually went on the defensive because I felt that I was responsible for making her happy all of the time. Eventually we broke up and she went on and got married about a year later.

That has always been the one relationship where I've looked back and thought 'what went wrong?' Reading your post makes me wonder how much of her 'overreacting' was really just her being heartbroken because I wanted to do things without her. Interesting stuff, thanks.

Also, this is off topic, but your comment about the math savant reminded me of one of my buddies who is a math professor. One time we were out on a climb and had literally left our camp at 3am, it was close the 5pm when we were packing up and someone asked for the first time in the day 'anyone know what time it is?', I quickly replied 'I don't have my watch, but I'd say it's about 5', Marcus immediately fired back (being 100% serious) 'oh, actually you\'re not correct, it is 4:58'.

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@Ryan,

Thanks for sharing your story. It definitely sounds like there was an imbalance of independence in your relationship. I would think that being home during the weeknights should be a good compromise for wanting to go out Saturdays and do something you really love to do. If that eventually wasn't good enough for her, it sounds like she was putting too much pressure on YOU to be her source of happiness. That is an huge burden or responsibility to put on one person's shoulders - it's no wonder at all that you would become defensive over such a situation.

Regarding your time story, I used to be that way a bit. I would never correct people; but, if anyone asked me the time, I would always read it off the watch as-is - I never rounded. It was 4:03, not 4, not 4:05, not "a little after 4". My brother used to make fun of me for it all the time :)

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@Ryan, Ben - It's interesting; I *just* had a conversation with friends last night about this. They were talking about the fact that my female friend's new boyfriend was kind of taken aback when she had the whole weekend planned out for them; he said he would need some "me time" in there. She retorted that he'd had FIVE DAYS of me time during the week! My male friend (not her S.O.) agreed wholeheartedly...while I just gave them the Spock-eyebrow.
I am in no way adverse to spending every minute of a weekend with the person I'm involved with(or a week or a month or whatever), but when I need time to myself I *really* need time to myself. And let's face it- that is NOT something you can schedule around your work! Likewise, I *want* to be dating someone who has intense passions and interests, and the likelihood that we will have 100% agreement on those is slim-to-none. What kind of a girlfriend am I if I want to deprive my beloved of time doing what s/he loves to do in favor of just hanging out with me!? AND (and this is where my selfish side kicks in), if s/he is going to ask that of ME, then that means I can't go off and do my own thing either. Um... a big fat "no thanks" from this corner.
FYI, both of my friends are a little younger than I am, and I am starting to think that maybe that is part of it. I think folks of my age group are a lot more comfortable with independence than our younger counterparts.

Oh and @Ben- look! I have a picture! :D

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This is absolutely true, although you should be glad, that no girl ever demanded all her happiness from you. Even the better, to come to that conclusion without the particulary experience.

Something completely off-topic: As you're writing it is about bed-time: Does it really make sense, that the timestamp that is show on your articles show my local relative time?

"Posted August 15, 2010 at 12:47 AM"

Would it, especially in the context of this being more of a creative text, make sense to show your local time of creation? (I know, this is just how your blog is set up, it is rather a general thing to think about). Should we maybe introduce an ultimate internet timezone?

Alex

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EDIT: Forget the second part of my comment, I was temporary confused with am/pm usage around 12. (Hey sorry, we europeans use 24h clocks ;))

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@Alex,

Internationalization has always been a bit fuzzy to me. I think all my date/time stamps are just formatted for my local server.

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I was randomly browsing and I somehow stumbled upon your blog, which is funny since i'm half way around the world. I just wanted to say that your blog is exceptionally sweet and I'm really happy to know you got a chance to open your eyes through this experience.

I love the fact that you took this experience very positively instead of having negative feelings about it. You seem like a wonderful person and I do hope the best for you.

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@Sabrina,

Thanks you so much for your kind words. I hope that the other half of the world finds you well :)

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Now i think broken heart is really good. Why? Because you have then incredible high emotion, and you can do that what normally you can`t do. The gratest books, arts, paints, music was created in this state. You can read some biographics.

When you are young and you are in love, I know it`s great. And now you have good memoirs.

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That's quite a personal contemplative post Ben, thanks for sharing.

Its said in the East you know 25% of your personality, your family another 25%, your friends another 25% and only the source/existence (however you view it) knows even your remaining 25%. Knowing only 25% of your own personality, some value in receiving some external stimuli.

There's another school of thought... that what truly makes a life rich is the willingness to experience all of it deeply. Not only the ups, but also the downs.

Heartbreak can be quite enriching, Ava Gardner gave Sinatra plenty to sing about for years. So let there not be too much the safe middle road... may you continue to live in interesting times.

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@Podryw, @Pardeep,

Thanks guys - I try to learn from all my experiences. Sometimes things don't feel great in the moment; but everything adds value to your life in one way or aonther.

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Thank you so much for sharing this It really has opened my eyes. I am currently heart broken by a girl who did something similar and for the past 4 months it has been tearing me apart. After reading your story I feel I have a greater understanding of the things I should do and feel.

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I finally got the one i love to break up with the woman that took her from me. She is my friend but she betrayed me and took him away from me and she stole him from me, every time i saw them together it hurt me so bad inside i wanted to cry, but finally after using your service to cast a spell upon them 2 to break them up, so i get what rightfully deserves to be mine, i cant believe this actually worked thank you so much for giving me a chance thank you templeoflove1@yahoo.com

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