How design thinking got me through heartbreak

I wasn't exactly sure how I'd apply human-centered design to love, sex, or relationships. Other than swipey, slimey dating apps, where you can rapidly prototype. I think there's a lot of value in that type of dating. It's not the end all, be all, for everyone. But I do think everyone can learn something interesting about themselves and what they want in relationships with them. For example, I learned that I don't come off as adorable as I think I am via text. I also realized that everyone else in the entire world is super dull.

Huge generalizations aside, this post is not about dating apps. It's about me. In my bed right now, suffering a huge heartbreak nursing it with a bourbon and apple juice (I couldn't find apple cider in the grocery store). This post is about how I am in love with my best friend. And for the last year, I have assumed that he loved me just as much, but the timing wasn't right. We've been best friends; that sometimes drink a little too much and sleep together. I was just waiting for him to do some career things and then he'd be ready to commit to something vulnerable.

Long story short: a couple of weeks ago he shared with me, in the most loving and kind way possible, that he truly only thinks of me as a friend. We had two long talks. Where he told me that he loves me, wants to be around me all of the time, wants to hang out every day, because I'm a breath of fresh air, but just as friends. And while I suspect that there might be more there, I have to accept his word here.

Obviously, I was (and am) so fucking devastated. This is my best friend. This is the person who makes me laugh harder than anyone, will eat $40 worth of Taco Bell with me, and will take me on amazing adventures. My best friend accepts me for who I am, while simultaneously inspires me to a better person. For the last year and a half, there hasn't been a day that I didn't doubt we'd someday end up together. I've daydreamed about our small, casual wedding and our honeymoon in Vietnam. This was the first time in 18 months I believed that we weren't going to be together.

For two days I didn't leave my bed. It took almost a week to look at him. But I'm getting better every day. A couple of days ago I got some great advice friend a friend, Kelsey. Kelsey has known him for many years longer than I have and they two are very close. The other day I was mourning over my lost relationship with her at the bar; complaining that I can't believe that we're not together. I was describing how amazing he is. Coming from the deepest place of love, Kelsey pointed out that we often put our exes on a pedestal. It doesn't mean they're not great, but it does mean they probably aren't as great as we think they are and that there are other people just as great out there.

It was the first time I thought about him in a different light. While he's changed my life for the better in so many ways, I've also made him into like a god-like status. What Kelsey was pointing out to me, was that "yes, he's great. but it's not the only option."

Design thinking has taught me that you can really love something, work really hard at it for awhile, and it might not work out. It doesn't mean anything more than that. Each relationship is rich; full of things to learn about myself. Each one I get to learn about I want in a relationship. There full of heartache too. I don't have to deny that part. I can't. To deny that part would be to deny myself self-compassion. It would be to deny myself my own truth.

So I accept this shitty feeling I walk around with. I also accept that he is great but we're great apart too. I believe that there is value in that relationship but it doesn't mean it's my only path. There's not one "true passion" or one "soul mate" out there for us. There's just a lot of shit to put up with and there's even more bull shit to find love in.

As much as this all fucking sucks, I am so comforted by knowing that I'm operating from love. I recently read this quote by Jen Pastiloff:

When I get to the end of my life and I ask one final "What have I done?" Let my answer be: "I have done love". 

That's all I want.


I made a vision board today, which I will post more on later. But I was looking through old photos and knew for sure that I wanted a photo of my brother, Ryan. When I think of Ryan, my heart starts to hurt, thinking about how much I love him. My love for my little brother is unconditional and so powerful that I can't help but want that type of love to guide the rest of my life.

When I think about exes and my future love interests it's so easy to get defeated and feel hopeless. Almost every day I want to put up walls around me. I've often prayed that the part of my brain that wants love and affection could be removed. But design thinking has taught me that failure is just a part of the journey. And Jen Pastiloff taught me that I want to love and be loved. Even if it means hurting too. Hurting doesn't mean failing. If only for the reason that it feels better to love. It's harder but feels better.

I still love him. I might love him more than I did when I thought we'd get married. Its harder but it feels warmer, softer, lighter, better.