I recently watched Piers Morgan interview the talented tennis champion Serena Williams. Much of the interview covered her extraordinary career, which was almost cut short recently by a life-threatening health scare. But what really made me sit up and take notice was when he cut to the chase about her love life, and asked her why she recently posted on Twitter that she will "never go out with a man again." I thought to myself, how can someone as young and beautiful as she is, with the world seemingly at her feet, feel so hopeless about love?
Morgan wondered the same thing. When he asked Serena if she would like to take back that tweet, she replied with an emphatic, "No!"
"I'm trying to get over something," she said. "And it takes time." Fair enough. But then when she said, "I just can't see myself ever dating again," I thought, wow, she must have gotten really hurt to go to such an extreme, especially since she admitted she has only been in love once in her life. I was even more surprised by her comment that, "having surgery for a pulmonary embolism is definitely a lot easier than heartache."
If it takes being in love just once in your life and having your heart broken to decide you never want to feel that unhappy again -- to the extent that you'd prefer surgery instead -- it makes me wonder how one very unpleasant or perhaps miserable experience can taint or ruin everything you feel about love. Yes, getting your heart broken in love is not a pleasant thing for sure, and no one wants to enter a relationship thinking that they can get hurt, but part of falling in love is taking that chance. As Lord Tennyson famously said, "'Tis better to have loved and lost, than not to have loved at all."
How we feel about something is based on our experience, and our interpretation of that experience helps us form our beliefs. So, if you've had your heart broken in love and believe that love will always end in heartbreak, then you're going to avoid putting yourself in a situation where that can happen again. But that's like putting yourself in a bubble and living your life protected from being hurt or experiencing pain -- inevitable aspects of life that are part of being human. That bubble may also keep you from experiencing the joys of love. Yes, you can deliberately try not to put yourself in situations where you are vulnerable or can get hurt, like in a relationship. But if you don't address the deeper issue, which is how you interpreted what happened to you -- even though it was unpleasant -- and why you've allowed it to influence what you believe about love, then you can't really heal that wound.
Cameron Diaz recently appeared on the Today show to promote her latest film, What to Expect When You're Expecting, and addressed that very topic. When Ann Curry asked her to respond to reports that she, too, had had a bad breakup, Diaz shared some advice a friend gave her, which, in a nutshell, suggested that she not think about the heartache as a loss, but as a gain. "He said the amount of love you feel shows how much you're capable of loving. It changed things around for me. Now, instead of feeling loss I know what my capacity is. Instead of thinking inward, it turned me outward." Diaz changed her beliefs about heartache and is now more open about love.
Yes, falling in love can cause you heartache, but it doesn't mean that you will always have your heart broken when you are in love with someone. It's your negative belief around love that needs to change in order for you not to be ruled by your fear around it.
For all we know, Serena's tweet that she will "never date a man again" is how she feels right now, and maybe in a few months, she'll feel completely differently about the situation. I can only hope that a woman as beautiful, bright and talented as Serena Williams will realize that love is a lot like tennis: Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but it's how you played the game that counts. So, if you loved well, then you are a winner. Even if your partner hurt you, you've got to get back in the "love" game again and not let your past experiences spoil how you feel about it because that's what champions do. And she's definitely a champion.