Dolly Alderton: “The Lessons I Learnt From Heartbreak”

“It’s no-one’s responsibility to heal your catalogue of pain by being your partner, and that’s the thing I wish I’d realised sooner."
Image: Instagram

Ahead of her first-ever Australian tour, where the award-winning podcaster, author, screenwriter, and journalist will be sitting down at the Sydney Opera House to talk love, loss and everything inbetween, Dolly Alderton shares her lessons from heartbreak with marie claire.

“I was 15 years old the first time I experienced heartbreak. It plunged me into this deep emotional state where nothing had meaning anymore.

The thoughts and conversations I had with myself became extremely punitive, while the analytical part of my brain became super heightened. I couldn’t stop trying to pinpoint what had gone wrong with me and this boy. By the time I reached my 30s I thought I was heartbreak proof.

I was older, I’d written a best-selling book about love and I had much better taste in men … or so I thought. But whenever it happened, I would go straight back to that same starting point from my teenage years. It took me a long time to understand that there is a difference between being hurt that someone is no longer in your life, and missing their love and affection towards you.

Image: Instagram

When someone dumps you, consider how much of this pain they are responsible for simply by ending a relationship they didn’t want to be in, and how much of this is about rejection.

When someone I loved told me that they didn’t want to be with me anymore, it was a reminder of the parent that was kind of absent when I was growing up, the friend who dumped me out of nowhere, the job I got fired from, or the boyfriend who said I was fat.

Dolly Alderton with cast of ‘Everything I know About Love.’
Image: Getty.

That catalogue of pain sits a lot nearer the surface than we think it does. And it’s no-one’s responsibility to heal that by being your partner, and that’s the thing I wish I’d realised sooner.

That’s the lie of heartbreak: when you’re feeling so lost and in so much trauma without someone, it’s hard to dissect whether it’s really about them or whether it’s about your own sense of self-worth, and a painful reminder of all the times in your life you’ve been told you’re not good enough.

For my new book, I wrote about heartbreak from the male perspective so I interviewed a lot of men in research. One of the reasons I did this was because men remain a mystery to me in so many ways, but especially in the wake of a broken relationship.

It can often seem like men can compartmentalise their emotions and not have them take over their life, but what I found was that it is just as difficult for men as it is for women. It was really useful for me to understand that heartbreak is not a state of female victimhood, but the collateral damage of being human and loving someone.

I believe the best antidote to heartbreak is conversation, and also reminders that there is joy ahead in life. There is fun, there is sex ahead, there is flirting, there is love, there is dancing, there is good conversation, there’s good food, there’s travel and there’s new people. Finding that hope and the visualisation of a potential new life, that’s what I think gets you through.”

Dolly Alderton’s new book, Good Material (Penguin, $34.99), is out now.

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