In the 2002 movie Sweet Home Alabama, Reese Witherspoon’s character is about to say “I do” to husband number two, when she realizes she is still in love with her first husband. She tells her fiancé at the altar, “The truth is I gave my heart away a long time ago, my whole heart, and I never really got it back.” He accepts this confession gracefully, and she goes back to the first love of her life, presumably to live happily ever after.
It is a delightful movie I have enjoyed watching many times, but today is the first time I have wondered this . . . what if the person you gave your heart to is someone you do not want to, or cannot, return to? How do you get it back and move on? Even further, is it wise to give your heart away? And what exactly does that mean?
As I reflect on this, two possibilities emerge. If you fell in love (yes, I mean fell) and in so doing, you lost your own personal identity, that would be one way of giving your heart away. It would cease to beat in your own chest and would only be kept alive when joined to the other person.
In this scenario, if the relationship ends, you are left with a broken heart. It feels lifeless, and since it is not doing its job in your body, you have a hard time even getting up in the morning. This kind of giving your heart away is what I would call unhealthy co-dependence. It will make us addicted to the relationship when we are in it, and we will cease to function when we are out of it.
Another way of giving your heart away might be in making a decision to unconditionally love another person, and determining to hold nothing back — to give it your all. In this scenario, it isn’t really your heart you are giving away, but your love. You are not depending on someone else to keep your heart beating.
Instead, your heart beats on its own, apart from the other. Even so, with each beat it communicates love. Your heart is healthy and strong, and your love flows freely out of it.
This kind of giving your heart away seems like the healthier explanation for the expression. If the relationship were to end for some reason, your heart would be lacking the object of its affection, but it would not be lacking energy or purpose. It would still beat on, and it would still have love to give.
It might take time for the memories to fade before it is ready to beat in a new direction, but there is no heart to get back, as if it is being held hostage. In this scenario, your heart never left you. It has simply been waiting for the right person before it ventures to love again.