You have them. I have them. And while some may make you look back on your life and cringe, the truth is that failed relationships are often part of the reason why you are where you are today. On many levels, that really is a good thing. If that dude you thought was ‘the one’ hadn’t of cheated you – you might never know what to look for in a cheater, or be able to recognize the signs of cheating– or worse realize that you could recover from infidelity. If that chick you dated for 2 years didn’t up and break your heart for no apparent reason, you wouldn’t have found the person you are with right now. And even more appealing is the fact that what we learn from failed relationships prepares us even more thoroughly for the next one.
Look back to when you first started dating. Likely, some time during high school. Chances are you dated certain people for all the wrong reasons. Then, when you were with them, you began realizing that relationships aren’t just about social status, sex or something outside of how YOU feel. So you dumped the cheerleader or quarterback and moved on to the next one. Maybe you still made your initial decision to date someone new based on physical attractiveness or some other shallow reason. But you learned from your first experience that it is also important for you to feel respected. And so you look for someone who respects you. Through each and every one of your relationships, you learn more about what you want in another person.
And hopefully, you also learn a lot about yourself! Relationships at any age, at any point in life are not easy. At first it seems like getting along with someone you love should be the easiest thing on earth. However, realize that your opinions, moral, standards, and personality are constantly being shaped by your experiences. To make it simple, you don’t know that sushi sucks unless you actually try it. The same mentality works with your relationships. You don’t know that dating a smoker, dating a Mama’s boy, dating someone who is self-absorbed sucks, until you have dated one. And you also don’t know what will really make you happy or unhappy in a relationship until you have been able to experience both sides of the fence.
The lessons from failed relationships never seem clear at the ending. In fact, it is easy to wade through the relationship muck and heartbreak and not really understand why it is happening to you. In the moment, it feels like you will never recover or bounce back. And it’s also very easy to beat yourself up and wish you had done things differently. Most people fumble around with thousands of “if onlys” when a relationship goes bad. If only you had been more honest, if only your partner loved you a little more, if only you could agree to disagree, if only his/her parents liked you more. The list is endless. The point is that by experiencing these things, you become better equipped to dealing with them in the future, and at least recognizing which issues could be relationship busters. Suddenly, fighting over boys or girls night out, may not be something you will do in the future – especially if it jeopardizes the relationship.
Probably the best learning experience from your failed relationships comes in the way of maturity. As each of us grows up, changes, and learns more about the world, ourselves, and others – our requirements of others changes drastically. Not only what we need from others, but also what we are willing to put up with, what we are willing to compromise and what we are not willing to compromise.
The important thing for YOU is to learn the lessons as they come. The universe has a funny way of teaching us our life lessons. If every single relationship you have goes sour due to the same reason – there is a pretty good chance that YOU have something to learn there. And while it may very well be the other persons fault….you do have to take pause and wonder what it is about ‘those kind of people,’ that draws you in. Too often, we have different personal issues that actually make us feel attracted to the wrong people. The good news is that once you learn your personal life lesson….the universe will give you a break, and you can move forward. The key is taking the time to reflect inwardly so you can find the lesson you are supposed to be learning, and then moving forward.
Exercise for Helping You to Learn From Your Past Relationships
Instead of indulging in the heartbreak, regrets, remorse and guilt of a relationship gone bad, try to see it as an opportunity for growth. Many relationship experts actually encourage people to perform an exercise that lists the top 5 relationships that they have been in. Then, use columns to list both the good and the bad aspects of each relationship. Next up, compare lists. You will likely find that the ‘bad’ columns from each relationship are filled with similarities. Perhaps the exact circumstances may be different, but the ‘issue’ is the same. These are the traits and characteristics that you want to learn to avoid. You should also spend time focusing on the good from each relationship. When you list all the things you like/love – you can be more focused to look for those qualities in other people and new relationships. This ensures that YOU are actually getting the lessons, and not just caught in a whirlwind cycle of making the same mistake over and over again.
And be real! You are bound to mistakes. Relationships are going to come and go. At 21, you will be looking for totally different things than you will be at 44. The process of growing however is always designed to bring you closer and closer to living your most authentic (and happiest) life.