I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while. We all learn so much from our past relationships. After enough time has passed, we can often reflect on them and take away a succinct lesson. Whether it’s something we learned about ourselves, a mistake we made that we won’t repeat, a mistake our partner made that we are more attuned to…one of the (few) positives to ending a relationship is the potential for growth. With that, I thought it would be cool to harness the power of my gay following to combine some of these lessons into a single post. Something we can come back to and read when we’re struggling internally or need a reminder of what we said we wouldn’t tolerate.
But first, my contribution. From my collective past in dating and relationships, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned can be reduced to a single word – communication. Without communication, issues fester, feelings linger, and one or both parties to a relationship feel unheard. It’s so easy to avoid difficult topics or brush them under the rug – but successful and healthy relationships require constant communication. It can be hard, but one approach that I find helpful is implementing some sort of formal communication process in both the good times and bad.
Practicing conscious communication as a habit and pattern makes it less dramatic or difficult to do in the future. Every week, on a date night, when you’re at home, whatever it is – make a point to share what went well (or not so well) in your life, in your relationship (anything really) with your partner. And ask them to do the same. Make it a formal moment – don’t just count your normal conversations as part of this process. “These are the things that bothered me this week…” “These are the things I felt blessed to have this week…” Or you can make it specific to your relationship “The best part of us this week is when we…” “I felt annoyed this week because…” This habit makes it easy and more normal to communicate more challenging issues in the future, and also blends in the positive so that every communication isn’t a fight.
But now, let’s hear from others. Here is what some of you said were the most important lessons you learned from your past relationships (all slightly reworded for clarity):
- I was in a long distance relationship. The communication was great at first but then fell off. He said he was really busy with his job and other things. Eventually, I realized people make time for what’s important. He didn’t make time for me – and I’m way too important to give my time and energy to a guy who doesn’t reciprocate.
- While giving is always important to do, you can’t keep doing it while getting noting in return.
- Don’t settle and enter into a commitment out of pity or in hopes of building the person into something you want. They may never live up to your expectations, and you will waste more time and effort than if you were patient and didn’t settle.
- My ex grew up in a separated family, but he had a really strong connection with his dad, which I admired. He pushed me to communicate more with my parents (whom I had a bad relationship with). He suggested I try doing things with them that I never would have in the past. He taught me how important family was, and even though he came to my life at the wrong time, I thank him for that.
- I learned that I need to be on my own to resolve and uncover years of self-inflicted damage and hatred that was second nature to me. I’m still learning to put myself first and process all of the pain so that I can live more authentically in my life and future relationships.
- I learned to follow my intuition and not ignore the red flags – no matter how handsome he may be.
- Just because someone cheats on you, it doesn’t mean that it’s your fault or that you did something wrong. Don’t feel like you’re worth less than you are because the person you loved didn’t love you enough to commit. Love is learning when to go and when to stay.
- I learned that I deserve someone who is willing to take an interest in my interests and who supports my aspirations.
- I tried hard to make something that was not a relationship into one. Instead, it affected my self-esteem and I began to feel like I was only good enough for him when it was convenient. He didn’t actually want me, and I eventually found someone who cares about me and loves me for who I am.
- It’s vital to maintain my boundaries and remain my own person within a relationship. My wants and needs matter and if I don’t advocate for myself, no one will. I cannot be a passenger on someone else’s train, and I need to be mindful and vocal of this upfront so I don’t fall into old patterns. Boyfriends, after all, are not mind readers. Ultimately, loving and valuing someone else does not mean forgetting to love and value myself.
- You can love someone to the ends of the universe and they might not feel the same way. It takes time for people to truly understand if they love you or not. Allow for that time, and do not assume that your level of love is always going to be reciprocated.
These are all such good lessons. And if anyone reading has more, please add it to this post as a comment for future readers!