I always tell people that you know a relationship is over when the bad outweighs the good. For me, this has meant that whenever my significant other and me are arguing more than actually getting along I know its time to end things. I’ve been known to stay in relationships longer than I should just because I’m scared of what not being together would look like. I guess you could say I’m scared of change. But I think what I have mainly been scared of is having wasted my time. I’ve tried to make things work just because I didn’t want this to be another failed relationship. It’s not that I’m specifically looking for my lifelong partner at this point, I think I’ve just been scared of admitting that I’ve wasted my time on someone who isn’t worth it.
Recently I’ve been beginning to look at past relationships differently than merely ‘wasted time’. Even if a relationship doesn’t last a lifetime, it doesn’t mean it has been a waste of your time. Past relationships are able to teach us valuable lessons about life and love and can help us determine what we want for ourselves.
I am in no way an expert at love. I’m still learning how to navigate matters of the heart and often think I’d be better off as a single cat lady. However, I have had enough tumultuous relationships and heartbreaks to have a rough sense of what not to do again. I try to reflect on how I handled past relationships in order to know what worked and what didn’t. Here are more or less some of the lessons such reflection has taught me.
Lesson one; don’t let your romantic relationship affect other relationships around you.
Chances are high that your significant other is going to butt heads with at least one person in your life. While it may be hard to try and mediate the situation, it’s even harder to maintain a friendship if you always take the side of your SO. Don’t let a romantic relationships affect your personal relationships. And take it as a warning sign if others aren’t too fond of your romantic interest.
When there is a breakup it means there will be change not only in your life, but also in the lives of those around you. It’s never a good idea to try and divide friends into sides; this usually leads to the dissolution of even more relationships. You need to realize that, even though your SO may be out of your life, it doesn’t mean they will be automatically out of the lives of others in your life.
Lesson two; don’t let your relationship be the object of your constant attention.
This goes hand in hand with the first lesson. During a relationship, it’s easy to make your SO the object of your attention. But, in doing so, you begin to alienate others around you. If your relationship comes to an end you’ll need the support of others to help you through the heartbreak. So, it’s not a good idea to forget about others in your life while you’re in a relationship.
More importantly, it’s crucial to maintain your independence in any relationship. You, as a person, have a distinct identity that cannot be lost through the creation and disintegration of different relationships. Recognizing and upholding this when you’re in a relationship is key to maintaining a healthy relationship and can help make a break up a little bit easier.
Lesson three; don’t get involved with anyone until you’re completely ready.
Everyone always jokes about having a ‘rebound’ fling. Maybe in some situations this has worked but, in my experience, it has always done more harm than good. Getting involved with someone when you’re not emotionally ready can set you (and the other person) up for a lot more pain. You need to make sure you’re completely ready before you enter into anything else romantic.
Also, if your motivation by getting involved with someone else is to hurt your ex, you’ll most likely succeed. But, I can assure you that this never feels as satisfying as you think it will. Hurting someone just because you’re in pain never has good consequences.
Lesson four; don’t make your self worth dependent on having a romantic relationship.
This lesson seems simple, but it’s a lot harder to follow. The main thing to remember is how valuable you are, with or without an SO. There are too many instances that I let something go on longer than it should because I was insecure about being alone. It is never worth it to stay in a relationship just because you’re scared of being single.
Before your SO came into your life you were fine and you will be fine in their absence as well. There is so much more to you than just your relationship status. You need to recognize how worthwhile you are in order to have any chance of a successful relationship.
These lessons may or may not work for everyone. I have learned that, for me, looking back at how I handled previous relationships prevents me from repeating past mistakes. I like to think that I’m becoming better at this whole game of love. Personally, I think love really is a game of trial and error.