Really important things I learned from a failed relationship
I recently exited a on-again, off-again relationship, which left me broken-hearted and alone with nothing but lessons I should have learned sooner. But luckily, the lessons I’ve taken away are some of the most important things I could have learned. I didn’t just learn what NOT to look for in a relationship, I learned what healthy relationships are supposed to look like by thinking about what mine had been lacking. Here are some of the things everyone should have in a relationship:
1. Learn to love someone the way they ask to be loved: Everyone finds different things romantic, helpful, or kind depending on their own inner desires. Some people love to go out and have fun with their partner, others find it the most comforting to sit quietly together and read. When it comes to romantic deeds and gestures, everybody has their own preferences. If something, ANYTHING, is important to your partner, it should be important to you too. This means both of you have to be willing to be open, honest, and active in your relationship. You have to put your egos aside, stop making excuses, and dig into the mystery that is loving and understanding your partner. Yes, it is a lot of effort—more effort than a lot of people are willing to make. But that’s what it takes to make love last.
2. Support their dreams: Most people give some thought as to what their ideal future would be like, and it seems fewer and fewer try to make those dreams a reality. Imagine how hard it must be for someone to finally put into action the thing they have been dreaming about the most. Just that first step of telling someone about it can be terrifying. Now imagine if the first person they told thought it was a bad idea. It would be devastating. I personally think this is what keeps people from doing what they love—they told someone who shot it down and now they’ve lost hope.
Don’t be that person. If your partner is excited about something, it’s your job to be supportive. Unless your partner is doing something destructive, it’s not your job to intervene. If someone is about to spend all of your life savings on an ice castle in your backyard, then by all means, have a discussion. But if this is a thought-out, rational, life goal of your partner’s, you should be excited they are going to do something that will make them happy.
Remember, your partner was an independent person before you were in a relationship and they still should be once they are in one. Never let your personal worries make your partner feel like they can’t be free to be themselves.
3. Argue with love in mind: This is one my last relationship failed at quite a bit. Ideally, if you’re in a relationship with someone who loves you and wants to be with you, they should still want to be with you even if you’re having an argument. One of my favorite sayings is that, “when you argue, your love should still look at you like you’re the best thing that ever happened to them.” Kindness, reciprocity, and hope don’t go away just because you have a bump in the road.
In a healthy relationship, the reason arguments happen is so the two of you can work things out. Even when things look bleak, don’t give into despair, blaming, or manipulation. Either you want to be with this person or you don’t. And if you do, you should not only be willing to talk things through, but do so in a kind and mature way. If you have your standards in place then you don’t have to worry about whether or not something is a dealbreaker (or will be in the future). Everyone has dealbreakers (less is more) but if an issue isn’t a dealbreaker, then don’t treat it like one.
The truth I’ve learned is most issues can be worked through, or work themselves through on their own. No one should be treating their partner like every little argument is the end of the relationship. Both people need to feel secure in the relationship so they can bring issues up in the first place. After all, the whole point of bringing up an issue is so the two of you can solve it, right?
4. Have each other’s back: Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world where everyone will always be nice to your partner or supportive of your relationship together. I think some of the most trying situations to be in is when someone or something (or someone) tries to tear your relationship apart. It can happen in the most undramatic of ways: someone doesn’t like a project your partner did at work, someone makes jokes at your partner’s expense, someone makes comments about your living situation. I’ve learned that nothing tears at a couple like someone not backing their partner up during these circumstances. Human beings are critical, but you do not have to join in their criticism of the people you love most. They are your partner, and more than anyone else, you should be on their side.
This doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with their points of view, acknowledge their shortcomings, or placate others who disagree with them. It means that you can handle these uncomfortable situations without making your partner feel insulted or abandoned. Remember, the main goal is to be together forever, and that takes loyalty to them above anyone else.
5. Let things go: This is a huge one for me, and I’m honestly still terrible at it. Rumination, or thinking about something over and over again, has the potential to destroy healthy relationships. If you can’t let things go, then you can’t forgive, you can’t have peace of mind, and you can’t move on. Thinking about a problem or situation doesn’t solve it. Sure, sometimes there’s a way to come up with a solution in your head, but if you haven’t thought of it the first time, then you’re not going to figure it out the next 17 times and you’re just going to make yourself more worried, stressed, and preoccupied. Learn to let things go. If you’ve talked about it already, then put it away and let nature take its course. There’s no use in rethinking everything until you you’ve made yourself upset again.
6. Be flexible: Relationships are made up of two different people from two different backgrounds; there are going to be things you need to compromise on. Nobody should get their way all the time. If one person wants it one way and another wants it the opposite way, meet in the middle or trade off. Your way is not the only way and you’re going to be in for a surprise if you continue trying to make everyone around you do things your way. Most people dislike being controlled and few put up with it for very long. Recognize that a healthy relationship means letting go of needing to get your way all the time. There is no room for egos in healthy relationships.
7. Take care of yourself first: I tend to ignore my needs in order to focus on someone else. I don’t recommend it. I’ve learned that in order to be in a happy relationship, you have to be happy yourself. If you are not where you want to be in life and you don’t love yourself enough to try, then nothing in your life can make up that difference. Not even love. I’ve heard people say that you can’t love somebody else if you don’t love yourself, but I’ve found that I can always give love when I don’t love myself. I just can’t receive it. Because true happiness comes from within. And a happy relationship comes from two separately happy people, living their lives together.
8. Be kind first: I personally think this one is the most important. In relationships it’s common for egos to get in the way: you want to be right, you want things your way, you want them to be the ones to cave in first. Don’t. Be kind first. Be the first to offer an olive branch, a compromise, a solution, a change, plan of action, or kind word or gesture. You can’t be on your partner’s side if you are always trying to win. And if your partner isn’t doing the same, then it may be time to rethink things. Forgiveness is for those intend to change.
(Image via Focus Features)