Most of the time, breakups are fueled with anguish, self-doubt and uncertainty. However, once all the negative emotions subside, getting over a past relationship is a valuable opportunity for self-reflection. Through self-reflection, lessons are learned, and you start to get a better understanding of who you are as a person. This should then enable you to get into a healthier relationship with someone who is right for you.
In this post, I am going to be sharing a few lessons I have learned through failed relationships:
Investments don’t guarantee a return
Just because you’ve gone above and beyond for someone, it doesn’t mean that you will get the relationship you want. You may be the kind of person who believes in building or uplifting your partner and that’s OK. However, this doesn’t mean that your partner (or whoever you are dating) will reciprocate your actions. The worst mindset a person can possibly have is ‘ I did this for them, so they will do the same for me’. Relationships do not operate on a tit for tat system. In life, I’ve learnt that this is very accurate in relationships (and even friendships). Personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong in wanting a companion. We should all want to share our lives with someone, this is a common goal. If you do have traits that can tend to keep you in relationships for a lot longer than you should, then set boundaries. At the same time, if your gut tries to tell you that you’re doing way too much, then you probably are.
In previous relationships, I always adopted the ‘saviour’ complex. The saviour complex has been a continuous addition throughout almost all of my past relationships. My thought process was undeniably hooked on fixing, saving or healing someone’s son, because that’s what I saw throughout my childhood. When my last relationship ended, I experienced this great sense of burnout, which was possibly due to the one-sided nature of the union. One thing I have learned in my 2.5 years as a single woman is that all relationships should be mutually fulfilling.
Love is best rooted in friendship
One of my biggest relationship regrets has got to be jumping before I can look. The truth is that it can be quite tempting to want to skip the friend stage and move on to being partners immediately, but this is the BIGGEST mistake anyone could make. A warrior will always put his shield in the correct position before he starts to fight, right? A friends first policy is a vital form of self-protection. Getting to know someone before getting into a relationship with them will give you the opportunity to (possibly) establish a genuine relationship which is built on love, trust, care and respect (yes, I got that from Baggage Reclaim). As someone who is turning 30 next year, I know all about the mind battles us millennials embark on: When will I buy a home? Will I ever find love? Will I ever fit into the jeans I wore when I was 25? Putting deadlines on timelines is nothing new so there is no reason to rush anything. Take your time and always do what is right for you.
A friends first policy also can’t be stagnant. Communication is so important! If they say they want to be friends and you only hear from them once a month, you do not have a friendship so don’t fool yourself. Be weary of guys whose characters start to change as soon as they are hit with the friendship tag. That is not the kind of person you should be with (let alone be friends with).
Don’t force things – if you have to force it, just let it go
Staying in relationships that have run their course – such a complete and utter waste of time, yet so many of us are still doing this! (in 2019!). My mantra is ‘if it feels forced, then it is not for you’. This goes for everything but there is always a reason why we stay in relationships for longer than we should. Most people do because they have this fear of being alone. My reason was the investment side of things (I always thought if I held on a little longer, I’d get the return I felt I deserved). Forcing a relationship will only make you very unhappy in the long run. It’s also not fair on the other person. Ending things are never easy but once those feelings of distance, difference and discord start to set in, it is time to start asking yourself some serious questions.
Before you establish whether you are forcing things, do share your concerns with your partner. Feeling unable to share what may be troubling you with the person in your life is a huge red flag. Sometimes, having some time alone to think can also help in this process. Before I ended my last relationship, all I’d do in the evenings was sit on a bench at the park and just reflect. It may seem strange but, for me, the park was my reflection space.
Change comes from within
Change isn’t a tricky concept – if someone wants to make a change in any area of their lives, they will do what they can to make it happen. Over the years, what I’ve learned does not work is forcing another individual to change. This is a huge element of the ‘saviour complex’. Although your intentions may be good, you can (and probably will) put yourself at risk to a heap of negative emotions, especially if you don’t get what it is you feel you’re entitled to. In one of my favourite books, The Four Agreements, writer Don Miguel Ruiz shares a valuable piece of advice. To simplify, he says if you can’t accept someone as they are, then leave them alone. People are happy as they are so why would you disturb their peace? and he is absolutely right. In relationships, change can be birthed from such a selfish place. It’s easy to only think about how it will benefit you, and not how it will impact the other person in the picture.
Acceptance is so important because relationships are not easy. You will face issues that are a lot more serious as your relationship moves forward, so if you’re not happy with your partner in general, your feelings aren’t likely to change as time goes on. Something women do when they’re on this mission to change a guy is justify their reasoning. When you’re trying to turn a person into someone they are not, that is never OK. Just walk away.
Don’t make yourself liable for the behaviour and actions of others
The cycle of self-blame is a horrid one. It’s so easy to get caught up in ‘what if’s’ or ‘if only’s’ when relationships come to an end. All I can say is that in life, each person must be accountable for their own actions. Owning what you do is hard, but important. You may find it easy to say ‘I messed up’ while others may be in a state of complete denial. It is what it is. Never turn into a mystery solver, it’s not your place to figure out why people do what they do, it will make you feel like crap. Take the L (loss) and move forward.
If you are cutting yourself up over something you can’t change, there may be something triggering your thought process. This is where talking to someone you trust comes into play. Justifying bad behaviour was my biggest vice. I could justify bad behaviour and terrible treatment all day and all night. Sometimes, you need to think of yourself as if you were your friend. Would you be happy with the way your friend is being treated? Always remember that you deserve nothing but the best in a relationship.
Expectations kill relationships before they have even begun
Expectations (when extreme) are a relationship killer. If they are too high, they can become realistic and if they are too low, you will find yourself in a situation you wish you weren’t in! I honestly believe there’s a link between being happy in a relationship and expectations. The most important thing in any union is to pay attention to how you are treated and are made to feel. Everything else comes later. If the foundation of your relationship is based purely on expectations, it will fail. You don’t want to wish your partner was someone that they’re not. It will frustrate you. Every woman probably has a list of things she’s looking for in a potential partner. Think about the things you could possibly compromise on as well as the non-negotiables.
For example, you can compromise on things such as choice of TV shows, choice of food, little things like that. A non-negotiable may be wanting to have a family. Knowing the difference between the two is a must. Something I would recommend is watching videos, listening to podcasts or reading books. There’s always something to learn about the different types of characteristics there are when it comes to personal relationships.
If the good outweighs the bad, walk away (it’s just not worth it)
What does the good outweighing the bad mean? This is where you determine if the relationship is adding (or removing) value from your life. If you have come to the clear conclusion that your partner has 4 good qualities and 10 bad ones, for example, then it’s obviously clear that you need to leave the relationship. Focusing on good qualities when your relationship has become toxic and hostile is a terrible thing to do. In situations where one partner’s behaviour has changed, know that they will be aware of the fact that what they are doing is wrong but if you seem unfazed by their actions, things will get so much worse. Mediocre and bad partners tend to adopt to perpetrator mindset. As far as they are concerned, they know that they can put you through hell and you won’t go anywhere. Before you know it, the bad behaviour is excused and sadly, this can signal the birth of abuse.
Something else I have also realized is that you are the only one who should decide if a relationship is worth staying in. Forget about ultimatums. If something isn’t right, it isn’t right. Addressing concerns is important but if things aren’t changing, it is time to put your own needs first. Think of it this way: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. An apology means nothing if things still continue to stay as they are.
Pay attention to how your partner treats the people around them
When you are in a new relationship, you are going to be all about your partner. It’s just the way it is. Don’t be so engrossed to the point where you aren’t paying attention to certain things. This is an area I’m sure a lot of women can relate to. Having a partner that treats you amazingly well is one of the best feelings anyone could experience, but that doesn’t mean you pay no mind to how they treat others. We have all gone through a ‘that’s OK, he will never do that to me’ phase and within a few months, you realize that he probably has and the relationship ceases to exist.
Again, the point above is linked to justifications. When you find yourself justifying things that you shouldn’t, just stop. Take some time out and look at your relationship from another person’s perspective. This isn’t a man-bash but there are some men out there who are exceptionally good at normalizing bad behaviour. One reason why some men get away with this is because previous partners overlook their toxic traits. I could go on and on about this area but I won’t. All I can say is, you are allowed to be all about your partner or whoever you are dating, but pay attention!
Do not make your partner the source of your happiness
‘If I had a partner, I could…’, ‘ I need to have a partner before I…’. This type of thinking is so detrimental. It can stop you from living the live you truly deserve. In the past, I used to be that woman. I always thought life was much easier when you had someone to share it with. The truth is your life won’t change dramatically when you do get into a relationship, your partner will compliment you, so this is why you’ve got to be aware of what you bring to the table. Establishing a sense of identity is a must. When you get into a relationship without really understanding the kind of person you are, it’s easy to find yourself in a situation you don’t want to be in.
Over the past two years, I have had so many opportunities to get to know myself better. It can be so difficult to start, especially when your confidence has taken a hit, but start with the little things. It may seem bizarre but once you know what books you like to read or why you like to go to that exercise class once a week, the path to self-discovery will be a breeze! Those boundaries and standards will be set in no time.
When it comes to relationships, all I can do is share my experiences with you all. I’m not an expert and have never claimed to be. What I can say is that if you find yourself in the same kind of relationships, don’t be too hard on yourself. Take some time to work on yourself and make a mission out of identifying why you are finding yourself in the same relationships. Once you’ve addressed these issues, you can start the healing process.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post. If you’d like to read some other posts I have written about relationships, click here.
Also, I love to hear from you all so please do share lessons you have learned from failed relationships. Do like, subscribe and share with all your friends.