As we go into this Thanksgiving season and reflect on all the things we are grateful for, there’s someone you may be forgetting: your ex. Call us crazy, but there are so many things to thank your past relationships for. Every relationship teaches you something, and as a result, we grow, we evolve, and we become better versions of ourselves. Whether we enjoy learning these lessons or not is out of our control, but some of the most important life lessons arise from relationships we have, especially the romantic ones. So, a special shout out to our exes for showing us what we deserve, or better yet, what we do not deserve, which in turn helped guide us in learning who we want to be in life and in love.
You can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself first.
We’ve all heard this from our mom, our therapist, etc., but sometimes it takes a truly tumultuous relationship to internalize it. I’ve tried (too many times) to make a relationship work when the most important one wasn’t intact: the relationship with myself. You can try and get the love you need from another person, but the only person you can always rely on is yourself. When you do go through that painful breakup, it’s up to you to pick up the pieces and get things back on track. If you aren’t here for yourself, you can’t expect other people to be.
It isn’t your job to solve someone else’s problems.
It’s the tale as old as time. You meet someone with deeply-rooted problems, and you tell yourself “I can fix this.” No!!!! The stories you hear about a girl changing the stereotypical bad boy, or finally getting a serial polygamist to commit, are the exception and not the rule. Rather than trying to change the person you’re with, you should look for those missing qualities in a new partner! And not to mention, you are not this person’s parent. Talk about misdirected time and energy.
Compromise is important, but don’t sacrifice your needs to keep someone happy.
Relationships are all about having a give-and-take mindset. You may want to go out to a nice dinner and movie, but your partner wants to stay in and be lazy. So you compromise on a solution that makes you both happy. However, if every time you want to do something your partner insists on doing what they want to do instead, this is a sign of imbalance. It’s important to take turns making sacrifices for compromise so that both of your needs are met. When you consistently give in to your partner’s needs rather than advocating for your own, you are essentially communicating that their happiness comes before yours.
You, and only you, are responsible for your own happiness.
Speaking of happiness, that’s on you my dude. The second you start looking to other people for your happiness, you lose the power to make yourself happy. Don’t get me wrong, your partner should 100% make your life brighter and happier, but they cannot be the only source. Similar to loving yourself before someone else, I can’t stress the importance of maintaining a positive relationship with yourself for the sake of your happiness. You were a person before this relationship, and you will be a person after the relationship. So why not continue to be your own person throughout? Keep up with your hobbies and make time for friends instead of waiting for your S.O. to finally text back or ask you to hang out. If you can be happy on your own, no one can take that away.
Take inventory of the things that were missing from your relationship and look for those in the future.
Was your last partner a terrible communicator? What about the guy who was great except when he got angry? And don’t even get me started on the girl who never wanted to talk about her feelings. Things that cause consistent issues in your relationships are called dealbreakers; you cannot be with someone if they don’t have or have a particular characteristic. For me, a dealbreaker is my partner and I not being on the same page emotionally. It requires patience and communication to evaluate this, which means those are also aspects I look for in a partner. Someone that can’t fulfill important needs or match your values is not “the one” and there’s never a reason to settle for that. Take note of the things you need that you were missing from that relationship, and make a mental checklist. This will help you figure out what is important to you, and help you pick a better match.
Sometimes the stars don’t align. That just means it wasn’t meant to be.
Shout out to all my long distance relationships out there! Now I’m not saying this is the case for everyone, but at least in my personal experiences, this is what I’ve learned. You may be head over heels for someone, but if your paths are heading in separate directions, that probably means you guys aren’t meant to be. I used to spend so much time thinking “well when we’re together, it’s perfect, the long distance is what’s messing us up.” What I didn’t realize is that no matter how great we are when we’re together, that isn’t our life and won’t be for the foreseeable future. We spend the majority of our time apart, and it takes a serious toll to sit around and wait for the next time you’ll be together. On another note, don’t ever let a relationship interfere with your ability to live in the present. When I would make countdowns until the next time I saw my S.O., I would hope for each day to fly by, rather than enjoy it to the fullest. You can’t be happy in the here and now if your head is in another place and time.
A partner should never make you choose between them and your friends/family.
This probably seems obvious, but I’ve found myself in situations where my partner has tried to convince me that my parents didn’t have my best interests in mind because they didn’t support our relationship. Looking back, of course my parents were right to have their hesitations, but I digress. There are few constant sources of love in all of our lives, and your family and close friends are two of them. When someone tries to create a wedge in between us and our loved ones, this can be an early warning sign of abusive patterns. More generally, if your partner makes you feel isolated from everyone except for them, they aren’t right for you.