Several months ago, I was hanging out with two friends I’ve known since high school – a close girl friend who moved to Chicago and a visiting male, who also happened to be a former flame and my first real love.
The topic turned to relationships and experience in the field and I mentioned the notion of relationship resumes – the list of knowledge, skills and practice we draw from when dealing with significant others or summon on dates, showcasing prior successes, saving the failures for later. Personally, I look for partners who have their resume filled in a bit, like my own, indicating they are not novices to relationships or love.
Turning to the guy, I said, “Like you; I would use you as a reference as an example of one of my successful relationships.”
My friend interjected, “Well I don’t know if I would say you guys had a successful relationship….”
“Why not?” I asked
“Because, success means marriage.”
The idea that a successful relationship means more than “to death do us part” struck me in June right before my break up, in July a few weeks after and again Sunday morning with a re-print of a Chicago Tribune article on relationship myths.
“So many people stay in relationships for too long because they feel if it ends, that is a sign of failure,” said Tim Ray, author of 101 Relationship Myths: How to Stop Them from Sabotaging Your Happiness. “One of the things I work with clients about is to be more psychologically mature and part of that is to realize that people change and things change. The belief that you need to stay together can lead to people staying in an unhappy relationship or marriage despite the fact that they have grown apart and the relationship is no longer working … A relationship can be a success even if it ends.”
While in some ways I wish my hunt for my right person was a lot easier than the twists and turns it’s taken so far, I’m proud of each little bullet point on my resume that has gotten me to where I stand today.
My high school self would perhaps feel a little uneasy that I never found the right match in high school or college, like originally expected. But me, right now, 24-year-old me, can’t imagine anything else. She knows it is not the norm to grow with the same individual through every stage of life; that her growth comes from time alone.
I’ve detailed relationship lessons learned in previous blog posts, but what really strikes me is that there certain things I only could have learned from going through a break up. Things I now know about myself that my friends who have been in the same relationship for most of their life may never know or have to learn.
For all of us who have had to start over, say good-bye or learn the hard way: I think our collection of experiences, from former flames and exes and loves, is sometimes less important than the strength we now have from the scars and scrapes it’s taken us to gain them.
Things Failed Relationships Have Taught Me About Myself:
- I know how long it takes me to fully heal from a heartbreak. And more importantly, I know I can heal – that some love can simply cease to exist.
- I believe break-ups mean something; I don’t believe they can be open threats or taken lightly into on-and-off occurrences.
- I understand I am not afraid of getting hurt; maybe I hate being wrong about love, but the fear of being wrong won’t keep me from falling in love just like the fear of being alone won’t keep me in a wrong relationship.
- I know what real work looks like in a relationship – how to productively work to build the foundation of communication, to keep getting to know each other, keep doing nice things to each other. And I know what it looks like when someone isn’t actively participating in the partnership.
- I can recognize when a relationship is headed downhill. And though I hate the anxiety at the pit of my stomach, I know now there is relief at the end.
- I know that even if you don’t ultimately get back together, even if your partner doesn’t say it outright, there will always be a point where your ex misses you or remembers your or fears to let you go.
- I know that there isn’t really a race to the finishing line, to the win. Any ex that will be with someone else just to spite you, isn’t ready to be with someone else. Finding your own match is more improtant than the rate it takes to locate them.
And you know, I think my 16-, 19-, 23-year-old self would be proud.
What do you think failed relationships can teach us?