Relationship Resumes: Things I Now Know Thanks to Failed Relationships

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.

The article reads:

“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?

Overcoming a Slump

I don’t think it’s unusual that every few months I fall into a small rut.

The problems feel as if they’re piling, stress tacks itself on to the struggles and sometimes it seems impossible to be your usual self.

When I hit that state about 3 weeks ago, I wracked my mind to figure out why now? What was the catalyst? Sure things weren’t easy. But they were seemingly small matters:

A library book I’d desperately wanted in the one section of the library that was under construction for a month. An extra day spent on the perfect cover letter, only for the job to close before I could submit. My boss put on temporary reassignment right after acquiring a ton of new projects. Veins growing in my eyes, prompting $200 in eye drops and rendering me unsure when I could wear contacts again. A sense of insecurity in my glasses. A feeling of loneliness prompted by the long work hours of my guy. Oh, and the spider found in my bed.

As I tried to trace the reasoning behind my pity party I realized that my mood didn’t start because my struggles existed; my upset mood was a result of my inability to solve the problems immediately.

Because I am not the strongest Type A planner who needs things to follow order. I am an adapter, I thrive in thinking up a Plan B, C, or D when crisis strikes. My strongest trait is my ability to expect change, embrace it, think on my feet and move on like nothing happened.

And I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember – from the day my parents announced they were divorcing ten years ago to when my house caught on fire at 3 in the morning junior year of high school when I also had 17 friends staying over from out of town and the expectation of hosting a New Years party two days away. Or let’s not forget the whole process of applying to study abroad junior year of college – from six weeks before departure when I was notified I didn’t have housing, right up to the week before depature when I got my wisdom teeth out and realized my passport and visa had gone AWOL with UPS. Always adapting. Always okay.

So, when things started unraveling this last time, I was unafraid to face any issues head on. But..that didn’t happen. Everything needed time and patience. And with my inability to steer the situation, I dragged further into feelings of defeat and doubt.

But then my little Blackberry – who has been with me for one-and-a-half years (a record) – stopped charging two weeks ago. The USB was broken. And while I had sentimental pangs for my phone, I recognized the situation. This was an opportunity for redemption. Phone issues, I can handle.

So, I made my mental list of options and visited my friend’s store where he fixes phones for a living, borrowed a temporary phone to charge my battery, finally found a provider location with a manager who was happy to send a replacement and just in case – got ready to blast a help message onto Facebook.

Somewhere inbetween taking control of my phone situation and reuniting with some friends in a public, social setting over that weekend (golf theme – perfect for my glasses), I got my groove back. And my confidence meant that suddenly all those tough still-left-to-be-solved situations didn’t seem that far off either.

I really wanted my point of this post to highlight the message of fixing your own problem to fix your mood. But I realize, the message is much deeper than exercising control. This was a great reminder of the importance of a positive attitude, no matter what you can and can’t control. For every funk, there is positivity to be found to kick away the doubt.

You get the idea.

My favorite lesson.

On loving Love and Relationships

I’m almost surprised how much has not changed in my life in the last year. Or, if we want to be real here, since graduating college.

I’m in the same job.

Same living situation.

Going out to the same places.

Hanging with the same friends.

Living in mainly the same haircut and wardrobe.

(Which is mostly without complaint, so we’re clear.)

But I know I’ve grown in the last two years. And it’s clear to me that my changes – even largely reflected within my blog content  – have come from one very strong dimension of my life: relationships.

By this, I mean more than just my realization that I should be treated well or that I can have a real, communicative romantic relationship [ala the infamous blog post on Discovering Grown-up Relationships, later followed up with an essay for Facets Magazine (page 25 – 27 of their February/ March issue).]

No – what I think brought my 20’s and post-college life into maturation was the new token of transparency I found across my peers. It was establishing new forms of trust and communication with those around me and seeing strangers post honest blog posts about their relationships. It was reading psychology articles about maintaining love in a marriage and the chemistry behind why we love. It was when my friends finally started sharing the stuff behind-closed-doors; stuff that I complained about, too, but thought made me crazy.

And transparency was just the catalyst. I’m no longer afraid to touch on any aspect that goes into love and relationships because they’re all important and real and I hate that we cover them up. Sex. Arguing. Compromise. Growth. Sex, again. Break ups. Marriage. Doubt.

I understand the need for privacy – especially across certain mediums – but finding a new level of comfort with discussing these matters has filled my life with a whole new passion. Sharing has brought me closer with people I never could have imagined and has brought on several realizations about myself.

I am finding a new hobby in my desire to learn about the reasoning, psychology and chemistry behind love.

I hope to not imply that I am extra nosey or invested in other’s private lives, but simply: I think I am finding a passion and potential career prospect in love and relationships much the same way as others dedicate their lives to learning and helping others with nutrition or fitness.

(Maybe that’s why I own 15 different relationship books just for fun, or spend hours reading a bloggers “how we met ” story and comments, or offer to listen to my friend complain about their boyfriend for the 14th time, or secretly look up a master’s or PhD programs in marriage and family counseling so I can do more research on the subject.)

Maybe I’m crazy…

But, just tell me your story.