5 Lessons We Can Learn from Past Relationships

5 Lessons We Can Learn from Past Relationships

Posted By: Kelly Seal Date: 10-23-2017 Comments: 0

As little kids, we are taught the fairytale version of love, and we carry the desire for happily-ever-after into adulthood. But the reality (as we learn!) is much different. We make many mistakes as we date and form new relationships, and we find out that love can end. But past relationships are great teachers, and can point to our weaknesses and strengths when it comes to loving someone else.

Many of us play out our personal fears and anxieties in our relationships. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a fact of life – and one that can be very revealing if you are willing to take an honest look at your own behavior.

In every relationship, we are challenged in ways we don’t expect. Sometimes we give away our power, other times we might feel controlling. We might refuse to show our vulnerabilities, or we might cling too hard to the version of happily-ever-after we have in our heads, blaming our partners when we feel “let down.”

All of these tendencies create tension in love relationships. If you sense a pattern in your love life that leads to heartache, pain, and tension – chances are there is something you can learn and do differently going forward. Here are five lessons we can learn from past relationships:

We create our own happiness.

No matter what you’ve been told, it’s not up to your partner to make you happy. Happiness is cultivated from within, by taking care of yourself emotionally. When you look to external factors to give you joy – especially your partner – it’s too much for any one person to carry, and he/she will ultimately fail. This behavior also feeds codependency. Instead of looking to your relationship to fill your heart and quell all your anxieties, practice self-care in small steps, every day. Take care of your body with exercise, practice meditation, and allow yourself “me” time where you can pursue your own hobbies and interests outside of your partner’s. Think about what gives you joy – like riding a bike or reading a book – and start with that.

You can’t control the actions of others.

This can be a hard lesson to learn, especially for those of us who want to “fix” our partners. We see the potential of how good/talented/successful they can be if only... But it’s not our job to change anyone. We can only change ourselves. This can be so frustrating, especially when you can see how your previous partners were only sabotaging themselves. But be realistic – none of us was put on the earth to be a savior to someone else, and let’s face it – nobody wants to be saved by you! There is a lot of power in the choices we make for ourselves; it can truly change our lives. When you try to change the behavior of others it’s disempowering. When you take responsibility for your own choices and make different ones, it’s empowering.

Forgiveness is key to moving on.

Forgiveness is a hard concept to embrace. We equate forgiveness with giving someone a pass for their bad behavior, without apologizing for the pain they caused. But forgiveness isn’t about the other person at all. It’s about freeing yourself to move on with your life. When you are in a constant state of anger and pain, you can see it’s a vicious cycle that creates more pain. It becomes harder to cut yourself free from your anger, to let go of that pain. You also subconsciously prevent other people from getting too close to you. When you decide to forgive and move on, it’s like a huge emotional weight has been lifted. You will feel free to let love in again.

Value yourself.

We are all taught to have self-esteem, to empower ourselves, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. Women tend to compromise more in relationships because we are raised to be “people-pleasers,” and then we get frustrated when it becomes expected. This is not healthy, and every human being should feel valued, so it’s important to practice standing up for yourself.  

If you want to stay in instead of going out, let your partner know. If you think moving for a job offer is a great opportunity for you, express your needs so you can talk things through. No matter how small or large a potential conflict might be, you have to express your own desires and open up the conversation. In your next relationship, instead of going along with what you partner wants for the sake of getting along, communicate what you want. You don’t want resentment to grow, so take charge of your sense of self, and advocate for yourself. Compromise is a two-way street.

Communicate effectively.

Psychologists are right, communication is key in healthy relationships. We all have our own way of communicating, and often, two people in a relationship express themselves differently, which causes a lot of conflict. For instance, your ex boyfriend might be quiet and reserved when it comes to talking about his feelings, but you like to express yourself constantly. His tendency to retreat brought out your tendency to push his buttons, just to get a reaction.

Instead of continuing the same communication patterns in your next relationship, try taking a different approach. I suggest counseling to help you plan a different strategy when it comes to communication, especially if you have experienced the same problems in past relationships.

We can all learn and improve, we just have to make the effort. Don’t you want your next relationship to be healthier, happier? Then it’s good to examine what you don’t want to make room for what you do want.