“Perhaps it’s time, I muse, to close those chapters and remember the enduring lesson of my entrapment: that relationships, not accomplishments, are what’s important in life.” ~ Aron Ralston
Everything comes to an end at some point in the timeline of our lives: the good and the bad, the terrific and the terrible.
The end of an intimate relationship can be a lot like having your heart carved out with a soup spoon—-it hurts, a lot.
It’s messy. And it’s a bi%&# to clean up.
Pondering the present and the past after a breakup gave me the golden opportunity to see my responsibility in the meltdown, what I might have done better, and what patterns I may have repeated from earlier relationships. If I didn’t take time to be with myself and look at my life from an inside perspective, I would just repeat the same patterns in the next relationship. You can learn at least one important fact about yourself when a relationship ends. If you are fortunate, you will learn more than one valuable lesson.
These are the pearls I gained from my last relationship.
1. Nice guys do finish last.
Being nice and being a gentleman are two completely different concepts. “Nice” is an annoyingly common adjective in our vocabulary, just like the word “good.” Something that is nice is usually not terrific and not terrible.
In the DMZ of emotions, it occupies that middle area of non-commitment.
Nice is often a euphemism for not being completely honest, or maybe for being a people-pleaser who doesn’t want to rock the boat. Nice people are often afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings.
You can’t get in trouble for being honest with someone. If you do, would you really want to be in relationship with that person?
Which leads me to…
2. Conflict is normal.
I thought the best relationships were devoid of arguments. Always placid. The reality is the only relationships that don’t have conflict are the ones where partners are not truly connected. Two adults who really love each other and also love themselves will disagree—sometimes vehemently—although abuse of any kind is never tolerated. What was important was that I could empathize with her.
The most critical single factor in a relationship is how you handle conflict when it happens and how you resolve it after. It was unreasonable for me to think we wouldn’t have disagreements or arguments.
It was reasonable to care enough about my partner to learn to resolve them.
When there is an argument, there are only two choices: be right or be in love.
3. Own your own sh#&. All of it.
If one partner is always wrong and the other is always right, nothing works. I take responsibility for my own choices—be they good or bad. No one provokes me or forces me to do anything or say anything. It’s all personal choice. Saying “you made me” or “you provoked me” is a cop-out. Even if someone literally put a gun to my head I’m still making a choice.
The two most poisonous traits that quickly destroy a relationship the fastest are one partner always claiming to be right instead of being in mutual love and blaming someone else for their choices and actions.
4. Perfectionism kills love.
Expecting perfection from myself or my partner is a recipe for disaster. It is futile to expect to be the perfect partner. All I can do and all I can expect from my partner is to be the best partner you can be at this moment in time.
Trying or expecting myself to be the perfect partner just puts undue stress on the relationship. And it didn’t give me the right to expect her to be perfect either.
Which leads to…
5. Accept your partner as they are.
One of the best definitions of love I’ve heard is being able to accept someone completely for who they are right now—as is with no changes. I can work on myself and grow in the way I handle myself in the relationship but I can’t force someone else to change. If they do, it will be on their own volition.
Thinking my bond would be tighter after my partner changed or gave up one or two nasty habits was a recipe for failure.
6. You can’t steal home with one foot on third-base.
You can’t stay safe by keeping one foot ready for your escape route or your options open. Relationships are all about being all in and fully committed. There is no substitute for giving your best and giving your all. I was always afraid my partner would abandon me again and abandon us again. Each time she ran away to “think about things,” I would take two steps back. When she came back I kept one foot out the door to protect myself, waiting for her to run away again.
It was like an annoying Texas two-step. Both partners need to be either be all in or be all out. No one likes to be in limbo—unless it’s the dance version.
Speaking of dancing…
7. Dance like it’s in the last night of your life.
Life is much too short to be anything but happy. We spend too much time pondering our mistakes or our partner’s mistakes. Too much time living in the past. Ever met someone amazing and wished you to have met them 10 years earlier so you had more time together to share and enjoy each other? I certainly have. Then act like it and dance every minute you have with them and savor every second.
If you knew tomorrow was your last day on earth, would it change the way you related to and treated your partner?
Save the petty crap for when you’re six feet under.
8.Chemistry is not the same as connection.
A.k.a. sex is not love and vice versa. Chemistry is almost instantaneous and is primal. I know within the first five minutes of meeting somebody if I have chemistry with them. Within the first hour I know if this is someone I would like to get to know on a deeper level. The early phases of a romantic relationship or often more on chemistry-physical attraction level than connection. Over time I hope and work to develop a bond or connection.
The best and most satisfying long-term relationships have both a deep authentic bond of love and a primal sexual attraction.
9.The right person at the wrong time is the wrong person.
Life is all about timing. Two people can meet who could be amazing partners for each other, but if one or both are not ready for the challenges of a connected relationship, it wont work. We are all at different places in our journey of self-understanding—some are farther along the others.
A sizable imbalance in that department is too much to overcome, particularly if one partner doesn’t not believe in personal development and growth. Or is just stuck in the same patterns they have lived out for ages.
I can’t make someone love me—and I certainly can’t teach my partner the lessons she needs to learn on her own and about herself.
Many people will pass through our lives that we can and could love. If we are fortunate, at least a few will be true soulmates, helping us to learn more about ourselves. Helping us to grow and become more authentic. I was blessed in that she taught me more about how I view myself and how I view the world than anyone I have ever met. Each of you will meet at least one teacher along the timeline of your life.
Learn your lessons well.
Author: Dr. Michael Morgan
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Sandra Druschke/Flickr