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I fell in love for the first time when I was 13 years old.
Most people who enter relationships at that age stay together for the expected two weeks and then usually break up in an overly dramatic, teenage angst-filled fashion. But we ended up dating seriously for more than six years—with only a few overly dramatic breakups scattered in there.
Back then, every moment and experience with him felt full and overwhelming and emotionally charged. It was the first time someone outside my family had chosen to love me, the first time I had chosen to love them back, and the first time I realistically thought about what it would look like to spend my life with someone.
But, of course, at 13, or even 18, it’s hard to know what the rest of your life is going to bring. So when our last breakup became “the big one” and I realized that our love story was ending, I was crushed. For months (well, if I’m honest, years), I dissected every little thing that went wrong: what he did, what he said, what I did, what I said, what was choice, what was circumstance.
And when I was finally able to let go of the blame and the anger, the sadness and the heartbreak, I was left with one thing: lessons.
I learned that nothing beats dating your best friend, and that in a relationship, there should be laughter and playfulness every day.
I learned what it means to truly trust someone, and how when your heart is betrayed, it never heals up quite the same way again.
I learned that anger can be the fuel you need to walk away, but it can also be what keeps you stuck, even long after the relationship has ended.
I learned that the issues you encounter in the beginning, no matter how insignificant they may seem, will become bigger and more destructive roadblocks if you don’t work toward either resolution or acceptance.
And amongst about a thousand other things, I learned that the good remains—if you let it.
The truth is that every relationship ends. Some because of pain and hurt and mistrust. Some because of infidelity. Some because of the natural flow of life. Some because of incompatibility. Some because of death. Some because the love just fades away.
But every person we share a portion of our life with is also a teacher.
I recently asked our readers, What lesson did you learn from a past love that has helped you in your current relationship? May their experiences be of benefit to all of us:
1. “I learned to set boundaries from one. Another taught me to set them with kindness. Most valuable lessons for me.” ~ Jessi
2. “When they tell you they’re not good enough for you, believe them.” ~ Ivana
3. “There’s a big difference between someone you like being with and someone who makes a good life partner.” ~ Beth
4. “No matter how much you love someone, if it doesn’t work out, you can go on and you can be okay.” ~ Tracy
5. “To accept my responsibility in the failure of the relationship. I could blame him for everything but that scenario is rarely true, it was really uncomfortable but I took a hard look at how I could improve on treating a partner and have honestly been a better one because of it.” ~ Natalie
6. “That love doesn’t solve my loneliness.” ~ Ashley
7. “Zero expectations. If I’m not trying to get him to do or not do something in order to suit me, I can simply appreciate him as he is and enjoy him fully without any neediness on my part. And I enjoy that same consideration very much.” ~ Tiffany
8. “Be careful what you put up with. You’re teaching people how to treat you. I was the cause of my own heartbreak in every relationship. I either put up with what was happening or my expectations were too high. You can only control yourself.” ~ Mark
9. “You cannot make someone love you by loving them harder.” ~ Crystal
10. “That to love and to be vulnerable is still a beautiful thing!” ~ Marisol
11. “That I deserve someone who is sure of me, would choose me, and would keep choosing me.” ~ Bam
12. “What kind of love I will not accept. I will not accept love that feels conditional. I will not accept someone who doesn’t make me feel desirable.” ~ Shannon
13. “Be your own person. Don’t change to fit someone; the right person will fit with the real you.” ~ Julia
14. “Not to waste so much energy on trying to make your unhappy partner happy.” ~ Thaddeus
15. “He once told me that he was not responsible for other people’s feelings and that no one was was going to have control over his. At the moment, I thought it was the most selfish thing I’d ever heard…now I understand! I get that I can’t stop doing the things that make me happy simply because others don’t like it, and that I can’t let others control my happiness…he was right.” ~ Melissa
16. “My second boyfriend taught me how to become a secure person and how to love right. You don’t need to love yourself first. If someone can teach you love, let them.” ~ Aurora
17. “Be responsible and don’t just roll with things. Yeah, follow your heart but bring your brain with you and learn something new every day.” ~ Britt
18. “Better to be healthy and alone than sick and with someone.” ~ Patty