Sometimes you need to experience the bad to appreciate the good.
By Lizz Morse
Over the years of dating, I’ve found that after each break-up, I’d be bitter. On the flip side, I’ve remained civil with most of my exes. I’ve always been a firm believer in that everything happens for a reason—and I won’t deny that I’ve doubted it at times.
But, as I’ve grown in the past couple of years, I’ve come to realize the many things I’ve learned from past relationships have helped me understand myself better than other experiences I’ve been blessed to encounter.
For me, especially as a writer, I’ve had many people ask me what my muse was. I always blanked and told them that I don’t have one. But that’s a lie. I suppose my muse isn’t something I consider to be “normal.” My muse is relationships.
Usually, they’re intimate relationships rather than friendship type of relationships, which I think can be misconstrued as “obsessive.” It’s never just one person, though. It’s a collection of memories. Through my muse, I’ve been able to analyze my past and present relationship(s) allowing me to reveal some hard-learned lessons I never knew I learned.
1. Communication is a key component to forming a strong foundation for any relationship.
My past relationships have been excruciatingly silent. I remember going on the first couple of dates with my boyfriend where I opened up about my past relationships—which in retrospect, I would recommend not doing; lucky for me, my [now] boyfriend appreciated my openness and honesty—and he responded with something along the lines of, “Wow, I can’t believe not only that those guys would treat you that way, but how long you stuck around for it all.”
Before we “made it official,” my boyfriend had asked me, “What do you want most from this relationship? What is most important to you?” My immediate response was, “Communication. I’m sick of wondering what this is, when or if it’s appropriate to call a guy my ‘boyfriend,’ and all of that.” From then on, we’ve been very open with each other—even when it has been very, very difficult for us.
There was one night where I was upset. I’m not particularly “experienced,” when it comes to intimacy. I had talked to my friends about it, and they were shocked when I told them I hadn’t been minimally intimate. It had me doubting my abilities to be a “good girlfriend.”
That night, my boyfriend admitted something that made me feel was a result of my shortcomings of intimacy. I ended up crying, and though my boyfriend had to pry, I confessed all my insecurities to him. He was very understanding, and we discussed it. Afterward, I felt much better, and I found so many more reasons to love my boyfriend even more.
Again, though, it’s not always intimacy that needs communication. My boyfriend and I regularly discuss our professional and financial obstacles. It’s like laying out what you feel and letting the other person react, and vice versa.
2. You define what you “deserve.”
I’ve been in so many relationships where my friends and family blatantly tell me that I “deserve so much better.” I don’t think that’s fair, nor true. I realize that as people who deeply know, care about and love you, they’re just looking out for your best interest. However, I feel that, “If I’m happy, why can’t you just be happy for me?”
My main point is this: if you think you deserve better, you do. If you’re happy with whom you’re with, then be happy and don’t listen to what others have to say. If it bites you in the end, it’s a lesson learned. Just like nobody can define your worth, nobody can tell you what you deserve.
3. Your past relationships should not influence your present or future relationship(s).
I read somewhere that you should never compare your past relationship(s) to your current one. I think that’s a very valid suggestion, one that I’ve tried to stick to.
With my boyfriend, it was hard to open up to him at first. On the first date, I was extremely nervous. It was the first time I’d gone a date with a man I was truly interested in. He was super chill—though he tells me otherwise—and opening up to him came surprisingly easy. I was a little intimidated by him at first. He’s four years older than me, has been married before, and was seemingly more experienced than me in all aspects of life.
There were times where I felt like maybe I wasn’t going to be “right” for him. But again, over time, we became close, and our communication allowed us to grow together, allowing our relationship to be built on a strong foundation of trust and love.
I laid everything out for him as well. Early in the relationship, I told him exactly what I did and didn’t want from this relationship. We agreed on everything. I think this relationship has been a turning point for me, where I’ve truly come to accept the advice to not compare or let past relationships influence my current relationship. Each relationship is different. Each one deserves its chance to give you a fresh perspective.
4. “To find someone you love, you gotta be someone you love.”
John O’Callaghan—lead singer of the band, The Maine, as well as my idol—tweeted this, and it just stuck with me. At the time, I was dating someone else [not my current boyfriend], and it made me realize that I no longer wanted to be in that relationship because I didn’t love myself. Unfortunately, a large part of that not loving myself came from the pressures and stress of that relationship.
Before I started dating my boyfriend, I ‘disappeared’ on him for a couple of weeks—not with the intention to hurt him or necessarily out of fear—but purely out of respect. I wasn’t in a ‘good place.’ I had just ended a relationship and didn’t want to rebound. I didn’t want to just fill that feeling of loneliness. I wanted to find love.
What I felt for my boyfriend at the time was the most genuine, honest connection I had found in years. There was something truly special about him, and I knew I didn’t want to hurt him if I could help it. After a couple of weeks, I resurfaced, and we reconnected. I later explained what happened, and he was completely understanding and supportive.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.