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10 important lessons to learn from past relationships
Almost everyone has an ex somewhere in their past. For some, they were high school or college sweethearts. For others, serious dating began after they completed their education and/or entered adulthood and started a career. There are the people who have had multiple relationships of varied intensity and duration over many years and those who have only been in love once or twice- some with place holder relationships in-between. A number of the exes were spouses or live-in partners. All were significant, resulted from conscious and unconscious choices and for one reason or another- didn't last. They all can offer many important lessons for those open to learning from them.
The following are my top 10 past relationship take aways. While all of them may not apply to your relationship experience, many of them will. Perhaps after you have read them over, you will be able to come up with a few of your own.
* There were red flags that you missed or ignored
* No matter how hard you are willing to work for it- it takes two
* No one can make you happy but you
* You can't make someone happy, successful, loving unless they can/want to be
* If it was really good, you would still be together
* You have a much better idea of what you value in a relationship
* You know what you must have in a partner and what you can't live with
* You can't die from grief- even if it feels that way
* He/she were not the only one for you
* You didn't leave YOUR problem issues behind with that person, they came with you
Depending upon the length of time and the depth of commitment in your past relationship(s), you may still be working towards achieving one or more of these. Try to remember that there is a process that needs to happen when you start down the path towards greater self-awareness, new insights, or when you are grieving any significant loss.
The loss of a relationship ranks right up near the top of all potential losses and it can take some real time to move through the stages of grief and achieve an acceptance that frees you up to seeing a past relationship as it truly was, not as you thought, hoped or worked so hard to make it. Once you accept that, it is much easier to let go and move on.
The second step towards learning from these past relationships is to take that new insight, awareness, and increased self-worth and apply it right from the start to any potential romantic relationship. This means right from that first meeting and those first few dates.
Yes, you SHOULD compare the new man or women to your exes, but not in a way that leaves you feeling nostalgic for that past relationship. Instead, begin with all the positive things you see in this new person. Then tune into how you relate and contrast this with the way you connected and communicated with your exes. What similarities and differences do you see? These are important in that your ex did have good qualities and there were some positives that brought you together. However, there were issues that would become deal breakers down the road. Do you see any of these happening again?
It is also important to raise your awareness of the similarities and differences because you not only are at a risk of being attracted to the same "wrong type," you are also at risk of going in what appears to be the opposite direction, just for the sake of not making those old mistakes again. Ever hear the expression "Out of the frying pan and into the fire?" Many second marriages and subsequent relationships do just that due to a determination to "not make that mistake again."
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
© Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.
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