Thursday, August 21, 2014

7 Things I Learned From Relationships

Our past relationships, no matter how heartbreaking, frustrating, and challenging they've been, offer us a deep understanding of ourselves, our fears, and even our definition of true love.  

When a relationship turns sour, many tend to consider it a waste of time.  The years and months we've spent our life around someone can never be taken back, but it gave us the perfect (wrong) persons so we can learn our lessons better. It is an effective teaching tool, a laboratory, an on-the-job stint that is uniquely assigned to help shape who we truly are, and who we can actually be.

But, how relevant is the past? What makes it an essential compass for future relationships?  It might sound quite counterintuitive but I believe these are the top seven lessons one could get from their (junk/failed/past) relationships.

1. Past relationships help you spot who makes you grow, and who isn’t. Though it might be true that the amount of love received shouldn’t always be equal to the amount of love shared, you should invest in the people who truly invest in you, too.  This is a two-way street, anyway. Relationships help develop your skill in assessing those who are in for the good times and gone in the bad.  When someone has a genuine interest in you, they will help you reach your full potential and materialize your dreams by making you feel good about yourself, your abilities and your choices. They will support you despite the personal sacrifices to be made. The person who loves you never gives up on you, even when you are at your worst. The right person encourages you to become a much better version of yourself, continuously, not only when they feel like doing it. 

2. Past relationships teach you that there is a time to listen to your heart and a time to listen to your head.  We all fall for the person that makes our heart skips a beat. When we love, we tend to forget our self and focus more on the interest of the other. As it goes deeper, we become even more vulnerable and unfortunately, with the wrong person, we get manipulated. We can only love fully when we open ourselves to it, at times, willingly taking risks and changing ourselves to fit the very definition of who we should be according to the other’s standard.  When we are obsessed with the other person, we believe and become who they label us to be, we dance to their music. When we are lucky to find someone who sees the best in us, we will rise. But if we happen to meet those who exist to make us feel we are less than who we are, we fall down to meet that expectation.  Past relationships remove our blindfolds and make us more sensitive to the signs that tell us there is something wrong or unfitting.  When the brain, with all the stored chain of past events, starts to contradict what our heart's desire, there must be something wrong. Only past experiences will enable the brain to ring the alarm.

3. Past relationships remind us that we should uphold our self-respect. With everything that goes in life, the only thing we can control is how much effort we put into something, and how hard we tried to achieve what we wanted. With the degree of affection we feel for someone, we might as well disregard the way we treat ourselves just to please them. Past relationships direct you to the path that says when love is present, no person shall be forced to do something without the integrity and grace. Love entails taking risks, so be ready to jump in with both your feet, and fight as hard as you can to gain what you wanted. In the end, you should know you have given it your best shot. When you know you gave your best but the person or the situation is still impossible, give up and conduct yourself with self-respect.  Though you may have fooled yourself at times, remember that your dignity is something no one can ever take away, and maybe it will work somewhere else.

4. Past relationships tell you that any connection has an expiry date.  Whether the connection is romantic, business, political, or friendship, any deviation from the alignment of set values is travelling towards its expiry date. We are who we love, and with that, we are willing to change in the name of love- but not all the time. If changing for the other person in a sign of love, accepting the person as he/she is should be the standard of love. Yes, we all said we give more value to the things we work hard for, but love should be something that is constructive. We always see our shared interest in the same music or food as compatibility, but along the way, there are bigger issues we’ll disagree on like family, finances, faith, and values. Many of us will maintain the relationships by going against our values, but for how long can we stand it? After years of going with the flow to please the other person, we will eventually feel the resentment. Past relationships will tell us that when we are contributing 90 to 100% to the bond, we are on for the one-man heavy-lifting, something which defeats the meaning of the word “couple”, which means a 50/50 share on things.  

5. Past relationships tell you that people don’t change. You can never change a man, or maybe a woman. Our nature, ways, principles, and values generally stay the same all throughout our lives.  They are imprinted in our systems, and they will always come back, no matter what. Though our views of life and things around us can shift from time to time, we have our “core” ways of dealing with stuff, and because they have been repeated through the years, it is impossible to change them during adult life. Past relationships tell us that when we get back to our exes, we are bound to suffer the same things that never made the first attempt successful. Those red flags that made us give up are the very ones that will cause the end of the same repetitive cycle. Experience will tell you that you had good reasons to leave the person, and coming back to them after a while doesn’t mean they are changed individuals. Those selfishness, insecurities, insensitivities, unresolved trust issues, clashes in values will always be triggered, and that you are heading for the same trouble if you ignore the warnings.

6.  Past relationships tell you not to reconcile for the wrong reason. Yes, we sometimes get tempted to reconcile with an old flame... for all the wrong reasons. Often, we felt that because we have invested so much time, effort, and emotions on someone, it would be wiser to just come back to them and expect to continue from where we ended, than pick someone and get a fresh start. Out of our frustration to bring back what we think was something we wrongfully lost, we consider our investments as something that backs up our need to carry on. Understandably, when we feel lonely, the best possible answer may be to bring in something/ someone already familiar. All the troubles, the issues, the fights and the factors that caused the separation can fade for some periods, then it comes back. What we perceive to be something which will work, will actually not.  Only past relationships can teach us that a YES is a YES and a NO is a NO.

7. Past relationships tell you that when someone evokes negative emotions in you, look at yourself first. We often wonder why people treat us wrongly, and we fail to see what triggered this. People we met are put in our paths so we can evolve for the better. Experiences in relationships tell us we can either learn from these lessons, or keep repeating the same mistake. When you don't give your self worth, who else will? When you have to beg for attention, you will receive alms for your emotions, not real care and concern. That when they tell you "you can find someone better" because they have no other reason to break your heart, believe them, they know their worth and that is something not fitted for what you can give. Still, there are some people who will play with your emotions. Forgive them anyway, they might as well fall short of understanding how people should be treated. You'll see, they don't even know how to make themselves feel good. 

Just like the silver screen, our lives are filled with different cast of characters. Some are fixed, some are temporary. Some come unexpectedly and start shaking things up just when you are having fun.  Some are critical to the plot, and some have the power to change the storyline forever.