Lessons of Love
A bonus tip is to never date guys who blame their farts on you.
By Josephine Werni, University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Most people have had the unfortunate experience of being in a relationship that went sour.
It’s possible that the other party was rude, dishonest or unreliable. Maybe they were a cokehead fart blamer. Or, maybe you two simply weren’t compatible and the fallout got a bit nasty. Although I initially wished that my own shitty relationship had never happened, I went on to realize that it had prompted a period of massive personal growth and learning that I’m now very grateful for.
Here are a few of the ways you can learn from your crappy, failed relationships and use those experiences to improve your life.
Refine Your Preferences
You’ll stumble out of this lousy ordeal with a much clearer idea of what you do want in a relationship by knowing exactly what you don’t want.
For example, only after dating the king of neediness did I realize that I couldn’t handle clingers. I guess I’m someone that could be categorized as “emotionally reserved” or, alternatively, an “aloof-ass bitch.”
Like many young pubescent humans, I didn’t really know what I liked in another person—I just wanted someone to like me. Back then, if someone asked me what quality I’d desire most in a partner, I’d often give the well intended but misguided answer of “kindness.”
A few romantic involvements later, which ranged from lukewarm to disheartening, I came to the conclusion that kindness shouldn’t necessarily be a prized virtue. Rather, kindness should be a given—the bare minimum when it comes to the elements that go into making the picture of a possible companion. It’s like the physiological base of Maslow’s pyramid. You can’t build a healthy relationship without a sturdy foundation of genuine altruism and empathy for one another. If a person (or people) doesn’t grant you basic respect and consideration, then does anything else matter?
As life goes on and you continue to interact with more people, both romantically and platonically, you’ll add different human traits and mannerisms to your mental record. Generally, these will fall either into the category of qualities that you find pleasing and attractive, and qualities that make you want to run in the other direction.
Improve Your Confrontational Skills
After the end of a shoddy relationship, you’ll be one step closer to being a pro at initiating acutely uncomfortable conversations.
In this world, I believe that most people would categorize themselves as people pleasers, rather than people-upsetters. Confrontation is generally one of those things that is messy and distressing for both parties, yet vital for healthy and productive human interaction. Therefore, It’s a good idea to at least get semi-familiar with how to confront another person appropriately. As sad as it sounds, tackling the tail end of a relationship is a good way to practice.
Dealing with confrontation on an intimate level is sort of like doing the polar bear swim at Girl Scout Camp for the first time. In the name of this tradition, you’re called out of the toasty burrito of your sleeping bag at some cruel hour of the morning and herded over to the lake with the rest of your cabin mates. Minutes later, you’re all simultaneously plunging into the icy water. It’s a sure shock to the senses initially, but one that is quickly bearable. As you bob along the waves with your pals, the light of dawn tickling the water’s crooked surface, you realize that you feel great, exhilarated even.
Like the polar bear swim, personal confrontation is something that you initially dread with ferocity.
You’ll try to convince yourself that it would be better to wait till a later time (Pro tip: It never feels like the right time, so you might as well just go for it).
When you finally get to the confrontation, it can really suck at first. However, it’s never as deadly as you’ve built it up to be in your head. What follows is a sensation of freedom, empowerment and even elation that makes it worth the effort a million times over.
Leave with Stories
Depending on the situation, poor partnerships can make for some interesting stories and/or experiences.
There are several predicaments that I found myself in as a result of being in a shitty relationship that were horrifying at the time, but are hilarious to reflect upon now. When it comes to embarrassing story sharing time, I’ve got a couple winners under by belt thanks to the dork stick that I dated a few years back.
In addition to funny stories, bad relationships can birth some odd experiences that you’d probably never endure otherwise. Strange situations can aid in rounding you out as a person. Or, if not anything else, they can serve as writing fodder.
For example, after spending three months attempting to navigate my ex-boyfriend’s minefield of unstable antics, I can now say that I’ve called a grown man’s parents on him. I was scared and I figured that if anyone could control him, it would be the people who created him (and were currently housing and funding him). It was an intensely awkward but necessary conversation. In the end, it’s sort of comforting to know that relationship-wise, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever experience anything as weird as that again.
Most importantly, the end of a crappy relationship prompts not only learning from the past, but preparedness for the future.
Now that you know what went wrong last time, you (hopefully) will be actively avoiding those issues in the future. Those glaring red flags that went right over your head at first? You’ll spot them a mile away next time. You can go into a new relationship not only with the intention of enjoying yourself, but learning a little bit more about the world, yourself and the human condition.