If Your Last Relationship Taught You These 12 Things, The One You're In Now Is Likely To Last
As painful as breakups can be, they always make for great learning experiences. For instance, if your ex cheated and you decided to give them a chance and they did it again, you may learn that cheating is something you will never tolerate. The lessons you learn from failed relationships can range from the small to completely life-changing. According to experts, these lessons can help you find a lasting relationship when the right person comes along.
"It’s always possible to learn something from a past relationship, even if it’s just, 'I never want to experience that again,'" Lesli Doares, Couples Consultant and Coach, tells Bustle. "Every relationship we’re in moves us closer to the one we want if we’re willing to do some reflection."
Self-reflection after a painful breakup isn't always easy. As Jenna Ponaman, CPC, ELI-MP, Relationship Coach and Expert, tells Bustle, failed relationships will force you to look at the deepest parts of yourself to identify inner weaknesses. As difficult as that will be, it will help you find strength to move forward onto much better things.
"Failed relationships don’t just teach you what you don’t want, they show you that you are capable of so much more," Ponaman says. "They are a direct reflection of your potential to have more, have better [connections], and to feel fulfilled in ways you never thought possible."
When you've done enough reflecting, you're better able to enter into a new relationship that's both fulfilling and healthy. So, according to experts, if you can say that your last relationship taught you these things, the one you're in now is likely to last.
1. Worry Less About The Future And Focus On The Present
"We have no control over the past, and we cannot control the future no matter what we do," Ponaman says. If you learned that trying to manipulate the present in order to get the future you want actually brings you further from those goals, the relationship you're in now is on a good path. That's because you've likely learned to live in the moment. "By not controlling the outcome of your relationship you get to be more present," she says. Being more present allows your relationship to grow in a more natural way.
2. None Of Your Past Relationships Were A Mistake
It's so easy to label failed relationships a mistake. But according to Ponaman, there isn't a single "wrong decision" that you can make. In life and love, you should be making choices that are aligned with what you truly want at any given moment. If it works out, great! If it doesn't, maybe something better is meant to come along. If you need to make changes, make changes. "Trust that you will always come to the solution," she says. If you learned that your past relationships are necessary learning experiences, you're more likely to go with the flow and trust that if things are meant to be, they will be.
3. Your Needs Are Valid
If your past relationship taught you that your needs are valid, the one you're in now is on the right footing. "You'll know that your feelings, perspectives, time, presence, and preferences are valid and valuable, and you act like it," Laurel House, Relationship Coach and host of the Man Whisperer podcast, tells Bustle. When you're in your relationship, you'll expect and accept nothing less.
4. Stay Open And Don't Close Yourself Off To The Possibilities
When you limit yourself to people who fit your ideal mold, you're closing yourself off to the possibilities of finding the right kind of love. Instead, Ponaman says we should pay attention to how we want to experience the relationship, i.e. how we want to feel or interact with that partner on a more intimate level. If your past relationships have taught you to stop dating the same type of people that are wrong for you, you're more likely to find a love that lasts. "It's important to be open to the possibilities that can come from the unexpected," she says.
5. Your Communication Style Can Make Or Break A Relationship
"While ending a relationship can be painful, a failed relationship serves as a good opportunity for people to learn more about themselves and their communication styles in a relationship," psychotherapist Sophia Goh, M.A., tells Bustle. Ask yourself, how did you respond to conflicts? Did you stonewall, get defensive, critical or respond with contempt? If so, you may need to find healthier ways to communicate with your partner. It's been said time and time again, but communication is super important to relationship longevitiy. So if you've learned that your communication style needs a bit of work, you're off to a good start. "Being able to recognize destructive communication patterns and learning healthy ways of communication will help you resolve conflicts more adaptively in the future," Goh says.
6. Always Take Responsibility For Your Actions
If you learned that being accountable for your actions shows emotional maturity, the relationship you're in now is likely to last. "The blame isn’t always going to be on your partner," Alisha Powell, PhD, LCSW, Individual and Couples Therapist, tells Bustle. "Sometimes you have to admit that you were wrong." For instance, if your partner is to blame for picking a fight, you don't have to argue back and make it worse. You can’t control what your partner says and does, but you can control how you react and what you do about it.
7. Don't Ignore The Small Things
One major lesson you should learn from your past relationship is to never ignore the small things. "If your partner is showing signs of jealousy or being controlling know that it will get worse," Powell says. "If it’s a small thing to you now, chances are it will become a big thing to you in the future." If you've learned that even smallest red flags are red flags for a reason, you won't commit to a situation that really isn't right for you.
8. Your Romantic Relationship Is Not The Only One That Matters
If your last relationship taught you that life outside of your relationship matters, you're in a good spot. According to psychotherapist Laura Federico MS, LCSW, your last relationship may have been codependent if you found yourself "scrambling to reconnect" with friends after it ended. "It's important to foster our development so we can be happier people, live fuller lives, and be better partners," she says. "Make it a daily priority to check in with people outside of your relationship who matter to you."
9. Intensity Is Not Intimacy
It's easy to confuse intensity for intimacy in the early stages of your relationship. But intensity is not the thing that's going to make your relationship last a lifetime. According to House, "Rushing into a relationship is like fireworks that quickly burn out, instead of a true flame that endures." So if you learned that love takes time to mature, the one you're in now is likely to last.
10. Your Boundaries Are Important
If you found that you lost yourself to your last relationship, you may have learned that boundaries are important. "Your current relationship is the place for you to start developing boundaries," licensed Mental and Sexual Health Therapist, Erika Miley, M.Ed., tells Bustle. "You don't need to share every activity and interest with your partner." It's important to discuss these boundaries early on, or even as you go, in order to avoid codependency.
11. You Can't Change Anyone
"Typically, people show their cards early on in a relationship," licensed psychotherapist, Tom Bruett, MS, LMFT, tells Bustle. "They can change themselves, but don’t bank on them changing for you." If you always found yourself wanting to change something about your ex, make that a dealbreaker moving forward. "Don’t compromise," Bruett says. "Know yourself and be clear about what you want and need."
12. You Are More Than Enough
"The number one biggest thing that breaks up relationships is the idea that the other person will make you happy," Andi Forness, dating coach, tells Bustle. But you are more than enough on your own. If you learned that in your last relationship, you'll be in a better place to have a healthy relationship. "It is your job to entertain, fill your life and be content on your own," she says. "Treat your partner like a bonus, a dessert, or a gift with purchase — not the main event." When you're able to do that, your relationship will be healthy and long-lasting.
Breakups really are the worst. But if you can look back on that failed relationship and realize that it didn't work out for a good reason, you're moving forward in the right direction.