We’ve all been there: brokenhearted, struggling with the feelings left behind when a relationship is done, and wondering how we’ll ever be able to love again when we know that doing so creates the risk we’ll be left feeling this way.
When relationships fall apart, we can be left stewing in a variety of conflicting emotions. Moving on seems daunting. Loving again? Impossible!
While there’s a lot of sage advice that I could pass on—much of it passed on to me—the last thing we want when we’re sitting in the middle of that struggle is to be told how we should feel.
Yes, we know we’ll probably love again. Yes, we’re aware of all the dating sites available to us. Yes, we know we deserve better. But that doesn’t change how we feel.
And, whatever we feel? It’s all okay. There’s no right or wrong amount of time to grieve, or be angry, or feel disappointed. There’s not even a right or wrong way to process what we’re going through—unless, of course, we’re talking about self-harm or harm to another—which is never beneficial. But whether we cry or don’t? That’s our own concern. Whether we choose to date or not? Still our business. And we may hear that we’re not doing this breakup thing right, but who’s to say what’s right for us?
Still, we won’t always be right here: hurting, struggling, and wondering how we’ll move forward. But, while we’re here is a great time to pause and reflect on the choices that brought us to the relationship, the ones we made while we were in it, and how we’ll move forward with that knowledge.
There are always lessons in the things that happen in our lives. There’s always something that we can use to make our lives richer and ourselves stronger.
Finding those lessons requires taking a good, hard look at ourselves. It also requires that we accept responsibility for our lives from this point forward. Whatever wrongs may have been done to us, we can’t change them. It’s time to learn from them and move forward.
Here are seven lessons that we can learn from any failed relationship:
We are capable of loving. Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but sometimes, after a relationship ends, we feel like we’ll never be able to move on and love again. But our hearts can hold more love than we’ve ever imagined. We don’t deplete our hearts by loving more, even if it feels that way when our hearts are hurting. Being capable of great amounts of love is a strength we can cultivate.
We all make mistakes. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. Acknowledging that both parties in a failed relationship carry some level of responsibility can help us learn to forgive. Maybe we need to forgive ourselves for trusting the wrong person or ignoring red flags. Maybe we need to forgive the other person for hurting us—or ourselves for hurting them.
There are usually red flags. When a relationship fails, there’s usually a reason. It could come down to basic incompatibility. It could be because of differing value systems. Whatever the reason, there are usually red flags in play long before the relationship ends.
The question becomes: why did we choose to overlook them? I’m the queen of rationalizing behavior, making excuses for any warning signs that pop up. While being compassionate and understanding is a strength, compromising our values isn’t. We need to find the red flags so we’ll be aware of them in the future. We can also investigate what needs we have that aren’t being met that allow us to overlook certain red flags. Once we figure that out, we can find a way to get those needs met without undermining ourselves by staying in relationships that aren’t good for us.
We can treasure love while it lasts. I look back on my recent relationships and know without a doubt that I was fully invested in them. While they lasted, I was present and engaged. I wasn’t shopping for the next relationship or longing for a past one. I wasn’t checked out or emotionally unavailable. While it doesn’t change the end, I look back and know that I cherished what I had while I had it. Maybe we look back sometimes and don’t see that. Maybe, instead, we see that we weren’t fully present when we should have been. If that’s the case, we can use it as a reminder for the next relationship.
We’re not mind readers or psychics. At least, I’m not. Most of us don’t have the ability to see the future. When things aren’t revealed to us until later, we can’t hold ourselves responsible for knowing what we couldn’t possibly have known. Maybe there weren’t obvious red flags. Maybe we were duped. This goes back to forgiving ourselves for things not working out the way we’d have liked. Even good relationships don’t always end in “happily ever after.”
We are worthy of love. Maybe we’re the ones who messed up the relationship. Maybe the red flags came from us. It doesn’t matter: we’re still worthy of love. We still deserve to find happiness. Maybe we need to apologize and make amends. Maybe we need to do better going forward. It doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve love and happiness.
The love we feel for someone else doesn’t leave us. Relationships end. That’s a part of life. We figure out what works and what doesn’t. But when someone leaves or we leave someone we love, the love doesn’t go away along with the object of our affection. We get to keep it. Sometimes that hurts. But we can still send some of that love out into the universe toward them.
And we can use all of that extra love to love ourselves better with increased self-care. We can also try to love others more, performing random acts of kindness to express some of the love we feel. It didn’t go away, and we won’t run out—even if it feels that way right now.
I wish I could say I had this great epiphany about how to avoid a future heartache. Wouldn’t that be great? But I didn’t. Even as I go through my own heart having been broken, all I can do is mine the relationship for the lessons.
I can learn to pay attention to red flags, make sure people in my life earn the trust I give, and I can go forward knowing that I deserve love and happiness. That may not sound like much when we’re struggling just to move on, but I believe that we can save ourselves from heartache later if we learn what we need to today.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen