I didn’t break this—he did.
For years, this was the mantra that ran through my head when I thought back on failed relationships.
The statement itself was true. In almost every relationship, I could pinpoint the exact action or choice that led directly to the breakup. And none of these actions or choices were mine.
But while the statement was true, it was missing some context. Namely, the unhealthy beliefs I had about love and relationships that had allowed me to stay in situations that only reinforced these beliefs.
The belief that all men are liars and cheaters.
The belief that if you love someone you fight for the relationship, no matter what.
The belief that love and loyalty are enough to change or fix someone.
The belief that someone else’s rejection is a direct reflection of who I am.
It has taken years and a few more failed relationships and an ever-growing relationship with myself to begin unlearning these beliefs. To realize just how big a role they played in my past. To recognize that while my former partners were fully responsible for their actions and choices, I was responsible for playing small, for allowing myself to be disrespected, for excusing bad behavior, and for thinking I could (or should have to) fix someone else.
I didn’t break those relationship. But I did give each of those people permission to break me, again and again.
Recently, I asked Elephant readers: What’s one thing you’re trying to unlearn about relationships?
Their answers were a reminder of all the ways I’ve grown in relationships and a wake-up call to all the ideas I still need to unlearn about love:
Not to lose my whole identity trying to center someone else’s needs and wants. ~ Monique
That they have to be longterm to to be successful. It’s quality over longevity…if you realize you don’t fit anymore, but you did your best and you learned something valuable, then that’s a success. That was a chapter with ups and downs that will lead to the next. ~ Zo
The toxic part I’ve played in them. ~ Hayley
Unconditional love is toxic AF if it’s done without boundaries and mutual respect. I’ve hurt myself over and over with this one. ~ Marie
My way isn’t always the best way. ~ Kathy
I don’t have to do everything, initiate everything…there are two people. Let the other one do some of the heavy lifting. ~ Derek
That relationships are the end all be all of life. There is so much more fulfillment to life than being in love. ~ Katee
That another person is responsible for your happiness. That’s my own responsibility, others just enhance it but they can’t create it. I’m not responsible for anyone else’s either. ~ Lesley
That love means loyalty, regardless of the treatment. ~ Kimberley
I have to be healed on order to have a good relationship. ~ Nikki
That they don’t have to, and shouldn’t, be reactive. The people I love in my life, my fiancé, my best friend, we have “uncomfortable conversations” before something becomes a problem. We let nothing fester. We’re open and honest. And so our relationships feels safe, and authentic. ~ Marina
To not expect anything from people, whether they be close friends or family, even when I would drop everything for them. That’s been super hard! ~ Marcie
Not everything needs to be discussed in the moment. ~ Kyan
You’re worth more than just what you can do for your significant other. ~ April
That just because you are in a relationship doesn’t mean you will have same taste in everything. He might like sports and I might not and it’s fine. I would rather let him go with his friend who likes sports than drag myself with him to show how much I appreciate his taste. No, I don’t. It’s about respecting boundaries. ~ Neelam
How to not move so fast! Sharing your life and home with someone is not something to just jump into. ~ Jessica
I don’t have to be perfect in my own eyes to be enough for someone else. ~ Jared
What beliefs about love are you still trying to unlearn?