Thank You Ex…welp, those are words that I never thought I would utter. I mean, they are an ex right? They are supposed to stay in the past and why on earth would I even be thanking them? Welllllll, the funny thing about failed relationships is that you can actually learn a lot about yourself from them.
Listening to the radio, Ariana Grande’s “Thank You Next” came on and while I’ve heard the song almost a thousand times, I found myself not only hearing the words but actually LISTENING. I’ll spare you my singing voice, but read the lyrics if you haven’t. Basically, she’s thanking her exes for a number of things she learned and also shares that the most important relationship (the one with herself) was the one she needed to find. So, it got me to thinking…What was I thankful for from past relationships?
I mean, if I’m being honest, without my exes, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. Dare I say it, I’m grateful to each of them for showing me something new. And while some of them, I still have a complete disdain for, there are other past relationships that I can look back at and smile because I gained so much from the failure that they were.
Here’s a few lessons that I gleaned over time:
I learned what it meant to love someone unconditionally. We didn’t last, but I know what it feels like to be loved that way and I know how to offer that to someone else.
I learned what I wanted and what I didn’t want. I don’t think I knew the value of the latter for a while. With each relationship, I learned certain characteristics that were for me and which ones were not. I was able to spot them more easily in future partners and could figure out if they would be a good match earlier so that neither of us were wasting each other’s time.
I learned not to lose myself in whomever I was dating. I value my friends and family, but in the past, I wouldn’t maintain those relationships…I deprioritized them. I changed myself to fit whatever my significant other wanted and ultimately ended up being unhappy because I wasn’t my authentic self.
I learned the value of my voice and how to use it in a way that could be heard. I thought arguing was the way to get what I wanted before and it used to be knock down drag out arguments (not physically, but we would go toe to toe in a shouting match). I realized this wasn’t the way I wanted to communicate when I had a severe panic attack during one of the arguments. Later on, a different relationship showed me that communication didn’t have to look like that and that I could be heard without yelling.
I learned my boundaries. There are certain things I’m willing to deal with (because no one is perfect) and others that I’m just not. And that’s okay. My boundaries are mine to uphold and are not the responsibility of the other person. Cross them once, shame on you because maybe you didn’t know. But cross them twice, shame on me because I allowed you to do it more than once. And cross them three, four, seven, twelve times and now we just out here looking foolish. Don’t be out here looking foolish, boo.
I learned that while I love a good talk game (words of affirmation are one of my top love languages), it’s more important to me that the actions are there to back up the words. Once I see the pattern of misalignment, I’m out.
I learned that potential isn’t enough and that my significant other has to be actively working to make themselves better before I even step into the picture. If I’m doing that myself, why wouldn’t I expect the person I’m with to do that too?
I learned that people only want to change when they are ready to change for themselves and that I can’t make them change for me. Nor should I expect that because I’m no longer changing for anyone else.
I learned that I’m really good at manipulating things into what I want them to be (yikes, ouch, all of that)...and I learned that I don’t want to be that person.
These are just a few examples (well, a lot of examples!), but I can bet that you’ve learned a thing or two from previous relationships also. It takes some thought to figure this out, but looking at your past from the present invites a new perspective that you can take into dating in the future.
You can come to clearly name some of the lessons you’ve learned too and you should! It’s so so helpful as you continue to navigate the dating pool. Sis, we don’t have time to continue falling into the same types of relationships or making the same kinds of mistakes. You owe it to yourself to figure some things out.
Here’s some tips:
FIRST, make sure you’re healed before you start diving back into old relationships. If you’re not, this could send you into a downward spiral of self-pity and shoulda woulda couldas. We aren’t interested in that, so know yourself enough to know whether or not you can think through this in all of your past relationships or maybe just some of them. For the ones you aren’t ready to think about, put them away from later. Remember time and space (and therapy *ahem*) heal all so it’s totally fine to not dig into something you aren’t ready for yet.
Include people you just dated and/or had previous situationships or entanglements (don’t side eye me…most of us have had at least one of these if not both). They can offer just as much insight into lessons we should take with us as we move forward.
Don’t just think about why you broke up or stopped dating, but think about the relationship as a whole.
-What was great about it? Why?
-What wasn’t so good? Why not?
We aren’t reminiscing here, we are fact finding. Notice the patterns that
continually show up about what you enjoyed and what you didn’t like.
What was your intuition telling you that you just didn’t listen to? You get to listen now and hold on to that nugget of truth.
Think about who you were in the relationship. Were you being your authentic self? Are there certain aspects of yourself that you didn’t like while you were with someone? How do you do some unlearning to make sure those traits don’t pop up again?
There are so many ways you can think about this, but the important thing is that you do it in some capacity so that you don’t keep falling into the same patterns.
So now, we can reflect, say, Thank You (without contacting them cause #boundaries), and get ready to move on, being more whole, more clear, and more intentional about who we want and who we want to be. Engaging in this type of thinking is one of the best ways to DateYourselfGirl!