If love is a universal feeling, so is heartbreak. Because falling in love means running the risk of having your heart broken.
When a relationship ends, you feel like you’re losing one of the most important parts of your life. But there is a silver lining: You have an opportunity for a learning experience.
I’ve been in several relationships that ended badly, and each time I asked myself, “Why do I keep going through this?” Like the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you.” But what happens when you’ve been fooled four times? You start to feel like the ultimate fool.
I beat myself up for giving my heart away to people that caused me so much pain. I wondered if I was better off to keep my love to myself. Going through breakups and heartbreaks hurt so much, I didn’t think I could endure them again.
But a couple of years ago, I took a year off dating after my last particularly nasty breakup. I wanted to put a halt to the whole love thing and figure out why I made certain relationship choices. What I realized was shocking. Even though ending a relationship hurts, a breakup is a lesson we can’t learn until we experience it. But post-breakup, my mind was too clouded to see what I could learn.
A nasty breakup takes a toll on you and sometimes leaves scars that will always be there. But it also provides lessons to be learned about yourself and your idea of love. With every failed relationship comes experience we all need.
1. You learn why it is you’re willing to put up with less than you deserve
When we’re alone and able to speak honestly, we all could create a list of the ways we deserve to be treated. But for some people, when they’re in a relationship, they have a hard time establishing boundaries and speaking up for themselves.
After you go through a tough breakup, you’re able to reflect on your actions. Maybe you’re thinking, “Why did I put up with that kind of behavior?” If so, then this time is a perfect opportunity to answer that exact question.
Reflect on your relationship and think about the ways your partner treated you that you didn’t like. Remember all the moments you felt disrespected, hurt, or uncomfortable. Now, ask yourself why it is you didn’t feel like you could speak up for yourself or leave them.
For some, it may be a lack of self-worth, a skewed idea of how love works, or an attachment issue; It can also be many other things. Figure out what your reason is. Figuring this out now will save you from future heartbreak.
2. You learn that unhealthy love exists
Love is messy, and we don’t exactly know how it works. But one thing is for sure: You can love someone, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you two to be together.
Falling in love with someone doesn’t mean what you’ll be together forever, nor does it mean what you have should last forever. I dated a man in college, and it turned into an emotionally abusive relationship before I could even realize it did. Looking back, we brought out the worst in each other. When I think about that relationship years later and whether I actually loved him, the answer is yes. But our love is the kind I’m grateful didn’t last forever.
Someone can love you but not want to treat you the right way. You may think, “Well, then it’s not love!” but that’s not true. Individuals form their idea of how love works through their parents and past experiences. Some people grow up in unhealthy situations and that shapes how they express love today. It’s not excusing their behavior, though. Everyone is responsible for their own healing.
But a nasty breakup will teach you that their pain isn’t your burden to carry, especially when it comes at the expense of your happiness or safety.
3. You learn what you don’t want in a relationship
After a bad breakup, take the time to think about everything you did and didn’t like about the relationship. Whether you did the breaking up or not, there are always aspects of the relationship or characteristics of your partner that you didn’t like. Remember these, because they’re something you can only learn through experience.
When I was younger, I had a set idea for the kind of guy I wanted to date: athletic, good-looking, creative, and adventurous. But it took dating guys like that to realize that those characteristics weren’t as important to me as others. Emotional intelligence, understanding, and a kind heart meant a lot more to me.
Each person you date helps you realize what you do and don’t want in a partner. That’s an invaluable life experience.
4. You learn you can’t change someone
No matter how much you love someone, you can’t change them. Any significant change a person makes has to come from within.
If you got into your relationship thinking you could make them a different person, you probably realize now that it was a futile endeavor. Changing habits and ways of life are hard enough to do when the individual wants to do them, but when a partner is pressuring them, it usually always fails.
But if there were parts of the relationship that made you unhappy, it’s probably better you broke up. You can find a relationship where you don’t feel the need to change things, and you’ll probably be a lot happier doing so.
5. You learn you can survive anything
Going through a breakup hurts a lot. There’s no getting around that.
Breakups bring up feelings of rejection and alter your sense of normalcy. They even create physical pain, according to come researchers. Between wanting closure, feeling unwanted, and any fighting that may have occurred, a breakup is a lot to mentally and physically go through.
But experience a breakup and all the pain that comes with it makes you stronger. You learn how to cope with this kind of hurt and prepare yourself for if it happens again. You may feel like your world is ending, but when it doesn’t, you come out the other side ready for anything.
After a breakup, I hope you don’t think you wasted years of your life. No relationship is ever wasted time. You came into each other’s life for a reason, even if that was to learn what would make you happier in the future.
You may be hurting now, but when you’re ready, start to see the lessons your breakup can teach you.