1. You can’t love someone else without loving yourself first
There’s a reason for the cliché; it can’t be more true: no one wants to be with an insecure girl worried about every zit, stomach roll, and mismatched pair of socks.
It is so important to love yourself first, to know what you need from yourself and from a partner, to first nurture those needs on your own and spend time becoming your own best friend before you become someone else’s. And besides, how can you convince someone to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself?
2. Dependence is dangerous
Prior to this relationship, I hadn’t known what it was like to become dependent on someone else. I had always been the one to stop myself from crying, to talk myself out of my own doubts. I soon became aware how easy it was to use someone so willing to be there for me as a crutch. Once that person was gone, I had to teach myself to be alone again–to walk home from a party at 2 AM by myself, and to console myself after a bad day at work. It was scary and empowering at the same time.
3. You are worthy of love
The first time he told me he loved me, I freaked out. It was too soon, how could he be so sure? Further into our relationship, he told me he wanted to marry me and that I’d be the most wonderful mother to our children. It was overwhelming and frightening. How did I not see what he saw? Instead of doubting someone’s love, it is important to accept it, yet not rely on it. I slowly learned that I am deserving of love, from myself and from others, and he wouldn’t be the last to love me so deeply.
4. You attract what you portray
I remember the night I met my ex, we were in a bar and I was heartbroken over a summer fling that had just ended. He too, had just ended a four year relationship with the girl he thought he was going to marry. We were both craving the love that we were missing, which is what attracted us to each other in the first place. When you’re confident on your own, you’ll attract just the same in another. This is why the best relationships form when you’re both at your strongest selves, as opposed to when you’re down.
5. You can’t change someone
My ex had some qualities that were difficult for me to overlook. He was unmotivated at work, and as a highly self-motivated person, I became resentful. I tried to change him, to urge him to become more responsible and ambitious. Obviously the criticism didn’t come constructively, and he began to only do things to appease me, which made him resent me in return. The bottom line is: you can’t mold someone else in a relationship. It’s not fair to you or to your partner. If you feel like you have to, you just have to accept that maybe you’re not meant to be after all (which is another lesson in itself).
6. The relationship problems you face the first month will likely be there the third, fifth and seventh months
I remember telling my friends and family that I had a weird feeling about this relationship and it had only been week two. There were signs that didn’t sit well in my stomach: he was very clingy and all of a sudden my life became his. Everyone told me to give it a chance, that it was too early in the relationship to call it quits. I waited…and waited and waited. One of the last conversations we had before we broke up seven months later was that he failed to give me my space. If something doesn’t feel right from the beginning, chances are it won’t ever.
7. You need someone who challenges you
My ex and I often fought about how the relationship wasn’t reciprocal, how I challenged him to be better, but he couldn’t push me in the same way. I helped him get organized for his work meetings, I facilitated a more positive relationship between him and his mom, I urged him to join a gym with me and get in shape. I was constantly encouraging him to try new things and get out of his comfort zone, which he appreciated, but at the same time he told me, “I don’t know how to push you, you have everything together.” That wasn’t true in the least but from that I learned how important it is to be with someone who is capable of challenging you in a relationship, so you can grow not only together but also individually.
8. Letting go
Naturally when the relationship ran its course, I was upset. I cried, I dwelled, and I couldn’t listen to songs without punching a wall or have a conversation without mentioning his name. My dad told me that letting go isn’t an action, just a decision. “Just tell yourself ‘I’m over it’ and be done,” he would say over and over. Finally one day, it clicked. I learned not how to let go but instead I just did it. I told myself that my ex and I weren’t right for each other, we would never be and that’s okay. It was freeing. From then on, I made a conscious effort to stop talking about him. Thoughts came, but I let them pass, instead of dwelling. We as humans are meant to forget. While I won’t remember every good, bad and horrible memory we ever shared, I will never forget what I learned from that first relationship. And to that, I am forever grateful.