1. You learn what your deal-breakers are.
We all have them, and to try to diminish them for fear of sounding too high-maintenance is to sell yourself short on the fact that there are just some things that you can’t live with. People have and will break up for petty reasons, serious issues, and everything in between, and if you absolutely cannot see yourself growing old with someone who doesn’t agree with you on children or something that will easily impact the rest of your life, then that’s totally fine. Whether you don’t align politically, religiously, or someone said something really racist and you can’t look at them the same way — it doesn’t matter. Those are real rifts, and sometimes it’s not worth the effort of being the bigger person if it’s compromising something that’s important in your life.
2. You realize that what you think you want what you need are two different things.
Sure, we all have our checklists, and it’d be nice to hold out for someone who looks like they’re just walking around all photoshopped and perfect, can cook four-course dinners, speaks eight languages, is great with kids, and holds a really impressive job where they make oodles of cash that they just lavish on us for no reason other than “to see you smile,” or something equally as cheesy and wonderful. Life doesn’t work that way. Maybe their perma-toned body is the result of thousands of dollars’ worth of photoshop, maybe they work so hard that you never see them. You might think you want to end up with one kind of person, and wind up falling in love with another. The only way to find out what works and what doesn’t is to switch up the variables and date outside of what you think you want; you are the constant in any relationship you are ever in, after all.
3. Still, you get a better sense of what you ought to look for, for better…
Apply what you learned from one heartbreak to the next possible love. Keep a checklist if it’s easier for you, and seek out the pros you listed in your next possible relationship — but just know that the same qualities manifest themselves differently in different people, so you’re not going to be able to manipulate and engineer your perfect partner with a few swaps and modifications.
4. … Or for worse.
Red flags are often made up of the smallest gestures that snowball into bigger issues, but they’re almost always there from the outset. They might not be your deal breakers, but they’re still little indicators that something might not be going right — and it’s up to you to decide whether it is or isn’t worth fixing.
5. You learn how to cope with minor fights.
Because that’s just it — you can now recognize them as being minor. A dumb comment here or there or forgetting to pick up your first favorite ice cream at the grocery store isn’t something call it quits over, and if they do piss you off for something small, you have your coping mechanism — going for a run, grabbing a drink with a friend, downing your sorrows in the right kind of ice cream because you are a grown ass human being and you can buy whatever ice cream you please — and you can work through whatever small miscommunication set you off.
6. And you’re better equipped to know when it’s worth it to weather larger ones.
Let’s go back to the concept of working through — now that you’ve been through a few fires and come out that much stronger, you know the limits to which a relationship might be able to go before it breaks, and you know how much work you’re willing to put into something before you have to render it irreversible and cut your losses.
7. You get practice in putting someone else’s needs before your own.
To the outside, sometimes love looks a little inconvenient, whether it’s bringing them soup when they’re sick and they live far away from your normal route, or you have to swallow your tongue in front of a really offensive family member who is clearly in the wrong. But when you’re in love, you do these things because you care about the other person, and the only way to exercise this kind of selflessness is to practice — a lot. So love people, and find that happy ground of considering what the world likes from their shoes, and when that doesn’t work out, start over and love someone else. Practice at being selfless and it will begin to come much more naturally to you.
8. But you also learn that making other people happy won’t always make you happy.
Yes, it’s possible in finding happiness in the fact that someone else happy — at its core, you’d hope that’s where love stems from. But there’s a fine line in making someone else happy, and making yourself miserable while making someone else happy. Nothing is worth that kind of anguish. Consider the places where your heart broke the scars that help remind you what is worth sacrificing for love, and what is going too far.
9. You learn firsthand that not everything is forever.
And that’s okay. It’s not supposed to. But just because something has an expiration date doesn’t mean that the days and months and years leading up to it were rendered invalid for it. Love isn’t all or nothing; it’s in the everyday moments, and though you might genuinely want to promise forever at the outset, sometimes either or the both of you simply can’t. So you learn how to move on, how to mend your heartbreak, and try again. You can’t find something if you stop looking before it’s found, after all.
10. And you learn how to be vulnerable and share your wounds with someone else.
And slowly, as you begin to unpack all of the deep hurts inflicted by other people, as you share and explain why you’re vulnerable and hurt and scared sometimes, you’ll find that not only have you not been the only heartbroken person in this world, but that the person you’re sharing all of these things with can probably relate. And it’s in those vulnerabilities that you can heal together, and maybe even find love.