“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.” – Epictetus
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I have a client who just broke up with her longtime boyfriend, and even though she’s heartbroken, she knew it had to end. The relationship wasn’t healthy, nor was it empowering her emotionally. For reasons having mostly to do with her own attachment issues and codependency, she ended up overstaying her welcome, and not leaving when she should have.
After a “come to Jesus” moment with herself (and tough love from me) she managed to break it off. But unfortunately, she’s now left feeling shame, anger, and regret.
Her self-recriminations were swift and stern:“Why did I stay so long? What was I thinking? Why didn’t I see it earlier? How could I have been so stupid? What’s wrong with me?”
There’s a million questions she could’ve asked herself, and a million ways to kick herself, but there’s only one thing she really needed to do: Understand the lesson in it all.
A bad relationship is a terrible thing to waste if:
- There were no takeaways.
- You didn’t take responsibility for your part.
- You didn’t take time to heal.
- You forgot about compassion and forgiveness.
- You didn’t recognize possible patterns.
- There was no growth or reflection.
- You chose another bad relationship right after, OR
- You take the anger from your last relationship into your next one.
A bad relationship can undermine your confidence and wreak havoc on your self-esteem, but if you grew and evolved because of it, or if you were able to redeem something from it, then it wasn’t a waste at all. In fact, it was an opportunity.
As blogger Jessica Wildfire says:
“Every relationship trains you for the next one.
We like to write off failed relationships as a total loss. Kick ourselves for wasting time on something that doesn’t work out.
Someone who wasn’t good for us after all.
Someone who took advantage of us.
Someone who never loved us. Or just thought they did.”
I was single until I was 51, and had lot of relationships during that time—mostly good, but some bad. And by bad, I mean they didn’t go anywhere, no matter how hard I tried. Think square peg, round hole and you’ll get the picture.
When I think about how much time I wasted on these go-nowhere relationships, I could kick myself, but I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to congratulate myself. I managed to get through those relationships while learning a ton about my self-worth in the process.
Failure became my best teacher, and it can become yours too if you look at it that way.
After a bad relationship, you will feel shame, anger, and heartbreak. You will hate yourself and your ex (or maybe still love them?) and be in so much pain you wish you could go to bed and wake up in six months like it never happened.
Hard knocks are inevitable in life, but hard feelings towards yourself are another thing. Accept that you screwed up, or got played, or made bad decisions, or stayed too long, or chose the wrong person, and be done with it.
And if you’re going to kick yourself, at least kick yourself in the right direction.
Let bad relationships guide you, not define you. Let them train you, and move you forward. Let them prepare you for the love that comes next. Let them build resilience, and improve your emotional fitness, because you WILL bounce back and be in better shape for it.
Then one day when that bad relationship is over, and you’re healed and healthy, happily single or partnered up, looking great and feeling strong, you’ll realize that it wasn’t so terrible after all. That bad relationship, and all the bad ones that came before it, could have actually been worth it.
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If you need help navigating the dating world, conquering single life, or staying empowered and moving forward, then check out my private coaching services. I’m an ICF-certified life coach/dating coach with all the tools and strategies you need to achieve your personal best in life and love. Contact me here and let’s get to work.