9 Lessons in Love: Learning from Mistakes

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No one in this world wants to go through life without love. Even if you are happy being single, you can still learn something from your past relationships. There’s always something you can learn from people and situations that will make you smarter. And if you’re like me, thinking about each past relationship as a lesson might make you feel more confident. After all, if you were able to get past those problems, wouldn’t that make you better prepared for the next person?

There’s no doubt that it’s hard to find love and keep it. Here are some hard-learned lessons about love and relationships:

You should never hurt your own reputation to help someone else.

This was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn, and I know a lot of my friends and family have gone through the same thing. When you love someone, you shouldn’t be told to change the things you’re set on, like how you make your breakfast, the books you read, your beliefs about religion, politics, or philosophy, or your goals in life. Sometimes, our partners do things that make us worry or get angry, but if they do or say things that go against your own morals or make you feel like you have to lie to be okay, then something is wrong.

When someone makes you question who you are at your core, one of two things will happen: either you give in to them or you stand your ground and stay your own person. Don’t change just because other people want you to. Don’t change who you are to please other people. If they love you, it will go all the way to their core.

Don’t put up with people who don’t see what you have to offer.

As a child, I had a very low opinion of myself because of bullying, verbal abuse, and maybe even autism. It took me a long time to find even the slightest bit of value in myself. I was sad and thinking about killing myself, and I thought the world would be better off without me. Worse yet, some people saw my growing femininity as a sign that they could make fun of me, talk about my weight, my beauty (or lack thereof), and all the things they would do to me if we were alone.

I asked myself, “Is that all I’m good for?”

But then I met someone who helped me see that I was worth something and that I could do anything I set my mind to. I just had to be sure of myself and keep going. Things had to get better, I had to believe that.

They did it.

Since then, I’ve tried to find people who treat me like a person and not a thing. I’ve tried to find people who like being with me and vice versa. Who see gold in my smile, silver in my eyes, and gems in the way I speak.

Still, I’ve taken on partners who, at first, seemed to think I was worth a lot, but then attacked me with insults. “You’re irrational,” “you’re crazy,” “you’re not going to get anywhere that way,” “you’d be nothing without me,” “you’re not good enough,” “you’re worthless,” and so on.

I was able to leave these relationships, but not without my self-esteem taking another hit. Now that I’m older, I don’t have time for that kind of thing, and I refuse to think less of myself because someone else does.

Their friends show what kind of people they really are.

That doesn’t mean that everyone you know will be a good friend. Some of the people we call “friends” aren’t really friends at all. And sometimes we decide to hang out with people we don’t like or dislike. Sometimes, we keep our enemies at our side. But, all in all, if you look at a person and the people they hang out with and listen to the way they talk and how they see the world and you feel confused or angry or worried, you might need to take a step back and reevaluate your partner as well.

I once went out with a guy whose friends at first seemed like nice people. We went to a bar and began talking about different things. As the night went on, I realised that two of them were making fun of me, and my date was joining in. When we decided to break up a few months later, that was one of the things we both agreed on: Our friends weren’t going to change, and since they made us see things we didn’t like about each other, the relationship couldn’t work.

How they talk about their ex-partners says a lot.

Oh man, I wish I had figured this out a lot earlier. I might have been able to avoid a few hard problems. In the same way that you can tell a lot about a person by how they talk to the waiter (known as “The Waiter Rule”), how they talk about their past relationships is also important. At some point, you have to wonder if the horrible things they say about their ex-spouses are true or if they are the ones who are wrong.

I dated this one guy for a few months. At first, he was a real sweetheart, but he seemed hurt by the way other people had treated him. He talked about how crazy all of his past girlfriends were and how he couldn’t stay friends with any of them. Then, after seeing him be mean and careless a few times, I realised that there was probably a good reason why one of his ex-girlfriends tried to run him over with her truck. Plain and simple, the guy was a jerk.

Another guy talked about his ex-girlfriends like they were failed experiments, and he treated me the same way.

A mature person will admit that everyone makes mistakes, especially when they are young. We’re all sometimes inexperienced and full of ourselves. Sometimes, we even have to admit that we were the toxic one in the relationship and that it was best to end it. But if all you have is anger about the past and the people you shared it with, it says a lot about how you feel about yourself.

If someone talks down to you once, they will do it again and again.

When someone tries to teach you something you already know, it makes you feel bad. No matter how hard you try to tell them that you know what you’re doing and have been doing it for years, they don’t seem to listen. I can’t stand it when people talk down to me or treat me like I’m stupid. I know what I know, and if I don’t understand something, I’ll tell you.

So when someone I know or am dating talks down to me or treats me like I don’t know what I’m doing, I start to feel anxious and tense.

See, it doesn’t matter how much someone says they respect you or value your intelligence. Even if they ask for your advice, it doesn’t matter because they trust you. The important thing is how they act when they think you don’t know something.

I can speak more than one language, for example. My first language is English, and my second is Japanese. Even though I speak Japanese well and can have long, complicated conversations in it, someone asked me if I knew what simple adjectives meant. Or if I actually knew enough Japanese to talk at length about such things.

Knowing that I have two degrees in Exercise Science and Kinesiology, another guy thought it would be cool to teach me about muscle overload and progression, even though he had asked me to help him train in the first place. Because, you know, what he learned from researching on YouTube for 30 minutes was worth more than 10 or more years of college.

In both cases, when I said “I know” in a calm way, they got angry. Sarcastic, even. “Oh, I forgot you were a genius. Excuse me.”

This isn’t respect. That’s not grown up. That person is acting out because they feel threatened or wronged and want to show it.

It’s okay to make concessions, but they shouldn’t destroy you.

People have said a million times that relationships can’t last without giving and taking. I say that’s wrong. Yes, sometimes you do need to find a middle ground. Sometimes you just have to sigh and say, “Okay, let’s do it your way.” But Oprah said more than ten years ago that there are good compromises and bad ones. A good compromise lets you stay true to yourself so you can keep trying to be the best version of yourself. A bad compromise is one that keeps you from growing and being yourself.

But what are some signs that a deal isn’t good? Well, those are the ones where you have to keep a secret that is bad for you, like abuse or your partner using drugs, or how you hurt your own integrity to make someone else happy. People make bad deals to get rid of jealousy or envy, or to keep you down or in check in some way.

If you’re not sure if you’re making good or bad compromises, let me tell you: a relationship full of bad compromises makes you feel sad, uncertain, and guilty. You might even know in your gut that you’re in a bad relationship and be looking for signs.

I’ve been there. My advice is this: once you start to see the warning signs, it’s already too late to stop.

Some love languages really don’t work together.

Based on the book The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman, there is a belief that because people express themselves and their love in different ways, we are basically speaking different languages. Even more so when in love and talking about love. Some people say positive things about their partner, while others try to get their attention or give up their time for them. Some choose to give their partner lots of gifts and other things, while others want to touch them. Then there are people who do “acts of service,” like cleaning someone else’s house, or random acts of kindness, like sending thank-you notes.

Now, you might have more than one way to show love. You might choose only one. But sometimes the way you say “I love you” won’t work well with the way the other person says it. During these times, it might feel like no matter what you say to the other person, you’re always wrong. They misunderstand everything you say and misinterpret the signs.

For example, I knew someone who always told me I looked good and did other physical things to show they cared. I’m not sexual, but they had a bit of a fetish for women. I told them that I don’t really want to be touched that much. I even told them why some sexual things might make me uncomfortable. But they needed to touch each other all the time. That was how they showed love, so how could they tell me they wanted me if they couldn’t do that? I was loved by them? And if I didn’t do that, did that mean I didn’t love them back?

It was clear that the situation was very complicated. We cared about each other, but the way we showed love was different, so we had to stop seeing each other.

Communicating is important, but you also have to listen.

It’s important to talk things over. It’s important to be honest. Those are the things that make a relationship strong. At the end of the day, if you can’t talk to your partner about things, neither of you will get anywhere. You will always fight, which is a terrible thing to do. But do you know what else is part of talking to someone? The quiet. The energy in the spaces between. The feelings that aren’t said out loud.

How a person says something is just as important as what they say, and the things they don’t say are also key to understanding…and having compassion. Nonverbal communication is very important. After all, over 80% of communication is done without words.

I’m an introvert and on the autism spectrum, so I can go silent in many situations, especially when I’m feeling anxious. So, when I talk to someone, I often hope that they understand that my gestures, wide eyes, and head shaking are just as good as words. If it isn’t, we’re going to have trouble.

Also, if someone asks for time to themselves, give it to them. If someone tells you not to talk about something, pay attention. When someone tells you to do something or to remember something important, try to do it. And try to be honest when they ask if something is wrong or if you have time to talk about something. You won’t always get what you want. You might even get a little frustrated, but this is one of those good compromises we talked about.

But you need to do more than just talk. You also need to listen and watch your body language. If someone can’t understand how you talk, whether it’s through your love language, your spoken language, or your little quirks, they’re not the right person for you.

As you get older, your values will change, so make sure they can adapt.

I am very firm about a lot of things, such as my ethics, morals, and life goals. I tell everyone I date and trust that this is what I want out of life and that they can’t stop me. I put my dreams first. I’ll help you reach your goal, but don’t expect me to stop my own progress. I’ll back you up 100%, and I expect the same from you.

But values change. When you’re young, you might want to keep travelling the world until you die. Maybe when you’re forty and have found the love of your life or had a child, you realise that a house would be better.

Or, in my case, I’ve been willing to change my mind about having a child. I’m not sure I want to have kids because, well, my life is pretty crazy right now. I travel all over. My income changes a lot. And I’m determined to reach my goal of getting a master’s degree in dance. So, really, do I have time for a child? No. But I’m not against the idea that once my life is set up and I’m happy and I’ve found someone to grow old with, I might choose to have a child.

That doesn’t mean you should never have a child. And the older I get, the more I want someone who, instead of being stubborn and saying, “I definitely want x, y, and z,” would rather say, “We can take our time. I’m willing to try anything.”

Your life’s passion won’t change, even if your values do. Again, this means you need to find good middle ground. You need someone who knows that you need space to grow and that you will change as time goes on. You should help each other, not hold each other back.

One Last Thing

Love takes time. Love will make you change, but it will take time for you to get to your final form. And there will be times when it will be crazy hard. But if you look at each past relationship as a lesson you can use to become a better version of yourself, you will eventually meet the person you were meant to be with.

Love won’t stop looking for you even if you stop looking for it.

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