Breakups suck. In the moment, it always seems like your world will never be quite right again, and there will always be a part of you missing. Yet I have gone through enough separations to know that this is not the case; eventually, you will feel whole again, and you will even be able to look back on the relationship with fondness and not pain.
My most recent breakup has led me to contemplate all of my past relationships. When you’re in smack in the middle and full of new love, they seem amazing. When they’re removed from your life, you sob in wrenching pain; eventually, months later, you wonder what you ever saw in them and roll your eyes at your past self and her choices. But for me, years down the road, I am thankful for all of my failed relationships because they each have shaped a part of who I am.
None of my ex’s were rich; they didn’t buy me fancy clothes or whisk me off to Europe in their private jets. But in their own way, they each gave me gifts that are immeasurable in value, even if their presence in my life was not meant to be.
My first ex gave me the gift of heartbreak. I lived several states away from my high school boyfriend, and as brief as our relationship was, I was devastated when it ended. I was SURE that I was going to marry this boy, and I lamented as most stereotypical teenage girls do, writing very bad poetry and pouring my heart out in a song (that I years later found, shuddered at, and promptly deleted). And yet all of this innocent heartbreak soon healed, and I found that I was able to move on with my life just fine. It’s partly because of this early, necessary, over-dramatic heartbreak that I am able to move on from all of life’s storms that seem to keep coming my way because it taught me that pain is not forever.
There will be people in life who cause you immense amounts of agony. And yet, this hurt is able to be overcome with time and personal growth. It is those moments of overcoming this pain that we discover our true unshakable ability to keep marching on. When we are in the trenches of more suffering, we can remember how we persevered before, and muster up the courage to burst through yet again.
My second ex gave me the gift of freedom. I grew up very conservatively and extremely religious. While I am thankful for the solid foundation that this upbringing gave me in terms of values, I am also very thankful to not possess such a narrow-minded view of the world anymore. My ex-husband was the opposite of conservative, and while most of his ideas are way too radical to be contemplated in the realm of reality, being around someone who opposed my views so violently caused me to question why I subscribed to certain world-views. It’s because of him that I have been able to rebuild what I believe and have been able to be so empathetic and compassionate to others in turmoil around me.
Anyone who causes you to question who you are and what you believe is a valuable person. Sometimes, this self-questioning leads to a more solidified stance in what you think. Other times, such as in my case, it causes a shaky foundation to crumble, leaving room for constructing one that is more solidly built.
My third ex gave me the gift of experience. He was almost 18 years older than me, accomplished in so many things, and had a zest for life that drew me too him despite the age difference. Growing up in the Midwest, I had never dreamed that there were so many simple and varied pleasures to enjoy. Eating cucumber sandwiches on the beach, gambling in Vegas, drinking wine on the sand while the sun goes down, completely feeling the music at a rock concert one day and an acoustic performance the next. Because of him, I have a thirst for experiencing ALL of life, and I eagerly grasp any opportunity to try something new.
Sometimes, meeting someone with more experience than you is intimidating. It can make your life seem pitiful and pale in comparison. However, if you jump at the chance to listen to their stories and allow yourself to get caught up in the whirlwind, you will inevitably end up with way more interesting stories than standing on the sidelines watching.
My most recent ex gave me the gift of inspiration. Before I dated him, I was established in my career and going with the flow of life. But when we met, I saw in him a drive and a passion for more than the status quo, which quite honestly seemed a bit much at first. Yet as we spent more time together, he influenced me by example. He’s the reason I started this blog, started exploring my options for other side careers, and started striving to exceed my own expectations. It’s because of him that I feel that I have a renewed purpose in life, and I can feel that energy trickling into all facets of my being.
There are those people who come into your lives at the exact right moment and with just the right tools to spur you on towards greatness in your own journey. Sometimes those people get to stay with you, and you get to do that for each other for many amazing years together. Other times, those people touch us briefly before spinning off into the universe, too caught in their own destiny to stay. Either way, their inspiration is valuable, and no matter how brief or long the encounter, you have to be grateful for their impact on your life.
Some of us get lucky and find our missing puzzle piece right out of the gate. Those people get to grow and learn together, help each other out along the way, and build an amazing lifetime of memories together. Others of us have a more rocky path; we are the ones who reach our hands out again and again, only to have them slapped down by those we desire. We can choose to ache with each dismissal or to take each experience as a lesson in what we truly want and deserve. With each rejection comes a stronger assurance that eventually, our hand will be taken with gentle strength, and we will finish this journey together with someone who is worth every bit of pain and sorrow along the way.