“What did I see in him?” or “What did I see in her?” At the end of a relationship, it’s a common question to ask.
Perhaps you heard the story about how my ex-husband used to sit behind me in fourth grade and pull my hair. Throughout middle and high school, he continued to mildly torment me. Once, I came face-to-face with him in our high school hallway, and he asked, “Why are you so ugly?”
I married that guy. What the hell was I thinking?
I could combine this ancient history with the more recent history of Everything That Went Wrong in our marriage, and I could produce a long list of atrocities. Then I could recite the list and ask, “What did I see in him?”
It would be easy to answer, “I don’t know what I saw in him. I learned my lesson and I’m better now. I won’t make that mistake again!” …And on one hand, such an answer would equate to me admitting to making a stupid decision and assuming responsibility for better choices in the future. That’s good.
But. Yeah, there’s always a “but.” On the other hand, this kind of oversimplification, when applied broadly, means that all exes are terrible. Thus: “my ex is terrible and I was stupid” means that I’m also terrible and my ex is also stupid.
But I’m not a terrible person!
So, what if we took this question more seriously? What if we inquired with the expectation of receiving a real answer? How would that change things? Let me try it…
What did I see in my ex? What did I like about him?
- I saw a man who’d grown beyond his childish antics.
- I saw a man who was dedicated to his chosen career.
- I saw a man who was financially responsible.
- I saw a man who dreamed big.
- I saw a man who liked The Discovery Channel.
Now… let’s take it a step further. What does this tell me about myself?
- I value personal growth.
- I also prioritize my career.
- I respect a good credit score, and all that it stands for.
- I wanted to expand my own horizons.
- I love to learn.
It makes sense. Those qualities in myself were what made my ex attractive to me, despite the insults we traded as children. While we weren’t suited to spend decades together in this lifetime, our partnership made sense on some level. Therefore, neither of us was blatantly stupid or chose poorly.
Relationships are complicated. But in hindsight, they allow us to learn some simple truths about ourselves. Next time you want to exclaim, “What did I see in him?” (or her)… stop and take time to literally answer the question. Because this kind of awareness is what paves the path to healthy healing.