Recently, I found myself retelling an old love story and I uttered the words, “I shouldn’t have done that.” And, while it’s true that I shouldn’t have done the thing that I did, I was immediately reminded of the experience that followed the thing and the lessons learned because of the thing. I don’t want to live with relationship regrets. After some thought, I changed my words to say,
“I won’t do that again.”
The experience caused me to reflect on other potential relationship regrets: the issues of my past relationships, and the lessons I learned as a result. Following is a list of several experiences that came to mind. Despite the fairy tale beginning, all events are true and happened sometime over the past 25 years. In the interest of protecting privacy, I used the word “partner” regardless of the seriousness of the relationship. I also used the words “man” and “woman” regardless of the age/maturity of the individuals.
- Once upon a time, a man I liked left his partner because he liked me too. Although I was happy, I told him I wanted to take things slow- I wanted to date casually and see where things went. But my lack of immediate commitment made him nervous, and he went back to his ex, who promptly rejected him. He then came back to me, and I embraced him. Many moons later, I witnessed similar behavior from him at the end of our relationship. I then realized that our entire partnership was built on a foundation of his insecurity and discomfort with uncertainty. I won’t do that again.
- Once upon a time, I was in a relationship in which my partner adored me, and I took advantage by subjecting him to unnecessary cruelty on my part. I employed my power in the partnership simply because I could. In the end, my partner’s adoration of me faded and I learned that a pedestal isn’t a place from which to spit on another person. I won’t do that again.
- Once upon a time, I hated my partner’s ex for no reason other than the fact that she was my partner’s ex. OK, actually I also held a grudge for something she’d done years prior to our relationship. But still, that was stupid. She was a human being who was similar enough to me that we could be loved by the same man. I won’t do that again.
- Once upon a time, having learned my lesson above, I wanted to be friendly with my partner’s ex. But my partner was adamantly against the idea as he insisted the woman was truly horrible and he himself was afraid of her. I capitulated (maybe I hadn’t actually learned the lesson above?). I later came to hypothesize that my partner reacted the way he did because he desperately didn’t want myself and his ex to compare notes on him. Seems I might’ve learned something from her. I won’t do that again.
- Once upon a time, I tried The Casual Sex Thing with a friend of mine (who also happened to be a friend of my ex). It was extremely awkward and afterward, things were weird between us. And then there was a bunch of dumb drama when certain people found out. I won’t do that again.
- Once upon a time, I was in a relationship with a man who employed various tactics of abuse. I won’t do that again.
- Once upon a time, I had a feeling that my partner was cheating. He denied it and told me I was acting possessive, insecure and ridiculous. So I immersed myself in self help in an effort to get better and be a better partner. Of course, I found out later that he had, in fact, been cheating. And… truth be told, this happened twice (because that’s what happens when you don’t learn the lesson the first time). I won’t do that again.
- Once upon a time, I sacrificed too much for a man I thought the world of. My life revolved around him. And although I was having fun, I also lost a lot of myself in the process. He wasn’t worth it, and I won’t do that again.
- Once upon a time, I let a relationship drag me down to the depths of depression and despair. I stayed in the partnership because I’d grown complacent and blind to other options. I won’t do that again.
I could choose to harbor relationship regrets… but those regrets could also cloud my happy memories. I’d rather accept the past, celebrate the good stuff, and learn from the rest. And, that’s what I’d like to see more of in our divorce culture.
So… how about you? Can you relate to any of my experiences? How have you grown through the relationships in your life? And, would you take back the experience, knowing you’d lose the lesson that came with it?