How to take positive lessons from any relationship

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Failed relationship

It’s easy to think of our failed relationships as a waste of time but, as Jo Middleton discovers, they have often shaped our lives more positively than we realise

We all want to find ‘the one’ don’t we? That person that will suddenly make us feel complete, special and like we can conquer the world. Or, at the very least, we want someone who’ll bring us a cup of tea in bed in the morning and listen to us moaning about work, family, weight and anything else we like to moan about.

You know the drill though; before you’re allowed to live happily ever after with your Prince (or Princess) Charming, you have to kiss a fair few frogs. Some of them, of course, might not even be frogs, but perfectly decent human beings who, it turns out, just aren’t the one for you long-term.

Some people might worry that these relationships have, in many ways, simply wasted their time on their quest for their one true love. However, I believe that the relationships we have in our teens, twenties, thirties – in fact, at any age – are all valuable.

If nothing else, a slightly less-than-perfect relationship teaches you what you don’t want from a partner and, as long as you learn from that, it’s never going to be a waste. Often though, relationships, even very short ones, can be incredibly positive experiences that are pivotal to your development as a person and a partner.

Take me for instance.

I dated a boy for about six months while I was at university, when I was 20 years old. It was never a very serious relationship and we ended as friends, but those six months had a huge impact on me. He was from a different sort of life, and opened my eyes to all sorts of new experiences.

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They weren’t even big or crazy things – he introduced me to pesto, for example – but they were representative of something. He showed me that life could be more than I had known up until that point, and made me feel like I could do anything I wanted to.

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post for him, entitled a letter to a long-lost boyfriend, because I wanted to let him know just how influential he had been. I really enjoyed writing it; it made me think about relationships in a new way, and made me grateful for all of the experience that we have that shape our lives.

Why not give it a go yourself? Think about a previous relationship and try to draw out something positive that came from it.

It might be hard at first – as I discovered when I asked a group of friends, only to be met by a chorus of ‘I hate all my exes!’ – but, if you think about it hard enough though, there’s usually something positive that you can find.

Gill, for example, who blogs at Baby on Board, wouldn’t have met her husband if it hadn’t been for an awful ex-boyfriend. ‘I had one boyfriend who made me so miserable that I quit my job,’ she said. ‘The positive though is that I met my husband at the next one!’

The positives don’t all have to be huge and life-changing, of course. ‘Going out with a chef taught me lots about cooking and meant that I left for uni prepared to fend for myself and wow my new friends too,’ said Penny from Parent Shaped. ‘Plus, I learnt how to chop garlic really fast!’

You see? When you look closely, every relationship cloud really does have a silver lining.


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