“Well, at least you learned a lesson.”
God, I hate hearing that.
Whenever the words “well” and “lesson” end up in the same sentence you know you were screwed over somewhere along the line. If there was even a line to begin with.
Or maybe you mucked it up yourself. Who knows.
But you did learn a lesson, didn’t you?
When it comes to love I have absolutely no idea sometimes. Because I feel like I’m making the exact same mistakes. Or some kind of variation of the same mistake.
For several years I ran a t-shirt screen printing business. Along the way, I discovered hundreds of ways to screw up. Sometimes the shirt ended up with a smeared print. Other times only some ink actually made it to the shirt. There was a time a shirt burst into flames.
Basically, if there was a way to screw up the process I figured it out.
The same is true with love.
Although I’d like to think I’ve learned at least a few lessons. Including how to avoid things suddenly becoming combustible.
Here are a few of the lessons I think we all have, or at least will at some point, learn from.
1.How To Survive a Broken Heart
God, this is a sucky lesson.
You go from on top of the world to feeling the weight of the world in such a short period of time.
Even if you see that freight train of a breakup coming right at you it doesn’t soften the blow.
And when that happens you go into survival mode. Even if that survival mode is crying in a pillow, wearing the same shirt/pant combo for a week, and putting copious amounts of comfort food into your body (the salt in a family-sized bag of pizza rolls has to be offset by the sugar in a packing crate of Pop-Tarts, right?).
I’ve had my share of broken hearts.
Most are of the standard variety. Damaged but not broken.
When my now ex-wife asked for a divorce that was a feeling unlike any other. I’m not even sure how to describe it without using a ton of cliches.
And all that was after she had been cheating on me. You’d think I would have been expecting the bad news to snowball.
What is that old saying? Love makes fools of us all? It sure made a moron out of me.
How did I cope?
Had sex on our bed with someone else the very next evening.
Probably not the healthiest thing to do.
Did it make me feel better?
Maybe for a few minutes.
Would I do it again?
I told my ex about it. Not really sure why. Or maybe I just wanted to reflect some of the pain I was feeling back on her. Realistically that’s probably the case. She was infuriated that I would do that.
“That was the bed we were going to make our children on.”
The keyword there is “were.” Her sexting the other dude the morning of our wedding was totally fine. But me hooking up post-divorce announcement on the bed? Now that’s crossing the line.
Another lesson learned.
These love lessons just flood in sometimes.
2.How to Take Advice (And Listen To It)
I have a few friends who will ask me for advice. But in reality, they don’t want advice as much as they want me to agree with them.
I’d bet a large sum of money you probably have friends like that.
I think we’ve all been there at some point. At least with certain things. We want to see the best in a certain situation or person. So we set up blinders and only view what we want to view.
Yet we also have friends who can see the entire forest while we’re stuck looking at a single tree. There are obvious problems and red flags and giant flashing lights with hurricane shelter sirens blaring. The friends probably see and hear these warnings even when we don’t. Or choose not to.
There was a girl I liked. We were kind of dating. Honestly, I’m not really sure what the official term was for us.
There are just so many terms. Hard to keep them straight.
But she was a total flake.
Big Foot with a severe dandruff problem wasn’t as flaky as her.
My friends all banged me over the head with it.
But I didn’t want to listen. I chose not to. She was super attractive so I wanted to keep her around. Even though she never really was truly around.
I’d talk to my friends, ask them for advice, and start the conversation off with, “She’s really hot…but…”
I was justifying to them, hoping they’d agree with me. I wanted to stack the advice deck in my favor.
I should have listened. I should have been better at listening and taking the advice I asked for. Because asking for advice and asking for an agreement are two totally different things.
3. You Will Eventually Be The Bad Guy
I’ve never liked being the person doing the breaking upping. I’m so bad at it. I don’t like to intentionally hurt people’s feelings. I just don’t have the stomach for it.
Probably because in high school I was shy and not one of the cool kids so if any girl wanted to hang out I’d hang on like I was about to fall over a cliff.
Often I’ve come to the realization that a relationship needs to end. It’s run its course. It ran out of track. And yet I’d hope she would break it off first.
That only leads to compounding problems into much bigger problems.
Like when the check engine light pops up on the dash. It’s probably something small. Maybe just low on oil. Maybe the thermostat is shot. But you choose to ignore it. Maybe you place that strip of black tape over the light. The problem is still there, you just have masked it. Eventually, that small problem turns into a catastrophic mess.
That’s what happens when not ending the relationship when it needs to be put out of its misery. Most people don’t really want to take a living thing behind the barn, loaded rifle over the shoulder. But sometimes it’s for the best.
And sometimes that means you will need to be the bad guy.
Maybe it’s best to think of it like being the bad guy who saves the day at the end of the movie. Sure, you’re Darth Vader, but you totally saved the day in the end.
4. The Foundation of a Relationship Can’t Be Sex
Sure, it’s great to have that perfectly compatible sex partner.
You’re a little freaky, they’re a little freaky.
You’re into a fetish, they’ve been wanting to try it out.
That sexual spark is intense, and it’s awesome.
But the fireplace can’t be the foundation of a house.
It’s a fantastic asset, but it’s not something you can build off of. It’s almost its own separate entity.
There was a girl I was with. Sweet tap dancin’ Christ were things good in the bedroom.
But outside of it? It was like conversing with a box of raisins. There were no mentally stimulating conversations. And I tried. God, did I try. News, weather, hiking destinations, gum. All were attempted topics of conversation. But nothing ever sparked a mental connection like the physical connection we had.
I thought I’d feel worse when I ended it. But it was actually okay. I think because my brain didn’t have the needed connection it wasn’t as hurt when I cut things off.
Of course, I don’t think she’d ever been broken up with. She was the kind of person guys don’t break up with. So I don’t think she knew how to handle it.
That manifested into a barrage of expletive-laced texts combined with her digging at my flaws and perceived weaknesses. Thankfully we didn’t have that mental connection so she didn’t know what really would dig deep into my soul.
And while I used sex as something not to base a relationship on, you can fill in the gap with so many other words.
Money is a prime example.
Being in a relationship based on money might help you become First Lady of the United States, but it doesn’t mean you’ll be happy.
And isn’t that, ultimately, the point?
5. You Can’t Rely On Someone To Make You Happy
Speaking of happiness, you can’t rely on someone to bring happiness to you.
Absolutely someone can take your level of happiness to new heights. It’s what makes the right relationship so amazing.
But you can’t rely on someone to make you happy. Because if you do what are you actually happy about? At this point, you’re happy for them, not yourself.
These are the situations where you’ll continually try to keep alive a dead relationship just because you need them to be happy.
If your relationship is on dialysis it’s not good.
Only you can make yourself happy. And sometimes this means you need to be alone to discover what makes you happy.
Maybe you’re alone for a month. Maybe you’re alone for a decade. It takes as long as it takes.
You can’t rush love any more than you can rush happiness.
After my divorce, I tried all kinds of ways to falsify happiness. At most I had a handful of enjoyable moments, but I wasn’t happy.
And maybe the biggest problem with this was by force-feeding perceived happiness I took time away from really discovering what made me happy.
Perhaps this is the biggest lesson to learn from love. It’s hard to find true love without first being truly happy.