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9 Lessons I Learned From My Ex-Boyfriends

Because every relationship is a learning curve – even the really crappy ones.

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1. You can’t change a person.

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No matter how hard you wish something about them was different, it's highly unlikely that they'll ever behave exactly the way you want them to, even if you're sure that change would better their own life.

People are autonomous, and don't take too kindly to being coerced, especially in relationships. How would you feel if the person you loved wasn't happy with you just as you are?

One of my exes was highly resistant to bending even a bit, to the point where we ended up just really living separate lives. But that's why he's an ex, and we're both much happier now we're not trying to compromise with each other all the time.

2. But people do change by themselves.

My first proper relationship was a long distance one. We met on our summer holiday with our respective families, and it soon turned into a romance fuelled by letters, the burgeoning days of the internet and low-cost flights. When we met, we were teenagers, but by the time we broke up four years later, we were completely different people.

When you're young and you fall in love during your formative years, that relationship can really shape you. There's nothing quite like your first love, after all. But the key word here is formative, and we all go through several phases before emerging from our chrysalis a fully formed adult.

I knew things weren't going to work out for us when he went from the boy next door to a bit of a party boy, and I went from relatively innocent schoolgirl to a college student. He wasn't the boy I'd fallen in love with anymore, and I hadn't evolved in the same vein. It was only a matter of time before we parted ways.

3. Long distance is TOUGH.

Being with somebody that lives hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away was incredibly difficult. I found myself missing out on big nights with the girls to stay in and wait for his phone calls, and living my life in weekend-long spurts only to go back to missing him again in between visits. Our lives felt profoundly disconnected, and it made me very insecure.

The only way I could ever do long distance again would be if there was an end in sight, a fixed time frame. Trying to sustain a relationship with no certain future in the long term is pretty darn soul destroying, in my experience.

4. It’s so important to get on with their loved ones.

You might think that you two can coexist in your own little bubble and you don't need to like the important people in his life, but that's naive.

Until I met my fiancé, I'd never gelled with any of my exes families properly. I mean, they were fine, but we weren't bosom buddies and I told myself that slight tensions were normal.

At the time I didn't think it mattered if I wasn't BFFs with my guy's family members, but meeting my soon-to-be mother-in-law showed me that a fantastic relationship with her was more than just a bonus, it was a game changer. I can't wait for her to be a big part of the rest of my life.

5. Opposites can attract, but common interests are important.

I spent several years in a relationship with a guy who was the chalk to my cheese. He was quiet, I'm outgoing. He liked golf, I liked going out. For a long time I told myself that we balanced one another out, and that sometimes opposites attract and it just works, but now I know I was kidding myself.

He was a good guy in many ways, he just wasn't the right person for me.

It's so essential to have stuff in common, whether that's hobbies, movies, interests or even your work. It doesn't have to be everything, but it does have to be something.

6. People you love can hurt you in ways you never imagined.

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It's a fact of life that people lie, cheat and suit their own agenda. They probably don't mean to be a bad guy, and would likely be really sad to upset you. But sometimes we don't even know why we do the things we do, and nobody is perfect.

I've been lied to many times by men I loved. It hurts like hell at the time, but if there's dishonesty in a relationship, there can never really be any solid foundation of trust – and without that, the coupling is doomed. Some people can work past having their heart broken, but in my case, there was no fixing it in the end.

7. Nobody is too good for you.

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Adoring your partner is one thing, but idolising them is another. I thought the sun shone out of my first love's ass, and that he was far too good for me. That perception on my part coloured our entire relationship, and led to me putting up with stuff I wouldn't dream of allowing now.

It wasn't his fault that I thought his shit didn't stink; it was entirely mine. People are mortal, and you should treat them as such – never put your other half on a pedestal.

8. Sometimes it’s far easier to end a relationship than you think.

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I stayed with a man for a very long time, way longer than I should have, because I thought extricating myself from the relationship would be very traumatic for both of us. Our lives were intricately wound together, but in the end it all came apart quite seamlessly.

Of course it was tough, but I was prepared for a much bigger battle than it ended up being – something I'm still surprised about to this day.

If you're staying with someone because you think you've made your bed, or that it's easier to stay than go, just know that you really could be over-inflating the situation in your head. You should always, always go with your gut.

9. You don't have to stay friends.

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It's scary to let someone you've loved go, which is why most of us give in to the ultimate cliche when breaking up: "let's be friends". But the fact is, you're breaking up for a reason. I remember one ex saying to me "If we end this, I'll never see you again – we don't hang out with the same people!". Um, there's your first clue as to why we're breaking up, dude.

I guess it depends on what relationship you guys had to begin with, but I've never been able to be friends with an ex and that's okay. I've no hard feelings towards them, but what we had was of that time, and now it's gone. Onwards!