Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

What Lessons Have You Learned From Your Breakups?

I read an article the other day on the Huffington Post where women in their 40s share with women in their 20s the wisdom they gained from terrible breakups. The words of wisdom are great — “Like yourself more than you need someone to like you.” “Jealousy is not a form of love, it’s a form of control.” “Don’t confuse attraction with love.” — but do women really need to reach 40 before they can dispense, let alone gain, wisdom like that? I think not, otherwise my career as an advice columnist in her mid-30s is pretty screwed. No, I think regardless of your age, there are lots of lessons to be learned from messy — and even not so messy — breakups, and I’d love it if you would share some of the lessons you’ve learned. Please email me or share in the comments what those lessons are and I’ll do a roundup of the best responses in a future post. To get things started, here are the top three things I’ve learned from breakups past:

1. Being in a lonely relationship is far lonelier than just being alone.

2. Knowing exactly what I want and exactly what I’m worth makes it much harder to settle for anything less.

3. The end of sex in a relationship is usually the last thing to go and it’s always a symptom of something that’s wrong.

66 comments… add one
  • avatar

    AnitaBath February 23, 2011, 12:08 pm

    Even though I’m still pretty young, most of what I’ve learned is just not to settle for being treated like crap. But something I’ve seen my little sister struggle with is the concept of actually getting the guy to agree to break up. I feel like so many people think that breaking up has to be a mutual agreement, or that the person had to do something horribly wrong in order for there to be a break up. It’s perfectly acceptable to break up with someone because you’re not feeling it and don’t want to be in a relationship with them anymore. They don’t have to agree with it, it only takes one person to want to break up.

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    • avatar

      caramelpuff February 23, 2011, 4:54 pm

      Amen. I stayed in a relationship for 4 years just because I couldn’t find a ‘justifiable’ (if that’s even a word) reason to break up with him. Now I know if I’m not interested it’s time to move on.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom February 23, 2011, 6:17 pm

      I had trouble breaking up with a guy because he refused to end it. I caught him cheating on me and knew how much he had been lying to me and I wanted nothing to do with him but every time I told him I wasn’t seeing him anymore he would refuse to leave until I agreed to see him again. I tried breaking up over the phone but he would just show up at my door as fast as he could get there. Finally instead of telling him I wasn’t seeing him anymore I started telling him that I was busy. Luckily, he had moved to another town and it was a two hour drive between us and so he couldn’t drop in so easily. He wanted me to spend weekends with him but I would always be busy. After months and months of this he finally realized we weren’t seeing each other any more. But even two years later he would occasionally show up at my door and try to get back together again. Especially my last semester of college when he realized I’d move on and he didn’t know where I was going. I made sure he never found out what I was doing or where I was going so he couldn’t find me. After I started dating my husband when this ex showed up I told the ex all about my wonderful boyfriend assuming he’d realize we were never getting back together again and yet he still showed up. He even told me he felt like he was losing me and asked me to run away with him and get married. NO WAY! I found that when he was asking me to run off and get married he was in a long term relationship. I felt so sorry for her. She had no idea he was going home to her after asking me to marry him.

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  • avatar

    ReginaRey February 23, 2011, 12:11 pm

    The absolute, most important thing I ever learned about breaking up with someone was this “If you are meant to be with someone, one day you will be. Time, heartbreak, and life won’t be able to get in the way if someone is truly meant for you.”

    My friend gave me this advice when I was going through a particularly rough on-again off-again relationship. It gave me strength to say “enough is enough.” I got tired of waffling back and forth and wondering if he and I would ever work out, so I took a leap of faith. I finally cut ties completely, moved on with my life, and trusted that we would be together in the end if that’s what was right for me. BEST DECISION EVER. Hindsight truly is 20/20, and I saw that VERY unhealthy relationship for what it was once I was out of it completely. That leap of faith taught me that this guy was definitely NOT my soulmate, or destined to be my husband one day. But without that advice, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to endure the lonliness and pain it took to discover that fact.

    Also – Love usually finds you when you are 100% content with just being yourself. The moment I got over that bad breakup and was truly enjoying being me and doing things for myself is when I found the right guy for me.

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    • bagge72

      bagge72 February 23, 2011, 2:47 pm

      I wholeheartedly agree with this! Though things turned out a little bit different for us. That is how my fiance and I were like. We dated on and off for a while a couple of years ago, but because of my being an ass, and not treating her the way she deserved she finally broke things off between us, and 2 years later we finally reconnected (longest 2 years of my life, because I knew I loved her, I just couldn’t admit it), and I can’t wait to marry her. Sometimes I get this terrible feeling of guilt, because I should have just treated her the way she deserved then, and it kills me to go back and think about us then. When I say I was being an ass, I don’t mean I was actually mean or abusive to her in anyway. I just wasn’t treating our relationship like it was a real one. I was to worried about going out to bars all the time with my friends, and not about her which is what I should have been. At least the two years let me have a couple of practice relationships in between so I could be a better person although they all ended the same way, with me saying I wasn’t ready for a real relationship, but the truth was I just didn’t want one with them.

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      • avatar

        ReginaRey February 23, 2011, 3:07 pm

        That’s awesome! I’m glad you’ve proved that things really can work out if they’re supposed to – but with significant time and maturation in between. That’s another really good point about breakups…sometimes one or both people really need time to mature and grow up a little before they’ll ever be the right kind of partner for someone. It seems like you really appreciate her now, which is great 🙂

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  • avatar

    Amy February 23, 2011, 12:18 pm

    DO NOT marry the first guy you think you love! Wait until they have had a chance to provide some evidence for how they really intend to live their lives. Anybody can talk about goals and dreams, don’t hitch your wagon to cheap talk… wait until they’ve shown they know how to go about achieving their goals. Wait until everyone is old enough to see how their values really play out in their life and if you are truly compatible with someone based on the way they live their life – rather than just what they say about how they want to live their life. Pretty common sense when looking back – but I’m sure not the only woman I know that has made this mistake!

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  • avatar

    Painted_lady February 23, 2011, 12:27 pm

    Knowing the difference between loving someone despite their flaws and staying with someone I genuinely have ceased to even like. I stayed with a guy probably six months longer than I should have because I felt like we could work through our issues. A couple of months out of it, I realized how badly he got on my nerves and that, if someone is that genuinely irritating to me, I shouldn’t want to be in a relationship with him. His clothes and hair, his political views, the food he likes to eat, the things he enjoys doing, were all things that I just didn’t understand, didn’t enjoy and sometimes actively disliked. Why the hell did I stay with that guy?

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    • avatar

      kaitlyn February 23, 2011, 12:39 pm

      me too! I thought he would be “good for me”, but all he really did was make me feel like there was something wrong with me or I wasn’t good enough. I spent the whole relationship trying to be someone I’m not, and I didn’t enjoy most of the time we spent together. Not sure what was going through my head.

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    • avatar

      plasticepoxy February 23, 2011, 12:48 pm

      I KNOW! What was I thinking? I didn’t even LIKE him at the end, but couldn’t get the courage (this relationship should have been classified as abusive, but I didn’t really see that until I was well away from it) to do what I needed to do for me for over a year. While I regret “wasting” that year, I also learned a lot about myself and I’m a stronger person for finally holding myself to a standard.

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    • avatar

      WatersEdge February 23, 2011, 2:33 pm

      Been there too!

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  • avatar

    kaitlyn February 23, 2011, 12:36 pm

    Never feel like you owe anyone anything, and don’t worry about disappointing anyone besides yourself. You should never feel obligated to sleep with someone just because they picked up your bar tab for the night.

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  • avatar

    sweetleaf February 23, 2011, 12:37 pm

    You can’t truly enjoy the company of another until you enjoy your own. I didn’t love me, so I wouldn’t allow him to which led to our demise.

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  • avatar

    MissDre February 23, 2011, 12:52 pm

    If you don’t love yourself first, other people won’t be able to love you.

    My ex boyfriend traveled 5 hours on a bus to be with me for our 1st anniversary, but I canceled our romantic plans and spent the evening in the bathroom crying because I didn’t lose enough weight to fit into the dress I wanted to wear. I hated my body and I felt like I was letting him down by not being the perfect girlfriend, even though he told me everyday that I was beautiful no matter what my weight was. This was a regular occurrence in our relationship. He said, “Why did I come all this way if you’re just going to cry the whole time?”

    He dumped me about a month and a half later. And I hated him so much for promising to love me forever and then breaking up with me. I hated myself for not being what I thought I should be and I thought maybe he would have stayed with me if I’d been skinnier.

    I realize now that he got tired of not being able to help me love myself. He got tired of the negativity and had to get out. I spent a lot of time learning to be happy with ME. And guess what, I haven’t lost any weight but I look and feel fabulous because I put more energy into dressing to flatter my figure. People are attracted to me now because I smile and I radiate confidence.

    And I’m happy in my own skin whether I have a boyfriend or not 🙂

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    • Kristina

      Kristina February 23, 2011, 2:16 pm

      Exactly what I was going to say. If you don’t love yourself, you aren’t really able to let in someone and love you.

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    • avatar

      Bdubs629 February 23, 2011, 9:18 pm

      I had this same problem. I was going from relationship to relationship hoping a guy could fill that “love” void that I actually need to fill with love for myself. I’ve decided to stay single for a while and work on myself (and my weight, I also have self-esteem issues with that). I hope to reach the point that you are very soon! Congrats to you being happy in your own skin!

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  • avatar

    demoiselle February 23, 2011, 12:58 pm

    Sometimes people stick around not because they love you, but because they love being loved by you.

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    • avatar

      demoiselle February 23, 2011, 1:00 pm

      In the grand scheme of things, relationships are supposed to be positive for both partners. If your relationship is making you feel bad and unhappy more than it is affirming you, it is time to take a serious look at the relationship.

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    • avatar

      demoiselle February 23, 2011, 1:02 pm

      The best guarantee of having a good relationship is not making yourself deserving (though you should always try to be the best person you can be). It is often about making a good choice of partner in the first place. No amount of being virtuous yourself, and no amount of love, can make an ungenerous, unkind, dishonest person his own opposite. It’s much better to find someone who has those qualities to begin with.

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    • avatar

      demoiselle February 23, 2011, 1:07 pm

      Fights and unhappiness are not necessarily a two-way street (though they can be). It’s very in vogue to act like all problems is both partner’s fault, and the solution is always compromise. Sometimes this isn’t true. Sometimes it really is the fault of one partner.

      If you’re someone who has never had huge interpersonal difficulties (never had a fight with a friend or parent) and you find yourself in a relationship in which there is regular chaos, fighting, crying, and pain–it may well be that you are with a toxic person. Get out fast.

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    • avatar

      demoiselle February 23, 2011, 1:11 pm

      Constant, obsessive video game playing is not *actually* a given among 20-40 year old men, despite what my ex claimed when I complained of being ignored.

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  • avatar

    kerrycontrary February 23, 2011, 1:07 pm

    Once you break up from a serious relationship you need a period of time where you don’t communicate with each other. You can’t jump into “just friends” right away.

    Marry someone with whom you share values and life goals, not just someone you are madly in love with. Sometimes love isn’t enough.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom February 23, 2011, 6:22 pm

      I agree completely. You can fall in love with someone you won’t ever be happy living with.

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    • avatar

      plasticepoxy February 24, 2011, 10:40 am

      This is so true!

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  • avatar

    Uyzie February 23, 2011, 1:10 pm

    One of the best things I’ve ever learned from a breakup is that NO form of abuse is EVER okay. Physical abuse seems pretty obvious, but emotional and verbal abuse is much sneakier to detect. Just because he’s not hitting you doesn’t mean he’s not abusing you.

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    • avatar

      Pam February 23, 2011, 1:57 pm

      That is so true. I went through that and it wasn’t until other people pointed it out to me that my husband and then boyfriend were using emotionally and verbally abusive techniques that I could see it…
      Abuse is NOT acceptable and it is not LOVE.

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    • avatar

      plasticepoxy February 24, 2011, 10:45 am

      I know I made excuses for my ex a lot. “He didn’t mean it the way you interpreted it”, “This is the communication model he grew up with”, “You’re being too sensitive”, etc. I basically parroted his excuses at myself. I didn’t want him to be abusive. I didn’t want to be the girl that stayed with her abusive boyfriend, so I refused to see it until I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

      Trust your gut! If I’d left the first time he pulled a manipulative stunt I would have saved myself, my family and friends heartbreak, stress and money! Yeah, he was slick and (unknown to me at the time) actually stole from me, friends, etc. Sheesh!

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  • avatar

    Heather Girl February 23, 2011, 1:15 pm

    I just wrote a blog about this the other day.

    http://heatherlee4.blogspot.com/2011/02/love.html

    My mom always taught me to learn a lesson from each breakup, in hope that I wouldn’t be the leading role in a break up feature film each time.

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  • avatar

    Wendy February 23, 2011, 1:23 pm

    It isn’t my job to fix anyone else.

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    • avatar

      cdj0815 February 24, 2011, 11:44 am

      You just hit the nail on the head. A guy I was interested was like a project. People were telling me you can fix him, he needs some grooming (he is a least 10 years younger than me). I told them and him “the only projects I work on are the ones I get paid for or gain some type of insight from”; Needless to say, he was not it.

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  • avatar

    ArtsyGirl February 23, 2011, 1:34 pm

    Endless Drama does NOT equal Love (nuff said)

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  • Heather

    Heather February 23, 2011, 1:44 pm

    For both parties, and I know this has been mentioned but it can’t be stressed enough IMO:

    If you don’t love yourself or can’t be happy without someone, then having someone in your life won’t truly make you happy. It’s a band aid on a wound that only you can heal, so to speak. And that goes the same for if you’re with someone. If you can tell that they’re miserable all the time, or if they say things like “You’re the only thing that makes me happy”, that’s a problem. You’d be doing a favor by letting them go.

    Space after a breakup is GOOD. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever be friends again, it just means that you need time apart from that person. Whether you like it or not, trying to remain close right away will cloud your judgement and hinder your healing.

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  • avatar

    Pam February 23, 2011, 1:56 pm

    NUMBER one is absolutely correct… it is SO much worse to be lonely in a relationship (or in my case marriage) than it is to be lonely outside…

    Things I learned: Breakups do not need to be MUTUAL… if YOU say you are done, anything further that he does because he doesn’t accept what you say is 1) stalking, 2) abuse, and 3) his own problem. You have the right to change your mind or your heart, and sometimes you DO just fall out of love — there is no reason to stay in a marriage or relationship where you are alone, abused, or just don’t want to be there anymore…

    Don’t stay “for the kids” because it makes you resent the kids (or the pets, or whatever reason you think you’re staying) rather than help you build a healthy YOU and partnership.

    When they tell you not having you in their lives makes them feel suicidal, that is ABUSE and manipulation… contact the authorities but stand firm. Otherwise they will use that to keep you under their control and guilt

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  • avatar

    Rachelgrace53 February 23, 2011, 2:00 pm

    In one breakup, I learned:
    -If he makes you question your worth or feel bad about yourself, he’s not the one for you.
    -Just because you lost your virginity to him doesn’t mean you have to stay with him.
    -If you can’t remember the last time you were happy in the relationship, it’s ok to end it.
    Also:
    -If you loved him, but now realize he isn’t ambitious and fun enough to keep you interested long-term, let him find someone else who will appreciate the security he provides.
    -No matter how convinced you are that he was “the one,” he wasn’t. And it’s better that way.

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    • avatar

      phoenix287 March 4, 2011, 10:39 pm

      Thank you! I learnt the first 3 from 1 break up as well.

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  • Firegirl32

    Firegirl32 February 23, 2011, 2:04 pm

    Comfortable is NOT always good. Just because you are comfortable in the relationship you are in, does not make it healthy for you.

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  • Kristina

    Kristina February 23, 2011, 2:17 pm

    Always appreciate your partner, and actually show it. Appreciation goes a long way, and it certainly helps with communication.

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  • avatar

    MAC2011 February 23, 2011, 2:24 pm

    Being in a meaningful relationship doesn’t entail cheating on that them. Sometimes sh*t happens, but if it happens often enough you are searching for something else. RECOGNIZE that & MOA!
    Also, when a guy tells you flat out that he doesn’t want the same things as you, he generally means..HE DOES NOT WANT THE SAME THINGS AS YOU. You can’t change a person..so quit trying!
    Being alone is okay following a relationship, you need to do some sole searching & figure out what you want b/c for so long it was about “us”!!!

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  • avatar

    Amber February 23, 2011, 2:27 pm

    The fastest and only way to get over a breakup is to go cold turkey on communicating with the ex. Calling/texting/emailing may make you feel better for two seconds, but then you feel worse. And it just drags out the emotional turmoil for longer than if you just cut the person out of your life completely.

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  • avatar

    WatersEdge February 23, 2011, 2:41 pm

    Not all relationships take a ton of work. Yes, all relationships take compromise, but stretching what you like and who you are is not an intrinsic part of being in a relationship. You can have a relationship where there is mutual support, ease, and understanding. For me, it took a long time to learn what the difference was between normal relationship compromise and “we’re just not compatible”. For years I’d walk away over the smallest difference between us. Then I decided to change that and I stayed with someone who was totally wrong for me for too long.

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    • avatar

      rainbow February 23, 2011, 2:55 pm

      woh, i only saw your comment when i refreshed the page after posting mine. That’s kind of what i was talking about.

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    • avatar

      Painted_lady February 23, 2011, 9:37 pm

      I know – that’s what I was trying to say, essentially, you just said it way better. I did the *exact* same thing in my last relationship. I kept thinking, “Stop running at the first sign of trouble, that’s what you always do, you gotta learn to compromise.” And yet, there comes a moment when you gotta go, “Wait. We don’t have a thing in common. We don’t have fun together. One or both of us is always pissed about something. Why is it we’re trying to work through this?”

      But at the same time, I learned there’s a balance to be found. So, not entirely a waste.

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  • avatar

    rainbow February 23, 2011, 2:51 pm

    most really bad, long, painful relationships had the potential to be an awesome summer fling. the fact that you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean you should make an effort to stay there for as long as your mind and body can take it. that’s something you should do only in very special cases, and you don’t get one of those every year. just let it go.

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  • avatar

    AKchic February 23, 2011, 3:02 pm

    -Always do a background check. Multiple DV convictions and restraining orders are a sign, and do NOT let him (or her) try to explain them away. Remember, when he (or she) says that all of his (or her) exes are crazy, there is always a common denominator – him (or her).
    -Always have an exit strategy for any relationship, just in case it gets bad.
    -Never share a bank account until you’ve been married for six months.
    -Avoid dating anyone either of my sisters know. Period. Just avoid talking to anyone my sisters know in general.
    -Never date a guy who is more interested in my gun collection than me. 🙂
    -Never date a guy who has more anime crap than I have ammunition and nerd paraphenalia.
    -Never date a guy who doesn’t read and doesn’t know any sci-fi references (I hate having to explain the meaning of some of what I say)

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    • Kristina

      Kristina February 23, 2011, 3:05 pm

      I think background checks are quite unnecessary in most cases–if you have reason to suspect something, then I can see why someone would want one if they are not able to get a straight answer from the person first.

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      • avatar

        AKchic February 23, 2011, 6:33 pm

        When in doubt – background check ’em. Especially if you have kids. I could have saved myself a very terrible marriage had I done so, and I wouldn’t be dealing with the after-affects of it 8 years afterwards either.

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      Jess February 24, 2011, 12:11 pm

      wow

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      • avatar

        AKchic February 25, 2011, 4:56 pm

        *laugh*
        The last three were a bit tongue-in-cheek. Well, except the reading one. I really do hate it when I quote from HHGTTG and the guy looks at me like I’ve just spoken in Latin.
        Even in AK, it is hard to find a guy that is comfortable with a woman who is both nerdy and independent. I’m not talking just financially, I’m talking can work on her own suburban, will do her own hunting and clean what she kills/catches, cleans her own rifles and does make her own ammunition (it’s cheaper). I grew up a tomboy and I guess I never outgrew it.
        The good half is – I’m great for trivia games 🙂

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    camille905 February 23, 2011, 3:07 pm

    Listen to your heart- when it tells you something is wrong, something probably really is wrong.

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      Amy February 23, 2011, 3:59 pm

      YES! Always listen to your heart and your gut-feelings!!!!

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  • avatar

    Laurel February 23, 2011, 4:21 pm

    You shouldn’t have to change who you are to be in a relationship. Yes, be open to change, and you may surprise yourself with likes you didn’t know you’d like and interests you were never interested in. But you shouldn’t have to change intrinsically who you are to “fit” someone else. If your partner (or potential partner) is pressuring you do to things sexually that you are uncomfortable with or don’t like, you do not need to do them to accommodate him/her. If your partner insists that all their interests need to become your interests, that’s not right. If you find that you dumb yourself down, pretend you’re okay with stoic when you need lots of affection (or vice versa), etc, it’s just not working and not worth it.

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    • avatar

      Laurel February 23, 2011, 4:22 pm

      As an addendum to that, when you find someone who enjoys you for you, and you enjoy them as they are, the relationship will be infinitely easier than when you’re both trying to change one another.

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  • avatar

    sarolabelle February 23, 2011, 4:48 pm

    If you cry all the time when you aren’t with him – it probably isn’t a good relationship to be in….

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  • avatar

    caramelpuff February 23, 2011, 4:50 pm

    I learned a lot looking back on my first major break up but I learned a very important lesson. If he’s still leaving the back door open for his ex, he’ll never love and give you the attention you need. I wish I hadn’t ignored those red flags when they were so obvious.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom February 23, 2011, 6:29 pm

    I learned that if I couldn’t trust someone then I couldn’t respect them and if I couldn’t respect them I couldn’t love them. I learned to look for integrity right from the start and not just assume it.

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  • caitie_didnt

    caitie_didn't February 23, 2011, 6:37 pm

    1). If your gut tells you something is wrong, then something is wrong.

    2). Sometimes, someone will break up with you for a reason that absolutely has nothing to do with you (case in point: breaking up with me because his mom won $3 million in the lottery….literally nothing to do with me and everything to do with the crazypants ego he developed b/c he was “rich”). Freeing yourself from the guilt of wondering “what did i do to drive him away?” is a wonderful thing.

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  • avatar

    moonflowers February 23, 2011, 9:26 pm

    Great sexual chemistry is a necessary but not sufficient basis for a relationship. If it’s just based on hormones alone, you might keep it going for a few months, but it’s personality and compatibility that keep relationships alive in the long run.

    In a relationship, personal problems are relationship problems. Work on your personal issues before they threaten to drag your relationship down with them.

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  • avatar

    Ray25 February 23, 2011, 9:33 pm

    I knew a couple weeks into it that we weren’t a good match, but I was young, insecure, and inexperienced. We ended up staying together for several years, and the whole time I knew that he wouldn’t make me really happy for the rest of my life, but my life would be decent and I would make him happy. I was settling. When I finally started realizing that my emotions weren’t going to allow me to stay with him, it still took me 8 months to gather the courage to break up with him. Here are some of the most valuable things I learned from the whole experience… (some of these might not matter to some people, and relate to my lifestyle/upbringing).

    -If your friends and family immediately say they don’t think he’s right for you, don’t get angry with them for questioning your judgement and stay with him to try to prove them wrong.
    -You might think you can live with something that’s not quite right and that it would be easier than breaking up, but eventually you will get to the point where you can’t live with it.
    -You shouldn’t stay with someone just because you’ve been with them for a very long time and you’re afraid to “waste” the time, be alone, or start over.
    -You shouldn’t stay with someone just because you don’t want to hurt them by breaking up with them; you’re hurting yourself by staying with them and probably hurting them more in the long run.
    -(This is coming from a VERY conservative, religious background) You shouldn’t stay with someone just because you had sex with them and you didn’t want to have had sex with more than 1 person in your life.
    -You shouldn’t stay with someone who you have strong reservations about marrying or becoming a parent with – reservations that are not cleared up for years, despite talking about them.

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  • avatar

    Lindsay February 24, 2011, 2:53 am

    If someone wants to be with you and spend time with you, they will make it happen — not make excuses.

    If you’re not what someone wants in a partner, they should go and find someone else they’re more compatible with — not complain to you about it or try to change you into what they want.

    If you’re not sure whether you like someone or not, then you probably don’t.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph February 24, 2011, 4:22 am

    -You probably do not know better than ALL your friends. If everyone (and I really do mean everyone hated my ex!) hates the guy, then its probably not that they’re missing what’s really great about him… it could be that you’re missing what’s really bad about him.

    -He (or she) is not the only guy (or girl) who will ever love you. If things are falling apart, let them, don’t just cling to it because you don’t think you have better options.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom February 24, 2011, 7:07 am

    I learned to not go out with someone just to have a date. I started turning down guys who were really nice guys but I felt nothing for them. I knew it would be using them and I didn’t want to be that type of person. The great thing about this was that when I met my husband I was free to get involved with him because I wasn’t tied up with some relationship that I didn’t really want anyway.

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  • avatar

    demoiselle February 24, 2011, 9:48 am

    When I was 22, I wrote in a journal a list of qualities I wanted to find in a partner, just musing. Although I didn’t check the list again for years, I’ve come across it since meeting my husband. I decided to see how accurate I had been about what I wanted.

    My first boyfriend, who I started dating at 23, did not fit many of the criteria at all. The relationship was a disaster, but I thought I had to compromise on my “ideals” in order to find someone or in order to be a nice person.

    My husband, who was the second person I ever dated, fits every single point on that list, though sometimes in surprising ways. When at 22 I wrote “Within six years of my age,” I was imaging an older partner, not one six years younger.

    From this, I conclude that it is OK to know what you want in a partner, or even to have a checklist. And if those things are truly the most important things to you, you’d better not compromise a lot.

    (That said, flexibility can be good, too.)

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      Uyzie February 24, 2011, 11:10 am

      This makes me smile, because I did the exact same thing when I was 20 years old…only it had the complete opposite results!

      My ex, who I stayed with for seven years, fit every single point on the list perfectly– from age to religion, height, physical appearance, music, hobbies, etc. And that relationship was a complete nightmare. I stuck around for many misguided reasons, one of which was that he was so perfect for me on paper.

      My current boyfriend (which I’m hoping will be my fiance any day now) fits less than half of the points on my list. Comparing to what I thought I wanted, he’s the wrong age, wrong religion, wrong physical appearance, and wrong hobbies. But we have a disgustingly happy and healthy relationship, and I love him more than I thought was possible.

      Perhaps I simply didn’t know what I wanted at 20. Or perhaps I was just focusing on the wrong things. All I know is, if I had stuck to my list, I’d be in a miserable, sexless marriage, but instead, I just passed the two year mark with the best guy I’ve ever known. So while I agree that it’s great to know what you want, I also agree with you that flexibility is a VERY good thing!

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        demoiselle February 24, 2011, 11:52 am

        I’m glad that you found someone who is right for you now rather than sticking to an outdated list. It is important to be flexible–people do change their minds!

        That said, most of my points had to do with basic character traits that I find attractive–like “assertive, brave, and go-getting, without having to be macho or a bully,” “more extroverted than I am, but doesn’t have to be the center of every party,” and “isn’t afraid of being a dork, and who isn’t afraid of being serious.” There were a few that were concrete, like that I wanted someone withing six years of my age and who never had been married before.
        But it was striking to note that my ex, who was a terrible match for me, always had to be the center of attention and needed to prove his masculinity through macho acts (for example). If I had been honest with myself about how much I dislike machismo, I could have headed off the disastrous relationship much sooner.

        If I had remained single into my 30s or 40s, some of my “criteria” would have had to have changed. It would be ridiculous to insist on someone who had never been married (at 40) when my #1 important point was “wants to be in a committed relationship.” By that point, one would expect a man who really considers having a committed relationship and a family to be important/a top priority would have committed to someone once, even if it didn’t work out in the end…

        The main point, though, is that a woman can get a lot of messages that she ought to give up on things she wants in order to be with SOMEONE rather than alone, as if having certain expectations is unreasonable… but sometimes knowing clearly what you want can help a lot.

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    Jules February 24, 2011, 10:45 am

    – You can’t always choose who you love but you can always choose who you date/marry.
    – If a man treats you like you are in a relationship but says he doesn’t want a relationship, it means he wants the benefits of a relationship without the commitment.
    – Passionate love doesn’t always equal healthy love.
    – A healthy relationship is GIVE and take. If you find yourself doing only one of these things change it or MOA.
    – Even if he has every quality you are looking for in the perfect mate, if you don’t enjoy having sex with him, do yourself and him a favor and MOA.

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    Ashley January 19, 2012, 12:38 pm

    One of my university professors once asked our class who has had the biggest impact on the people we’ve become. There were several who responded with “my parents” but my response was “my ex boyfriends”. Many thought I was being funny but the truth is that without my exes and the experiences I gained throughout those relationships I never would have figured out how I want people to see me and how I want to be treated. Even though the breaking up sucked at the time, at least I can look back on those experiences critically and learn from them.

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