Topic of the Day: What Was Your Hardest-Learned Relationship Lesson?

I’ve been married for ten years to a great guy I get along with great, and thankfully the relationship lessons I learn these days are pretty smooth ones, revolving mostly around making couple time and cutting some slack since we’re both tired parents of two young kids who wear us the off out. Lessons learned in/after previous relationships though didn’t always come so easily. My hardest-learned relationship lesson was probably…

the same thing I hope LW1 in today’s column is learning: how the other person feels is pretty irrelevant if he is making ME feel like shit or if I am unhappy in the relationship. I really recognized a younger version of myself in that letter – not in every relationship I was in before meeting Drew, but in a couple. I’d feel so unsatisfied, but instead of chalking up the dissatisfaction to a mismatch or to the guy not treating me well and ending the relationship, I’d reason if I could only figure out what guy was feeling – as if the apathy didn’t make it obvious — then I could make a better informed decision as to whether or not to continue the relationship. As is MY feelings weren’t enough! Ughhhh.

Eventually, something clicked and I stopped the madness. I remember ending a casual relationship with a guy who was giving all the signals that he didn’t want anything serious, and I felt so proud that I finally internalized the lesson and put it into practice: If I’m not getting what I want out of a relationship even after expressing what I want, then I need to MOA and not wait around hoping the guy will eventually make his feelings and intentions clear. That was a hard-learned lesson, but I finally got it. A few weeks later I met Drew and the rest is history.

How about you? What have been your hardest-learned lessons?


  1. TheOtherOtherMe says:

    Don’t date addicts or alcoholics and think that you can “change them.”

    1. Avatar photo MaterialsGirl says:

      preach. or narcissists.

  2. Oh, definitely that if you break up multiple times, it’s never going to work, you’re not “ meant to be” because you keep getting back together, you’re just dysfunctional as hell and it will keep getting worse.

  3. Allornone says:

    Mine, after investing 10 years off and on to an incredibly toxic relationship situation. They seem generic and obvious now, but 20s me was an idiot. :

    1. His words mean nothing without the actions to back them up.
    2. You cannot make him be the man you need him to be.
    3. Find yourself before you go looking for someone else.

  4. anonymousse says:

    My hardest learned lesson was probably that it just shouldn’t be so hard. I was in a relationship with a great guy in paper, but as time went on, he wasn’t happy and I was trying so hard to be the person that could make him happy. It took me a long time to realize that I couldn’t be someone else, I couldn’t make him happy and it really wasn’t my responsibility to do that either.

    I am so happy that I met someone who loves me for me.

  5. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    If you see them lying to their family know that they will lie to you too. I thought our special relationship meant he was honest with me.

  6. Actions speak louder than words.
    And when someone says they don’t want to be with you, or that they are not enough for you, they MEAN IT.

  7. 1. You are not being abused by him because it’s your fault.
    2. You can’t love someone into loving you.
    3. If a guy is into you, you’ll know.

  8. Bittergaymark says:

    That wishing for it really really hard won’t make your straight best friend go gay and fall hopelessly in love with you… though, damn… it maddeningly seemed to happen to damn near everybody else.

  9. This could go to LW1 today. Don’t be the cool girl who is super low key and doesn’t care about labels. I wanted to be easy going and “Not like other girls” who put pressure on guys.

    No, ask for what you want and walk away if he isn’t willing to give it. Don’t settle for scraps.

  10. That everyone thinks that they are the hero of their story and to paraphrase BGM’s favorite movie (or lust-focus) no one really thinks of themselves as a bad person. Trying to get someone who has wronged you to admit that they acted badly is a loser’s game. Flush bad people from your life and move on. Don’t attempt to get closure or acknowledgement.

    1. Avatar photo veritek33 says:

      I needed that today. What a good reminder. Thank you.

  11. Avatar photo MaterialsGirl says:

    1. If they do something that alarms you the first time and your instinct is to leave, do it and do not let them apologize and “promise to never do it again.” Eventually, the needle moves so far you find yourself putting up with a host of ridiculous garbage that would never have flown.
    2. Staying in a bad relationship so long that now YOU are a person that you hate or don’t recognize.
    3. With the right person, there is peace. Maybe that’s what people call “easy,” but relationships do take nurturing, and I don’t want to gloss over that.

  12. Avatar photo mrmidtwenties says:

    That 2 people can be great people but at the same time not be great for each other.

  13. That what I want out of a relationship really is what is going to make me happy. 20s me was also an idiot!

  14. You should be in love with the person they are right now, not the person they were the first year you were dating or whenever. People change (especially in their early-mid 20’s) and if one or both of you have changed in way that means you no longer work, don’t stay because you love who they used to be.

  15. That you are in a relationship with the person that they are, not the person they could be.

  16. I’m late, but really liked reading these! So many of these lessons learned ring true to me, too.

    I’ll also add: The way someone chooses to treat you is not a reflection of your value or worth.

  17. If they say they don’t want a relationship, don’t think you can somehow change their mind.

  18. Pay attention to the red flags. Believe what you see. Don’t settle.

    And the one that took me the longest and was the toughest to internalize: fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice (or 25 times), shame on me.

  19. If they don’t keep promises,are unreliable. This leads to a lack a trust and feeling you and your time are not valuable. Don’t waste your valuable time/self on those people/guys. If they do it once or twice at the start of dating-just shut the whole thing down.

    Don’t fall in love with “love” or potential-what you “see” is what you are going to get.

    Habits and lifestyle need to be compatible or they become dealbreakers-for example you love the country and he likes city life or he likes to stay up late and sleep in and you go to bed at 9 and get up at the crack of dawn. You will never get on the “same page”.

  20. I’m 41 and still learning, but I’d say dont people please, be yourself. I’m a peace keeper but I’ve learnt that it all comes out in the end anyway. So, much like the when you see a red flag comment, instead of peace keeping, say I’m not happy!

  21. allathian says:

    If the relationship isn’t working out, move on. I’ve learned that it’s much better to be single than to be in a relationship that isn’t working for me. It took me two years to learn that lesson.
    All relationships need commitment and effort from both parties to work out, if one party isn’t committed, the other can’t force it to work.

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