Every time a relationship fails, especially one that we wanted to continue, we try to console ourselves in any number of ways.
“There are plenty of fish in the sea” or “he/she will never find someone like me again”. We’ve all thought that. It’s normal, it’s fine, healthy even.
But there’s another coping mechanism we often use: this failed relationship is a valuable lesson.
That’s very true, but this can be a double edged sword. Failed relationships can certainly teach you a lesson, but what if it’s the wrong lesson?
We almost always assume that a lesson learned is automatically positive, but that’s not always the case.
Sometimes, past relationships teach us negative behaviors and reinforce existing ones. Instead of becoming a better person with each new experience, past failures set us up for future disappointments, and can quickly become a vicious circle.
While not an exhaustive list, here are some of the most harmful relationship lessons you can learn:
1) Seeing yourself as an unworthy person
Without a doubt, the most damaging conclusion you can come to is that the relationship ended solely because of you, that you were somehow inferior, inadequate or simply not good enough.
Unlike some of the other lessons, this belief is especially damaging because it’s universally wrong, in all cases. It grinds down your entire personality, but most importantly your strongest traits.
The best qualities in us come out only when we are ease with who we are, confident that whatever mistakes we make, we can more than compensate with the joy we bring to others.
And if you did truly make terrible mistakes, then you need to come to terms with how and why you did them, make peace with yourself and then work to become a better person.
2) Being overly cautious
After you get burned once or twice, the logical thing to do might seem to be suspicious and cautious the next time around.
In a lot of cases, that’s a wise approach. But in terms of relationships, this can come back to bite you.
In the end, the only reason you have to date “seriously” is because you want to find that special someone you can connect with for the rest of your life. Once you find them, the relationship will require your full commitment. By this point however, you’ve come to the conclusion that it’s best to wait, to hold out and not put skin in the game. You’re afraid to be hurt like in past experiences.
But this risks not giving fuel to a relationship when it needs it the most. It then falls apart, and you still end up aching. Not as much as before, but pain nonetheless.
Secondly, you’re not being fair to the current person you’re dating. Your previous flames had the privilege of receiving 100% of your efforts, unlike your current lover. They will never really experience the full you.
And thirdly, just because you were burned in past experiences doesn’t mean that it will happen the next time. When it comes to lifelong relationships, you only need to be right once. It might take a few tries, but if you consistently use the approach that best fits who you are, then you’re bound to find the right person.
1) Thinking that a relationship has a “winner” and a “loser”
Many couples suffer from a “power imbalance”. This is when one partner is much more interested in keeping the relationship alive than the other.
Over longer periods of time, these imbalances can deeply wear down the more invested partner. They can become frustrated, disappointed and angry, especially when their lover actively pushes the buttons to remind them of the power imbalance. Unfortunately, these relationships often last longer than they should, because this interplay of hope and uncertainty can push someone on an emotional rollercoaster that is hard to get out of.
On the other hand, people who repeatedly and consistently go through the same negative experiences should ask themselves whether they themselves are the cause of their pain.
They could have poor taste in partners and subconsciously look for the ones that might hurt them. Other times, their own personalities are constructed in such a way that they bring out the unpleasant side of people.
In this case, the real lesson is that they need to work on themselves, to fix or correct some of their bad behaviors, discover their qualities that make others happy and improve those too.
Paul Bonea is the author behind Hasty Reader, a book summary and psychology blog that seeks the most useful information a reader can use in their life journey.
Featured image courtesy of Hutomo Abrianto.