Many of us look back at past relationships with sadness, regret and sometimes bitterness. There is a tendency to think that if a relationship is over it has ‘failed’. However, very often they are just meant to run their course, and even if there was difficulty which led to a break up, there is much to be learned from these past relationships.
Although there can be negative reasons why couples split, it is productive to try and look at past relationships through a positive lens – both parties were probably doing their best given the person they were at the time. This can be a difficult concept to accept, but holding on to bitterness or resentment about previous relationships will inevitably affect your openness to future connections. Focus instead on how these relationships can provide insights which can be implemented to help create our ideal partnership in the future.
In order to learn from past relationships we need to think about how both parties behaved. Always take responsibility and remember that it takes two people to create conflict in a relationship, as there is always interaction from both parties, and both have choices about their behaviour and whether or not they stay in the relationship. For example, if one partner has had an affair, the tendency is to blame the other party without considering their own behaviour. But this may mean key behaviours are not identified and are therefore repeated in the future. Did they, for example, turn a blind eye to certain events, not wanting to believe what they indicated? Did they pay less attention to their partner over time and ignore their needs? Did they have subconscious fear of being alone, and therefore accept what was happening rather than confront it? This is not about condoning distrustful behaviour in relationships, but instead learning about the complex interplay of behaviour which leads to negative situations in relationships.
It is also important to identify whether there are patterns which keep occurring in relationships. Do you always attract the same type and go through the same experience? Consider why you are drawing the same kind of person into your life. Is there something you need to address in yourself? For example, someone with poor self-esteem is likely to attract someone who does not value them highly. They will set their sights lower rather than higher when it comes to selecting a partner, often settling for someone with issues or negative traits that will inevitably lead to difficulties in the relationship. Until the root cause is identified, it is unlikely you will ever attract the right person and create a healthy relationship.
Whatever the issues and upset we have suffered in previous relationships, it is important not to take these into the future. Nobody wants to pay for the mistakes of a previous partner, so it is important that we don’t tar future partners with the same brush based on the poor behaviour of someone else. This can be very difficult, especially when trust has been given and broken, but it is essential to give every new relationship a chance, and have faith in your increasing wisdom and ability to identify and resolve any problems that arise.