So, I recently came out of a relationship. The infamous, unavoidable breakup. Well, I say recently, but at the time of this post, it was about 3 months ago.
Obviously, I’m not the only one who has gone through a breakup. In fact, I’d guess that 85% of you reading this post right now have experienced one at one point or another. Married couples aren’t exempt from breakups either. In 2020, over 100,000 divorces were granted in England and Wales.
This wasn’t my first breakup, but it was definitely the hardest. I was with her for over 2yrs. It grew into a very deep and serious relationship. Although, in the end, it was my own decision to end it, it was a challenging season. But since then, I’ve grown massively and learned so much from it. So I thought it would be a good idea to share my own personal lessons and experiences from the relationship with you.
Honestly, I wrote this post quite a while ago. I was avoiding posting it – for obvious reasons. But, I think enough time has passed. Everything has pretty much subsided now. I’m in a better place, and I’ve had more time and space to process and think about the relationship.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to take a few things away and apply them to either your current relationship or any soon to come. (Do your friends a favour and share this post with anyone you know in a relationship. They’ll thank you for it)
It's Not Just that Person
To give some backstory, I had met her in Zambia on a trip with my church in September 2019. So we spent the first two weeks with each other pretty much 24/7, and by the time we got back to the UK, we were sort of already going out. We got to know each other very quickly, and that didn’t slow down.
As the relationship developed, my knowledge about her grew. I knew her favourite colours, birthday, fashion style, and so much more. As time passed, we learned more of the ‘deeper stuff’ about each other, like our love languages, strengths and weaknesses, insecurities and how we behave in arguments, for example.
We even came to understand each other’s childhood and upbringing, family culture and core beliefs. Since the beginning, we had been getting a wider breadth and a deeper depth of information about the other. We could paint a more detailed picture with more information we collected.
Eventually, I could connect pieces of information in my encyclopedia of her. I would remember that ‘ABC’ happened when she was young, and that’s why she handles things like ‘XYZ’. As this happened more and more, my perspective and understanding of relationships began to change.
My point is: it’s easy to judge and base our understanding on what we see. But that’s the very problem: we don’t always get a chance to see everything. We’re limited to our shallow depth of understanding and knowledge at no fault of our own.
Remember that saying we hear: “You are a product of your environment”?. Well, I think it’s a lot deeper than that. I think we are products of our family, childhood, trauma (if any), and how we dealt with said trauma. I believe we’re products of what we heard, saw and processed as a child, and many more variables. We must consider and appreciate that we are all more than what we appear at the surface level.
For example, she used to constantly do things that would hurt me. Whenever I would communicate my hurt and emotions, she would apologise and tell me it was not intentional. But after enough time, I began questioning her. Why does she keep doing it? She can’t possibly be sorry if she insists on doing it again? Does she actually love me?
These were some of the main reasons we broke up in the first place, but it turns out none of my beliefs was correct. Her behaviours, mentality, and approach to problems were harmful but directly resulted from things that happened way before she ever met me.
Look. All I’m saying is that nothing comes from nothing. If you’ve read Will Smith’s new biography, you’ll know he spends most of the beginning talking about ‘Daddio’, ‘Mom-Mom’ and pretty much everything about his childhood. Why? Because they’ve had a direct impact on what and who he is today,
Communication Really is Key
I have to be honest. This is something I knew but never really understood fully. We always hear ‘Communication is Key’, but how often do we really understand its depth? Arguments, problems and disagreements are inevitable in relationships. More times than not, our arguments and problems were a direct cause of the lack of (effective) communication. Even more times, the lack of communication made the situation worse.
To be honest, I think nowadays, the main issue isn’t understanding how important communication is. The problem is knowing how to communicate effectively and what that looks like.
I can’t tell you exactly how or give you a step-by-step process. It’s something that I’m still learning myself. (If I do, you’ll be the first to know). The element of communication will constantly be in the works for improvement within your relationship.
But I think the first step is establishing your intentions and actively looking to improve the communication between you both. I’ll give you some starting points and elements of communication I think are important.
Honesty: Often, we filter out what we express to our partners. Sometimes it’s out of fear, embarrassment, or even not wanting to hurt them. I believe you have to just be honest and open – regardless.
I’m not saying hurt them or be hash. I’m just saying be honest and open. It may be uncomfortable or cause hurt, but there’ll be a lot more damage to both parties in the long run if you don’t.
Depth: Asking how your partner’s day was or telling them what upset you is nice and is still honest. But the issue is that just saying the ‘what’ without the ‘why’ or ‘how’ can be dangerous.
It’s easy to say, “I don’t like it when you do ‘ABC'”, but it is different from saying how ‘ABC’ makes you feel and why it bothers you. It is better when you both understand the true extent and depth of the roots. That way, we get to the root, and the resolutions aren’t superficial.
Tonality / Voice: It’s not what you say but how you say it. I said be honest; that doesn’t mean being aggressive or shouting or anything like that.
Yes, I know we get emotional. And the truth is, shouting is an amazing way of communicating our anger. Still, it’s also an amazing way of communicating our inability to control ourselves or consider the place of the person we’re talking to.
Be careful and aware that although the words you choose are important, they pale compared to how they are said.
Compassion / Understanding: Everything I’ve said up until this point has been about being on the giving-end of communication. But remember, it takes two to tango. So as important as communication is with your mouth, it’s equally important to listen with your ears.
All too often, our emotions cloud our ability to think, listen and reason. The lack of understanding and compassion won’t just not help the situation but also cause more damage than before.
The Complex Nature of Relationships
By now, you should know that relationships are not simple or easy. Think about it. Each of us is struggling, learning and going through our own lives.
That’s difficult in and of itself. But yet, we expect things to go simply and smoothly in relationships? We expect it to be straightforward when we ally ourselves with another human who is probably just as complex and confused as we are?
For the most part, I don’t think many of us really understand the reality of what a relationship is and what it means. I know I didn’t at first. We somewhat trivialise the nature of relationships. We reduce them to mutual feelings, sex and potentially marriage and/or children. But news flash: they’re so much more than that.
Relationships are complex. And it’s for that reason, each relationship is completely unique and individual. There is no one-size-fits-all approach or a universal rule book.
From personal experience, some of the worse decisions we made in our relationship were when we went against our own gut to follow the advice of others. And while advice and third-party perspectives can be valuable, ultimately, it’s your relationship. So it comes down to the people in the relationship to have the final say.
It's a Constant Process and Journey
I used to think that marriage was the end, and once you’re married, you’ve made it. Although I’m not married (yet), I still know that that was very wrong. There is no finish line. In fact, the way I see it now, marriage is just the beginning, and everything prior is more or less training. To me, marriage is like saying: “I’ve decided to run this never-ending race and I want you as my partner”.
My perspective changed from researching, exploring, and questioning things. But the biggest factor was having conversations with those already married. Despite how many people I spoke to, the main thing that I got was that you’re always learning. You’re always discovering and exploring yourself, your partner and the relationship itself.
There are always those pivotal points and circumstances that will cause a shift and new stage of the relationship. One prime example is becoming parents. I don’t care long you’ve been together or how much you think you know about yourselves. Having children will expose you to unfamiliar territory, and it’s from that, you’ll experience and learn things you never knew before
To be in a serious relationship or get married, you have to love and appreciate the idea of the unending journey with that person. You have to genuinely be excited about embarking on that journey. You can’t just fool yourself into thinking there’s a final hurdle. You have to be excited about being with that person throughout all – the good, bad and everything in between.
They Can be the Greatest Self-Teacher
Relationships by nature are very deep and personal. You learn a lot about your partner, and they learn a lot about you. But we also learn loads about ourselves.
You’re bound to be exposed to things you never knew about yourself. Whether it be insecurities, strengths and weaknesses, behavioural patterns or literally anything – if you’re aware enough, it will be a journey for yourself as much as you together.
This wasn’t my first relationship. I had been in a couple before, and a few were long-term ones. But this was my first where a relationship had passed the honeymoon phase, and I fully emerged into it. It was the first time I was fully open, emotionally invested. I didn’t hold back, and I pretty much gave my all. In retrospect, the relationship definitely taught me about myself.
(As a confession, my 16 Personalities Test definitely did help a bit as well)
I learnt that I can often be impatient, especially where hurt or emotions are involved. Through those emotions, I can be somewhat dramatic. But I also discovered that I was secretly very emotionally intelligent and good at identifying someone else’s emotions and being supportive. (There are others, but those are the main ones)
You’ll certainly discover and learn about yourself. Also, remember that your partner is learning about you simultaneously. So if you do have an open and honest dynamic, they’ll probably let you know and give you a head’s up.
However, I do make this point with a pinch of salt. I say that you learn a lot about yourself. Still, it’s only under the condition that you are self-aware of your input and contribution to the relationship. If you don’t look within yourself, if you’re not open to criticism or improvement, then I doubt you’ll learn much about yourself.
I can say that from experience. A lot of the problems in our relationship were from my partner. At the same time, she would say that I was an amazing boyfriend, and she would often say I was ‘perfect’.
So for most of the relationship, I didn’t think I had anything to improve on. It’s only now that we’ve broken up, and we’re looking retrospectively, we both see that that was very wrong. So the change only happened when I heightened my attitude and awareness.
So that is what my experience over the past 2yrs has taught me. If I’m honest, I learned many more things, but those are the main ones and most universally applicable (in my opinion). And the truth is, there’s still a lot more for me to learn. Maybe I can do a part 2 later down the line?
But for now, whether you’re already in a relationship or about to get into one, I hope there’s at least one thing you can take from this and make your relationships better.
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