A Guest Post by Jaime L.
Since the beginning of time, the term “Ex” has been filled with a ton of negative connotations. I mean, I get it – for any relationship to end, it must be plagued with some varying degree of negativity, fault, or misfortune; so the label is not a complete misnomer! But in light of some recent platonic banter with some of what I like to call my “former” boyfriends, I’ve reflected on my time spent with these guys, and how it has made me who I am today.
When I think about most of the men I’ve dated (some were merely boys at the time), my mind and heart are filled with feelings of gratitude and thanks, not angst or disdain. I’ll admit, it took some time and life experience to arrive at this perspective, but I’m here. And I am so grateful to have arrived. I have fantastic memories with former beaus that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, but more than anything each blessed me with the gift of self-discovery. Don't get me wrong - there were arguments and some unpleasant times but for some reason I have a much harder time remembering the bad moments than I do the good moments, which I guess is a good thing. It was because of our break-ups… the “Ex” factor… that I journeyed thru sadness, self-reflection, and landed on inspired hindsight free of grudges. Because of my formers, I’ve learned to invest more time and energy concentrating on myself, because I’m worth it. I wish them all well because without the Mr. Wrongs, I would not be my most true self. To express my thoughts, I drafted a letter to my formers; an exercise to express my gratitude and outline the top 10 most powerful lessons I learned along the way.
Dear Former Boyfriends,
I hope you’re well. No, seriously, I really do! Regardless of the kind of relationship I shared with you when I was 16, 27, or anywhere in between, I truly hope life is treating you kindly and you’re happier and healthier than ever. I’m writing you this letter because the relationship we shared molded me into the woman I am today. Thank you for all you taught me, whether you realized you were teaching me something at the time or not. To that, I want to share my top ten lessons learned from you. Strap on your seatbelts.
1. Trust my gut… it’s always right. I learned that there can be a huge dissonance between what you think or what you know is happening, and what you want to believe is happening. I’ve had some very difficult conversations with myself over the years regarding just that. I learned to trust my gut because when something is blissfully wonderful, it probably is. And when my gut quietly tells me something is terribly wrong, it probably is. I learned to stop making excuses for things that just didn't feel normal (for me) and that just because things weren’t right with us, neither of us was necessarily wrong. You forced me to listen to myself, move past feelings of sticking with the status quo, and always trust my gut. For that, I’m grateful.
2. No one else in this world is responsible for my own happiness except for me. This is probably the biggest revelation I’ve made in the last 365 days. Previously, I allowed other people’s moods and words affect me to such a degree that my own mood would shift at the drop of a hat. I learned that this is not only an unhealthy way of life, but also totally unsustainable. Being happy is a decision and it’s completely up to me to decide to be happy and to do the things that make me happy. I don’t rely on others. You taught me to be kind and generous with my own being, because the longest and toughest relationship I’ll ever have is with myself. You positioned me to finally put myself first, which ultimately helps me be a stronger and more independent woman, and someday, a better wife and mother.
3. When talking about people in public, always talk in code or use initials. You taught me that the world is small and I should never assume otherwise. I now always speak carefully and quietly (and most of the time in code) about others in public settings. You never know who’s sitting next to you on the bus or at an adjacent restaurant table.
4. Excessive anger is never excusable. I learned this about three years ago, and man was it an interesting (for lack of a better word) lesson to learn! I recognize everyone gets angry and everyone deserves healthy outlets to release that anger. However, in no way is it EVER acceptable to release negative energy on me or other people in the form of violent words or actions. I’ve come to appreciate the “opportunity” to learn this lesson early on in life. Although hindsight tells me it took too long, I am so grateful that the light bulb finally went off before it was too late. Make love. Lots of it. Not war.
5. Never pop a zit. Did I just cross the TMI line? I cannot tell you how many times I’ve embarrassingly showed up to work with what looks like a chemical explosion on my face because I couldn’t resist the urge to pop a blemish. You taught me to be patient with my body and that time heals all zits. Who knew a blemish would go away faster if I didn’t pop it? Ugggh! You did.
6. Always ask objective questions. It’s funny because professionally, many of our jobs require us to ask the right questions. We are often trained to ask objective and specific questions in order to get to the root of a business problem or issue. I never thought to apply this to my love life, until you came along. I learned that in my personal life, I often had a propensity to ask leading questions that infer judgment or disapproval. I didn’t even know I was doing it until you opened my eyes. Thank you for bringing this to my attention and helping me become more self-aware. I’m a better person for it. Now, what do you think about that? Kidding!
7. Reconciling past grievances is really good for the soul. Simply put, forgive and let go. As I’ve gotten older, I now more clearly understand that people really do change over time. I will be the first to admit that I made mistakes in past relationships, some of which I regret. But I can’t take them back. So I’ve come to accept them for what they were and move on. Same goes for forgiving. You made some poor decisions in our past too, but honestly, life is too short to hold on to grudges. I have no space in my head or in my heart for negative energy; I can only hope the same for you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn the implicit value of just letting things go...
8. My family’s opinion really matters, especially my dad’s. Yes, God love him, my Father still talks about some of you! You left a mark, on not only me, but on my family too. It’s because of you I learned that when you date someone, you date the whole family. You certainly taught me to evaluate guys more closely, and now more often than not I think, “What will my dad think of this guy?” Because when you date me, my family is involved! Thanks for leaving your mark on the lives of my loved ones and for proving just how large of a role my family plays in my life.
9. I’m not totally ready for marriage. This is a heavy one. I’ve never been the girl who’s dreamt of her wedding since she was 10 years old…I’m actually the polar opposite as the thought of planning a wedding grosses me out. But do I want to get married, have kids, and live happily ever after? Of course! Over the past few years and several break-ups, I learned that sometimes the worst part of a relationship ending is simply the lack of a relationship and the loss of comfort that a relationship provides. But now more so than ever, and because of you, I am grounded in my decision to patiently wait for the person who I am meant to be with, versus settling for someone to simply fill a void. The thoughts of my future wedding, husband, children, home, family dog, etc. are wonderful and exhilarating – but my hopes for the future are NOT ones that force me rush or settle for someone or something that is not true and right. You showed me what it feels like to NOT know the intangible, inexplicable, “I-want-to-be-with-you-and-only-you-forever” emotion; so when I do feel it one day, I am confident that it will hit me over the head like a ton of bricks.
10. Never stop evolving. I’ve come to know that I do not believe in soul mates; but I do think that someone, somewhere, will not only complement my personality, intellect, and soul perfectly, but will partner with me and push me to continually evolve and grow year after year. As one former boyfriend put it, “If you’re not evolving, what are you doing?” You’ve inspired me to always be reflecting, growing, and evolving on my own so when Mr. Right does come into the picture, he’s getting the best version of me and we can evolve together as a couple, and also as individuals.
In closing, I want to thank you for being you and for helping me be a better me. It didn’t work out between us, but I’m convinced we came into each other’s lives for a reason. I thank God every day for the people in my life – past, present, and future.
P.S. Thanks for letting me keep your golf driver. Should come in handy this summer.
So, there it is! I really want to thank you for reading my post and serving as such a great outlet for my thoughts. When Trish asked me to be a guest blogger on The Grateful Life, I was thrilled (and a little scared) to express myself in an oh-so vulnerable way. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done before and man has it been exhilarating to put it all down on paper (er, the internet). “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” – Dr. Seuss
What do you think? What lessons have you learned from your “formers?”