*Please note that this article does not specifically address situations of any kind of abuse, neglect, or violence. If you feel you are (or might be) in one of these situations, please call 1–800–799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Abuse Hotline
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this phrase in my lifetime, in media and from my friends in talking about the people who they had supposedly fell in love with and then so suddenly felt nothing but scorn towards. It’s always puzzled and frustrated me how many relationships today revolve around a model of emotional transaction. More on that in a minute…
So what does saying this imply about relationships in general, about the perception of the person saying it?
I would argue that the implications here are:
1) My only goal was to be with “someone” indefinitely.
2) All the emotional growth and experience throughout the relationship had no value and meant nothing to me, or it was never present in the first place.
3) The perceived loss of “time” is entirely the other person’s fault, and may also have been intentional.
The destructiveness of these implications are obvious here, but let’s take them one at a time for orders’ sake.
A quote by John Lennon comes to mind here, of when John’s teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said “happy.” The teacher smiled and said “I don’t think you understand the question.” John said back to his teacher “I don’t think you understand Life.” The parallel argument I’m making here is that relationships aren’t a means to an end of finding a suitable person to end up with, relationships are a journey of growth and self-discovery, of passion and vibrancy. Their worth to you is not contingent on whether they end or not. Thomas Edison didn’t thank each failed light bulb for wasting his time, it was a noble attempt. And he learned something new every single time, about this endeavors and himself.
It seems to me a grave injustice to declare a relationship worthless to you after it is over. Was the whole relationship a game of emotional transactions for you? Yes, there is pain for everyone involved; there is hurt and worry, that much is bitterly true. But this doesn’t poison the great moments you HAD experienced with them. If this was a long relationship, there were so many points where you discovered things about yourself, about other people, about love and connection. These don’t disappear at the moment the relationship has ended, you still grew, you still discovered, you still had these moments. You will always have these moments. Perhaps this is the greatest loss in the relationship, the objection of and denial of the growth and experience that you had over during the time you were together. Yes there were tough times too, but even these shape who we are right now.
The final point, I think, is largely egoistic in the sense that it primarily shifts blame to the other person. There are a couple reasons why this is destructive. Taking this viewpoint not only shifts the blame, but encourages the person saying it to see the other as the absolute villain in their story. Life is rarely so black and white as this. And likely if both parties have this attitude, they will both see the other as the absolute villain in their own stories. This happens too much in our human culture, far too frequently to ignore.
I would posit a new view on the situation, one that is both positive and empowering. I would propose to trade Blame for Gratitude, gratitude for all of the experiences you had, the ups and downs, the fights, the tender moments, the self-discoveries, the laughs, and the tears. Because if you experienced all of these in that last year, by god your time was not wasted. It was lived to a degree by which many would covet.
When we choose Gratitude, we look at ourselves and grow as people. We take the quiet afternoon to reflect on our faults, our strengths, and our value. It is so enticing to embrace the pull towards anger and self-righteousness, to give in to the philosophy of “I’ve been robbed” or “why are they such a terrible person,” even though last week you thought they were the kindest person in the world.
There is no rule carved in stone that you must harbor hatred for your exes. We can be grateful for our relationships with others and continue to learn from them and grow from them. I wish all the love to you, I think we all need it in this day and age. Tell a stranger you love them today. Trust me, it does wonders.