Ten years ago today was one the most significant days in my life. It was the day that I pledged, in front of 150 of our family members and closest friends, that I would forever stand by one man’s side. That joyous and beautiful day is now only a distant and bittersweet memory. I stood by his side for eight years after that day. And in those eight years we created our two beautiful, smart and healthy children. Without that day, I would not be the strong, independent and resilient person I am today. So today there is not regret nor is there anger, but there is that sadness deep in the back of your throat. The one that tastes like failure.
That sadness is compounded as I am simultaneously parting ways with the man who has been at my side for the past year.
In my 20’s this sadness combination would have knocked me off of my feet and left me hiding under my covers for days, but if I have learned anything over the past few years I have learned that pain is where growth thrives and that cracks are how the light gets in.
So today I’m sharing what I’ve learned. What my experience has taught me. In hopes of helping others and in hopes of learning from my past and moving forward.
- In love and in life, we are all students. We will never know everything about love, ourselves or each other. We are constantly evolving and changing and each experience presents an opportunity to learn. Seeing the world in a million shades of grey instead of black and white is one of the best ways to be successful in a relationship.
- Find yourself before you find love. You can’t love someone else without loving yourself first. People observe how you treat yourself and follow suit. If you don’t put yourself first, no one else will.
- You get out of a relationship what you put into it. This is the one I wish someone would have explained to me ten years ago. Relationships are work. Sooooo much work. A second job kind of work. And that work involves not just time, but vulnerability and accountability. If you’re willing to put the work in you will reap the rewards.
- Find someone who will match your efforts (majority of the time). One person cannot do the work of two people. Both people must contribute equally…well…most of the time. Relationships have ebbs and flows, there will be times when you will pull more weight and there will be times when your partner is dragging you along, but in the end there should be balance.
- Love cannot (will not, no way, no how) change someone. Trust me on this one. I am a fixer and a finder of solutions. I want to leave everything (and everyone) better than I found it. This is a blessing and a curse. I have found that while you can encourage people to grow, you cannot change them. If someone is lost on the back roads you can show them the shortcuts or guide them to highway, but you cannot convince them to go east if they are headed west. No amount of love will make someone do a 180.
- There is no try, there is only do. If someone wants to do something, they will do it. We are all adults of our own free will. There is no trying, no excuses, no should’ve, would’ve, could’ve, there is only do and don’t.
- Expectations are good as long as they are clearly communicated and agreed upon. It’s ok to ask for what you want and be clear about it, but you also need to be willing to compromise.
- Grace and respect are absolutely essential. If you are wrong, say you are sorry. If someone is truly sorry, accept their apology and move on. Never speak to your partner in a way that you would never allow anyone else to speak to them. They are the person you love most in this world, treat them that way.
- Love is when someone’s arms feel like home, but love is not enough. If you don’t feel 100% comfortable with being yourself with someone then it is unlikely the real thing. But it is possible to love someone deeply and still not be able to make it work.
- Perfection is impossible, happiness is not. Focus on the good, but embrace the flaws. Yours. His. All of them. They make you human. And lovable.