I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted in life and love and that I had a pretty good understanding of what relationships were all about. I realized just how wrong I was when I started dating a divorced guy and found my views on love changed forever. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- Only time and love can heal your pain. I’ve been heartbroken before, but it’s nothing like my boyfriend experienced when his ex-wife cheated on him. The long-term effects it’s had on him worried us both when we got together. Would I be able to cope with the insecurities and distrust it left him with? Would he be able to get over it to love again. Thankfully, with hard work, patience, and acceptance, we’ve managed to strengthen our relationship despite this.
- There’s always a choice: let the past hold you down or learn from it. When I told him about my cheating history when I was in college, he asked me openly if I’ve ever been cheated on after that and how I felt when I was on the receiving end of the stick. The conversation was a difficult one to have, but it taught me an important lesson. We all make mistakes, but if we learn from them, move forward, and never make the same one again, we’re doing alright.
- You can’t unlove a person, but you will learn to love again. I knew I shouldn’t be jealous of his past love, but what your head knows and what your heart says are two entirely different things. When I felt how he adored, loved, and respected the woman who broke his heart in the past, I couldn’t help but feel a little heartbroken as well. There will be moments when it will feel really difficult, but I always remind myself of one very important thing: unloving a person is impossible and my boyfriend’s past helped shape the person he is today. That level of adoration, love, and respect he had for his ex? I get to experience all those things and more because I’m the person he’s with right now. I refuse to waste what I have in the present because of the past.
- Never base your present situation on your past experiences. It took a while for my boyfriend to realize this, but I’m not his ex. I’m not responsible for her mistakes, nor am I automatically going to make the same ones just because I also happen to be a woman he’s in a relationship with. It was important for him to learn to trust me and to see me as my own unique self rather than a carbon copy of his ex-wife.
- That so-called ‘spark’ doesn’t define love. I grew up thinking that the definition of love revolves around that giddy feeling you get from your special someone, the butterflies in your stomach you feel and the daydreams you have when you constantly think of your person. Now I know that love is so much more than that. That spark will vanish eventually and that’s when your relationship starts to get real.
- Never put yourself in a compromising situation. When you’re in a relationship, it’s pretty much a given that you’ll be exposed to all sorts of temptations that could potentially challenge your loyalty for your loved one. Because of this, my boyfriend and I are in agreement that the best thing we could do to strengthen our relationship is to avoid situations that could potentially tempt us to stray. Some people may think that sounds crazy, but really this old cliche makes sense—an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
- Feelings can blind you from reason. Arguments are normal in a relationship, but a heated argument amplified by strong emotions can push even two people who are totally in love towards irrational decisions. Taking a step back and a deep breath from each other could make all the difference during a fight. When my boyfriend and I disagree, pressing pause on the argument until we’re both a little more level-headed has been a relationship saver.
- Always follow your intuition. I’m sure you also hear that nagging voice inside your head accompanied by that really strong gut feeling when you meet someone you don’t trust. That’s your intuition giving you a heads-up on things that could potentially pose a threat to your relationship. Even if you trust your S.O. with all of your heart, oftentimes you’ll come across people who you know could influence your relationship in harmful ways. Trust your gut and avoid them.
- Consciously committing to stay in love is the key. Falling in love is easy, but staying in love takes hard work and commitment. The honeymoon phase will come and go, but a couple that lasts for the long-haul does so because they make a conscious effort every single day to feel just as passionate about their partner as they always did. Renewing our love for each other regularly has kept my boyfriend and me not just together but happily so.