I was cycling to the train station this morning, listening to ‘Shoutout to my Ex’ and smiled thinking about all I’ve learnt from past relationships.
It was a bittersweet moment, mostly sweet, now that I’m over a decade past my last relationship outside of my marriage.
In my first significant relationship, I remembered how I listened to my boyfriend telling me how I wasn’t thin enough, well dressed enough, didn’t have nice enough hair, how my friends weren’t good enough, how my French wasn’t perfected enough.
How I wasn’t enough.
When I look back on this relationship, I think it was emotionally abusive and when it ended, I remember thinking how I would never let someone treat me in the same way.
I was worth more than being with someone who was essentially trying to change everything about me to fit into some sort of ‘acceptable’ version of myself.
And it’s something I’ve never gone back to. Sure, I’ve told myself frequently that I’m not enough (something I’m working on) but I’ll not stand for anyone else saying these sorts of hurtful things to me.
My other significant relationship taught me to put myself first.
Not in a selfish, stampeding over others way. But I truly believe that everyone’s job is to look after themselves in relationships so they can be the best person they’re able to be for the other person.
With this relationship I put his happiness first. I bent backwards to accommodate him and his needs – some very serious needs since he suffered from clinical depression.
I crushed myself into a little ball within myself so that there was more space for him.
I didn’t state my needs and stand firm with the expectation that they should be met to the same extent that his needs were being met by me.
I remember the first time I said ‘I love you‘ to him was when he was going through a period of bad depression. We were lying on his bed and he was so low he couldn’t even speak.
I cared for him so much and wanted to fix him. But that wasn’t what my role should be as his girlfriend.
I look back at that moment and internally cringe at what my younger self was setting herself up for. If I could have a re-do, what I would have said was ‘I really care for you and love you, but you’re in no position to be in a relationship right now. You need to focus on getting yourself healthy. And when you’re there, come look me up.‘
But I’m glad for that experience looking back because it taught me to put myself first when it comes to my significant other.
Without doing that, I’m good for no one.
I met my husband, Gregg, not long after breaking up with this final ex, and because of this experience of putting myself last, I was forthright about what I wanted and didn’t want.
And to my surprise, Gregg was into it.
He was ok with me being clear about my expectations, setting out what I wanted and what was acceptable for me.
And whilst this relationship isn’t perfect, it’s a pretty awesome one.
So I’m giving a shout out to my exes.
Thank you for what you taught me and for how that’s taken me to where I am now.