Most of us have a common fantasy about our ex-spouse. I’m talking about the one where we get to voice all of our feelings, lay out all of their epic failures and list the reasons why we are happier without them. And they don’t talk back. They just listen and “get it.”
I rehearse this imaginary speech in my mind all the time. It’s been over two years since my divorce, and I still want to remind my ex how poorly he treated me and why I deserved better. I have not shared my magnificent lecture with him because I know that my desired outcome is impossible. I could speak to my ex with Oprah Winfrey-like articulation, but my messages would not land.
Once, my therapist told me even if I locked my ex in a room with me, forced him to listen to all I have to say, he STILL wouldn’t be able to validate my feelings. I’ve learned that my ex and I are not made up of the same stuff. We are built unlike each other. We couldn’t be more different in who we are, how we interpret things, and even what makes us feel.
Knowing all of that now, it’s no wonder we had so many frustrating arguments and misunderstandings. Perhaps the biggest disconnect that existed between us was how we understood love itself.
Looking back, here are the things I’d love to say to my ex
You missed the boat when it came to love!
1. It’s a Gift
With billions of people in this world all living their busy lives, I think it’s amazing when two people can connect in such a deep and intimate way. Having someone choose you out of all others to dedicate their time, money, and emotional energy to is such a blessing. In a relationship, we should not lose sight of how lucky we are to have our partner’s love and make a consistent effort to express our gratitude and nourish that bond.
2. Every Story is Unique
One couple goes out to dinner a few times a week and loves hiking together every weekend. Another couple enjoys quiet dinners at home watching their favorite TV shows and relaxing at home. There is no formula that constitutes a healthy, happy partnership. Comparing our relationship to others’ will only create unnecessary grief. If someone is happy with how they spend time with their significant other, then it’s perfect for them.
3. Love yourself
This is maybe the biggest lesson I’ve learned. While nurturing the love for your partner is key, it’s fundamentally more important to love and take care of yourself. Here’s the thing about that: you have to actually know who you are. I’m pretty sure my ex did not have the emotional intelligence or interest in figuring this piece out. This led to an unhappiness he couldn’t articulate, and ultimately, was one of the reasons he chose to have an affair. To be true to your partner, you must be true to yourself first.
4. Complacency Isn’t Enough
Webster’s definition for complacency is “a feeling of being satisfied with how things are and not wanting to try to make them better.” I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be satisfied with our love life. What I am saying is in order to keep love growing over time we must evolve and challenge ourselves. I don’t believe feeling satisfied is enough. Trying new things, whatever that may be, as a couple will keep life fresh and full of new opportunities.
5. Expect Rough Patches
Life is not roses and champagne all the time. There are arguments, disappointments, and failures that eventually happen in all relationships. It’s how we treat each other during these difficult times that determine their lasting love influence. Having the insight to remember that these moments are often temporary can help put the situation into perspective. My only exception to this is if there is any type of abuse or repeated neglect involved. If that’s the case, then run for the hills. (I no longer have any tolerance for that crap.)
6. It’s Not Indestructible
Just like any living thing, if a love is not receiving its fundamental needs to survive then it will die. I know that sounds extreme, and some people will say there is love out there that could withstand anything. I disagree. My love truth is that if both people are not invested in the health of the love between them, then eventually it will become compromised and deteriorate. Loyalty and complacency may keep some couples together, but that’s not the definition of love I understand.
I know I’ll never live out my fantasy of purging this all out to my ex. The unexpected gift I received by identifying these six love lessons is remembering that I do have my own sense of love. After experiencing betrayal and divorce, it’s comforting to know that deep down I do know what love is for me. And if someday I’m ready to open myself up to a life partner again, I’ll know how important it is to be with someone who shares my love values.