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Every breakup is a lesson learned

Posted on Thursday, March 11, 2010 in dating, Honesty, love, Relationships, Self image

Sara and I got the last outside table at the cafe, and — as so many places tend to do nowadays — we were packed in like sardines.

So it was hard not to hear what the couples around us were saying, especially since a few were saying more interesting things than we were, like the table to our left. It was a Post-breakup Girlfriend Recap, and by the sounds of it — and the fact that there were no tears or even a crumpled tissue in sight — at least a few weeks past the actual breakup.  

“His ex was such a bitch, anyway,” the 40-something redhead said.

“She made my life hell,” her 40-something blonde companion answered.

“Right. So, just imagine if you guys actually did get married. She’d be in your life forever!”

“But he should have stood up to her more.”

“Yeah, but he didn’t have it in him. He was spineless. At least you learned something.”

“I guess so. Jerk!”

“Is that true?” Sara whispered to me.

“Is what true?”

“That after a breakup, you learn something.”

“Well, in a perfect world, I think you should. Don’t you?”

“Maybe, although with the amount of breakups I’ve had over the years, I should be a freaking relationship genius by now!”

Sara had a point. All of us have had enough heartbreak to be our own Evan Marc Katz. Know how when we’re falling in love we’re always talking about how he/she makes us feel? It’s like we’ve never been more — insert your own word here —  authentic, honest, open, giving …

Then you get dumped. Now how do you feel?

But breakups are just as revealing as the romances. They’re what moms call a teaching moment.

Regardless of how he “made” you feel, it takes two to make a good relationship, and two to make a bad one; our job in the aftermath is to figure out our role in that (and not focus on just how much he’s going to regret dumping us; unless he’s John Mayer, he probably won’t).

And learn from it.

Not just no-brainers like “Dating a stripper is a recipe for perspective,” one of the nuggets from the anthology “Things I’ve Learned from Women Who’ve Dumped Me” published a few years ago, but wisdom about ourselves. Because others hold up the mirror for us, and, honestly, it isn’t always going to proclaim us the fairest of them all.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and relationships from my marriage and all the dating I’ve done since, and I’ve learned just as much from being dumped; My biggest lesson is that there is a very, very clear line between being nice and a doormat. I will never be a doormat again (especially one that always beckons, “Welcome”— you can buy them cheap enough at Bed, Bath and Beyond with that 20 percent off coupon).

What have you learned from being dumped?

Bring on the comments

  1. Steve says:

    What have you learned from being dumped?

    Tomorrow is another day.

  2. Valerie says:

    I was dating a retired San Francisco firefighter. He was verbally abusive and it wasn’t until one of his colleagues told me his whole family is dysfunctional and this guy was bi-polar. His father and sister are on meds. Mental illness is genetic.
    When something isn’t right, like verbal abuse, look into mental illness. He called me names, yelled at me driving across the GG bridge, at parties and on the tennis court. He had melt downs for no reason.

    It took me a long time to figure it wasn’t just his Irish anger but mental illness to finally dump him.

  3. Wombat
    Twitter: kissnblog

    I’ll see Valerie and raise her.

    Any sign of anything she mentioned, and my raise is anything, anything that doesn’t smell right…this especially early-on.
    .-= Wombat´s last blog ..Ripping Yarns =-.

  4. Steve says:

    @Valerie., why were you even with him long enough for it to happen several times? If a woman can’t have a civil disagreement with me, she is out of my life after the very first time she shrieks or gets verbally abusive. I deserve better and so do you.

  5. Dan says:

    “If a woman can’t have a civil disagreement with me, she is out of my life after the very first time she shrieks or gets verbally abusive. I deserve better and so do you.”

    Ho, Huzzah! I couldn’t agree more.

    Q: What is the difference between a true “nice person” and a spineless doormat?

    A: The former has no need, and understands that s/he has no need to tolerate the other’s bullshit.

    What have I learnt from being dumped, and more often, ignored unless she needs a “free therapist”

    That the vast, vast majority of the women in the dating-pool hereabouts have absolutely no conception of taking responsibility for their bad choices, and they feel somehow entitled to having the other partner straighten it out for them, to his cost.

    A true Gentleman–a “nice guy,” if you like–who is secure in who/what he is has absolutely zero tolerance for this shit.

    .-= Dan´s last blog ..Prelude to War =-.

  6. VJ says:

    Dan’s going to get knocked around for that one too! But follow the famous 3 Rules:

    1.) Never eat at a place called ‘Mom’s’…

    2.) Never play cards or pool with a man named ‘Doc’.

    3.) Never bed a woman with more troubles than your own. Posterity will thank you for this too. So will your sanity, bankbook & friends! (And yes, this obviously applies to LTRs too).

    Cheers, ‘VJ’

  7. Kat Wilder says:

    Steve — Yeah, but sometimes it takes forever to get to a good tomorrow …

    Valerie — that’s a hard lesson to learn …

    Wombat — hope you have a good, uh, nose!

    Dan — the vast, vast majority of the women in the dating-pool hereabouts have absolutely no conception of taking responsibility for their bad choices, and they feel somehow entitled to having the other partner straighten it out for them, to his cost. I hope the lesson you’ve learned is to sniff out those kinds of women early on.

    VJ — I’m feeling sad: somewhere near where you live, there’s a cute, homey Mom’s Cafe that’s going to go out of business very soon because of thinking like that! 😉

  8. Steve says:

    Oh yah, avoid soft rock stations for at *least* several months after the end of a relationship 🙂

  9. brian says:

    I use to believe if one met an extremly hot attractive women that obviously her prior marriages and relationships didn’t work out because of the guys fault
    If she was that good looking she obviously had no problems
    The world was her oyster
    The guy didn’t appreciate what he had

    I use to believe what such women said automatically and therefore was inclined to overlook the fact that the words said did not match the behavior overtime

  10. L says:

    Heh. From my latest relationship/breakup I didn’t learn one single grand wise life lesson. I’ve been through this enough times that there’s nothing new here, even if it hurts as bad as it did when I was 14. The heart remains a child and all that. I guess I got yet more practice at not being all dramatic about it, and more practice at seeing how yup, getting distracted by euphoric excitement and hot sex STILL leads to eventually discovering I don’t have much in common with the fella.

    It seems that women are more likely than men to justify having made themselves vulnerable to yet another guy by saying they LEARNED something. I did it myself in all earnestness until I was about 35, at which time it dawned on me that I was now just playing different versions of the same couple of songs.

    Maybe the lesson, for those who won’t let a gal go until she promises she learned a lesson, is to try real hard to get tired of repeating a song you don’t like anymore. And maybe I did learn something, because I’m now in a happy committed relationship.

    Or maybe we have almost no control over it, but like to pretend we do, to drown out the howl of the abyss.

  11. Don says:

    Ok…What have I learned? I’ve learned that women are much quicker to turn away for good and not turn back unless they see someone else wants what was theirs. They want what they can’t have usually. If a guy tries to get them back, they usually pull away even more, but if he acts like he doesn’t care, they are drawn back. WTF? Why can’t people be open and honest and communicate in a relationship? Why does it always have to be a game? I have been on a quest for someone looking for a relationship built on trust and open communication, but so far have found that there have been NO takers so far on being real.
    I have no trouble meeting women and getting a GF, which is why my friends nicknamed me Don Juan, but I feel more like Don Quixote, fighting for something I believe in, in a world that this ideology exists, but few actually have the gumption to follow through with what they say. Are there ANY REAL women out there looking for a good guy? Do nice guys always finish last? Are the happily-ever-after stories just that…stories? So far, I have not been lucky in my quest for true love…maybe it exists…maybe I’m just fightin windmills.
    .-= Don´s last blog ..George Michael – I Want Your Sex =-.

  12. Dan says:

    “I hope the lesson you’ve learned is to sniff out those kinds of women early on.”

    And so I have, though not as early as I by rights should have.

    Regardless, a bitter price is paid for such knowledge.
    .-= Dan´s last blog ..The Commencement of Hostilities =-.

  13. BigLittleWolf
    Twitter: BigLittleWolf

    Oh. But beware the “swept-off-your-feet” syndrome. Doesn’t bode well for anything but an equally brusque send off.
    .-= BigLittleWolf´s last blog ..This is not me =-.

  14. BigLittleWolf
    Twitter: BigLittleWolf

    There’s being dumped (which sucks). There’s being dumped horribly (suddenly, by text message, by email, by FB). And there’s breaking up – like adults – for good reason and graciously.

    I’ve experienced them all. And learned from them all. And by far, when you can break up in as respectful a manner as possible (perhaps reflecting the relationship itself), you have a shot at a friendship afterward. And if this is someone you loved, when you get beyond the pain (of course), that may be just right.
    .-= BigLittleWolf´s last blog ..This is not me =-.

  15. vincent says:

    I learned that change in a relationship is a gift enabling me to live in the moment with life as it is.

    And that compassionate acceptance of me and other and the entire situation exactly as it is provides freedom.

    Everyone is special and beautiful. Relationships need not last forever to be successful.

    I’m grateful for all the closeness and cuddling and mutual support and good times I’ve shared with people I dated and changes in the relationship don’t take any of that away.

    Blaming the other person is a toxic way of thinking and reflects poorly on the blamer and leaves the blamer unable to grow.

    Here’s an exercise to avoid blame and embrace love:

    Let your heart open now, and let love flow from it; then extend this love to all beings. Begin with those who are closest to you, then extend your love to friends and to acquaintances, then to neighbors, to strangers, then even to those whom you don’t like or have difficulties with, even those whom you might consider as your “enemies,” and finally to the whole universe. Let this love become more and more boundless.

    Equanimity is one of the four essential facets, with loving kindness, compassion, and joy, of the entire aspiration of compassion. The all-inclusive, unbiased view of equanimity is really the starting point and the basis of the path of compassion.

    You will find that this practice unseals a spring of love, and by that unsealing in you of your own loving kindness, you will find that it will inspire the birth of compassion.

    “The water of compassion courses through the canal of loving kindness.”

  16. Kat Wilder says:

    Brian — that’s a very good lesson to learn.

    L — Hmm, well, I have to respectfully disagree. I think we do have control over it, even though, as you say, the heart remains a child. We, however, do not remain children. So if we can realize that when we react, we often react as a child to those old hurts deep within us, and learn a new way to react, then we do, indeed stop repeating the song we don’t like.

    Don — yes, there are real women out there looking for good guys. I know several. But, let me put this put there; your friends call you Don Juan. For a reason, I suppose. Have you asked them to tell you (honestly) why they would or wouldn’t date you (gender aside)? I think you might learn something about yourself. Just a thought.

    Dan — Please don’t be bitter; It’s never a good look. Ever!

    BigLitle Wolf — Yeah, it seem like there are so many more painful ways to break up nowadays. I’m sorry you’ve had some doozies. Yet, I wonder about the friends afterward. If it’s mutual, fine. If not, wow, that seems do hard.

    Vincent — I think you said it all, right here: Relationships need not last forever to be successful. Amen!

  17. Don says:

    Kat-My friends call me Don Juan because I have been divorced for 10 years and had many girlfriends and girl friends…ok…that does sounds bad. As far as nicknames go, guys look for something that rhymes and Juan rhymes with Don also.
    I have no trouble attracting women and dating, it’s just that it’s hard to find a woman who is looking for a life-partner. It seems everyone is interested in a relationship until someone richer or better looking comes along. There are few women looking to settle down and grow old with one person in today’s society of fast information and even faster relationships. I’ve found that younger women love to party all the time and alot of divorced women who are in their 30’s and 40’s are re-living their youth or have alot of trust issues that haven’t been resolved.
    I was raised on a farm and my biggest fault is that I trust what people tell me too much. Where i come from people say what they mean and mean what they say. When a woman says “I love you”, then I believe it…and one of the elements of love is that it’s supposed to last, right?

    I’ve decided there needs to be a 6 month waiting period before ‘I love you’ can be said. The ones who have told me this so far have changed drastically around the 6 month mark. Guys do not change from the people they were when you tell them you love them first….but I’ve found that women try and mold you into something they’ve seen in a movie…a fictional one at that…and become dissatisfied with a real man eventually. They seem to only want what they cannot have. The ones I truly loved and chased after didn’t want to speak to me after a breakup and the ones I broke up with and decided were wrong for me still want me.

    What is up with that?…

    Where o where is that woman looking for a good man, too? I would travel to find her!!
    .-= Don´s last blog ..Batman is my Dad =-.

  18. Honey
    Twitter: honeyandlance

    I think you always learn (regardless of who broke up with who): this wasn’t the person for me. Now, you get to think about why. And sometimes the why is an eye-opener (I am over-nurturing and got taken advantage of a lot when younger) and sometimes it is not.
    .-= Honey´s last blog ..This Sex Toy Costs $60K–Honey, Are You Listening? =-.