‘Tis better to have loved and lost
than never to have loved at all.
My guess is Alfred Lord Tennyson knew a thing or two about love. I agree with his sentiment, “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Love is a transformative, powerful thing, and to be able to express that to and with another human being is the prize of life.
No matter if that human stays or goes.
Relationships teach us a lot about ourselves. Our hopes, our dreams, our limitations, our expectations. They teach us about how we get along with others, who we vibe with and who we don’t…and why.
They teach us about what we accept or tolerate, and what we refuse to.
What we trust and don’t trust.
They shine a light on our insecurities; the vulnerabilities we choose to expose and those we choose to hide.
They either hold us hostage or set us free.
We can learn something from everyone. Add a special intimacy to the mix and the lessons run very deep.
The biggest lessons come when we see ourselves in the other person, our reflection in their eyes. When we see our own actions in their behavior. When we see our truth in their truth.
We can open ourselves up to this insight—the penetrating similarities—or deny it. But when we deny it, we close our eyes to introspection. When we discern it, we let in empathy and self-love, because what we love in others, we love in ourselves.
My last relationship taught me a lot about love; loving and feeling loved. Loving without condition, loving with condition. Loving to escape. Loving to rescue. Loving to find, loving to be found.
Loving for all the reasons love isn’t, and loving for all the reasons it is.
Perhaps some of my most profound lessons on communication, understanding and forgiveness. It wasn’t always pretty, as our idea of love can sometimes be messy. But when you can love without letting clutter soil the way, those are the most rewarding relationships of all.
And from my ex, the 3 most impactful love lessons were these:
1. Love Big, Love Often
In spite of yourself and your insecurities, love. Express it in all ways at all times. Don’t let what you look like stop you from a generous dose. Don’t let what others think hold you back.
It’s an every day decision, choosing to love. Choosing to see that which is lovable in the other person. It takes a perspective of compassion, that once honed, will love despite all odds.
Give yourself to the connection. Sync the rhythm of your heart with theirs, the rising and the falling, the fast, the slow.
He taught me to go all in, willing to be hurt, willing to be left alone. To risk what could be painful in order to experience what could be extraordinary.
2. Learn All Love Languages
Learn to speak all 5 love languages: words of affirmation, touch, quality time, gifts and acts of service. Give them in equal measure.
You don’t know what you don’t know. Giving and receiving love in various ways helps you uncover those areas of your life you hide behind. Is there more to discover and disclose? Yes, so much more.
You may find it easy to love a certain way because you’re convinced it is the only real way to express love. But dare to explore every expression of love for the fullness it offers both the giver and the receiver.
He learned them all, spoke them all, and taught me to speak them all, too. I suppose it takes someone who makes you want to learn them all in order to reciprocate the effort; in order to extend yourself beyond what logic claims sufficient.
3. Find The Good, Every Day
Each day brings its share of challenges to overcome. In the name of love, you face ups and downs. Already you’re dealing with your own issues, let alone having someone bring you theirs.
All this baggage (clutter) makes it hard to love purely. You may want to withdraw and withhold love from the other person, shut him out and make him pay for what hurts you. But instead of looking for what you don’t love about a person, look for what you do. Because what you look for, you find.
Edify each other. Speak highly of the other when talking about him to friends and family. Be kind in the picture you paint.
He used every excuse to compliment and congratulate, teaching me that it was easy when you were focused on the good. Encourage and empower, promote and praise, and the effort will become effortless. What you make obvious, you make clear.
In hindsight, these 3 love lessons were some of the most important to learn.
In every new relationship, we learn how to give and receive love. The degree to which we give is the degree to which we receive.
We want to be seen, inside and out, and still loved despite what’s there. Can you do the same for another? Can you love everything about them? Can you love big and love often? Can you love in all languages? Can you find the good every day?
The same lessons that apply to your relationships with others, apply to the relationship with yourself.
This is why the bond between you and a lover is so telling as to how you treat yourself. Lovers are invited deep into our psyches and what we reveal is more than most others will ever know. If what we reveal doesn’t confine us to self-loathing, we are free.
I learned so much about myself during my relationship with my ex, and I’m so grateful for our time together. Even after our breakup, I can’t help but value his teachings on what true love feels like.
Relationships don’t always last, but when they leave you with love—not fear, hate, or resentment—they leave you with the greatest gift of all. Don’t let scars cover up what was there to begin with.
Let every relationship teach you love. Let love be what remains when all is said and done.
That’s when you know, in the end, it was well worth it.
My favorite reads in the category of love are: Mindful Loving: 10 Practices for Creating Deeper Connections, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles” , and The Relationship Handbook. These books changed everything for me and how I relate to others. Read more about these books here.