George Santayana, a19th-century Spanish philosopher and writer, is credited with being the first to say something to the effect that people who fail to learn from their mistakes are often doomed to repeat them. This quotation can apply to groups of people and even nations, as well as individuals. They are certainly words to live by when it comes to relationships.
What we take away from our failed relationships and how we are able to adjust and adapt to new situations based on what we’ve learned depends in large measure on our willingness to change. People often repeat relationship mistakes because it is a part of their inherent makeup.
While it might be a stretch to blame genetic characteristics for relationship mishaps, it is certainly possible to blame one’s upbringing or poor role models for the inability to form appropriate and meaningful long-term relationships as an adult. There are literally hundreds of things we can learn from our associations with others. Let’s look at some of the more important things we might take away from a failed relationship.
#1: Learn that No Means No!
You can’t repeatedly force a partner to do things with which they are uncomfortable or things that go against their nature. Doing something that, at least for you, is wrong or runs contrary to your beliefs and value systems, at the behest of your spouse or partner, will eventually erode any long-term relationship. Learn to say no out of love, rather than to give in for the same reasons.
#2: Learn that You Might Be Gay; or Straight
Most importantly in this day and age is learning about one’s own preferences and sexual orientation. Many a relationship has been sunk by the fact that one partner or the other would prefer to be with a member of the same or opposite sex and does not find the current partner sexually satisfying.
#3: Learn to Be Open about Doubts
Openness and candor about sexual orientation and suspicions that a spouse or ex partner may have had about you or their own sexuality is of the utmost important in a successful relationship. Be open and above board. If you are still uncertain when you enter a relationship, make it known and allow your new partner to help you search for your true identity.
#4: Learn to be Open about Sex
Openness extends to other areas of a relationship as well, especially sharing sexual pleasure. Learn to be open and explore what turns you on and what turns you off in an intimate context. Talk to each other and be willing to share your innermost fantasies and secrets. Many relationships fail because one partner is too uptight or straight-laced in the bedroom.
#5: Learn to Communicate and Talk to Each Other
When one partner in a relationship won’t express himself or herself, or willingly talk about problems and difficulties he or she might be having, both partners will suffer in the long run. Couples need to take time to talk through difficult issues, such as family finances and children.
Many relationships fail because of poor communication skills. Talk to your partner. No one is born with good communication skills, but anyone can learn.
#6: Learn that Children Are Joint Responsibilities
It takes two to create a child and two dedicated parents to raise one properly. Don’t let the responsibility of child rearing fall on one parent, even after the marriage ends. Unlike relationships, children are forever and continue to need love, nurturing, and support long after you stop loving or even liking their other parent.
#7: Learn that Once the Relationship Is Over, You Can Stop Arguing
Next to personal finances, adults argue most about child rearing. Parents may agree to disagree, but they should put on a united front for the children. One of the worst things that can happen to a child is to witness the break-up of their parent’s union. Even worse is when children are used as pawns or for leverage in a separation or divorce.
Remember, each time you belittle or demean your child’s other parent you diminish yourself in your child’s eyes. Nothing can be gained by running down your former partner or spouse other than unhappy and discomforted children.
#8: Learn to Stop Arguing about Money
The Huffington Post recently conducted a survey and concluded that couples argue about their finances three times a month on average. One reason is that couples often don’t set aside time to talk about their money issues. This can also be said about many issues that couples face. As mentioned above in #5, couples need to learn to communicate better.
# 9: Learn that It’s Not Really Just about Taking out the Trash
Just as children are joint responsibilities, so are the chores that comprise daily life in the 21st century. Accepting joint responsibilities includes taking on all of the normal tasks that encompass daily living. These include, but are not limited to, cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, yard care, routine home maintenance, and running errands.
Neither partner should be exempted from, or feel put upon to do, their share of the housework. Chores should be divided evenly based on time availability and skill level. And there are always new skills that can be acquired through study and practice.
So your mother didn’t teach you how to cook? Sit down and spend a few minutes on the Internet. Start watching the Food Network. They’ll teach you how to cook like a pro in no time flat!
#10: Learn to Get off Your Fat Behind and Get a Job
If relationships struggle because one partner feels that they are shouldering too much responsibility for the household chores, they will absolutely disintegrate over one partner bringing home the bacon while the other sits at home watching the soaps. As household responsibilities must be shared, so too must work outside the home.
Yes, child rearing can be a full-time job, but there are many different ways of producing income while bringing up well-adjusted children. Over the last 30 or 40 years, it has become apparent that more than one income is required to maintain a reasonable standard of living. Income can be part time or full time and derived from working at home just as easily as commuting to a traditional job.
While unemployment rates may be high, there is always work to be found for those who are actively looking. Use your brains, talent, and learned communication skills to insure that you are making a significant contribution to your family’s financial needs. Then you’ll also be able to stop arguing about money.
#11: Learn that Everyone Needs Down Time
With all the hard work that’s going on in the average American home, it’s easy to forget to take a break every so often. Americans enjoy less vacation time than any other Western nation. A recent CNN study found that American workers actually took less vacation in 2012 than in previous years, leaving them vacation deprived.
Americans took only 12 vacation days last year on average, while their European counterparts enjoy 25 to 30 days off each year, in addition to public holidays! Learn to take time away from work to enjoy with your partner and your children. Take a few extra days off, even if you won’t be paid for them. It will be well worth it.
#12: Learn that Everyone Needs Away Time
Spending too much time together is as detrimental to a relationship as spending too much time apart. Men and women both need their space. They also need time to spend with other friends and family members apart from their spouse or significant other. Moms need time away from the kids and Dads could often use more time with the youngsters. Finding a balance is difficult; once again, productive conversation can help.
#13: Learn to Select a Partner against Type Once in a While
Learn not to immediately find yet another person just like your ex. As Albert Einstein once said, insanity is doing the exact same thing time and again, yet expecting to see different results. Try something different for a change and see how that works for you. Just once, go for the guy or gal who won’t break your heart.
#14: Learn to Live on Your Own for a Time
By the same token, try living without a significant other for awhile. Learn to enjoy your own company. Learn a new craft or skill or take up a hobby. Join a community service group and volunteer some time helping others. Take up singing or hiking or learn to play a musical instrument.
Finding yourself in the social maelstrom; being comfortable in your own skin; knowing what you want and figuring out how to go about getting it. These are all qualities that prospective mates and partners likely desire for themselves and generally find quite attractive in others.
#15: Learn How to Dust Yourself Off and Try Again
When all is said and done, it’s tough to start all over again. But the end results are almost always worth it. No one wants to spend a lifetime alone. Humans were designed to live in pairs, and while not perfectly monogamous, can benefit from the special bonds and ties brought about through committed relationships. So learn what you can from your current ex and your other past relationships and thoughtfully move on with your life.