(listen to the audio version)
My heart has been broken a million times, and I’m proud to say it.
As I trace my fingers along the scars of my love line – from breakups that lasted longer than the relationships themselves, repeated abandonment, infidelity, divorce, and sticking together for the kid – there is a lot that I could point to as signs that I’m no good at relationships.
But I don’t see a single failure in the notches on my bedpost. Here is what I do see:
The one who taught me how to be playful when I was too serious.
The one showed me how to be an adult when I was too childish.
That one taught me how to say no.
That one taught me how to say yes.
That list doesn’t even begin to account for everyone who has graced my body with their presence. The painful endings, near misses, close calls, or ones that got away – each has been a truly successful relationship.
Relationship = Growth
Some of my earliest spiritual teachers often repeated this statement: the fastest path to spiritual growth is to have a relationship.
Any kind of relationship will do it. Parents, children, friends. But arguably the most powerful type of growth comes from romantic or sexual relationships. These close encounters crack us open to see and be seen at a level that is unlike any other kind of connection.
But the growth that my teachers were referring to doesn’t only come from good relationships.
In fact, what you call your worst relationships may have really been your greatest. It’s all a matter of how you define success.
What is a good relationship anyway? Does good require forever? Does good mean that we parted amicably? Does good mean that we never fought, or that we fought and then had mind-blowing make-up sex?
A good relationship, in the way I choose to define it, is one that results in growth.
In other words, every relationship, regardless of length, stability, level of commitment, or other measurements of love, is perfect.
This even includes relationships that aren’t really relationships. In other words, the person you chased after, pined over, or had a one-night stand with and ghosted the next day can be a catalyst for your spiritual growth.
Your Toxic Ex
I know: how can I possibly say that your relationship with your toxic ex was perfect? How can I say that the one who never replied to your last text was a spiritual teacher to you? How can I say that the time you strung along that person’s heart for months was a course in personal growth?
The reason I can say these things is because each of your relationships has taught you something about what you want and what you don’t want.
You’ll see the success when you dig deep enough into these histories to find the gold buried there.
Yes and No
The gold is hidden in the identification of what each relationship has taught you about your yeses and nos.
Learning your yeses and nos is the first step to creating the kind of life that makes you proud (and attracting a partner who is all in for you). But usually the yes comes as a result of a lot of nos, so that might explain the whole kissing frogs on the way to find your prince/ss thing (or having a lot of bad sex before you know what to ask for to make it good).
This is why there is no such thing as being attracted to the “wrong” person. Chemistry – that unseen force that draws us to another – ultimately leads us home to our yeses and nos. Perhaps chemistry is the result of our intuition picking up on an unspoken desire for growth based on what another person’s particular – or peculiar – gifts are.
This explains why, if we struggle with self-worth, we might chase a partner who is emotionally withdrawn (thereby teaching us that love begins in our own bodies). Or, if we habitually fix our identity on being in a relationship, we might fall for someone who is unable to bond in the way we think they should (they’re offering a crash course in non-attachment).
There are a million ways this can go, and all of them are so glorious they just might break your heart.
It Wasn’t All Bad
Every human is an experience. We are messy by nature. Prone to making mistakes. Totally glitchy in how we’re put together and how we fall apart.
Rather than seeing this imperfection as a bad thing, I invite you to explore the possibility that every experience with a human is an opportunity to learn. Something perfect is happening in each encounter, no matter how short, long, powerful, or filled with festering wounds it may be.
Throw away the fairy tales for a moment and realize that the “one” for you is the one in front of you. Every partner has something to teach you, but you have the choice about whether or not you stay in the classroom.
So go on – be a good student and let your heart be broken. As you sweep up the pieces and mend them back together, may you beam with pride at how your little heart has grown in the process.