Monday, May 12, 2014

Things I've learned from past relationships

Like many, I've been in multiple romantic relationships in the past. And one thing I've noticed is that each one has taught me something, or (in at least one case) provided a significant reminder of lessons that I knew, but evidently had "forgotten." I want to explore some of those experiences. 

J. was my first romantic relationship. It was a very long distance one, as she lived in California, while I lived in Minnesota. In fact, we met online, and never got the chance to meet in person. I'm not going to bother arguing right now whether there can be any real feeling in a long distance relationship. My experience tells me it can be very real. 

We would talk for hours on the phone. And from those conversations I learned to open up to someone else in a way I had never done before. I learned to share fears and desires and dreams. I learned I could find support in the words and caring of another. Most importantly (perhaps), I learned to let myself love. Over time, the feelings changed. We were only together, romantically anyway, for a little over six months if I remember right. But we stayed in touch for a long time as friends, still having conversations that lasted for hours.

My second one would last, off and on, for years. My relationship with K. was also long distance, and also involved many a long conversation on the phone (though she was able to come and visit me once during that time). All the lessons I learned from J. would be reiterated, but more than that I started coming to accept myself more and more while I was with her. I learned that I didn't always have to pretend to laugh, for example. It used to be that when I found something amusing, I would force a laugh in order to try and let the other person know that yes, it was funny. But the laugh wasn't natural for me. It was rare in those days for me to genuinely laugh. My most natural response was to simply let amusement show in my voice or words, and maybe to have a small, mostly silent laugh. To please others, I would force myself to laugh. It always felt . . . tense. She taught me it was ok to do what came naturally. With her, I started learning to accept my own fantasies as just one part of me, and to be more of myself. She also made damn sure I treated her with respect.

A. overlapped my time with K. Obviously, I was open with A. that I was in a relationship with K. A. would be my first long-term, in person relationship. I wish I could say it was a great time. I lost my virginity to her, so that was cool. But after a while, the relationship devolved into fighting and fucking. I had an opportunity once to end it, and to my shame, let it continue in part because I wanted sex. When she finally ended it, I was relieved. I walked away from that relationship understanding that no relationship in the future could be just about the sex. There had better be something more if it was going to be worth pursuing or continuing.

My next relationship was with the woman who is now my wife, but first I want to talk about the one that happened while I was engaged. I had been friends with E., and eventually we tried dating for a while. She was a submissive to me in the bedroom, in the BDSM sense, but I fucked up and tried taking that into areas that I shouldn't have gone. I didn't communicate what I wanted, made assumptions about what she wanted, and generally acted like a bloody asshole. Eventually, I'm glad to say she had enough and called me on it. We broke that relationship off, but remain friends. What did I learn? Communicate. Don't make assumptions. Don't be an asshole. Sadly, I already knew all that, but apparently needed a reminder. I don't regret that the relationship ended (I see where she's at now, and I'm very happy for her; truthfully, I don't think we would've been compatible in the long run even had I done everything right), but I do regret my part in how it ended. I have very few regrets in life, but that is one.

And now, for my wife. All total, I think we've been together somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 years (she remembers better than I do). This August we'll celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. From her, I finally learned genuine laughter. I've probably had more true laughter with her in the past several years than I had in all my years before. I think that tone to our relationship was set from the first night that we met, when I chased her around our mutual friend's apartment with a head of broccoli. Every lesson that I've learned in the past has been reiterated through my relationship with her, and strengthened. Right from the start of us dating, we made sure it wasn't just about sex, that we had other interests we could share. We've been open with each other, communicating, sharing, and being ourselves. No matter what, she's had my back, and supported me in my endeavors, and I have tried to do the same for her. Some days, just having her around can make my day better.

So those are a few of the things I've learned from past romantic relationships. What have you learned?


  1. I too have learned not to focus too much on sex when I'm still getting to know the person. I've learned that sometimes, something that I don't like in the other person is really something I don't like in myself. I've learned that there's a difference between a partner who wants to help you improve yourself, and a partner who wants you to change.

    Nice post! Relationships are such an educational part of life.