What I Learned from a Decade of Failed Relationships (part 5)


Learn from the Past

In our day-to-day activities it is virtually impossible to be 100% in the present moment of each task we have to accomplish. We multi-task, shifting our focus among a multitude of want-to’s and have-to’s, often making mistakes or missing important details. I recall going to Starbucks one Saturday morning to work on a few things. I began by creating a to-do list which upon completion had 25 items on it. Did I mention it was Saturday?

Life is fast paced and we often fail to take enough time to slow down and catch our breath. Taking time for reflection is considered a luxury for many. Others revel in the insanity of busy-ness. Staying three steps ahead with constant distractions is one strategy to avoid painful realities one would rather not face.

I see this often, particularly when life has brought someone to a standstill and everything comes crashing against them. This is a very uncomfortable scenario yet one that offers important opportunities for learning, growth and ending recurring patterns.

Stillness and Reflection

Were it not for the reflective process, I could not share what I have learned over the last decade. I believe doing the work of therapy, counseling or coaching requires that one does his/her own work. Being just as human as the clients we serve, we must have a firm enough grasp on our stuff to remain objective and hold space for another to go through their process. I am certain I would have taken the road less traveled of conscious psycho-spiritual growth regardless of my career, but it is first and foremost a path of inner exploration for which stillness and reflection are essential.

I have attended more workshops and seminars than I can remember. I really do not like reading but have more books than my bookshelf can handle. I have jumped out of airplanes and traveled to distant places but the hardest thing I have done was to simply sit in silence.

I am referring to a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat where participants remained in complete silence for the duration of the retreat. No reading, writing, cell phones or computers were allowed. For 10 days, participants were totally and completely with themselves; no distractions, no escape. By far the hardest, most challenging thing I have EVER done in my life.

One of the lessons I learned is that it takes about three days of sitting in silence meditating to still the mind. Life is fast paced and the mind must keep up. We really have no idea how much our heads are spinning until we enter a context of stillness.

Take Time between Relationships

Serial relationships reflect the difficulty of being still. One relationship ends and the next one begins. Some are seeking their next partner before ending things with a current partner. This approach is detrimental in a number of ways.

When relationships end, loss is experienced. The longer and more significant the relationship, the greater the sense of loss. Loss requires grieving that moving quickly into another relationship inhibits. Grieving is important because it gives us the necessary emotional closure required to enter the next relationship cleanly, without the residue of the past.

We need time for re-grounding and re-centering. When intimately involved with another, our lives exist in the specific context of that relationship container. Autonomous beings we may be but our relationships influence our sense of self. We are who we are in the context of our relationships and when they end it is necessary to rediscover the self outside of the context of partnership.

Who am I now? How have I changed? In what areas have I grown? What have I learned about myself, life and relationships? What do I want to change? How would I like my next relationship to function? All are examples of important questions to explore during the post-relationship period.

Taking the time to re-ground and re-center after a relationship ends is about arriving at a new normal within yourself and your life, integrating the lessons of the past and enhancing your identity. Think of it as a software update where you are installing the next grander greater version of yourself.

Downward Spirals and Vicious Cycles

One of life’s beauties is that we get an infinite amount of opportunities to get it right. We will circle back to the same issue over and over until it is resolved. While the components may differ, the core issue remains unchanged. Ignoring problems or sweeping conflict under the rug only ensures it will be revisited in the future.

We use the term downward spiral to describe an increasingly worsening situation. Life is designed to spiral upward toward greater levels of maturity and consciousness. Recurring behavior patterns are like hiccups compelling a new approach. Acting on autopilot causes us to unconsciously apply past strategies to present problems.

When we do what we have always done, we get what we always got. Do you find that with your relationships? Though things may differ on the surface, you find yourself attracting the same person just in a different package, or, you find similar patterns of interaction and problems. When in a relationship, do you find yourself revisiting old issues raised time and again with your partner? All are indications of not taking time to reflect and become conscious of that which does not serve you, and investing the time and energy in doing it differently.


Ultimately relationships offer opportunities to learn about ourselves: the unconscious forces that impact decisions and choices, the wounds we seek to heal, the missteps we make and where growth is needed to create the lives we envision. We can continue to live on auto-pilot, never making the necessary corrections required to reach our destinations or we can stop, reflect and do something more effective.

We all want successful, happy, rewarding and fulfilling relationships. Taking time to learn from the past to prevent the same repeated patterns that do not serve us is certainly worth the effort.

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