By Julie-Ann Sherlock 

Love makes the world go around. Or so they say. But it also teaches us lessons; some we learn too late, after having our heart smashed to smithereens. I had the loveliest boyfriend for three years. He was sweet, funny, kind and loved me. So why did I dump him? 

I never met his family (despite living in the same building as his brother!) and barely any of his friends. He had been to my sister’s wedding, met most of my extended clan and regularly hung out with my friends. Yet, he was like a ghost to me. I knew pretty much nothing about him and his life. 

I began to fear he was married and joked about meeting his wife and children someday. He wasn’t married. He didn’t have children. He just wasn’t as committed to sharing his life with me as I was with mine. It wasn’t the only issue we had, but it was a dealbreaker for me. 

I learned not to give so much of myself or accept feeling unimportant in someone’s life. This was my biggest love lesson. 

We learn so much about ourselves as we experience relationships, so here are some ways we can put these lessons into practice and heal past hurts. 

Communication Is Key

A relationship is doomed if the communication channels are blocked, yet, we still misread cues or hear what we want to hear. 

We need to stop, listen, and ask for clarification if we are unsure. Rephrasing the statement or question and asking a partner if they mean something in a certain way helps us get the true side of the conversation and not something we imagine or project into the situation. 

Calmly saying something like, “I am having some trouble understanding what you are saying here. Can you break it down for me, please?” helps your partner restructure or reaffirm what you heard, leading to a healthier discussion. 

But it’s not all just about verbal communication. 

Silence Is Golden

Watching your partner’s expressions, body language, and reactions to what is being said is a great way to bring more context to communication. If they say they want to get married and have 10 children while looking at one-way tickets to Timbuktoo and brochures for a vasectomy, they may not be telling you the truth! 

Silent movie watching allows you to imagine the words are removed, see what the actions are saying, and find clues to your partner’s true feelings. 

And, if you look at your own silent movie, you might find you are lying to yourself (and them!) through what you are saying. You need to communicate honestly any unhappiness you are feeling. 

You might just be fed up with them leaving the toilet seat up or for taking the last piece of your favourite chocolate just when your period makes you crave sugar. It may not be the end of the road, but maybe it’s time to let them know (calmly, of course) that you need them to work with you on these issues. 

By clarifying things and reading the gestures on display, you can learn to communicate in a manner that avoids anger, disappointment and falling out of love. 

It’s Never 100% Their Fault

Sure, most of the time, you may feel it is, but we also have a role to play in any issues in our relationships. Through passivity, not communicating our needs or by stirring things up, knowing it will inflame the problem, we are a little bit at fault. 

Own up to it. Say, “I know that I said I would be happy to eat pizza all week, but really I would love a salad tonight instead”. By taking some of the responsibility for the situation, you can make them feel less of a victim of your annoyance and reinforce the idea that you are a team and are responsible together for finding a solution.

I am not victim-blaming btw, domestic violence and gaslighting are never acceptable.

Good Sex Is Important

While certainly not the be-all or end-all of a relationship, the intimacy found in the bedroom (or living room or bathroom…) plays a vital part in a loving partnership. If it feels like a chore or your needs aren’t being met, it may be time to let the curtain fall on your love. Either try to fix it or leave and find the person who puts the love back into making. 

Most of us are tactile people who crave affection and intimacy when in a relationship. If this is missing from the mix, you have simply become friends. Don’t live in the friendzone with your significant other; it won’t end well. 

My parents have been happily married for over 50 years. Still, even great relationships like theirs require constant lesson learning and hard work. Don’t leave it too late to learn that you deserve the best kind of love.