Lessons Learned and Bridges Burned

Friendships end. Relationships crash and burn. These are two timeless truths of life. Growing up, I always focused on my own pain and anger when I would lose someone close to me- whether it be from an argument, time taking it’s toll, distance or simply not being right for each other- I never tried to see my own wrongdoings or the positive insight you can get from a relationship coming to an end.

Recently, however, I have started to focus on some of the tougher internal conversations regarding these falling-outs. What actions of mine contributed to the failed friendship? Not only ‘How did this person wrong me?’ but also ‘How did I wrong this person?’. Which of my traits contribute toxicity to a relationship? How did this extremely painful loss better me as a person?

My first love. I had never really dated anyone before. Somewhat foolishly, I thought he was the one. I genuinely thought we’d last, despite awkwardly being forced to join him at church and not being on the same wavelength about what we wanted (he was pretty clear about his religious expectations in a relationship). After a year of dating, we both prepared to go off to college. Though neither of us would be going far away (we stayed at schools close to home), he blamed our breakup on ‘distance’. I was devastated. Distance?? We were literally 30 minutes apart. As time passed, I healed. I came to understand he wasn’t right for me, and I wasn’t right for him. I learned that blaming the breakup on distance was not entirely truthful- our religious incompatibility was a huge factor. This infuriated me when I found out, but I have since realized he saved us both from even more pain down the line. We simply weren’t right for each other.

The one that got away. We met by fate and fate alone, on a vacation. Ironically, I ended up hooking up with his best friend on the trip. But after we had all returned home (hundreds of miles apart), our relationship blossomed. We had so much in common and could talk for hours. Texting and Skype calls turned into making plans to see each other again. My parents were skeptical, saying we “barely knew each other”, but we didn’t care. He drove 9 hours to visit me. We had a great time, and I thought I was ready to be in love again. But our lives were too separate. Distance is difficult. Over time, the Skype sessions slowed and became a hassle, both of us were so busy with our own stories. We were never able to turn our incredible connection into anything more than that and it sadly faded as the months became years. I learned a hard and painful lesson- not everything is meant to be. Sometimes fate gets it wrong. Sometimes life has completely different plans for you than the ones you dream of for yourself. And that’s ok.

My college best friend. I became very close very quickly with one girl. We had a ton of mutual acquaintances, loved to party, and bonded over our struggles with mental health and having flaky friends. We were pretty much inseparable, quickly labeling ourselves as best friends. But our friendship came to a squeaking halt- we had a falling out. At the time, I refused to take any of the blame, pinning it to her dramatic nature. I now realize that my actions caused her significant pain, and she had trusted me with her confidence to support her in one of the darkest times of her life (she had lost someone very close to her, and I was absent in her time of need). We both contributed to the loss of our friendship, but it took me quite a while to accept how much of it was truly my fault. We talk occasionally now and have well wishes for each other. Sometimes you cannot repair a broken friendship, but you can move on with mutual understanding and respect.

I’m going to smash 3 failed exes into one here. Honestly, this 6 month period of my life was a complete blur and all 3 of these romances occurred in rapid succession of one another. Everybody has to go through their wild phase, ok?

The bounce back from my first love. Within weeks of getting to college, I met a super suave and gorgeous frat boy (which should’ve been my first red flag but ALAS). He was funny, witty, smart and so good-looking. He got stares from girls everywhere we went. I was flabbergasted when he decided that he wanted me. We danced around the endless frat parties, in a drunken haze. I’m not sure if we ever had a meaningful conversation. For the weeks that we “dated”, I felt special being his. But as time went on, he got bored with my unwillingness to put out, and his eyes moved to the next girl. I probably would’ve been much more hurt by this, had I not been consuming copious amounts of vodka and partying every night. But I learned my lesson the moment he gave up on me: not everyone is meant to have an important place in your life and not every relationship actually holds value.

The first real relationship I had in college. Though this only lasted 3 months, and the first night we met ended up with us publicly making out in the middle of a house party while our friends cheered in a drunken rage, this was the most real of the 3 relationships I’m diving into. We had a lot in common, from our love of music to our opinions on life to our love of alcohol. The latter on that list ultimately led to our downfall. One too many times, one of us ended up plastered and embarrassing the other. It wasn’t the right time and we knew it. We had too much maturing to do and our shit was most definitely NOT together.

The guy all my friends warned me about. “He’s a total dick, I just know it.” “We don’t like hanging out with him.” All their complaints fell on deaf ears. He was gorgeous and surprise surprise, had access to some illicit things I had taken an interest in. I can’t even recall the number of times I worried he had been arrested or something bad had happened to him. Eventually, he too pressured me to put out and I wasn’t willing, and he got bored. That seems to be the theme here I suppose. I was putting myself into relationships where I was not respected or truly cared about yet I expected it to be rainbows and butterflies. As this relationship came to a screeching halt after he got me in a lot of trouble with my parents (I don’t even want to go into that story), I learned that not everyone will have your best interest in mind and you should always listen to your friend’s intuition.

Then there’s the former roommate. A girlfriend I had been close with, we even lived together- but years after our falling out, I learned that she had never even really liked me. We had a super close mutual friend group, and I had wanted to be her friend badly so that we could all hang out and have that fun dynamic. It really hurt me to realize she had only accepted me because I was part of the package deal with my other friends. She had no choice but to pretend to like me. This taught me to look deeply at the motives of others and not to accept anyone’s kindness just at face value.

Then there’s the one I can barely talk about. My biggest fuck-up to date. I allowed myself to treat people I care deeply about like they were disposable and as if my actions didn’t profoundly impact them. I ignored common sense, advice, and ‘doing the right thing’ to satisfy my own selfish needs for attention, feeling wanted, and the thrill of it all. I strung someone along while simultaneously devastating someone I swore I’d never hurt. I don’t think I will ever fully recover from this one- the regret is strong and alive within me and I deserve that. I know this one is rather vague… but the lesson I learned here was to never lose sight of what you truly care about. This world is filled with distractions and it’s easy to fuck things up to satisfy selfish desires. There will be people who make you feel like they love you when they really just want to see if they can ‘win’ you. Recognize your blessings before you end up risking it all for someone who doesn’t value your presence or feel your absence.

Relationships are life’s biggest teacher. If you do not analyze and dissect the painful realities of your failed loves and friendships, you are doing yourself a disservice.

I am learning every day. And the one consistent lesson I always come back to- acknowledging your own faults, fuck-ups, and failures is absolutely critical to self-discovery and becoming the best you that you can be. You cannot write your story truthfully while omitting all the parts where you were in the wrong. Acceptance is the first step towards self-improvement.

What did your failed friendships open your eyes to? What did an ended relationship teach you about your own shortcomings? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Stay self-aware,


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