The friend who always seemed to take more than she gave. The ex with way too much baggage. The toxic people at work, in your family, in your neighborhood.
We all have been in hard relationships. Maybe the other person was the difficult party or maybe it was us who was the challenging one.
If you’re like me, these past relationships can be the source of reflection, rumination, and often, regret. “Where did I go wrong? What could I have done differently? Can I forgive them? Can they forgive me?”
We wonder how we could have ever said what we said, done what we did, turn a blind eye to the things we weren’t ready to confront.
I’m learning, though, there’s another way to look at these past relationships and people who have played an undeniable part in helping shape who you are today.
“Let what comes, come. Let what goes, go. Find out what remains.”
- Ramana Maharshi
It’s painful thinking about some of these relationships, even those that ended decades ago. Does that mean I haven’t moved on entirely? Do I still have work to do within myself? Probably.
On the other hand, I’m strangely grateful for my past, and all those in it. However distressing at the time, these are the people who changed me. I am who I am because of them.
Through my hard relationships, I learned about friendship, betrayal, empathy, and brokenness. I loved well, and, for the most part, was loved in return.
This is true for you, too. Your hard relationships have something to teach you, some wisdom to impart. Leaning into the pain of the relationship, and teasing out the lessons within can be painful. It’s also undeniably necessary for healing and moving on.
I won’t declare I have no regrets, but I also know nothing happens in a vacuum. I’d probably alter some of the plot lines of my past if I could, but how would those changes affect everything that happened after it?
If I hadn’t had that relationship, would I have been ready for what followed? Would I have made the same decisions? Ended up in the same places? Most likely not.
I had a relatively sheltered childhood, and these relationships, and the fault lines therein, made me grow up, and see the world in a new way.
I was lucky, though. Nothing truly terrible has happened to me thus far in life. I’ve had relationships end, and painful moments, but we all do, of course. No one gets this far in life and remains unscathed, and nor should we want to.
Our cracks are what give us character. They make us interesting. I am able to relate with empathy and understanding when a friend sits in front of me and shares her story, because I’ve been there. Maybe not in the exact place, of course, but I can identify with her.
The most interesting, kindest people out there are often the ones who have been through the toughest of times. They may have broken, but they learned how to piece themselves back together again.
I may admire you and your seemingly-perfect life from afar, but I’ll relate and identify with your imperfectness, your mistakes, your pain.
We connect through our pain points. They make us relatable. They make us human.
As Leonard Cohen famously stated: “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”