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10 Things I Learned From My Three Long Term Relationships

by Cole
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And How They Helped Me Become A Better Lover, Partner & Man

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

I believe I am a bit of a mix of a serial monogamist and a career-oriented dream chaser.

I feel like they sound conflicting or like you can’t have both, but for me, they very much work together. Relationships create a stable dynamic for me to shift focus from finding love to growing my goals.

To fully understand the type of person I am, you also must know that that I’ve spent most of my life (outside of chasing my dream) searching for the perfect woman for me.

Through years of working through childhood trauma, I discovered in my mid-twenties that I crave love and stability because I never really had it as a kid. I was introduced to love by my parents rumbling through a nasty divorce and love-hating each other for a decade. That lead to me calling myself a hopeless romantic and always CHASING love.

If you know anything about love, it’s not something you can really chase. Especially not healthily. It took three long-term relationships for this to click for me. I’ve learned so much. Let’s start with my first relationship.

Relationship #1 — Compatibility

Ah, young love. First love. First kiss. Lots of firsts. I was 15 when I fell in “love” for the first time. It was all so new and exciting. I was feeling so many things that I’d never felt before.

We were the quintessential high school couple where our identities were tied up with each other and our future life together. But the thing is, for me and I’m sure for her, that we didn’t really know who we were.

Photo by Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash

There was an entire world of people and things out there for us to experience that would morph us into what we were meant to be. I started to morph at 17. I started to rap. And I sucked. Which I’m sure was embarrassing for her.

Towards the end of our relationship, I remember her saying…

I really thought this rap thing was a phase..

A very valid thought from a concerned young woman. What she didn’t know was that rap would become such a huge part of who I am that I would do it even to this day — performing in front of thousands of people, moving to Los Angeles, the works.

On top of that, I had a dream that felt almost like the universe telling me that there was someone else better fit for me out there.

Looking back, I just know we weren’t compatible.

Truly. We wanted very different things out of life, and as kids, it broke our hearts.

I broke up with her before heading off to college. One of the hardest things I had ever done at the time. I remember afterward bawling in my bed. My sister and my mom came to lay with me letting me know everything would be okay. And it would.

She seems incredibly happy now with a husband and baby. I’m happy for her.

We aren’t compatible with everyone. We don’t have to force things to work if they just don’t. There are so many people in the world to choose from it’s ridiculous. Sometimes our lives just don’t align. Even if we grow up together.

Relationship #2 & #3 — Everything Else (So Far)

I wanted to separate the rest of these by relationship, but the bottom line is these two relationships were like the complete opposite in so many ways. It took the second to help me understand the third and vice versa.

I realize it can be unhealthy to compare relationships, but I do. Because when you are in a relationship with someone for over 2 years, you aren’t just learning about yourself and love, but you’re learning about family dynamics, the inner workings of a woman/man, and how different yet the same humans are. As the thinker I am, I can’t help but dive into it.

Let’s preface these relationships.

Relationship #2 started when I was 21. 18–21 was full of some short flings, a broken heart, dropping out of college to pursue rap stardom. I wasn’t ready for a relationship really. But we ended up dating for over 3 years. It was beautiful in so many ways. We grew into young adults together, took each other’s virginity, and so much more.

Things began to fall apart when I started my own business. I was broke. She wanted to experience things and be a young woman. I wanted to work and grow my business and music. A tale that’s been told a thousand times I’m sure. We started to fall apart slowly. Ending our relationship and then getting back together on a whim. She taught me so much, but ultimately, I felt like she wasn’t the one for me. We both had a lot of learning to do.

Relationship #3 was 6 months after I ended it off with #2. She was different, full of new experiences, wild and exhilarating in so many ways. But she was also angry, a runner, and completely not the right person for my soul. When mixed together, we became toxic to each other. But I ignored the signs for almost 3 years.

Then, it just all clicked. And I realized this is NOT where I want to be. Or the person I wanted to be with. My life didn’t have to be so hard.

Your Partner’s Past Doesn’t Matter

I’ve been relatively “straight edge” for the majority of my life. I never slept with a bunch of people or partied all the time. So naturally or not, I wondered and cared about the past of my partner. Probably more out of jealousy than curiosity. I let it bother me if they went through different stages than me. If their human experience lead them through certain struggles, sexual experiences, etc, it made me upset. It hurt my heart. Ultimately, it made me feel vulnerable to losing love. Like I wasn’t enough. And that the love wouldn’t stay.

I made quite a few immature mistakes when it comes to letting my young heart be punched by their experiences.

The reality is their past created the person that I currently love. Life leads us all through so many paths, and it should be hard to judge when we haven’t been in someone’s shoes. But unfortunately, when we mix in love, things get so sticky.

Unless it crosses some morality line that I had drawn in the sand, I learned to make peace with their experiences. In fact, I’ve found it best to be thankful for it. Most of the time our past shows us what we don’t want or who we don’t want to be.

It’s a part of the journey to becoming our best selves.

Family Relationships Are Incredibly Important

Photo by Hillshire Farm on Unsplash

I never thought this would be something that I would say. But after experiencing the most loving families and the more hateful ones, I must admit that someone’s family could make me not want to be with them, and I really hate to say that because family isn’t something you choose.

Out of the two relationships listed, the family dynamic was probably the most opposite. One is warm, inviting, loving. The other is cold, rigid, and rude. I didn’t realize how much I was scarred from the uninviting family until I entered into my fourth relationship with my current girlfriend.

Being surrounded by another inviting, supportive and loving family again made me feel like I could breathe. A huge sigh of relief and excitement for the future. It made me want to be even more inviting to other people entering into my own family like my brother-in-law. I want him to feel loved like the love I crave from my other “in-laws”.

Don’t Keep Score

I’ve lived with three women now at 28 years old. Which may or may not seem like a lot. But I have certainly learned that it’s best to not keep score in any capacity, emotionally or physically.

As long as both parties respect each other and are giving their best effort, it benefits both to just love each other through doing more actions and speaking more words.

Keeping score creates defensive behavior, unneeded pressure, and negativity the carries over into lovemaking and beyond. We are all different with different priorities. Honestly, I just forget that I leave the sponge in the kitchen sink after watching dishes. I swear it’s not vindictive!!

Getting Along Matters

I’ve been in the position more than once where I just didn’t really agree with how my partner acted in scenarios. Some of them were morality issues. Some were just annoying. I would take things they say the wrong way and vice versa which created this extremely toxic, negative vortex that would take me out emotionally for days if not weeks.

Because I’ve always been so focused on this idea of being a loyal, dedicated partner who was ALL IN for the long haul, I ended up really doing everything I can to suppress my personality to fit in with my partner. And most of the time they ended up subconsciously or consciously doing the same thing. This is so not good.

Sometimes you just don’t really get along or mesh like you thought. You can fight for the hopeless delusion of they are who you thought or you can move on. I chose to move on.

Sexual Chemistry Matters Too

Can’t deny it. Though I haven’t had sex with a lot of people, I would still consider myself adventurous and even note that sex matters to me a good bit in a relationship.

With my less than 10 people knowledge, I’ve noticed that most women I’ve been with are relatively adventurous as well, but that doesn’t mean our chemistry matches. Some people like slow. Some fast. Some hard. Some like to be hit. Some choked. Some yell. Some just like to be caressed.

It matters that two partners can connect openly and vulnerably in the bedroom. If we can’t connect intimately while we make love, it’s a big blow. It’s probably why most people stop having sex when they aren’t connecting emotionally anymore. Sex Matters.

Being Able To Laugh Together Is Everything

Photo by tabitha turner on Unsplash

When the sex is gone, the cool jobs, the mystery, and everything in between, I just want to have fun with my partner. I want to laugh. I want to joke. I want to make weird voices. And not be judged.

I always laughed in relationships, but I think at some point I stopped laughing as much. With my current girlfriend, we laugh all the time. Her sense of humor is one of my favorite things about her. We are so funny together. I feel like the best relationships say those words and think they are the funniest.

It’s the greatest thing to hear her giggle. The best part is there aren’t fake laughs. We both think the other is genuinely funny. That is one of the biggest wins of my current relationship. We seem to just get each other.

Take Your Time Getting To Know Someone

If you haven’t caught the drift yet, I have had a tendency to move quickly in relationships. My mother always told me to slow down. But when you’re young and in the moment with someone, it’s difficult to see the downfalls of moving fast.

Well, I most certainly learned this the hard way multiple times. Before my current girlfriend, I felt like I was picky, but really it was that I knew what I didn’t want in someone. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my happiness.

So with her, we moved slower than I ever had. We talked so much! For months. We got to know each other on the inside. We waited to get physical until we knew it was something. We became friends.

Before we invested too much time in each other, we communicated who we are and who we wanted to be. That changed everything.

Address Triggers

Photo by Milan Popovic on Unsplash

It’s hard to know your “triggers” when you’re young. Sometimes you don’t even have the scars or defense mechanisms until your mid-twenties and beyond. So if you don’t have triggers, congrats.

Most of us do. And complexes.

I’ve found it best to figure out what these are at the beginning of a relationship so you know where to tread lightly, where to not tease or push and where to focus on healing.

Say Sorry

I had a moment not so long ago where I was in a tiff with my girlfriend. We were about to walk into a restaurant, and it wasn’t anything major. Yet it was enough for her to be upset with me. I wasn’t upset because it probably was something silly or annoying I said. I just wished that she wasn’t upset about it.

My pride was fighting very hard not to say sorry. Because I didn’t understand what there was to be mad about.

So why should I say sorry? Does it even mean anything if I don’t really feel SO sorry? I guess I was sorry that she was upset. I guess I wanted to make her happy, and I was being ridiculous. So maybe I should. Ya know.. say sorry.

I paused. Asked her to come here. Hugged her softly. And said, “I’m sorry”.

Took me so long to realize how silly my pride is. For absolutely no legitimate reason it wants to push the envelope and be an ass. I keep that bad boy in check these days. I’m sorry.

When I sat down to write this, I was inspired by the feeling of having learned from my past relationships and actually implementing the lessons into my current one.

I’ll always be developing as a lover and partner. I’m far from perfect, but I hope some of these lessons can help you as they’ve helped me. Because as my 6th-grade self wrote in a poem:

Love is life. Life is love.

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