There really are upsides to breaking things off.

Anthea Levi
March 22, 2018

Breakups suck. Getting rejected never feels good, and initiating a split comes with its own set of challenges. But more often than not, the end of a relationship teaches us something about ourselves—as well as who (and how) we want to love. Here, seven women share the powerful lessons they learned after calling it quits.

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Listen when your gut says, 'this doesn't feel right'

"I'd been having doubts about my relationship for months, but I kept hoping it would get better or that my boyfriend would become more like the person I hoped he would be, and also, I didn't want to hurt him. Then one night at a local bar, he was drinking and pushed me to talk about it. When it finally came out that I didn't want to see him anymore, he was tipsy and angry. He followed me out of the bar to my apartment, and was verbally abusive to me. When he finally stormed off, I immediately de-friended him on all social media.

It took some time for my heart to stop beating wildly, but when it did, I felt relieved. His behavior erased any doubts I had about the breakup. It’s been five years, and I try to listen to myself more. Had I followed my intuition, I wouldn't have wasted so much time with him. I now know to tune in to that little voice that says, 'This doesn’t feel right,' both in my relationships and other parts of my life."

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If the sex isn't good, the relationship won't be either

"My ex and I gelled in just about every way: We came from similar backgrounds, we were the same age, and we liked the same movies and music. We got each other's jokes and references, it was like we were made for each other—and our families and friends felt the same way. The problem? We had no heat between us. We were more like best friends, and sex never got past the just-okay category. I realized I couldn't spend the rest of my life this way. My current partner and I don't match up as well in our likes and dislikes, but we have incredible chemistry, and our relationship is stronger because of it."

Breaking up is no reflection of your self-worth

"I was seeing someone off and on for about a year until one day he told me that he had a girlfriend and couldn't keeping seeing me. He said he was going to propose to her by the end of the year. I was completely thrown off guard.

The two greatest lessons I learned from the experience? First, you can't force someone to be a good person. I had no idea this man had been in a long distance relationship the whole time we were seeing each other, and there's nothing I could have done differently to make him be truthful. Second, you can't force someone to care about you. This relationship made me look at myself in the mirror and say, 'You are amazing and this person doesn't know what they're missing out on.'"

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Don't forget who you are and your own needs

"I moved in with a man after only three months of dating. We were mismatched in every way. I'm social, ambitious, and curious, and he was none of those things. I’d been wanting to break up with him for some time but having never lived with someone before, I felt trapped. In the end, I basically backed him into a corner and made him break up with me.

The experience taught me a lot about the importance of reciprocity in a relationship. I need a partner who gives as much as he gets and we should be able to push each other to be better. It also showed me how critical it is for me to maintain my own identity and focus my own needs, even while caring and being present for someone else."

Don't become too dependent on a partner

"By sophomore year of college, we’d already been dating for four years. Even though we had issues, I wasn’t strong enough back then to end things, even when he made little to no effort to see me on campus. I eventually asked him one day while studying together in the library, 'If you don’t want to hang out with me, why are we dating?' He had no response, so we broke up. At the time I was incredibly hurt, but looking back, I couldn’t be happier that we ended it. The breakup changed the way I approach relationships, teaching me not to become dependent on someone who forces me to change who I am."

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Never stay together just because you're comfortable

"I was with my ex-boyfriend for two years. Right before we were about to move in together, he called me and said he was having second thoughts. We’d been long distance for about a year and a half and had only been living in the same state for six months.

We talked it over; there was a lot of crying. In the end, it became more and more clear we were staying with each other simply because we felt comfortable. We realized it was easier for us to stay together instead of face the fact that we weren't right for each other. When I look back, I realize I should’ve been taking risks and finding the right person for me. Instead I was just wasting my time."

Look for someone who shares your drive and outlook

"I was in a relationship with a guy for about three years and had been pushing him for a while to get his act together. He was in his mid-twenties and still living on his parents' money. He would always say that he was trying to change, but his actions never showed it. The longer we were together, the more it irritated me that I was the only driven and motivated one in the relationship.

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When we finally broke up, I didn’t handle it well. But the relationship taught me above all that it’s okay to have standards; you don’t have to stay with someone just because you love them, are attracted to them, and get along well. For me, as a super goal-oriented person, I needed someone who looked optimistically at the future and pushed me to be my best self too. With him, it was entirely one-sided."