This is the story of the one who got away. A few years ago, I was in a relationship with someone. My clearest memory; the recollection that’s etched in my brain was our first kiss. I remember it because a funny thing happened while I was being kissed. The thought that popped into my mind was, “Mills & Boons novels got it right.” That was it. I felt the proverbial electricity and my knees shook. That had never happened to me before. So I decided to analyse why. You know me. I never miss a learning moment .

I had been friends with the guy for a long time. We were in sync mentally and emotionally before we ever got physical. At the root of our relationship was friendship. When he traveled, I felt a physical space where he was supposed to be and a tiredness I couldn’t explain. A bit of colour went out of my world when he wasn’t around. It is instructive that I loved him more at the end of the relationship than at the beginning. Suffice to say, he ruined me for any future relationship that isn’t built on friendship. But regaling you with tales of lost love is not the point of this post.

When a relationship ends, sometimes we make it our benchmark. We view the past with rose-tinted glasses and gloss over the issues. Truth is, in our honest moments, we know we wouldn’t go back to the relationship even if someone paid us to. Yet, it is the capacity to learn from the beautiful mistakes of the past that make future relationships so much better. We must move forward and not keep looking back. If we’re given another chance at love, we must do better, be kinder, love harder, be more sincere and be more generous with our time, heart and resources.

What changes when you learn from your mistakes? Your entire orientation about relationships changes. You now hold the person you’re with in your heart. They are always there. Praying for them becomes reflexive. You walk into a store and think, “They’d like that.” You don’t need an occasion to spend money on them. You’re constantly bringing them things – not only physical but your thoughts, experiences, observations and secrets. It’s like you’re weaving the person into the fabric of your life.

At every point in time, you sense how they’re doing and know whether they are “with” you. There’s this predictability of knowing they are there for you. They’ve made a decision to be with you and aren’t going anywhere. You can rest in that assurance. You don’t need to book an appointment to see them. By default, they keep open their schedule just for you. You no longer ask, “Are you free this weekend?” The conversation becomes, “What are we doing this weekend?” Then there’s the end-of-day check in; that last call. And the first text message of the day that sets the right tone. When you hit a life achievement, there’s someone waiting with a virtual glass of champagne or a cheerleader’s pom pom to celebrate you.

It is these realisations and life changes that make mistakes worth the pain; that cause you to be thankful to the one that got away.

Want more great reads? Check out Learn to Walk Away.

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