There is something about the prefix 'ex,' followed by boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, or partner, that seems to cast a shadow on whatever context it is used. Yes, it is well understood that people who have divorced are more likely to have their subsequent marriages end in divorce. And yes, the end of any relationship can be tumultuous and may involve many nights listening to "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor as you hug your pillow tight and cry like a child sent to his time-out corner.
While I have never been married, and certainly hope never to divorce, I have had my share of failed relationships and rejections. As I reflect back on my own past relationships failures, I can honestly say there is no one that I wish I was still with. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Often I've found myself thanking God that they are out of my life and I have been saved from any further waste of my valuable time. (Honestly, I shake my head sometimes and wonder what was I thinking?)
Sure, when the relationship ends or someone I might have been interested in has rejected me, I might have felt dejected and lamented over it for a moment. But as the saying goes, time heals all wounds and suddenly you realize you might have just dodged a serious train wreck. Here's why:
The Lust Goggles Are Gone. When you are "just so into" someone, it is easy to see them as someone made to perfection. In fact, you may go so far as to miss the fact that they do not line up with your core values. All of a sudden you forget that you were looking for someone with brains, compassion and humour and confuse their good looks and dry personality as the makings of the next Einstein. However, when things start to go sour, their true colours are revealed, much like Toto pulling back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz, and you are left feeling like a blind man given sight. Suddenly, you see what you didn't want to see before and wonder 'how could I be such an idiot?' Not to worry, it happens to the best of us.
Small Problems in the Beginning Make Big Problems in the End. Let's face it, if something about someone slightly bothers you in the beginning, with time it might become the thing that drives you mad. The worst mistake people (especially women) will make is attempting to change someone. You might not like that they smoke, or that they drink milk straight from the carton, or like to speak to the television, so you fall into the delusion that you can change that quality in them. Unfortunately, when they suddenly don't want to join you at the gym because they never have, you can't really be upset, can you? And yet, people will begin to nag and complain about these problems that were always there. Consider this your get out of jail fee card and wise up for your next go around in the dating world.
Saved by the Grace of Rejection. I believe it is important for anyone and everyone to understand their own worth. If you don't value yourself, how can you ever expect anyone else to value you? Likewise, if someone isn't as interested in you as you are in them, consider it a blessing. This person clearly doesn't see your greatness. It doesn't make them a bad person, it just makes them a person who is not right for you. The moment of rejection should be a moment of celebration and thinking, "Whew, I just dodged a chance of wasting my greatness on someone who would not have appreciated it." So, go ahead and do your happy dance!
Learn more about yourself. Just like I mentioned, I often shudder at the guys I was once interested in. However, they've all taught me a valuable lesson. They've shown me what I don't want, and more importantly what it is I want in a relationship. The ex factor teaches you how you want to be treated, how you should treat that special someone and essentially how to make a relationship work -- if you're paying attention. As Ken Solin points out, often the reason why most divorced men are likely to divorce again is because they haven't learned from the mistakes of their previous marriage. We should all pay attention to the lessons that love is teaching us. Try not to be a cynic and realize you've got to kiss a few (okay, maybe a ton of) frogs before you unveil your prince or princess.
Your Relationship Non-Expert,