Learning From Relationships

The number one topic people ask me to write about is relationships. On an average of once a week, I’ll get an email asking something like “How do you deal with heartbreak?” — “What do you do when a relationship is one-sided?” — “What steps do you have to take to make a relationship work?”

I’m reluctant to reply to these inquiries because I know that every relationship is different. Different people from different backgrounds. Different motives, different expectations, and different perspectives. The only thing that’s the same from one relationship to another is that they’re learning experiences.

In this article, I’ll be sharing some of the things I’ve learned from my past relationships.

The thing is, I’m hesitant about publishing this article. Here’s why:

It’s impossible to share the whole story — Most of my relationships span at least one year. Consequently, for each woman there are hundreds of memories: Conversations, dates, fights, resolutions, milestones, misunderstandings, promises, and lies. Although every memory is potentially a learning opportunity, it’s impossible to share everything.

It’s personal — Not only for me, but also for the women I’ve dated. Since it would be a disrespectful invasion of privacy to use real names, I’ll be masking the identities of my past girlfriends using pseudonyms.

It’s painful — Regardless of how much time has passed, it is still difficult to recall certain breakups. Journal entries from these hurtful times preserve all that I was feeling with explicit detail, allowing me to relive them with vivid realism.

The above reasons have continually stopped me from publishing articles about the private relationships that I’ve had. Similarly, I stop myself from revealing too much about my current relationship because doing so could potentially damage it. In addition to this primary concern about ruining what I have with Cassie, I’m also aware that for as long as I’m dating her I’ll be viewing our relationship through biased eyes.

In other words, I’m still learning from relationships. I certainly don’t know everything, and someday I’ll probably even disagree with the things I think I know now. At any rate, below are the ten most important things I’ve learned from relationships:

10. Common Goals Are Important

“Tina” and I started dating when she asked me to go to her junior prom. We broke up after my senior prom two years later due to different goals for the future. I wanted to earn an undergraduate degree, while Tina wanted to earn a living babysitting. I felt embarrassed about the growing education gap between us, and I ended the relationship before I left for college.

9. You Can’t Love Someone You Don’t Know

I had a crush on “Jill” while I was dating Tina. Fascinatingly, there was no real basis for the feelings I supposedly had for her. I seemingly picked Jill to be my “dream girl” just because she was unattainable — I never spent time with her outside of school, I was less popular than her and her friends, plus I couldn’t even consider dating her so long as I was with Tina. I didn’t love Jill, because I didn’t even know her. What I fell in love with was the impossible fantasy of dating her. Looking back on these feelings, I can’t help but think I was being utterly stupid.

8. Common Goals Aren’t Everything

I was excited when I met “Anne” in college because she and I had a lot in common: We were dedicated to our education, we were attending school under full scholarship, we were uninterested in drugs and alcohol, and we both believed that saving sex until marriage was the right choice. Of course, choosing your significant other with a checklist like this provides no guarantee you’ll enjoy their company. There were a lot of things about my personality that Anne found annoying, and vice versa. After dating for one year, we came to understand that we weren’t even fit to be friends.

7. Being Fake Is A Mistake

I got it into my head that in order to have a successful relationship, I needed to be whoever my girlfriend wanted me to be. Consequently, when I began dating “Sophie” I accepted her religious faith in order to be accepted by her parents. I quickly learned that accepting Christ into your heart is an incredibly personal decision that should not be taken lightly. Furthermore, I learned that you shouldn’t need to act like someone you aren’t in order for someone else to love you. If someone is meant to love you, then they will love you for who you truly are.

6. Coincidences Make Coincidences, Not Soul Mates

For every goal that I had in common with Anne, I had two interests in common with “Wendy.” Favorite musical genre. Favorite band. Favorite song. Favorite independent filmmaker. Favorite movie. Favorite food. Favorite choice of Chinese takeout. Favorite Nintendo game. Favorite recreational sport. Wendy and I shared a series of coincidences so long that I became convinced we were meant for each another. When I told her how I felt, Wendy said she was attracted to girls… (“What a coincidence!”)

5. The Best Relationships Are Rooted In Friendship

I had been friends with “Myra” for three years. Our friendship flourished despite several fallouts among our closely knit circle of friends. We genuinely cared about one another, a fact made clear by the countless times Myra was there for me, and vice versa. The night of my college graduation ceremony, I gave myself to Myra. The sex was expectedly awful due to my inexperience, but I didn’t care: I was happy to experience my first time with someone I loved and trusted — someone I knew would be my friend forever.

4. The Worst Relationships Are Rooted In Sex

After I gave myself to Myra, I felt comfortable exploring sex with other women. I enthusiastically began dating “Lana,” a self-proclaimed nymphomaniac. I imagined that a relationship consisting of lots and lots of sex would be awesome — and at first, I thought it was. Over time, however, I realized that as nice as sex may be — it isn’t everything. We could barely hold a decent conversation with one another. We never made each other laugh. Sometimes it felt as if we were little more than strangers. Worst of all, it was embarrassing to introduce Lana to my friends. I felt like everyone knew what I was using her for, and that none of them approved.

3. Speak Your Mind, Even When You’re Scared To

I met “Tori” in the outdoor dining area of a restaurant. Although both of us appeared to be spending our lunch break eating alone, I couldn’t gather the courage to ask if she’d like some company. It was after I had finished my lunch and went to throw away my trash when I finally talked to her. I said something like “Hi, I’m Shaun. I noticed you were eating alone, and I considered asking you if you wanted some company, but I didn’t — and now I’m disappointed that I didn’t.” She asked why, to which I daringly replied “Because I think you’re gorgeous.” Tori gave me her number and we became friends. It’s interesting to think that we might not be if I didn’t speak up.

2. Dare To Disagree

I didn’t learn this from one specific relationship — I learned it from several failed ones. It’s important to fight because it helps remind you that you’re different people. In relationships where I allowed myself to be a pushover, my girlfriend often became frustrated because she didn’t want me to just agree to everything. She wanted me to have my say. Sometimes when I didn’t disagree, we’d end up going somewhere to do something that I didn’t enjoy. I’d be miserable, and she’d be mad. (“You should have just told me you’d rather…”)

1. Communicate

The most fundamental aspect of any relationship is communication. Without it, relationships can’t exist. So if you’re looking for closure to mend heartbreak — if you’re unsure of what to do about a one-sided relationship — or if you’re just trying to make a relationship work, remember to communicate.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

If you've found this website helpful, please click the PayPal button. You will be helping me pursue my dream career as a writer. Thanks for your support!

9 Responses to “Learning From Relationships”

#1 marti on 14, Feb, 2008 at 9:04 am

You’re pretty wise. My husband and I have been together 6 years, and we’re quite happy. One major reason is we don’t sweat the small stuff. There’s always going to be something about the person you love that annoys you…but at the end of the day, my man is an affectionate, considerate, and generally beautiful person. I’d be crazy to let a little thing like laundry on the floor ruin that.

#2 Pat R on 14, Feb, 2008 at 10:26 pm

Shaun – I wish you love whether you choose to continue to be with Cassie or not and for both of you on Valentine’s Day, at this time and moment, I send you this and hope you listen to this song sung by John Denver called, “For You” (you can hear a piece of it at http://www.mp3.com/albums/166997/summary.html). I’ve written more on this on my blog.

Have a sweet and loving Valentine’s evening.

#3 Stephen Hopson on 15, Feb, 2008 at 8:46 am


While I’m not in a “relationship” and haven’t been in quite some time, I enjoyed reading through the list of 10 things you learned about being in one.

I think the most important tip you provided was to be authentic. I can tell you the number of times I would pretend to be enthuaistic about something just for the sake of the other person. Once I realized that, I began to say exactly what was on my mind, but I had to be careful not to do it just for the “sake of disagreeing.”

Great article. You are an inspiring, authentic person who is going through what every person goes through – you’re just more honest about it.

#4 Deb Estep on 15, Feb, 2008 at 11:10 am


You’ve shared some excellent advice.

I’ve totaled 28 years married, but that does not make me an expert in relationships, but I sure have learned along the way.

A lesson I learned after 16 years in a verbally abusive marriage, IF it hurts and you are losing YOU, it needs to be ended. My children were able to see what a stable family life was like after the divorce. Instead of subjecting them to the cycle of abuse, I ended the cycle. The good thing is my ex went on to get the help he needed.

There is a web site that I just can’t recommend highly enough. The important resources on this site are provided FREE.

DO NOT let the marriage builders name scare anyone off. ALL the information can be translated very easily to – Relationship builders.


#5 AntonioCS on 15, Feb, 2008 at 6:56 pm

Wow, for a computer guy you sure had a lot of girlfriends.
You gave some great advice, thanks 🙂

#6 Anirudha on 21, Feb, 2008 at 7:10 am

Hey Shaun,
Very nice advice there. Agree with AntonioCS, I’m a software programmer and had only 3 girlfriends till now and same is for others programmers.
A lot to learn from you.

#7 Nomad on 07, Mar, 2008 at 1:47 pm

Dude one advice, “Don’t get married”

#8 "Beth" on 31, Mar, 2008 at 3:58 am

I was interested in checking out this site after I heard about it from some friends of ours.
I’d like to ask very kindly that you never refer to me on this site again.. and for the record, I have a job as an educator and am 5 weeks away from 2 Bachelor’s Degrees. Some of us had to work to support ourselves in college and babysitting happened to be the way I did. Maybe you’re not the greatest person to be giving others advice on goals since it appears you don’t even have a job.

By the way, I’m now married and my husband gainfully employed.

PS- using someone’s middle name does not count as a pseudonym.

#9 sujeet kumar on 07, Jun, 2010 at 10:47 pm

hey well done sir….i hav wriiten so great lines.all the very best

Leave a Reply