It’s no secret that I’ve had some pretty shitty relationships in the past. In many ways, I’m really thankful to the exes who didn’t treat me right, because they helped to teach me what I deserve out of my relationships. There are other ways that I still can’t wrap my head around why they treated me the way they did. I learned a lot about myself through these bad relationships, though – and here are the things I would say if I had the chance now.
(As a side note, it’s probably not helpful to actually say any of these things to your ex – chances are, she doesn’t care, and you’ll only be prolonging the pain. I personally wrote mine into my journal, but it took a long time to get to the point where I realized these things.)
Thank you for treating me like you were the best I deserved.
For a long time, I even believed you. When you told me I was disgusting, I listened – and I adjusted my behavior, thinking it could change your thoughts of me. But, in hindsight, you were right – I couldn’t get someone better than you until I changed the way I thought about myself. Once I realized that the problem wasn’t what I did, but how I thought, it was much easier to attract someone who saw what I was truly capable of – because I was sure to make it known.
Thank you for making me doubt myself.
As much as it hurt to hear everything you thought I couldn’t do, it empowered me to prove you wrong – even if I didn’t start until after you were out of my life. Your doubt in me helped to shape the person I knew I had to become after we broke up. You doubted that I’d be able to live on my own, so I paid my share of the bills without your checks to fill in the gaps. You doubted I’d ever be happy in life, so I made sure to create a life I loved. I stopped doubting myself, because you had already used up all the doubt I felt I could afford in my life.
Thank you for making me think it was all my fault.
Your constant accusations against my person made it so much easier to identify the things I actually was doing wrong, and the things that were really just unfair expectations. You taught me how to find these things in my own actions before someone pointed them out, so I could make the change without being humiliated. You taught me that fault is rarely on a single person, and that incompatibilities usually come from misunderstandings.
Thank you for breaking my trust.
I used to have a very trusting heart, and it got me hurt more than it really helped me. Sure, I had some people who blew me away with their trustworthiness – but you were never one of those people. You broke my trust, and you made it easier for me to value the people who had never let me down. Most of all, you taught me that I don’t need to trust everyone in my life – and, in fact, trusting less can help keep me from getting hurt.
Thank you for teaching me how to keep secrets.
If it wasn’t for you, I never would have realized that I don’t need to tell everyone all the details of my life. Of course, now I work to tell people the things that most would keep as secrets – but I’m not doing it because I feel like I have to; I do it because I want to help others. If you hadn’t taught me how people react to hearing uncomfortable things from their loved ones, I never would have been inspired to be that listening stranger for others.
Thank you for still fucking with my head after you’re no longer in my life.
The way you tore my life (and my heart) apart taught me a lot about my own state of mental health. If I wasn’t thinking about every time you told me I needed to be medicated, I never would have had the gumption to manage my anxiety without pharmaceutical drugs. If I wasn’t thinking of the ways your words hurt me, I wouldn’t know to try not to say such hurtful things to others. If I wasn’t thinking about all the things you told me I’d never be able to do, I wouldn’t be living my life (and doing those things) now.
Thank you for making me question if I’m being led on.
Because of the ways your abuse turned from subtle to overt, I now know how to identify the things that are absolutely inappropriate from a partner. The way you messed with my mind helped me to realize what I shouldn’t put up with again – and it allows me to see things early enough that the problems might be fixable. I can identify when my partner is starting to fall behind on her end of our relationship, and I can say something gentler than if it was left to fester. I know what’s important to me because of all the things you didn’t give me.
Thank you for always playing the victim.
There isn’t a single human on earth who is without fault, but you tried to make me (and everyone else) think that you were that person. If you told a lie and it didn’t add up, it was never “I’m sorry – I didn’t want to hurt your feelings,” it was “Why don’t you trust me?” Because of the way you made it sound like the world was out to get you, I am more careful to evaluate where I place the blame. By identifying nothing as your fault, you taught me to accept the things that really were my own fault.
Thank you for making me feel like I was shit.
I’m told I get my stubborn nature from being born as a Taurus. I’m not sure if I entirely believe that, but I do believe that I have an obligation to try to do the things that I’m told I can’t do. If you tell me I’ll never be anything, I’m going to try twice as hard just to prove you wrong. If you tell me I’m ugly, I’m going to do everything in my power to make myself look good – which, I’ve learned, comes down to confidence, more often than not. Your lack of confidence in me inspired me to develop some of my own.
Thank you for everything you took away from me.
There used to be a number of things that I thought I needed in my life – my animals, my cell phone, even my clothes. Almost without exception, you took these things away from me, either in a literal sense or in a more metaphorical way. You taught me that the only things I really need are my body, my thoughts, and the support of someone who cares about me – which, in many cases, can all be contained within myself. Because of everything you destroyed, I learned the things that were truly important.
Thank you for lying about things that didn’t even matter.
These little, nonsensical lies helped to form my understanding of how the psychology of lying works in the first place. By seeing how easy it was for you to lie about things that there was no reason to lie about, I started to pay closer attention to my own statements. If there was a chance they could be twisted and misinterpreted, or if there was any chance they weren’t actually true, I’d take a step back and make myself more clear. Now, I may be guilty of over-explaining, but that might be better than leaving out the important details.
Thank you for going through the motions instead of just leaving me.
Because you didn’t leave when things got hard, I got resilient. I learned that I could make things work, if I tried hard enough – and now that I’m with someone who matches my effort and appreciates the things I do, I know I am capable of so much more. Knowing how resilient I was when things were all wrong has taught me that I deserve to give myself the same resilience when things are all good, so that they can become great.
Thank you for showing me what I’ll never do again.
The most important thing I got from our shitty relationship was a renewed sense of self – I knew that the person I had become when I was with you was not the person I was destined to be. I knew that the things I put up with were not my destiny, either, and I became strong enough to ban that behavior from my life. My current partner has finished what you started, by showing me how much better things can be – and, in fact, how much better they should be.
Thank you for finally letting me go.
Possibly the most important thing you ever did for me was when you let me go. We had been stuck in a painful dance for far too long, and the day you took things that one step too far, you begged me to change my mind – but I had had enough. I believe you even told me, “You’ll never find someone like me!”, and you weren’t exactly wrong. Once I had you out of my life, I made a promise to myself that I’d never be in that position again – and the seven-year battle with you was over, all at once. I had found my strength, and I had found my worth.