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Purpose to Pain

At the end of any relationship it’s common to go through the “I’m never dating again!” phase. It doesn’t matter if you were together for a month, a year, or a decade -pain is pain. Once you open yourself up to another person there’s a type of emotional bond that’s formed. When you show someone the true, real you, it’s heartbreaking when they reject you or it doesn’t work out. Yet in the pain you can find a greater purpose. A purpose that can show you what you need so the next relationship will be better and more successful.

This practice asks you to go back to your previous relationships and really evaluate what went wrong. By doing so you can find common themes that will give you insight into the type of person or relationship you truly want.


Begin by writing or typing the names of your previous partners. If you’ve never had a serious, long-term relationship you can still use people that had an impact on you emotionally. Think of dates you’ve had or conversations that went poorly. Any time you’ve felt hurt or let down by someone you were romantically interested in counts.

Once you have your list of names, make a column of concerns. Put in this column any instances or examples of when this person hurt or disappointed you. Perhaps it was when they forgot your birthday, selfishly splurged your money, controlled an important decision, or cheated on you. There are many defining moments in a relationship, so think back to the ones that impacted it negatively or lead to the breakup. Complete this step for each person on your list and try to find 3-5 examples.

After your concerns column create a column of characteristics. Look back at the previous column and for each person write down the characteristics that bothered, irritated, or infuriated you. These can be tied to the examples you gave, such as forgetful, selfish, controlling, or unfaithful. You can also think about other personality traits that always seemed to bother you or tendencies that caused arguments. Maybe they never stopped talking, complained all the time, or always had to be right. Come up with 3-5 negative characteristic traits for each person.

Finally, create one last column of caution. You’ll now look at the previous columns for all of your relationships and try to find the common themes. See if there are overlapping examples or attributes that you’ve deemed unworthy and negative. Make note of anything that occurs more than two times. Because anything that’s happened twice is bound to happen again. The more aware you are of what you don’t want in a partner, the greater the chance you’ll find what you need.


By going through your old, failed relationships you’re allowing yourself to find some purpose where the pain was. Once you can identify and see the reasons why it ended, it’s easier to know what you need for a successful relationship. The goal of the practice isn’t to create a checklist of the perfect partner. You still can’t judge a book by its cover. But now if you have concerns when you meet or get to know someone, you can check your list of caution. Knowing the “type” of person you typically fall for is important, especially if they’re the ones that tend to hurt you. Use your list to remind you of your worth. You’ll make it through the pain and emerge with new insight and love lessons learned.

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