Relationships fall into one of two categories. They are either life-giving or purposeful relationships, and they are all worth having. Even the relationships that prove hurtful, toxic, and painful are necessary steps in our evolution. As a result, my contention is that there are no bad relationships, only teachers.  I have learned more from the perceived bad relationships than the good ones. They will teach you something you must learn to evolve, but you are responsible for capturing the lesson. 

Sometimes those relationships will teach you in gentle ways and at times in more harsh, painful manners. The point is that all relationships, especially intimate ones, have the opportunity to teach you a great deal about yourself. This of course does not mean you have to stay in a non-functional relationship. Not at all. The point I am trying to make is that even those relationships we label as “bad,” can be huge blessings in disguise.

A Purposeful Relationship

Years ago, I found myself in a purposeful relationship. Of course, I didn’t know this at the time. It came at first like a gentle breeze of rain to water my dried and sad soil and soon everything in me felt like blooming again. I had come out of a 23-year marriage and although we had a great ride, I had forgotten I was capable of great passion. The first year with my new boyfriend was magnetic. Like most new relationships, everything was all lollipops and rainbows. He made me feel alive. Yes, you could say I was in love. I had so desperately longed for a passion like that (emphasis on the desperately) and here it was. I was so thrilled by what I was feeling that I missed seeing all the signs of trouble. Desperation is never a good advisor. It surely leads to bad choices.  

The important thing about this particular relationship is that it came to teach me things I didn’t know about myself. It was like rain to a desert. It taught me that I was indeed a woman of great passion and capable of feeling intensely, the emotions that I had long suppressed.  I was brought up with the belief that one must choose with the head and not the heart because romance makes people soft and stupid. Well, here I was, for the first time being stupid. I was enjoying life —traveling the world, experiencing things I never had before, and letting my heart lead. 

Warning Signs

In the best of times, the relationship came to teach me that I could be soft, feminine, and that I did believe in romance, love, passion, and that there was nothing wrong with me. I was in LaLa Land you could say. But while I was enjoying my fairy-tale story, everyone who cared for me kept warning me that I was headed straight for the cliff. 

“What are you doing? Can’t you see that this guy is a user? Don’t you see it? He is only doing it because he is milking you dry,” said my cousin. 

“No, he is not,” I said in an offended tone. “You don’t know him.” 

But my cousin didn’t need to. He knew his kind. My Prince Charming was like those majestic, rare plants found in the Amazonian jungle that bloom beautiful flowers, but they prefer to eat live flesh rather than minerals from the soil. There are about 630 specimens in the world and my beau was one of them. But I didn’t want to listen. The ride up to my emotional cliff was just so overwhelmingly delicious that I was no longer in control of the car. Unlike most fairy tales, my prince had a dual role in this story. He was the Prince Charming and the Wicked Witch all in one. The Universe proved quite efficient in bundling all I needed into one package. 

The Storm Approaches

Suddenly the gentle breeze I felt when he first arrived became a massive tornado followed by what I can only describe in nature as a hurricane. The excessive downpour turned my life into mud, depleting all the nutrients from my soul. It stumped my growth and everything that had bloomed became spoiled and dead again. I finally saw the massive cliff in front of me but before I could yell stop, stop, the brakes seemed to have been cut and I had no choice but to crash down below in what felt to me like a dark abyss. I saw myself falling in slow motion and as I was falling from my high pedestal, I could hear the echo voices of those who warmed me. Shit, this fall is going to hurt, I thought.

The weather turned on me. I went from being loved to being rejected, from adored to criticized. From being placed on a high pedestal to being dropped to the ground. From being the only one in his bed to sharing him with many concubines, clandestine flings who were most likely also victims of his web. I didn’t understand how all the love he professed could be gone. But it was —as quickly as he had professed it, (a clue to run) he quickly took it back. 

I felt lifeless. I was walking and functioning, but I was dead inside. The hurricane was over, but it took me years to rebuild the sequels of his destruction. I found myself broken and my only saving grace was my daughters. I learned to find strength in me I didn’t know I had because I had no choice. For the first bit, I pretended that I was strong. I lied to everyone that I was fine but deep inside I was a shell of a woman. There was no trace of the woman I had been. But in retrospect, that was a good thing. 

“Mommy, do you want to go to Owen Park and play?” my sweet Emma would ask in her angelic voice. Who could resist those green eyes and smile, that truly lit up the world?

“Of course, baby. Let’s go.” 

The park? My soul shouted; I don’t want to go. I’m miserable. I just wanted to dig a hole and die. But I would go to the park and push beyond my limits to smile. Emma probably knew I was suffering inside. Children have an incredibly developed intuition, and this was perhaps her way of not letting me die. Each morning I pushed myself to get out of bed to take my girls to school and function when they were around.  But I was still lost. The storm may have passed but it lived still in me. I hated myself for being so naïve. 

After months and months of suffering, I decided on one of those dark nights of the soul as they call them, that I was tired of walking dead, and it was time to return to the living. My kids deserve a better mother, I reminded myself. I deserve a better me.  I began to break out of my cocoon. It took me some time. It was not a quick process but little by little, the times of despair lessened. I’m tired of feeling like the victim, I said to myself. So, I decided that I was not going to crawl on the ground anymore. I was going to birth my wings and fly. 

Rebuilding after the relationship

Through the process of rebuilding, I learned to love the woman in me. Instead of blaming myself and saying unkind things to myself, I began to feel pride for my brave journey out of the abyss. There were days when I felt that I made leaps forward and other days when I had to drag myself through the mud to get to the surface again, but I did it. That process made me fall in love with myself for the first time. The voice that told me I was a victim ceased. A new story emerged that told me I was a survivor and a guerrilla fighter like the amazing women who raised me.  Interesting that it was in my darkness and from my pain that I met the woman I love in me. 

The most important thing I learned through that relationship was that I didn’t need to rely on anyone to come make me feel alive. I learned to water my own roots and today I live a full, joyful, and fulfilling life. Now that all the pain has subsided and I have healed the wounds, I have learned to look at that particular relationship as my greatest teacher. It was by far the one that has taught me the most about my resilience and inner power. Like the popular saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” —that was precisely what it did for me. It taught me that it is powerful to stand alone and face the fears that come from the unknown. It cracked my soul open and propelled me to make the changes and healing I needed to lead a healthier life. 

But here is the important thing I want you to consider. Had I not gone through those things, I wouldn’t have learned the valuable lessons that I did, and my life wouldn’t be the amazing life I have today. But I also know that I had to put forceful effort into squeezing the lessons out of that sour potion. That is what you need to do if you wish to heal. The lessons won’t just appear. That would be too easy, and nothing worth learning and appreciating is handed on a silver platter. You must dig, drag, crawl, pull, push, sweat, and bleed it out. That’s where the real work is. But the result is freaking amazing. I hope you take this story as a testament to what is possible! 

I believe that most of the disappointment comes from thinking about relationships as something that is just supposed to make you feel good, happy, and fuzzy, but the reality is that relationships also have another purpose. Part of their role is to help you learn and/or bring out to the surface things that need attention and healing, and they will drag it out often by inflicting a lot of pain. 

Either way, I contend that even the not-so-good relationships are good because they came to serve a purpose. If you learn to think of each encounter as a teacher, you will feel less devastated and more prepared for whatever the relationship presents. You will be sad, but it won’t break you. Realizing that even those relationships that hurt you were necessary and have served a purpose in your development, is therapeutic and it can help you let go of whatever anger, anxiety, and resentment you still hold. I hope my message has touched you in some way. Let me know how it has landed for you and I hope my story inspires you to change how you view relationships.


With Gratitude, Waleuska Lazo