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A Thank You To My Ex

A Thank You To My Ex

I have always believed that everyone we meet is for a reason. It is never an accident, there is always a purpose. Even if we get hurt, we learn something so much bigger than the pain we endured.

I thought I had experienced being in love before. I cared for past boyfriends deeply. In a way, I loved them. I just didn’t realize there was a difference between loving someone and being in love with someone. Now I can honestly say that I have been in love once. It was the most beautiful yet terrifying experience I ever had.

The guy I fell in love with, was also the guy that truly broke my heart. Despite all the pain that was caused in the end, I hold no regrets. My ex showed me exactly how big my heart is and just how much love I am actually capable of.

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    I have always been quite guarded. I had my walls up high and it took a fair bit of effort on another person’s part to even get close to me. I’d like to think I’m not quite like that now, but to an extent I am still quite guarded with my heart. When it comes to friendships and meeting new people, I am a pretty open, loving, and outgoing character. When it comes to my heart and opening up my soul to another, I suppose I am pretty cautious as not everyone deserves it. I have many acquaintances and very few people I consider my true friends.

    For the sake of fairness, let’s call my ex “Dave”. Now, it wasn’t a “love at first sight” kind of deal. It was actually quite a slow burn. I had known him for years. I worked with him, lived with him, and also became best friends with him before we even started anything intimate. Through all those years, there was never even an inkling of attraction on my part towards him. However, what I actually had for him was respect.

    Dave was extremely charismatic. He had a magnetism about him that drew people towards him. He oozed confidence, gave great advice, was a master at communicating with people, was always so generous, and would take the shirt off his back to help someone else. He also had a killer sense of humor.

    Here’s my weakness: if a guy can make me laugh, like actually “laugh out loud”, I’m pretty much caught. This may sound easy because I am known to laugh a lot. You know those “lols” or “giggles” where you find something kind of funny, so you nervously (or confidently) fake a laugh to give it some credit? Yeah, that’s me. I do that a lot. If you see me in person, my face is a dead giveaway. I have been told my facial expressions are priceless. It seems to tell all. Now, to get me to actually laugh out loud to the point where my stomach hurts, my eyes are tearing up, and I am chuckling uncontrollably, takes talent. Dave had this talent.

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    Dave and I spent a lot of time together. When we weren’t together, he would randomly call me just to say hi and we would chat for hours. He would send random texts throughout the day, just to make me smile. Our friendship grew and we both started to open up to each other. I told him things about me no one else knew, and he did the same. We would send random Snap Chats, see how each other’s day was going, and enjoy hanging out in each other’s company for hours on end. There were tears, a copious amount of laughter, and many moments of just being silly dorks together.

    He made me feel safe. When I needed a shoulder, Dave was there. When I had a tough day, he would do little things to put a smile on my face. Needless to say, the chemistry between us started to build. I think this went on for months, as I was fighting it and didn’t want to ruin a good thing. However, we eventually started hooking up. This stage also went for another few months. I will still say, as much as the chemistry was insane, there was always that voice in my head telling me to be careful about this one. I didn’t end up listening to it. We became exclusive. It was official and now everyone knew. There was no going back.

    I felt so safe and secure with Dave. I figured because he had known me and seen all the sides of my personality, there was no need to prove my loyalty or trustworthiness to him. After all, he saw what I was like in the work place, and he saw how I was with the boys. He also knew I wasn’t the kind of girl that had a reputation for sleeping around. I thought it was amazing that someone finally understood me and didn’t need to question me. Unfortunately, I was wrong, but that is another story.

    Once Dave and I became official, I let my guard down. I trusted him with all my heart. I never thought (not even for a moment) that he would have the ability to hurt me because I knew how much he cared for me, especially our friendship. At first, I was scared to allow myself to give my heart and be vulnerable. I fought an internal battle. I have always and probably will always be an all or nothing kind of girl. My heart won and I fell hard. The chemistry was off the wall, we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. We were always laughing and just enjoying the simple life and each other’s company.

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    It was like the universe was smiling on us. Everywhere we went, every traffic light would just go green. Things just flowed. I can’t even really explain what it was like to fall in love with Dave. It was nothing even close to what I had ever experienced before. There was really only one word to describe it and that word was “magic”. I realized that I had not in fact been in love before – not even close. This was a whole other level.

    I was always independent. I made my own way, I had my own back, and I worked for everything I had. I relied and depended on nobody but myself. I always took care of myself. Because of this, I always put myself first – until Dave. I found myself becoming selfless. If it made him happy, it made me happy. Just seeing him smile made my day. For the first time in my life, someone else’s needs came before mine.

    The relationship ended badly. It’s safe to say it was the worst break up I have ever been through. I can just say that it was insecurities that caused it to all fall apart. They were insecurities that didn’t need to be there. He wasn’t the one for me. I miss our friendship more than anything, but some doors are better left shut.

    I can’t say that being with him was a waste of time because it took someone like him who knew me for years, to teach me some very valuable life lessons. Dave taught me what it was like to actually be in love. He taught me what I was capable of when I gave my love. He helped shape me. When I actually meet the right guy, now I know exactly how to love him. My ex also taught me exactly what to look out for and what I don’t want.

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    The next time I give my heart away, the man for me will have come to terms with his issues and insecurities already. He will be aware of them; therefore, he will not allow them to control him or take it out on me. There is not a soul on this planet that doesn’t have insecurities. It is just not possible. No one is perfect, and I’m sure I’m not either.

    I don’t know when I will fall in love again, but what I do know is that the right guy for me will love me for exactly who I am, and I will love him for exactly who he is. We will not want to change each other, we will only be by each other’s side to help encourage and motivate each other to grow into the best version of ourselves. If someone is trying to change who you are and wants you to do things that aren’t really you, how can that person really love you for who you are?

    These are the lessons my ex taught me, and even though the break up was extremely painful and a lot of hurt came from it, I cannot thank him enough. I will be forever grateful to have had met him. Without him, I wouldn’t know exactly what I do and do not want. I hope Dave has also learned some valuable lessons from our relationship.

    The universe has a funny way of sending certain people into our lives to make us, break us, or shake us up a little. Even if we meet for a day, a season, or a lifetime, it is always – most definitely – for a reason. Sometimes this reason is camouflaged as a painful event; however, if you look back, it was trying to teach you something.

    How we deal with pain is up to us. As the old saying goes, when something bad happens to you, you have three choices: you can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you. I choose the latter. For that, I thank my ex. He has made me stronger than I have ever been.

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    Last Updated on October 22, 2020

    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

    How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

    Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

    When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

    Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

    What Makes People Poor Listeners?

    Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

    1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

    Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

    Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

    It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

    2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

    This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

    Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

    3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

    It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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    I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

    If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

    4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

    While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

    To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

    My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

    Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

    Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

    How To Be a Better Listener

    For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

    1. Pay Attention

    A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

    According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

    As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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    I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

    2. Use Positive Body Language

    You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

    A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

    People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

    But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

    According to Alan Gurney,[2]

    “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

    Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

    3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

    I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

    Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

    Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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    Be polite and wait your turn!

    4. Ask Questions

    Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

    5. Just Listen

    This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

    I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

    I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

    6. Remember and Follow Up

    Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

    For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

    According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

    It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

    7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

    If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

    Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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    Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

    Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

    NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

    1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
    2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

    8. Maintain Eye Contact

    When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

    Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

    By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

    Final Thoughts

    Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

    You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

    And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

    More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
    [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
    [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
    [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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