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To All The Boys I’ve Loved (or Liked) Before: A Thank You

I’ve written a couple of articles on opinions I hold and think readers would benefit from hearing, but this particular article is different. I am taking a page out of my own book, and I’m trying to write something that I, myself, would benefit from hearing. However, it would give me a lot of happiness if my own ramblings would help one of you readers with similar situations and struggles. So here goes nothing!

I’m not sure if this was a subjective or universal experience, but the coronavirus quarantine was a time in my life where I went through many epiphanies and changes, so much so, that I honestly do not recognize myself from this time last year. I had infinite opportunities to just sit at home and reflect on aspects of my life which led me to some intriguing inner conflicts. I was also going through a breakup at the time which added on this pressure to ‘solve’ my romantic difficulties and struggles. I could write a novel about all the things I thought about and the conclusions I came to, but for this article, I wanted to focus on the subject that I had the most solid and clear conclusions in: my romantic relationships. 

My romantic life has been a complete whirlwind of wins and losses, of great memories and painful reminders, and most importantly, of learning experiences. Granted, some of the lessons I have had the privilege of learning are ones that I would have preferred to never encounter, but nonetheless, I try to keep a positive mindset. Like I mentioned above, I was going through a very difficult period in my life during this quarantine reflection, and I’m a huge spiral-er, so I was not only thinking about my current breakup but of all my relationships with the men of my past. Also, for the purposes of the article, when I use the word relationship, I mean official relationships, casual hookups, situationships, you get the gist. I realized that the majority of the people I had been with I no longer liked, and that confused me. At one point I had seen something good in them. Why could I no longer see that? I realized that I originally attributed this change in perspective to the whole ‘I see your true colors’ mantra, but how true was that? And come to find out, it wasn’t. 

Sure, in some cases I learned things about the person that I didn’t like, but I am not blameless in each situation where a relationship of any kind didn’t work out. By projecting this dislike onto my past partners, I let myself take zero responsibility for the failure of my relationships, and ‘moved on’ from these partners simply by not liking them. I was shocked and kind of ashamed at this realization. I had been trying so hard to be a better person for my most recent relationship, but I had taken no time to think critically and constructively about myself as a participant in my past relationships. Thank God for quarantine, because if I was trying to analyze myself as a partner while also taking college classes, doing homework, AND working? I don’t know if I would have been able to come to the conclusions I made. 

So I’m shaking my head, thinking about how I ended up here and being the spirally person I am, and I figured the best way to remedy this pretty bad oversight was to go through all my relationships from my partner's perspectives and try to learn something from those experiences. This was tedious and vulnerable thinking that left me feeling guilty and angry, but motivated to better myself. Once I was able to address my own shortcomings and attributes, I could finally look at my partners as more than just all bad or all good. This took some time, but I was happy I did it. I went through all my past experiences and tried to gain a more realistic perspective on what worked and why it failed. With that knowledge under my belt, I was able to truly process my breakup and move forward in a healthy and happy way. 

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What conclusions have I come to? Well, for all of you out there going through your ‘worst breakup’ and have people telling you that things will get better, the truth is, better is a misleading word. There are days you will feel set free from the pain of losing someone you care about, but then there will be days where their absence is particularly noticeable. But I can assure you that with time, those freeing days slowly begin to outnumber the painful ones. The bad days will turn to bad hours, to bad minutes, and finally, to mere moments where you remember that this person is not in your life anymore. You can deal with moments, no question! And to my surprise, there is a third type of day, the ones where you are truly thankful to have had the times you did with your partner. I enjoy those days very much.

For those of you who have been in a toxic relationship, don’t kick yourself for staying for as long as you did. I spent WAY too long being mad at myself for hoping that things would get better. In the end, I realized I was not blameless, and although I was the one who walked away, it was better for the both of us. I will not sit here and say “be thankful for the experience because you learned your worth” because that's complete B.S. Everyone is worthy of love and affection without conditions. If you had to learn that through a toxic relationship, I’m sorry, and please treat yourself to a hot drink. I’ve found that hot chocolate soothes the soul and repairs the wounds without fail. 

For those of you who are just figuring out your self-worth, hold onto that, and please don’t accept anything less. Those friends or hookups who you hope will turn to something more won’t know unless you tell them. If they are unable to give you what you need, that doesn’t make them a bad person, and it doesn’t make you stupid for hoping they could. It is your responsibility, however, to remove yourself from a situation that will become unhealthy if you stay in it. You are honoring your self-worth by moving on to someone who has a similar goal for a relationship. Plus, maybe a little time apart could open up the window for a good or healthier friendship. 

For those of you who are just trying to get laid, I respect it. Remember that even if you are looking for something casual, everyone deserves to be treated with kindness. Put yourself out there and don’t waste time on people who won’t offer you basic respect; that's a big indicator about how they are in bed. 

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And finally, for those of you who are looking to grow (like myself I might add), try to find at least one thing to be thankful for from each of your past relationships, situationships, FWBs, crushes, or platonic soulmate experiences (if I’m missing one, feel free to add it to the list!). Realize that almost everyone who has brushed against your life or your romantic life specifically, has given you some kind of positive experience. I know it sounds obvious or cliché, but as someone who spent too much time resenting the people who caused her pain, I finally realized how scapegoating your past partners leaves you no room to grow. Of course, there are relationships or experiences that boil down to more bad than good, but at some point, you were brought happiness. I am choosing to focus on the good, no matter how small, and to remember the lessons. That brings me happiness and I’m holding on to that.

Caelyn Nordman

U Mass Amherst '23

Caelyn is a third year Psychology and English double major at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is pursuing the Neuroscience track and is interested in one day completing graduate work in Clinical Psychology and Law. Caelyn is passionate about destigmatizing conversations on mental wellness, sex positivity, and reproductive health. Outside of school, Caelyn enjoys journalling, road trips, and going on walks with her two beautiful dogs. Feel free to reach out to cnordman@umass.edu with any comments or opinions on the topics discussed in Caelyn's articles!
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