Thank u, next: Why Are You So Grateful For Your Ex?
In his podcast ‘On Love’, Alain de Botton explains how we are unconsciously drawn to those who will hurt us in the way we have been accustomed to, particularly in our childhood, and in turn run from those who would love us well; “we cite lack of feeling or that we couldn't see it working - but what it really mean is is that this person wasn’t going to make you suffer in the way the love you’ve known should”. It is unsurprising then, that through our exes we can learn a lot about ourselves and the love we think we deserve - and the ability to harness those learnings can be truly life-altering. In line with this revelation, earlier this month Ariana Grande gifted the world thank u,next a game-changer thanking her exes for the lessons of love, patience and pain. Completely devoid of bitterness, the song is a power anthem for the heartbroken who simply want to move on - because in Ari’s world, nothing is wasted. So in the theme of the song we asked: why are u so f*cking grateful for your ex, what did they teach you, and how did you turn out amazing because of it?
I’m grateful for my ex for so many things. I’m grateful for all the memories, I’m grateful for the lessons, I’m grateful for the person that he is; that I will never, ever be with another person like him. and I’m grateful to him for showing me how strong I am.
He taught me love: he taught me to love myself. He taught me that the most important thing you can do is love yourself and respect yourself beyond measure. I learnt by leaving him that I was learning to love myself. Oh he also taught me a lot of pain, he’s an asshole.
I turned out amazing because I learnt to love someone again without losing myself. I lost and found myself. I turned out amazing because I don’t hold onto my hurt and I’m not jaded. Because I forgive. I’m amazing because I am the strongest person I know.
It took me two years to be so grateful for my ex, so I’ve got a lot of admiration for Ari in getting to being grateful so quickly. But it took the next guy to make me grateful for my ex. I’m grateful for his failure to be what I needed for how it made me see so clearly when what I really needed came along.
I’m grateful for his lack of kindness because it lead me to the kindest man I could've hoped for. I’m grateful for my ex, not because he taught me, but because of what I taught myself through him.
That’s what makes me amazing. He was a lesson worth learning, but it was a lesson I ultimately learnt from and about myself. I'm thankful, but let's not give that guy too much credit, I worked too hard at healing to hand anything else over to him. Thank u, but mostly to myself and my next.
I’m still not sure if I’m grateful for it. It was intense and cost me a lot, and if I could spare myself it again, maybe I would (which kinda defeats the purpose of this article, sorry Ari). I now see it for what it was, that it wasn’t the redemptive love story I thought would make all the pain worth it, but one full of care, duty and love, with someone who really needed it but couldn’t give it back. Honestly, I’m grateful to be free of it. I am grateful to have learnt that one man’s rejection of me can be as simple as a choice made by a person as human and complex as I am. I’m grateful to re write that narrative of rejection. To now see it not as a reflection of my intrinsic worth, but ultimately as a gift of being set free from something I couldn’t walk away from, even though I should have.
He taught me that I can’t necessarily trust myself to do the right thing. That my engine propels me towards rescuing people that have a limited emotional capacity, and I’m driven to win their approval and love. That I will sometimes see the good in people to a fault, and be subject to destructive behaviour because of it. But more recently, I’ve realised he taught me to become hard, to create distance. At some point since him, I stopped letting people close enough to hurt me and instead have always be ready to run. And it’s only now that I’m unraveling that.
I turned out amazing because I learnt that love has many faces, and for all its intensity and trauma, I experienced a sacrificial type of love that few people get to this early on in their life. I learnt I can laugh during trials, endure and have more ’dig deep’ in me than I ever thought available. But ultimately, I turned out amazing because I won’t make myself available again to someone who will cause me to doubt my worth, who isn’t able to compromise or love in the way I, or really anyone, deserves.
My ex taught me two big things. The first is the power of social interaction. Before him I as an anxious introvert who didn’t socialise often. He is a total extrovert and brought me out my shell. I realise now how important friendship and human interaction is for mental health.
The second thing was a hard lesson. I know now what betrayal feels like. I’d heard the word in songs, in films and in conversation but never realised that it is its own fierce emotion. For this I am strangely thankful. As much as it is horrific I think it’s important to experience every emotion in your lifetime.
I don’t know if the turbulent relationship with my ex has left me feeling like I’m amazing. If anything I feel more human and flawed than ever before but I am happy that I have a greater empathy for people who have loved and been lied to.
Our decade together taught me two things, boundaries and that sometimes I have to let go and trust others not you, those who can see what I can’t through the veil of love. I believe the universe will keep throwing you the same lessons until you learn what you need to from them, so I take comfort in the fact that I had to learn these and you were my teacher, wanted or not. It took me giving everything, a trait I thought was vital in love, to learn how important it is to save some of yourself for you too.
Mental health is a bitch, and I wanted you to be well so badly. So I threw myself into supporting you, as if the force of my love could fix you. Now I set boundaries, so my worth isn’t tied to how much I do for you. I’ve finally stopped keeping secrets to protect you. I talk with family and friends and when it looks like I’m going about to make a bad decision or go into rescue mode, I turn to my network and trust their instincts. It’s hard, but I’ve learnt my instincts don’t serve me well when it comes to us.
It was one crazy, dysfunctional, wild ride, but there is a lot to be grateful for. Ten years! We grew up together and you have been integral in shaping the woman that I am. I’m grateful for the wild years as teenagers, and the harder years that have taught me so much. And I am beyond grateful it lead us to our daughter. We were so excited to start a family, I couldn’t have predicted 12 weeks later we would break up and I would leave our house - and while the past three years have been crazy hard at times they have also been so good. Our girl is beyond amazing and mama-hood has brought me so much more than I thought was possible, and that grew from our love. Things are so different now , our lives completely separate, but we share her and I will always try remember with gratitude that she's an expression of both of us
I’m amazing because now I’m a badass mama! All that crazy love I poured into us, she now gets. You lead me to my dream life, I had to leave you to get here but I truly have everything I ever wanted (note to self when the pity party kicks in - I asked for this and now its my reality). And despite there now being only me around to make the decisions, I’ve let go of the need to be in control of everything. I am one resilient human. The aftershocks of ‘us’ are still regular and sometimes crippling, but I also laugh a lot and most of the time feel truly happy.
I’m grateful because for five months of my life a man cooked some truly delicious meals for me and ensured that I exceeded my daily recommended intake of spinach.
He taught me that you can actually cook pasta in pasta sauce, no jokes!! I was absolutely shocked that you can bypass the whole boiling pasta and combining with separately heated pasta sauce process. A one pot meal. Incredible.
Now I’m amazing because I borrowed my flat mates boyfriends pasta maker and literally made my own pasta which is adding 1000 steps to the process that was previously simplified for me. But guess what, maybe it’s ok that some things take a real long time and then they’re real fucken incredible and then they’re gone too soon. Still worth it.