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Breakups are hard, but inevitable. At some point, we all end a relationship for one reason or another—and the longer you’ve been in the dating game, the higher your breakup body count likely is. The funny thing about ending a relationship is that the general consensus is you should forever hate your ex until the end of time, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself why?

When did it become a general rule of thumb that hating your exes is what you’re supposed to do in order to move forward with your life? Isn’t hating someone the antithesis of moving forward? Of course it is, but somewhere along the way it was ingrained in us that we should forever harness bitter resentment towards the other party in our relationship gone wrong.

There are a variety of reasons why relationships end, and they don’t always include deep-seated betrayal, broken trust, abuse, or other forms of mistreatment. Sometimes relationships naturally reach their end all on their own. People grow apart, feelings change, life happens– all circumstances that don’t require you to hate the person you were once in a relationship with.

Everything in life can be used as a learning experience, including ending a relationship. When I think about my past relationships, I’m reminded of where I was in my life at that point. During many of them, I was unhappy with my life, specifically my career, and my laser focus on succeeding professionally was more important to me than cultivating a lasting relationship. In others, I simply dated to pass the time or to fill a void that was missing. Losing focus (or never really having it) in a relationship isn’t necessarily malicious or a character flaw. So instead of being bitter about a breakup, use it as a teachable moment.

Carrying around hate, bitterness and resentment in your heart is a very hard burden to bear—and whether you realize it or not, it will seep its way into your relationships in the future. I’m not saying that you need to go out and become friends with all of your exes, what I am saying is that you need to officially free yourself from the past. Even if your ex treated you terribly, continuing to carry the weight of their indiscretions is only going to hinder your progression in the future. We’ve all heard how so many promising relationships end prematurely because of old relationship baggage—and this is exactly what that entails.

You don’t have to force yourself to feel positively about your ex if that’s not truly what’s in your heart. But you should force yourself not to harbor negative thoughts toward them. Frankly, any energy focused on them rather than yourself is indeed a waste of time. Still, even the worst experiences in life serve their purpose, and your failed relationship could serve as the rain just before your future rainbow.

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