Breakups are achingly painful to move on from. I won’t deny that heartbreaks caused my most tear-filled nights. At the time, I grappled with thoughts like:

“What went wrong?”

“Why wasn’t I enough?”

I couldn’t see past the stark loneliness, confusion, and sense of betrayal I felt.

But now that it’s been over three years since my last heartbreak, I wish I could go back in time and hug my younger self. I’d tell her two things: that I’d survive this unbearable pain and that, eventually, I’d get to a point where I’d learn a lot from those breakups.

When a relationship ends, you may think it was a waste of time, but there’s a lot you can learn from it. Longevity doesn’t negate all the experiences you went through, and if you take the time to reflect on your relationship, you can have better ones moving forward.

When the time comes that you can see your relationship as a blessing, here are a few reasons that will be:

You learn what you don’t want in a relationship.

Finding a great partner is like trying new foods when you’re a kid. You might assume you love pizza, but until you’ve tasted it for yourself, you can’t be sure. Perhaps after your first slice, you decide you’re a tacos kind of person.

Love is the same way. We have no idea what would make us happy before our first relationship. We only received knowledge about love from TV shows and our friends. But, just like our taste in food, the same kind of relationship doesn’t make everyone happy.

Now that you have information about relationships that you can learn from, reflect. What qualities about the relationship brought out the worst in you? When did you feel unhappy? Were there things you wish had been different?

What you uncover is invaluable information for when you’re ready to move on. Without reflecting, you may repeat old patterns that aren’t making you happy. Better to learn the lesson now.

You find out that breakups aren’t rejection; they’re a redirect.

Thinking back on my breakups where I was the one dumped, I felt utterly rejected. I’d been vulnerable with someone, and they chose to remove me from their life. While those heartbreaks felt deeply personal, I now see them as something different: re-directs.

What I mean by a re-direct is this: imagine you’re walking through one of those corn mazes that pop up on the side of the road in autumn. You feel confident you’re heading in the right direction until you turn a corner and see a dead end.

What do you do? You most likely don’t sit down on the dirt and give up. Instead, you turn around and choose a different path, hoping to find the exit.

A breakup is like a dead end in a corn maze. It may feel like your world is ending, but you’re being redirected. Instead of spending more time with someone who would’ve left eventually, you now have the opportunity to find someone who’s a better match for you.

A breakup isn’t the final stop on your love life; it’s just a call to pick a different path (aka, a different person).

You have more time to invest in yourself.

It’s a sad reality that people get into relationships and neglect the rest of their life. Don’t get me wrong: I understand why it happens. I used to be the queen of ghosting friends in favor of my newest boyfriend.

But after going through a breakup, you’ll find yourself with a lot of free time. That might bring up feelings of loneliness or longing for your ex but try to see that newfound time as a blessing. You can finally put energy into the person who matters most: you.

Mold a life that you love living. See your friends, start a book club, learn to cook, or create personal goals you’ve been putting off achieving. Invest time into the things you’re passionate about and bring you joy.

Doing so will make you feel more like yourself again, plus you’ll have less time to spiral about your ex or stalk them on social media.

You learn that love alone won’t make a relationship work.

In college, I dated a guy I thought was my soulmate. We had an instant spark the moment we went on our first date. Within the first few weeks of knowing one another, he told me he loved me. I thought we’d be together forever.

It’s no surprise that we eventually broke up, not in a calm, mutual way. Just like our relationship began in a fiery whirlwind, it ended in one, too. I felt devastated, and I didn’t understand why we couldn’t make things work if we loved each other.

I see now that while our relationship wasn’t lacking love, it didn’t have respect, healthy communication, or trust. I thought a relationship could survive on love alone, but that wasn’t the case.

While it’s heartbreaking to watch a relationship end with someone you loved, know that a great relationship needs more to survive. One day you’ll find someone with whom you feel safe and can thrive.

You learn you can survive anything.

Kanye and Kelly Clarkson said it best: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That may sound cliché, but in the moments when you think you’ll break but don’t, you learn a lot about yourself.

You learn ways to help you get through hard times. You find out the exact flavor of ice cream that cheers you up in seconds; you’ll discover the feel-good TV show that brings you comfort. And most importantly, you’ll realize you’re able to survive the worst kind of pain: heartbreak.

While I hope you experience a minimal amount of breakups, it’s empowering to look back and see that we survived such a painful experience. Life is full of uncertainties, and not everything will be fun, but as long as you can trust yourself to survive the worst, you’ll be just fine.

Kirstie Taylor