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How Your Bad Relationships Teach You How to Create Good Ones

Have you ever been in one of those really bad relationships? The ones you come out of and wonder wtf happened there? The ones in which you lost yourself yet the person or the sex was compelling, even if the relationship was uniquely awful? The ones that took you to the greatest anxiety, pulled you in tragic directions and to emotional states you’d never experienced before, yet you stayed anyway? I’m glad it’s not just me then.

Those relationships are revealing in their meaning and, once we look back and see the pattern, can be reframed. They’re illuminating about where your shadows can be transformed into light, where your core wounds reveal your greatest gifts and your true value. And what you really need in yourself and from others to create love in yourself and in your life. We can all have these wtf relationships; it’s a natural phase in a human experience. My peak bad relationship was with my fantasy tall, dark, handsome man with the house in the country. It was fun at first, full of love and shared ideas and sexual awakenings. Then, as he wanted to be ever more adventurous with others and I wanted to be exclusive, the cracks appeared. And then the others lovers: his not mine. This took me somewhere I’d never been before in terms of obsession, heartbreak and betrayal. Staying in something for too long that didn’t serve me was a triumph of loyalty over love. I did what women often do: to understand, to problem solve, be compassionate, and to put someone else’s needs first. In this case, his need for non-monogamy above my own for supportive love. Eventually, I got to understand the painful lesson: the revealing of a pattern of choosing unavailable men. I couldn’t blame that particular handsome man. After all, in the previous 10 years I’d been a mistress, then chosen men who were polyamorous or newly divorced. Hah! In hindsight, I can hear the universe laughing as it turned up the volume of suffering with each relationship so that I’d begin to finally get it. Begin to get my own sense of value and what love might look like. And begin to understand that I’d had a choice in what happened to me. I’ve talked to so many women who’ve wondered how they got involved in their version of this, so many of us are fumbling in the dark. So how do we learn from those repeating patterns in our relationship history? Because ultimately it’s up to us to move beyond them. A more powerful position is to look at how we allowed ourselves to get caught up in those patterns, again and again. Where did we abandon ourselves and what were our boundaries? And what do we need to shed light on, in ourselves, to create good, healthy relationships in future? During my foray into my so-called shadows I learned about my own unavailability for love, as well my contempt, my vindictive intelligence, secrecy and self-righteousness. My dark sides aren’t quite as appealing as the qualities that I prefer the world to see. It’s not always easy to accept our responsibility in these wtf relationships but if we don’t, our patterns continue and we might never find personal freedom from recreating the same old crap! Once we accept that we might have been unconsciously in this situation to learn something, we move to a position of personal power. What I learnt was that those poor choices weren’t only present in that particular grand betrayal by the tall dark handsome man with the house in the country. I had form. I now realize from experience how true it was for me that we recreate the stuff in our family of origin in our later relationships. We do this not to keep beating ourselves up, but in order to heal our core wounds whether it’s abandonment, betrayal, rejection, powerlessness or humiliation. Take your pick of the 5 core wounds. My mother had an affair for 10 years in my teenage years, my dad waited. I realize now that unconsciously I was looking to create a betrayal to heal my past hurts and open me to the possibility of real love and supportive relationship. What helped? Tantra helped me realize I had a heart and a body. The Erotic Mind by Jack Morin helped me see the patterns as did Shadow Healing, bodywork and the Enneagram. Throw in wise advisors and understanding friends; the list of help was long. With my willingness to finally see this as more about a soul journey than sex, I broke the pattern. Once you work with the body as well as the mind, everything changes quickly. There was also lot more fun and risk-taking than sitting in a room moaning about my childhood to a therapist. I remember well the beginning advice from one of the many wise advisers along the way: “Read Women who Run with The Wolves, Find your Tribe and practice a lot more Fuck It.” So, next time you find yourself complaining about the latest lover who done ya wrong, also remember you’re more powerful than you think, you have more choice than you believe and it’s up to you to leave, learn from them and create better.

Alison Pilling

Alison Pilling is a sex coach, writer and so much more. Her focus is helping women explore their sensuality, sexuality and relationships. She believes this is a vital part of our lives which is at heart, a spiritual journey, a search for connection with self and others. It’s rarely about sex, it’s really about soul. She’s the vision and organizer behind The Sex Lectures; cutting edge events making visible a growing new field of sexuality professionals and building public awareness of the benefits of an embodied approach to trauma, healing and pleasure. Growing up in a repressed catholic household has had a lot to answer for and Alison is as surprised as anyone to find herself in this groundbreaking field. A seemingly never ending mid-life crisis at 38 sparked a journey involving yoga, meditation, life coaching, art and Tantra at the late age of forty-nine. Since then she has spent the last seven years exploring conscious sexuality with pioneering teachers. Reclaiming and enjoying our sexuality is possible and however tricky, heartbreaking or exciting, it’s ultimately an expansion. In her search for love and deeper connection, Alison may speak for many of us in feeling like we know there's more out there but we aren’t sure what? And how do we get to define, feel and honestly express what we want for ourselves? How can we let sex enlighten us and love enliven us? Exploring the answers to these big questions gives us the best chance of building a life full of love, courage and truth. Alison is keen to broaden the variety of what we do in our bedrooms allowing us to relax into pleasure, eroticism and fun.

Alison offers 1–1 sessions online and in person. To book email To find out more go to

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