I’ve had some tough luck in love. I’ve also been dumb and imperfect.
I’ve tried to learn a lot and grow from the mistakes I made, from the things my ex’s did right and wrong that I reacted improperly to, and to try to be better at choosing who I allowed myself to fall for and how I contribute to a relationship.
From my ex in high school who told me he loved me. We were together almost a year when I realized all of the ways he didn’t appreciate me.
I went to all of his family events. I tried harder to get better at Spanish so I could speak to his family, most of whom spoke only Spanish, and forgiving him for never coming to any of my family’s gatherings. He pushed one final button and I told him I couldn’t do it anymore. I showed up on his doorstep with a bear I had dressed to look just like him. I knocked on his door and when he answered I was not warmly welcomed. I gave him the gift anyway and he belittled it. He tried to brush me away, and that was it. I broke up with him the next day. Less than a week later, he screwed another girl in the back of a car right out front of the school while we were all getting out of practice.
I thought maybe he left because I wouldn’t do those things. I thought that maybe if I had done those things, he would have tried harder to keep me. Then I thought it through and knew I was wrong. That I deserved to be appreciated for so much more than the easy girl in the back of the car that was discarded a month later.
I had wanted to keep myself from going all the way until I was 18. I’m not really sure why. Maybe I once told my mom I would, maybe I read somewhere that it was a good age to wait until, maybe I thought that was old enough and informed enough. I started dating a guy I met at the theater when I was 17, he was 20. He was sweet, and kind, and Jewish, and cute. I made the move and it escalated from there. Prom and my 18th birthday were coming up, we had been dating for eight months or so and I knew we would be together through my birthday and I didn’t want to be a taboo teenager, so I mulled it over for a few more weeks and two weeks before my 18th birthday I told him I wanted to. Then, I realized he wasn’t the driven man with some setbacks that I thought he was. He was sweet and cute, but he couldn’t have the intellectual conversations I wanted. He didn’t drop out of college to find himself, he dropped out because it was too hard and he didn’t try. He borrowed money from me for gas but had money for weed. He failed three times to go to his drug test for EMT school that he told me early on in our relationship was what he wanted to do. The third time he told his mom he didn’t go because he was with me all day, but I had just gotten there. That was it. It was one thing to not be driven, another to not pursue a supposed dream, another to not stave off smoking for a few weeks so that he could test clean, but lying was off limits. He lied to his mother who let him live in her house, he clearly lied about his goals or he would have gone after them, and he used me to lie. I was weak, and I gave him a few more chances.
The big second chance I gave him was after I got a message from a girl I had met once back home while I was away at college telling me, using a pet name for him, that he had been cheating on me. Her phrasing “has been cheating on you”. I became a flurry of emotions and waited about an hour before calling him so I could be calm. I told him what she said and said “please explain”. He burst into apologies, told me it was one night, that he had gotten wasted and didn’t even remember anything and that it had been a threesome with her and one of his friend’s I had met a few times. I told him I needed some time. I forgave him. We were together a little over two years when I was one year in to college and he still hadn’t made any moves to get out of his parent’s house (he had moved from his mom’s to his dad’s). I broke up with him for the last time.
In college I had my first one night stand, and then I realized I didn’t need a relationship; especially not from boys who didn’t truly appreciate most women, let alone me. I could have the physical I wanted and the emotional I needed from mutually exclusive persons. Most of my one night, two night, long-term stands were great. I also got taken advantage of. Some nights I was too drunk to say no and too embarrassed in the morning to admit what happened. Other nights I just wanted to make out but then it felt like I never got the opportunity to say no and felt like it was my fault for leading them on so I just let it happened. Twice I was outright raped. Once was completely against my will with choking that made me scared I would suffocate and pain that was excruciating. The other I was fairly drunk but said no multiple times and when he continued, I ended up kicking him off of me and demanding he leave my apartment. I told someone in his fraternity that I trusted and told them that if I went to the police it’d ruin his life. All I wanted was for him and some other senior brothers to talk to him and explain that no means no and it wasn’t okay; it never got further than a meeting with him and his fraternity brothers. I never reported either incident, I blamed myself.
Then I finally thought I was in a good relationship. A guy who said he knew what he wanted in life, who had a nice car and a seemingly great family. Then time moved on and things got complicated, His sisters often caused drama between each other, his father was a drunk and mean, and sometimes both, and his brother had a girlfriend that caused major amounts of drama for everyone and was exceptionally attention seeking. I could deal with all that, especially because his mother and her boyfriend were amazing and everyone was great in their own way, even if occasionally over dramatic. He, however, soon began to show his true colors.
When we first began dating, I made it clear I wanted to, long term should we have kids, raise them in my faith. He said “fine” that he was “pretty much an Atheist” anyway. When we were together going on two years and it became more of a reality, he started to change his mind. When we first started dating, I lived with my parents, so he was not allowed to sleep over. But when I moved out on my own, he almost never came over or slept over insisting on various excuses. I lived 15 minutes from him, yet I always had to be at his place, but I obliged. I also gave him $1,500 for a motorcycle that we were supposed to share, that he promised to take me on at minimum, monthly; he took me on 5 or six times. I moved downtown, right into the heart of where everyone wants to be. When we first started dating, we’d go out almost every week. I moved out there and he never came over, claiming it was too far of a drive and too expensive (even though I explained that we could drink at home or not drink at all and then go walking around or dancing, and that it was equally as far for me to drive to him as it was for him to get to me). On our first holiday, he got me things I needed, which are my favorite kind of gift because it shows you know someone in their day to day; like a spatula because I didn’t own one or a microwave because I broke mine. Our last christmas I got a cheap piece of jewelery I didn’t like and some other cheap, generic gifts. The last straws came in his lack of consideration and hypocrisy. I asked to see a movie with him and he said he couldn’t because he promised a friend he’d see it with them. Okay, that is completely understandable and respectable, a month or so later I asked him to see a movie with me when I came back from a trip and he agreed. I came home and he had seen the movie with the same friend he couldn’t break the promise to over another movie, and he couldn’t see the problem. Consider multiple similar situations. I tried to explain to him all of this and he put up a wall. I packed up what things of his I had and asked if he was home so I could get my golf clubs. He told me he wasn’t but that his roommate could let me in. I grabbed my clubs, grabbed the rest of my things that I could see or think of, and put his box of stuff on his bed. I didn’t hear from him for two weeks, so I messaged a couple of his friends that I had gotten close to and let them know that we were over but that I wanted to stay friends with them, but that I also would understand if they weren’t up for that. Then his sister called and said that he was confused, that his friends are saying we broke up. She’d known our issued this whole time, I explained the gathering of my stuff and returning of his and that I haven’t gotten so much as a text from him in weeks. She understood, called him, called me back and asked if he could fix it. I said no, that I gave him the opportunity to, multiple times. And that was it. She called a few weeks later to tell me he was heartbroken, I told her that maybe this would make him appreciate his next girlfriend more. That he could learn from it. I also tried to learn from it. I never should have given him the money, I should have put my foot down on taking turns at where we slept sooner, and I should’ve noted not getting the things I wanted earlier on and not giving in, especially because I gave everything I had. I also realized that he said he was going to go to school, going to do certain other things to propel his career and he didn’t. He never would. He’s a good person, he just wasn’t right for me in many ways. And I didn’t do my job in that relationship by saying I wanted things but not acting like it, by being okay with not getting the things I wanted and needed and then demanding them.
I learned how to be better in a relationship from all of these failures and I also learned what to look for in a man. My mom suggested creating a ticker tape in my mind of a shortlist of what I expected. A marquee because it’s not a checklist that once one thing happens, it’s done. It’s a revolving list because certain things should repeatedly happen; like actions that prove someone is driven and caring. I decided to make two; one for myself and one for future boyfriend. I wanted to make sure that we were taking turns staying at each other’s places, that we would both make kind and loving gestures, and that we would both be inherently driven and use that drive to better ourselves and our lives. I decided that if I expected certain things from them, I needed to be those things for myself.
These relationships have helped me determine what to put on my list for myself, for my future theoretical hubby, and to become a better individual and a better “better-half”.