My string of crappy relationships has taught me how every single relationship has helped me grow stronger and wiser. One of the relationships that taught me the most was when my boyfriend left me for his ex. Yeah, it hurt like hell, but it also helped me sharpen my dating game.
- I learned how to spot a cheater. Yes, sometimes they take calls in the other room and work way too hard at the office, but there are other signs that a guy is cheating. My ex grew distant from me, became awkward whenever I spoke about our future, and he had a bad case of mentionitis about his most recent ex. No matter what we were talking about, I grew to expect that her name would crop up and piss me off. But it taught me to spot such cheating signs much quicker.
- I can see unhealthy relationships from miles away. The experience helped me to see what’s not okay when it comes to men and their exes. My BF would meet with his ex for coffee and text her often, which I thought didn’t have to be a problem. But it was because it was leading to something much deeper. It was the gateway betrayal to more. Now, I don’t care if a guy doesn’t like that I don’t want him to spend time with his ex. He can like it or lump it.
- I became less trusting. I put my guard up after the experience. How could I not? I had been thrown aside for an ex, which made me feel humiliated. My BF had chosen to leave me, a good and solid girlfriend, for someone who had hurt him so badly (if his stories about her cheating, chaotic ways were to be believed). It doesn’t get worse than that. But it taught me to keep my walls up for longer when dating someone, at least until I knew more about the guy’s past.
- I learned not to put up with BS. There were signs my ex had an unhealthy connection to his ex, such as when she’d call him because she needed help with something (gag) and he’d run to her. I tried to be okay with it because I didn’t want to be the nagging, unreasonable GF. But screw that! Now if something doesn’t feel right, I’m not going to remain silent.
- I set new dealbreakers. The experience taught me that it was time to get some new dealbreakers and honor them. One of them was to trust my gut — if something didn’t feel right, it probably wasn’t. Another was that if a guy shows any signs of still having feelings for his ex (such as finding excuses to see her), I’m not going to stay and be ridiculed.
- ‘Bad exes’ are not always a reassuring thing. Sometimes I’d sigh in relief when a guy would tell me how crappy all his exes were. It would make me think that there was no chance he would ever want them back. But my ex taught me that the opposite can sometimes be true. Those nuts, infuriating relationships with an ex can sometimes be riddled with unresolved feelings and intense emotions — not fun if I’m the new woman on the scene. Unfinished business with an ex? Not on my watch.
- I’m careful when it comes to giving away my heart. This is different from trust issues, but the reasoning is the same: I have to protect myself. When my boyfriend left me for his ex, I was totally destroyed. I felt like all the time, energy, and love I poured into our relationship and into him had been wasted and thrown back in my face. These days, I take a much more measured approach to love. I know heartbreak is always going to be a necessary risk, but I want to reduce my chances.
- I won’t waste time on someone who’s still muddled up in the past. A few months after my relationship with my ex tanked, I went on a date with a guy who mostly spoke about — you guessed it — his ex and their bad breakup (gag). It had only been a few months since he’d broken up with her, which was a huge red flag for me. If she was still on his mind so much that he couldn’t get through a first date without talking about her, clearly he needed more time. I knew immediately that I wasn’t going to throw myself back into the horrible situation of being the doting GF who gets screwed over by her BF and his past. Lesson learned. Thanks to my ex.