I’ve Dated Way Too Many Toxic Guys But The Experiences Taught Me A Lot

I can’t tell you the number of relationships I’ve been in where everything starts off perfect and ends in disaster. I’d think that I’ve found someone I could be with for a while—maybe even forever—and then little by little, I’d realize I was actually dating a jerk. While being in such terrible relationships was obviously not the best experience, those relationships made me into the person I am today. Now I know that I deserve better, and I don’t settle for anything but the best. Here’s where I went wrong and how I fixed it.

I ignored the little red flags in the beginning. Whenever I started those relationships, there was always a little something that stuck out to me, but I brushed off. I told myself that it was normal for a guy to have a temper or that him getting a little obsessive was just because he really liked me. Little did I know that after a few months of dating him, those red flags would become serious issues. Now I know to voice my opinion on those little things or just avoid starting that potential relationship if I think it may be a bigger issue in the long run.

I never voiced my opinion as much as I should have (or at all in some cases). It wasn’t until about a year or two ago that I finally developed a healthy level of self-confidence. For many years, I was insanely self-conscious and not 100 percent comfortable in my skin. When issues would come up in relationships, I would usually “be the bigger person” (that’s what I told myself I was doing) by agreeing with my S.O. and brushing off the issue. Obviously, that didn’t turn out to be the best decision. Instead, I found myself unhappy because my needs weren’t being met. This taught me just how important it is to speak up and give your thoughts on issues and even everyday things.

Guys depended on me for things other than companionship — like money. Being in a relationship means doing things for your partner that would make them happy, make their life easier, and show them that you really care for them. Simply put, I was too nice. If my boyfriend didn’t have a car, you’d better believe I turned into his personal taxi. If his paycheck was “not as much as he thought it would be,” I’d pick up the check at dinner (even though he’d spend what little money he did have on some other nonsense). I realized that some guys were, in this aspect, starting to take advantage of me. At the time, I told myself I was basically obligated to do these things because I was their girlfriend, but now it’s either 50/50 or nada.

I started to feel like their mom. Cleaning their bedrooms (which most of the time were still in their parents’ houses), wondering what they’d want for dinner, running errands for them — this isn’t love, people. This is the responsibility of your boyfriend and your boyfriend only. In no way, shape, or form should you be doing these things on a daily basis for him. Surprising him with dinner or running a check to the bank once in a while, sure. I’ve learned to do these sorts of things in moderation — that way it feels more special when it happens and I can guarantee that I won’t be taken advantage of.

My confidence levels were seriously low. Like I said before, I wasn’t my true, confident self until about a year ago, but even during the times when I did have lower self-esteem, it was truly at its lowest level when I was in these terrible relationships. It’s important that I feel happy, healthy, and valued in my relationship, and in turn, I feel much more confident. That may involve getting genuine compliments coming from my S.O., but also spending time on my own doing things I love.

Over time, I stopped doing the things I loved. Speaking of things that I loved, I didn’t really put my all into them until I was without a terrible partner. The two things I really loved to do — photography and makeup — were put on the back burner while I worried about maintaining my relationship and making my partner happy (even when he wasn’t doing the same for me). I finally realized that it was time to stop taking care of this “grown man” and focus on things that I love to do. I now know that I’m in the right relationship when I can focus on those things, make myself happy, and still have the willingness to take on a relationship.

They stopped showing me support (or never really did). I remember one day when I went to show my ex-boyfriend a set of photos that I shot earlier that day that I was really proud of. I asked if he wanted to see them — mostly because I wanted to hear uplifting comments and feel supported. His response was a simple “Not really.” While it wasn’t a huge deal to him, that comment meant a lot to me and not in a positive way. The fact that he didn’t even want to pretend to enjoy them just to make me happy meant that my happiness was not a priority in his day. Especially if you’re someone who is chasing after a dream, support is one of the most important things that you can ask for. Now, I wouldn’t settle for anything less than someone who’s as excited about my dreams as I am.

The people around me knew that something wasn’t right. I spent so much time being in arguments with friends and family when they second guessed my relationships. I’d blame it on my friends or family being jealous or upset that I wasn’t spending as much time as them as I was with my S.O. In reality, they know me best and have a pretty good idea of what’s good for me. I’ve definitely started to take their opinions into consideration when entering a new relationship, as they’re somehow always right in the end.

I stopped spending time with other people that I loved. I learned through being in and out of relationships that I’m the best person I can be when I’m surrounded by love, support, and friendship. Unfortunately for me, these were all things that I neglected while in past relationships. I was the girl who neglected her friends to spend time with her boyfriend. Little did I know that was one of the biggest mistakes I’d ever make. When I was out of said relationship, my friends (luckily) were still there, but they’d missed out on a huge chunk of my life, and even worse, I’d missed out on a huge chunk of theirs. I deserve to be with someone who understands the importance of friendship and knows that I’m not choosing him over my friends, no matter what.

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