Dating My Toxic Ex Wasn’t A Total Loss—It Helped Me Raise My Standards

When I finally broke up with my toxic ex, I’ve never been happier to get rid of someone. However, if I’m being honest, I have to admit that I learned a lot from our disastrous relationship and have seriously raised my standards since.

  1. My standards were pretty much nonexistent when I met him. I always thought I had good dating standards, but when my toxic ex entered my life, I realized that I’d been fooling myself. By letting him into my life with his boundary-crossing and nasty behavior, I was showing him that I didn’t have any self-love. The good thing was that he alerted me to that fact so that I could correct it.
  2. I had to hit rock bottom. That relationship was draining to the point that it made me physically ill. But, as with many life lessons, sometimes you have to be completely down and out before you realize what’s going on and you learn to rise again. By dragging me into the dark depths, he showed me that I deserved much better than him.
  3. I created boundaries and enforced them. When I was with my ex, I didn’t even know the definition of boundaries. However, thanks to how he took advantage of me, draining me of resources like my time and money, I realized that I was giving him way too much. I had to look out for myself. He taught me to care about myself more.
  4. I boosted my confidence and my standards followed. I think dating standards are connected to confidence, and I didn’t have either one of those things. But a funny thing happened: the more my ex brought me down by criticizing and negging me, the more I realized I was allowing it because I had no confidence in who I was. That had to change, and when it did, my standards started rising.
  5. I used the power of fear to my advantage. The thing about dating a toxic guy is that it filled me with absolute terror. I couldn’t date anyone for months after that relationship ended because I was so hurt. But fear can be a good thing. By being terrorized, I could avoid toxic men in future. See, there were my standards rising again! Now, at the earliest whiff of toxic behavior, I’m running out the door and not looking back!
  6. I realized what I didn’t want. I always thought I wanted the bad boy. The truth is, some bad boys are actually man-children and toxic losers. Thanks to my ex, I learned that the hard way so I could avoid attracting guys like him in the future.
  7. What I truly wanted became clear. With so much emphasis on the type of guy I didn’t want in my life, one day I was signing up to a dating app and I realized, “I don’t know what I want!” I’d been so focused on attracting guys who were mysterious and spontaneous with hot looks to boot. All that felt like such BS now. Dating a toxic guy made me raise my standards because it showed me that I wanted someone with more meaningful qualities like kindness and respect.
  8. I changed my view of single life. Before meeting and dating my toxic ex, I hated being single. I thought it sucked, but that was just because I was viewing it from the wrong perspective. After breaking things off with my ex, I was drawn to the freedom and peace of single life, and gaining confidence to be alone and independent really changed me. It made me see that someone has to be amazing for me to allow them into my life.
  9. I radiated self-worth. After allowing my ex to treat me so badly, I realized that I can do much better and that I’m in a totally different league to him. I deserve someone who treats me well because I’m a catch! Realizing that has been life-changing.
  10. I refused to settle. It takes one toxic guy to make you change your whole approach to dating. I settled for him because I thought the relationship was worth fighting for. What a joke. He was just using me, but even though it hurt like hell to realize that, it also made me so much stronger. Now I know I’ll never settle just to have someone in my life. He either has to be amazing or he’s not going to be with me. There’s no in-between. Mediocre boyfriends need not apply.
  11. I changed my view of compromise. I used to mix up compromising in a relationship with acts of self-sacrifice. The two are not the same thing at all! Compromise is about respect and meeting your partner halfway, while self-sacrifice is about your partner being Number One while you’re eating sand. SMH. I gave so much to my ex and he was a big taker, but it taught me what compromise isn’t supposed to look like. By learning that, I now can prevent people from taking advantage of me and my good nature.
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.