I Learned The Hard Way That My Ex Didn’t Deserve A Second Chance—Or A Third, Fourth, Or Fifth

I dated a guy who kept treating me like crap, but the worst part is that I let him. I thought I was doing the right thing by being accepting and understanding but I couldn’t have been more wrong. At least now I know.

  1. I KEPT MAKING EXCUSES FOR HIM. Every time he disappeared on me, blew me off without an explanation or was generally being a jerk, I tried to see what I thought was the bigger picture. I spent so much time analyzing his character and coming up with excuses for his bad behavior—he’s depressed, he’s been hurt before so now he’s subconsciously trying to screw things up—I was bending over backward to give him the benefit of the doubt.
  2. I WAS DOING ALL THE EMOTIONAL LABOR. If someone is being a jerk to you, it’s not your job to make apologies for them—it’s their job to apologize to you. So if you’re finding yourself justifying bad behavior to yourself instead of that person getting their act together, it means you’re doing someone else’s work for them. But it gets worse—as long as the person in question isn’t doing the apologizing, how do you even know they’re sorry? Yes, you might tell yourself this guy is treating you like crap because of past relationship trauma, but as long as he’s not telling you this himself, you’re playing make-believe. I was doing this all the time and guess what? It didn’t get any better.
  3. I DIDN’T WANT TO BE A BITCH OR SEEM TOO HIGHLY STRUNG. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. I don’t want to be that girl who loses at every time a guy does something that can be deemed disrespectful. I know some women like that and sometimes I see them freak out at some really insignificant stuff. Nobody likes to be around someone who doesn’t allow you any mistakes, but what I was doing was just as bad. Sometimes you just have to stand up for yourself. I totally wasn’t doing that.
  4. BEFORE I KNEW IT, I’D FALLEN INTO A PATTERN. When the problems started, I thought I was operating according to the “three strikes, you’re out” rule. But once I started making excuses for this guy, the third strike never came. I just kept telling myself that eventually he’d change and start treating me better, that this was a phase or some sort of test I needed to get through.
  5. I KEPT THINKING THAT BY UNDERSTANDING HIS WEAKNESSES AND FORGIVING HIM I WAS SHOWING HIM THAT I WAS ACCEPTING. One of the excuses I kept making for this guy’s behavior was that he was trying to push me away by being difficult. I thought that if I could show him I was capable of handling him at his worst, he’d realize I was there to stay and start being his “real self.” Of course, now I know that the way he was treating me was him being his real self. By letting him get away with it, I just made life hell for myself.
  6. I WANTED TO BELIEVE HE WAS ULTIMATELY A RESPECTFUL PERSON. I try to always believe in the goodness in people. I kept giving this guy more and more chances to prove that he was actually respectful, caring and loving. Instead of changing the way he treated me, he just did whatever he wanted, much in the way children do if you don’t set clear boundaries.
  7. NOT CALLING HIM OUT MEANT HE KNEW HE COULD TREAT ME LIKE CRAP AND GET AWAY WITH IT. I wasn’t doing myself any favors by being so accepting. It was heartbreaking for me to learn that someone I loved would treat me like crap if I just let him, but that’s exactly what happened. Ultimately, I learned that I shouldn’t let anyone treat me like this, no matter how much I love them. You have to define your own boundaries and your own red lines and ditch anyone who crosses them. Nobody’s worth your time if they’re going to disregard your feelings.
  8. I REALIZED I WAS ENABLING HIM. By letting him get away with treating me badly, I was enabling him to carry on. Sometimes people need to be taught the hard way that being dismissive and disrespectful of others is unacceptable. By the time I realized this, it was too late. I’d already become that the person he could walk all over. The only thing I could do was end things.
  9. HE NEVER APOLOGIZED. I wanted an apology, but because I was too understanding, I never got one. He quickly learned that he didn’t actually need to apologize to get back into my life, so he never bothered. I resented him for it, but now I know part of it is my own fault for not demanding an apology before I agreed to see him again.
  10. I REALIZED HE WAS ONLY WITH ME BECAUSE I LET HIM GET AWAY WITH MURDER. Being too accepting won’t make a guy stay. It just makes him disrespect you even more. When he wants to leave, he’ll leave without thinking about how this will affect you. This guy was only with me as long as I didn’t rock the boat. I made myself so low maintenance that I was worth keeping around for when he felt like company.
  11. ONCE I STOOD MY GROUND HE LEFT AND NEVER CAME BACK. I WISH I’D DONE IT THE FIRST TIME. I was in love with him but it wasn’t mutual. I found out the first time I stood my ground and demanded an apology. He simply stopped calling and eventually found someone else to date. Unlike our relationship, this one is very clearly defined because the woman he’s dating made it clear to him she would tolerate nothing less. I sometimes wonder whether being more assertive earlier on could have made him respect me more and therefore fall in love with me but I seriously doubt that. What’s certain is that by doing that, I’d have saved myself plenty of wasted time and heartbreak.
Writer, artist, intrepid traveler and lover of cats, cheese and techno music. Preferably not all at the same time.